Many people in Washington view the so-called “Gang of Six” as the last, best hope for some kind of “grand bargain” on the Federal budget.
The “Six” are sitting US Senators; three Republicans and three Democrats. They have been working together since the beginning of the year, trying to structure a deal. The theory is that if they can agree to a deal, their colleagues will agree to it as well. Which, the theory goes, would make a “grand bargain” politically possible.
Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) is a member of the Gang of Six. He withdrew from the “Gang” today, making it the Gang of Five. Coburn was both the Gang’s most conservative member and its most important. Get Tom Coburn to sign off on a “grand bargain” and chances are that the other conservative Republicans would follow suit. Without Coburn’s support, good luck.
Sen. Coburn served on the Bowles-Simpson Commission, which produced the first major post-2010 midterm election report on fiscal reform. Bowles-Simpson offered a comprehensive proposal for reducing the Federal budget deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years. Former Clinton chief-of-staff Erskine Bowles praised Coburn’s contributions to that work and told anyone who would listen that Coburn was one of the most important political players in Washington in terms of getting anything done on budget “reform.”
Whatever deal is finally done will have to be done without him. He’s apparently given up. Politico reports:
The Gang of Six lost its strong blocker on the right Tuesday, as Sen. Tom Coburn pulled out of the bipartisan deficit reduction talks and predicted no meaningful deal can be reached until Democrats accept a greater share of savings from government benefit programs.
“These guys have worked hard, and we had 80 per cent of some significant things the country needs to do,” the Oklahoma Republican told POLITICO. “But right now, I don’t see us solving what needs to be solved.”
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