The so-called Gang of Six met as the Gang of Five after Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn stepped aside - expressing pessimism over the prospects of reaching a bipartisan deficit reduction agreement. The biggest problem is entitlement spending. Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss says he regrets that Coburn has decided it’s time to pull out of the talks. Still - Chambliss says the group will continue to get together because there are still ideas. But in the end - he says it’s not going to be a proposal by five of us - it’s got to be six of us.
As a result of Coburn’s departure - the debt reduction spotlight now falls squarely on negotiations being brokered by Vice President Joe Biden. The Biden deal appears to be focusing on short-term results. Finance Chairman Max Baucus of Montana - a member of the Biden-led working group - says the talks have the right mix of executive and legislative participants to produce a viable plan.
Illinois Senator Mark Steven predicts there will be multiple debt limit votes. His guess is that Congress probably couldn’t consider anything more than one-trillion dollars. But Baucus says he will not want to see an incremental approach. It is believed that if Coburn returns to the Gang of Six - work on the federal deficit would better move forward.