The Gang of Six Becomes the Gang of Five as Tom Coburn ‘Takes a Break’

May 17, 2011 5:04pm

ABC News' Matthew Jaffe reports: If a month ago the Gang of Six was running the risk of irrelevance, today they're falling apart.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, has decided to "take a break from the talks," according to a spokesman.

"He is disappointed the group has not been able to bridge the gap between what needs to happen and what senators will support," Coburn spokesman John Hart said. "He has decided to take a break from the talks." "He still hopes the Senate will, on a bipartisan basis, pass a long-term deficit reduction package this year," Hart noted. "He looks forward to working with anyone who is interested in putting forward a plan that is specific, balanced and comprehensive."

Coburn's departure could spell doom for the Gang of Six, a bipartisan group of senators that has been meeting for months in an effort to hatch a deficit reduction deal.

In addition to Coburn, the group included Democratic senators Dick Durbin, Kent Conrad and Mark Warner, and Republican senators Saxby Chambliss and Mike Crapo. They started working in January to reach a deal that could gain traction on Capitol Hill. For a while it sounded like the group was making progress. Just before Congress’ Easter recess, Durbin told ABC's Jon Karl that the group was “very very close,” noting that if they waited too long to release a report, “we may not be players.”

But after recess, talks stalled. Coburn went home to Oklahoma to deal with a family emergency, Conrad voiced plans to plow ahead with his own proposal as Senate Budget Committee chairman, and suddenly everything was up in the air. The Senate's top Republican Mitch McConnell even said the only deficit reduction talks he cared about were the ones led by Vice President Biden. 

Now with Coburn's departure, the Gang of Six isn't even the Gang of Six anymore.


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