A Rebirth of the Gang of Six? Tom Coburn May Return to Debt Ceiling Talks

Jul 13, 2011 2:46pm

ABC News' Sunlen Miller (@sunlenmiller) reports:

 The gang may be back together soon.

Fiscal hawk Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is considering returning back to the so-called Gang of Six, a bipartisan group of senators that has been meeting since the start of the year in an effort to hatch a deficit reduction deal.

“He may return if the group is willing to work toward a real solution, especially on entitlements,” Coburn spokesman John Hart said in a statement to ABC News today.

In May, Senator Coburn dropped out of the Gang of Six – in what aides described then as a “break from the talks,” noting that the group had not been able to bridge gaps that existed between them then.

Aides to Coburn today said that the senator thought of his last two months break as a working sabbatical and that he had always considered returning to the group if certain conditions were met. Mainly — entitlement reform.

Coburn is hoping that more Democrats will support his bipartisan plan, along with Senator Lieberman, I-Conn., for Medicare which among $600 billion in cuts over 10 years, will increase the eligibility age from 65 to 67, which the two proposed in June.

If the group shows that they are willing to entertain fundamental and structural entitlement reform then Senator Coburn would be willing to rejoin the group.

In addition to Coburn, the group included Democratic Senators Dick Durbin, Kent Conrad and Mark Warner, and Republican senators Saxby Chambliss and Mike Crapo.

The group started working in January to reach a deal that could gain traction on Capitol Hill but has hit multiple  setbacks that have marginalized and compromised the group’s work.  Besides Coburn’s departure two months ago, there has also been repeated statements from Senate leadership that the other groups, the VP Biden led deficit reduction group and now the Congressional leadership group working with President Obama, is where the ultimate proposal for deficit reduction will come from.

In late June, when House Minority Leader Cantor,  and Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., both dropped out of the Biden-led talks Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that the time now was for Congressional leadership to meet, not in any side groups.

“My honest feeling is that I think that we're beyond gangs of five and gangs of sixes,” Reid said in June, a knock to the Gang of Five that was still meeting and working behind-closed-doors toward a plan.

As of now the group is still the “Five Guys” as some Senators on the Hill refer to them as,  but with the possibility of Coburn back they could once again return to their previous title – and previous work – as the Gang of Six.

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