‘Gang of Six’ to Meet With Super Committee

Posted October 18, 2011 at 6:17pm

Members from the Senate’s “gang of six” budget negotiating group are slated to meet Wednesday morning with the Joint Committee for Deficit Reduction as the panel continues to push up against a November deadline for identifying $1.2 trillion in cuts.

Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) will meet with the bipartisan, bicameral super committee at 9 a.m., sources said, to discuss the deficit reduction package that the six Senators outlined in July. It would have saved about $4 trillion over 10 years by both raising revenues and trimming entitlement spending.

Each of the six is tentatively scheduled to address the full panel for five minutes, followed by a discussion. Given the complicated and delicate nature of budget talks, lawmakers almost certainly would need an official referee to keep to those time constraints.

When asked how much he could do with such a short amount of time, Coburn, who returned to the Capitol today for votes after a brief absence to recover from an operation to treat prostate cancer, quipped that a few minutes would be plenty.

“I can do a lot in five minutes,” Coburn said. “I can embarrass the hell out of ’em.”

The details of the super committee’s closed-door proceedings and progress have been closely guarded, and the exact purpose of Wednesday’s meeting was unclear. Sources close to the panel indicated that there had been some early discussion of holding a public hearing with the gang of six but that it had fallen to the wayside.

Throughout the course of this fall’s negotiations, the super committee’s Democrats have insisted that any deal include revenues, while Republicans believe that entitlement reform should be on the table.

The revenue-entitlement tension has developed into the most played-out storyline in Washington, and revenues have been the Achilles’ heel of nearly every budget negotiation this year, from the gang of six, to a group led by Vice President Joseph Biden, to the multiple talks between President Barack Obama and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio.).

As the super committee members and staffers have been extraordinarily tight-lipped about their work, it is uncertain that progress has been made in bridging these perpetual policy gaps.

But the re-emergence of the gang of six — especially of Coburn, who has taken a stand in favor of tax code reform, and Durbin, who has expressed willingness to tackle entitlement reform — could serve as a reminder to super committee members that some lawmakers are willing to compromise.