Coburn’s departure means heartburn for Saxby Chambliss

The Gang of Six is now a Gang of Five after Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., left the group Tuesday. From the Hill:

“We can’t bridge the gulf of where we need to go on mandatory spending,” Coburn said Tuesday afternoon. “I don’t see that there’s going to be any fruition in continuing them at this time.”

The specific mandatory spending in question reportedly had to do with Medicare.

Whether this is good or bad news probably depends on whether you liked the chances that the group would produce a workable bipartisan compromise. For me, it all came down to the details of what the group’s version of tax reform would look like: Was it a true effort to simplify, broaden and flatten the tax code, or was it a Rube Goldberg effort to move things around to obfuscate the real goal of raising taxes?

And that was assuming the group ever came up with an actual plan. It’s been a month and a week since two group members, Georgia’s Saxby Chambliss and Virginia Democrat Mark Warner, visited the AJC and acknowledged they were in danger of being overtaken by events (e.g., the debt ceiling debate). With each day that passed without a plan emerging,  it seemed less and less likely that anything would ever happen.

With Coburn out of the mix, any plan that does eventually emerge will be an even tougher sell on the right. The Oklahoman has the best reputation of the three Republicans among conservatives, and the fact that he saw no reason to continue the talks is a clear sign that the group had agreed on little that would be attractive to the right.

All of which is definitely bad news for Chambliss. Halfway through his second term in the Senate, Chambliss’ “Gang” efforts were viewed very skeptically by Georgia Republicans. The chatter that he won’t seek a third term will only pick up, even though he’s insisted he will run again.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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26 comments Add your comment


May 18th, 2011
11:01 am

You can’t get ahead until you get even…

[...] Francisco ChronicleGang Of Six Stalls, Coburn BailsTalk Radio News ServicePBS NewsHour -Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) -The Hillall 432 news [...]

Bart Abel

May 18th, 2011
11:07 am

Why does Tom Coburn have the best reputation among this group?

A member of the shadowy C-Street “Family”, he evidently lied to both investigators and the press about his role in the Tom Ensign scandal in which he acted as a negotiator on behalf of Ensign when seeking to buy the silence of the husband of Ensign’s mistress with an illegal payment. During the investigation, Coburn also claimed privilege, asserting that he was acting on behalf of Ensign in his roles as a physician and a deacon. First of all, the man’s a gynecologist. Also, who negotiates bribes in their capacity as a doctor and a deacon?

Coburn is also known for tying the Senate into knots by putting holds on legislation that he doesn’t like. He does this at an unusually high level for one Senator. Senate holds where one person can single-handedly block legislation is a despicable practice, sometimes used by members of both parties, but Coburn abuses the practice like no other.

On the issue of C Street, read it and weep:


Bart Abel

May 18th, 2011
11:16 am

Two comments didn’t get in. There seems to be a problem with AJC’s comment system???

Road Scholar

May 18th, 2011
11:23 am

“With Coburn out of the mix, any plan that does eventually emerge will be an even tougher sell on the right.’

Duh! Do the repubs actually want to commpromise? Didn’t Boehmer state that they would support a bipartisan agreement if it agreed with his opinion? We’re ending two wars. Why not cut the military budget?

Kyle Wingfield

May 18th, 2011
11:27 am

Bart: It happens sometimes. I pushed through your first attempt.


May 18th, 2011
11:32 am

Bipartisanship!! The horrors of compromising with your fellow Americans!!

Logical Dude

May 18th, 2011
11:33 am

Why is it so hard to:
1) reset the Bush Tax cuts to pay for the wars
2) raise the retirement age and link it to life expectancy
3) Cut a huge amount from Defense?

Resetting the tax rates to what they were during the booming Clinton years shouldn’t be THAT hard of a sell, since THE RICH are asking for this as well. A few more in taxes is MUCH better for them than this country diving into deeper debt.
Linking retirement age to life expectancy can solve both Medicare AND Social Security. Of course, having a more efficient medical system would lessen expenses also. But making a more efficient medical system takes a WHOLE lot more work than just raising retirement age.
There is no reason to spend more than the rest of the world COMBINED on Defense. Let’s bring defense spending back to reality, where we aren’t the world’s police. Have India be our helpful ally with the upcoming China superpower.


May 18th, 2011
11:45 am

Compromise; bipartisanship – phooey! We are in this mess because Republicans compromised too often. Compromise and bipartisanship are Liberal code words for giving the Liberals another win.

We don’t need the gang of 6 or 5. The Republican leadership in the House and Senate have laid out completelly logical and acceptable paths where the debt ceiling will be raised in proportion to the spending cuts.

The true issue is, Obama and his cronies do not want to stop spending. In his mind, he has not yet transferred enough wealth.

Rebel Without A Pause

May 18th, 2011
11:58 am

I have always supported him at election time, but that is over. We need some new blood. A republican with some backbone who votes with his base. He talks like a conservative, but he sometimes votes like a damn “moderate”.


May 18th, 2011
11:58 am

You are bamboozled. Name one instance in which liberals have ‘won’ by compromising with Republicans? Your transfer of wealth comment lacks any relevant facts since the wealth gap is increasing among rich and poor. The House republicans want to cut every domestic program and give those savings, in the form of more deficit busting tax breaks, to the rich. Get real man.


May 18th, 2011
12:37 pm

Cutty – you are a victim of the Liberal media, of which the AJC is a prime example. If the so-called “rich” paid 100% of their income as taxes, it would barely make a dent in the deficit. The only way to reduce the deficit through tax cuts is to increase middle class taxes also. That is the big secret Obama and his cronies are not telling you. No, we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem that has ballooned under Obama.

As to the increasing wealth gap, we are a capitalist republic. Chartered and with laws of same. If you want someone elses money, move to Europe.

Lastly, the reason social programs have to be cut, there are simply too many people on them. We can no longer afford them. That’s simple accounting. When 1 in 6 receive food stamps, there is something really wrong. There is work out there, they just have to be pushed to get off the couch.

The Bush Tax Cuts got us the "Great Recession"

May 18th, 2011
12:53 pm

$axby is a very tired act.

Quit playing around with this childish “gang” talk and actually do something.


May 18th, 2011
1:21 pm

Logical Dude

Cutting a huge amount from the Defense budget would cause the Military-Industrial-Complex a great deal of pain. When your power is as overwhelming as theirs, you don’t take pain, you give it. If the budget must be cut, the MIC orders that money be taken from the weak, as in SS, Medicare and Medicade.


May 18th, 2011
1:43 pm

It doesn’t surprise me in the least that the first to bail on a bipartisan group was a Republican. The R’s have no interest in a compromise. They just want to keep the kettle fires burning and to hell with what’s best for the country.


May 18th, 2011
1:46 pm

There will a Mideast Peace agreement between Isreal & Palestine before there will be an agreement in Washington between the Democrats & the Republicans. The Democrats would vote for George Bush before they would agree to cut spending.


May 18th, 2011
2:06 pm

“When 1 in 6 receive food stamps, there is something really wrong.”

Bad example. The food stamp program, now the SNAP is a creature of the agriculture interests and the Republican & Democratic members of Congress who represent the agricultural states. It ain’t going nowhere but up.

We are in the “mess” we are in with huge deficits and a huge national debt because we increased spending and cut revenue at the same time we increased spending.

We got here by increasing spending and decreasing revenue. We will only get out by decreasing spending and increasing revenue.

One question on the table is how do we increase revenue? Reagan did it by “closing loopholes” in the tax codes. But even that could not keep up with his spending increases. Reagan also started borrowing from the Medicare Trust fund, but even that could not keep up with the increased spending. And we have continued the same policies under Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama.

Another question on the table is how do we get the voters to approve a reduction in their benefits from the “socialist state” we have built over the past 78 years. Seniors do not want to give up their benefits, the poor do not want to give up their benefits, Defense does want to give up its money and power and business does not want to give up its share of the welfare state.

If we aksed all who wanted to surrender something for the common good to get in line there would be no one in line.

We are where we are. We are who we are.


May 18th, 2011
2:30 pm

JFK quotes:
“In short, it is a paradoxical truth that … the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now. The experience of a number of European countries and Japan have borne this out. This country’s own experience with tax reduction in 1954 has borne this out. And the reason is that only full employment can balance the budget, and tax reduction can pave the way to that employment. The purpose of cutting taxes now is not to incur a budget deficit, but to achieve the more prosperous, expanding economy which can bring a budget surplus.”

“Lower rates of taxation will stimulate economic activity and so raise the levels of personal and corporate income as to yield within a few years an increased – not a reduced – flow of revenues to the federal government.”

“A tax cut means higher family income and higher business profits and a balanced federal budget. Every taxpayer and his family will have more money left over after taxes for a new car, a new home, new conveniences, education and investment. Every businessman can keep a higher percentage of his profits in his cash register or put it to work expanding or improving his business, and as the national income grows, the federal government will ultimately end up with more revenues.”

There is ample historical evidence that raising marginal tax rates REDUCE tax revenues. If the IRS confiscated 100% of the income of every American making more than $100,000 a year, it still wouldn’t even cover Obama’s budget deficit THIS YEAR!


May 18th, 2011
2:54 pm

Logical@Yes, let’s go back to 1999. If we reduced SPENDING to the levels of 1999, we would not need to raise tax rates. Congress won’t even take spending to the levels of 2 yrs. ago, let alone a decade ago!
We could reduce our defense budget by 20% if we didn’t defend the Persian Gulf, but we don’t drill for our own oil.


May 18th, 2011
4:42 pm

Wow, reading comments here is like having Fox News on all day. Are you guys still practicing? You can ease up now, you are ably repeating their rhetoric literally word-for-word so run on down to the local hangout, buddy up with your fellow myrmidons and y’all can bray your lies, bs and innuendo to anyone nearby! Remember, the more you say it the more true it is, regardless of fact, to the point where even you may believe your bs. (a point which some of you are already at imo) ANYONE who has even the SLIGHTEST difference of viewpoint is A TRAITOR TO AMERICA and should be labeled and treated as such, as often as possible!

What a bunch of Rubes… you can’t see that your emotions are being played and that the music is affecting your common sense? Good Lord, what has the GOP come to? Used to be republicans were generally viewed as the more sensible folk… nowadays sense never enters into the equation, just hyperbole and hate.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

May 18th, 2011
6:17 pm

Good afternoon, great essay Mr. Wingfield. Dr. Coburn may be the only senator who gets a pass from me on any issue (although Demint is pretty good too.) His presence among the “gang” was a surprise to me, suggested to me that the democrats might be serious about negotiating something. His departure tells me that the leftists were not pursuing anything substantial.

Sen. Chambliss, by his current continued participation in the “gang,” tells me that he magnifies the social element of the Senate above anything that could meaningfully benefit the country. Nothing new there.


May 18th, 2011
6:47 pm

There is NO historical evidence that raising marginal tax rates REDUCES tax revenues. None.


May 18th, 2011
7:10 pm

MarkV@6:47, There’s 16 quotes from JFK on the site I posted at 2:30 that defute your argument. Maybe you could cite one incident in history that raising taxes created the tax revenues that were projected. Have you noticed that Geitner has scaled back his prediction that the US would be running out of money by now? Know why? Because the Bush tax cuts that were extended 12/10 have produced more tax revenues than were predicted.
In 1980, the top 1% of taxpayers paid 19% of taxes & the bottom half paid 7.1%. In 1990, with lower marginal tax rates, the top 1% of taxpayers paid 25% of the taxes & the bottom half paid 5.8% of the taxes. In 2008, with the Bush tax cuts, the top earners paid 38% of the taxes & the bottom half paid 2.7% of the taxes.
Can you prove that anything I’m saying is not factual?


May 18th, 2011
7:41 pm

Linda @ 7:10 pm: I have no interest in debating with you all kinds of statements you have made. My point was and is this: To say that there is an ample historical evidence that raising marginal rates reduces tax revenues is a lie. There is no such evidence. An evidence like that would mean that there are systematic data showing the correlation between marginal tax rate change and tax revenues. There are not. Since in recent history marginal tax rates were mostly decreased, the data show that in those cases the tax revenues, as a percentage of GDP, mostly decreased in the immediate aftermath. When they then increased, it is matter of interpretation whether the change in the marginal rates was the cause of the effect.


May 18th, 2011
8:19 pm

MarkV@7:41, The fact is that you CAN”T debate JFK. You were unable to come up with one site that disproves what JFK said or the statistics I quoted since his death or the current statistics.
To further the discussion, maybe you can come up with statistics that show the non-existent revenues from states that raised the taxes on the rich.
Do you have an inking what has happened in NJ since Cristy reduced the budget?
Liberals have a different formula for taxes than classic economists.


May 19th, 2011
2:52 am

To say extending the Bush cuts produced more revenue is just plain wrong and the kind of BS used to incite the easily conned.