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