BREAKING: Coburn Walks Away From 'Gang of Six' Budget Talks

Posted: May 17, 2011 5:25 PM
The Senate's so-called "gang of six" -- which for weeks has sought to cobble together an acceptable bipartisan compromise on debt reduction -- is unraveling.  Its most conservative member, Sen. Tom Coburn, has abandoned ship, citing an irreconcilable impasse.   The source of the stalemate, according to Coburn, is Democratic intransigence on tax hikes:

Dr. Coburn made a number of comments today regarding how the Gang of Six has reached an impasse.  He is disappointed the group has not been able to bridge the gap between what needs to happen and what senators will support.  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.  He looks forward to working with anyone who is interested in putting forward a plan that is specific, balanced and comprehensive.

Other 'gang' members are vowing to press forward, although hopes of an accord have dimmed considerably:

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the Democratic co-leader of the group, said he is an “eternal optimist,” while acknowledging the negotiations face obstacles.  “I still think this is the single best path to address meaningful deficit reduction,” Warner said regarding the group’s effort. “We’ve made enormous, enormous progress, but there are still challenges.”

Senator Saxby Chambliss, the group’s Republican co-leader, said “we’re going to hopefully keep working at it until we come to some resolution.”  Still, Chambliss said, “When you get down to the few issues that are really the game-changers, that’s when it gets tough -- that’s kind of where we are.” He said he would “love to finish this week, but we’ve never had a deadline, so I can’t say that we’re that close.”

Meanwhile, we have still not seen a single concrete budget resolution from Senate Democrats.  It's been 748 days since the United States Congress last passed a full budget.  As pitiful as this sounds, I'm beginning to strongly suspect this Congress won't get the job done this year, either.

UPDATE - Sen. Ben Nelson (D - Neb), who's acutely aware of the hot water he's in with his constituents over Obamacare, has come out against any budget deal that includes raising taxes.  On that point, it appears he and Coburn are on the same page:

Sen. Ben Nelson said Tuesday that he will not support tax increases in any budget proposal — a stance that could make Senate Democrats’ chances for reaching agreement on the issue even more difficult.  The Nebraska Democrat, who is up for re-election next year, told reporters, “I’m only focused on cuts, not on raising taxes. If we start getting our attention over to raising taxes, I can assure you that many of my colleagues are going to be less interested in cuts.”