Coburn pulls out of Gang of Six, dealing blow to deficit talks
May 17th, 2011
05:11 PM ET
10 years ago

Coburn pulls out of Gang of Six, dealing blow to deficit talks

Washington (CNN) – Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, is pulling out of so-called "Gang of Six" bipartisan negotiations for now – dealing a potentially fatal blow to the group that has been working intensely for some five months to find agreement on a deficit reduction plan.

Coburn believes the group has reached an "impasse."

"When you're at an impasse the worst thing you can do is keep trying to hit your head against the wall until you break your head," Coburn said. "I'm just going to give it a rest for a while and see. They all worked in good faith, every one of them and so it's not a matter of bad faith, it's a matter of being a realist about what you can accomplish and what you can't.”

Coburn said he is taking a break from the talks and "not attending right now," but insists he still considers himself a member of the Gang of Six.

But the reality is that the success of any deal the group would come up with depends largely on having support from someone like Coburn, with strong bona fides among conservatives.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, another conservative member of the bipartisan group, acknowledged Coburn's withdrawal will kill their efforts in the short-term.

When reporters asked Chambliss if there could be agreement without Coburn, he replied, "no."

"I would hope that eventually we'll still, as a group of six, be able to come together on some long-term resolution of the issue but looks like it's not going to happen short-term," conceded Chambliss, who said they will get together Wednesday to see where they are.

The goal of the group, which has been meeting regularly since January, is to cut $4 trillion from the deficit over 10 years.

Coburn said the main reason he believes the talks are stalled is because of differences over how to rein in costly entitlement programs.

"If we don't address those issues, you haven't fixed the problem," Coburn said.

Senators and aides involved in these negotiations are very secretive about the details of their discussions, but two Democratic sources familiar with the talks told CNN that Coburn proposed cutting an additional $130 billion from the Medicare program over the $400 billion the president's deficit commission proposed.

The Democratic sources say Democratic negotiators rejected Coburn's idea, and suggested that's what drove Coburn's decision to step away from the talks.

A Republican source familiar with the negotiations insisted to CNN Coburn did not make that specific proposal, but did say he was frustrated that Democrats were not giving more on cutting Medicare spending.

The source told CNN that Coburn had actually tentatively agreed to about $1 trillion in revenue raisers – meaning tax increases – anathema to most Republicans.

Coburn said he told Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, a Democratic member of the group, Tuesday morning, that he felt they had reached an impasse and would stop attending meetings.

"Look, we've been doing this a long time and we have a lot of things agreed to, a lot of pain for both parties but its got to be something that I think that will actually make some significant differences and we're just not there to what I think I can sell," Coburn said.

Earlier Tuesday, the third Republican member of the group – Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, told CNN he thought it was too early to tell if they would find consensus on a deficit reduction plan, calling it a "roller coaster."

But he was not nearly as pessimistic as Coburn.

"We're in some intense negotiations right now, but we're also at a point where things could come together," Crapo said.

Some of the wind was taken out of the group's sails after the deficit reduction talks shifted to a group led by Vice President Joe Biden, but senators continued to meet regularly.

Democratic senators in the group are Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia.

Warner vowed to keep working.

"Our fiscal challenges are too great to stop working toward a comprehensive, bipartisan solution. I intend to keep working in good faith on these issues because we have made too much progress to stop now," Warner said.

NOTE: A Democratic bill to end oil subsidies is defeated in the Senate Tuesday.

Filed under: Congress • Deficit • Senate • Tom Coburn
soundoff (77 Responses)
  1. A Kickin' Donkey

    This is unfortunate. Man Up and earn your paycheck Senator!

    May 17, 2011 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  2. GI Joe

    He'll keep a VERY LOW profile until the "aiding Ensign in his corrupt actions" has calmed down a little. He needs to be in jail with Ensign and Ensign's girlfriend's husband. Darn lying "family values" republicans.

    May 17, 2011 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  3. Darla (Edmonton, Canada)

    "impasse" might be what Coburn wants us to think ... but his pull-out probably as more to do with needing to keep a low profile due to his involvement in John Ensign's mess. From reporting I've seen and read, Coburn's got almost as many ethical issues as does former Senator Ensign.

    May 17, 2011 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  4. hillbilleter

    I guess Coburn thinks that taking his marbles and going home will help matters?

    May 17, 2011 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  5. T'sah from Virginia

    Next, he will RESIGN.........Hmm, I wonder why?

    May 17, 2011 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  6. Joseph

    Another Teapublican palinquitter. When the going gets tough, these folks head for the hills.

    May 17, 2011 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  7. NVa Native

    This is what the Repubs have been doing for two years since Obama overwhelming won the election. Repubs psoture as if they are concerned and act like they were actually doing their job, then after the process or bill was trashed by their radical demands – step away and say NO.
    2012 elections will be a whirlwind throwing out these GOP parasites.

    May 17, 2011 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  8. Mountaineer

    Good. Now, back to raising taxes on the top 2% and stop the nonsense with the Party of 6. There is a Party of 100. Do your jobs and cut Defense Spending, Cut subsidies for farm, Big Oil and other welfare corporations, and tax godds coming from CHINA! That would get jobs into this country!

    May 17, 2011 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  9. Four and The Door

    Some of the wind was taken out of the group's sails after the deficit reduction talks shifted to a group led by Vice President Joe Biden...
    This is Obama planted firmly on his own side of the aisle. He is the most partisan and political President ever to hold office.

    May 17, 2011 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  10. Busted2010

    Typical republican doesn't get his way so he cries and quits. I don't think these people understand, we can't cut taxes to lower the deficit.... pull your head from the sand and look at what happened after Bush's tax cuts.

    May 17, 2011 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  11. seebofubar

    I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that our numb nut president didn't even listen to the commission he set up. Besides, who could stand being in the same room as Durbin the slime ball.

    May 17, 2011 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  12. gt

    bad news for the country ... nothing will get done ... bills will keep getting bigger... so what do they do ... blame each other... they all sould loose there seats...

    May 17, 2011 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  13. Glenda

    You people keep m,entioning that Palin is a quitter. So misinformed t is so ignorant of you. I'm not even going to mention why she ad to leave the Gov Office. Because it would not get through coconut heads. One thing about it was she did a lot while she was there unlike the no show President who is like, "Moving on Up", he and Michelle habve never had so good doing nothing but playing golf. Even someone else had to work out the plan and iniate it on Bin Laden. but he was quick to come to the Mike to say we, i , My and how I planned. With no alcolades to the Navy Seals. He is a pitiful Hog Lover.

    May 17, 2011 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  14. Chris B

    Another Republican QUITER! No thanks, we don't need quiters in Government...

    May 17, 2011 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  15. NVa Native

    That's right – Coburn is the bag man and negotiator for GOP Senator Ensign who was commiting adultery with his best friends wife, and further committed a crime (including Coburn) by buying the silence of all concerned – while trying to drag Ensign's parents in on it!

    Yea, that's who the "Family Values Party" really is. These are the clowns who are "destroying marriage" and "American values" – not the gay.

    May 17, 2011 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |


    I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that our numb nut president didn't even listen to the commission he set up. Besides, who could stand being in the same room as Durbin the slime ball.

    May 17, 2011 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm

    Did you call President Bush "numb nut" after he quagmired us in two unpaid for wars?

    **cricket sounds**

    May 17, 2011 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  17. Clwyd

    The impasse is probably not giving enough tax breaks to the rich!

    May 17, 2011 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  18. Phil T. Listener

    Strong bonafides among the conservative community?

    Are they not shameless? Coburn must have gotten immunity for the Ensign affair, while he should have been brought down as well.

    May 17, 2011 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  19. Kenny

    There is no way an agreement on budget cuts can be reached without additional defense spending and tax breaks given to those with income in excess of $1,000,000.00 dollars. If you don't believe me ask any Republican.

    May 17, 2011 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    If the repubs can't come to consensus with Warner and Conrad then they are obviously more concerned with getting rid of Obama than they are with doing what is right for the country!

    May 17, 2011 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  21. Palin: Like Coulter ... Minus the Manparts

    Maybe he should have recommended his good friend, John Ensign, "pull out" when he was messing with someone else's wife. No, that would have been the real Christian thing to do rather than get involved in cover up and scandal, but we know what hypocrites those sanctimonius senators really are. Are you listening, Santorum et al?

    May 17, 2011 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  22. Rosslaw

    I guess Coburn will be focusing on his efforts to strengthen the Defense of Marriage Act by making payments to mistresses to keep quiet tax deductible.

    May 17, 2011 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  23. Johny

    When the going gets tough, Quit!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 17, 2011 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  24. Matt

    GOP don't wanna work. If they worked for me, I'd fire them and sue to get the money back.

    May 17, 2011 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  25. Allen

    Another cluless righty...give to the rich & big business & take from the middle class...if I don't get my way I quit. And we are paying this guy? It's no wonder our country is in economic shambles...the middle class is being destroyed & the right & Tea Party are all for it...

    May 17, 2011 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
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