Boehner keeping close watch on Gang of Six negotiations

Boehner keeping close watch on Gang of Six negotiations

House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerJohn Feehery: A political forest fire Trump's pick for Federal Reserve chief is right choice at right time The two-party system is dying — let’s put it out of its misery MORE (R-Ohio) is keeping close watch on the Gang of Six, the bipartisan Senate group that could force House Republicans to take tough votes on tax reform.

Republican Sens. Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissLobbying World Former GOP senator: Let Dems engage on healthcare bill OPINION: Left-wing politics will be the demise of the Democratic Party MORE (Ga.), Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnFormer GOP senator: Trump has a personality disorder Lobbying World -trillion debt puts US fiscal house on very shaky ground MORE (Okla.) and Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoOvernight Regulation: Feds push to clarify regs on bump stocks | Interior wants Trump to shrink two more monuments | Navajo Nation sues over monument rollback | FCC won't delay net neutrality vote | Senate panel approves bill easing Dodd-Frank rules Overnight Finance: GOP delays work on funding bill amid conservative demands | Senate panel approves Fed nominee Powell | Dodd-Frank rollback advances | WH disputes report Mueller subpoenaed Trump bank records Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank MORE (Idaho) met with BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerJohn Feehery: A political forest fire Trump's pick for Federal Reserve chief is right choice at right time The two-party system is dying — let’s put it out of its misery MORE Thursday afternoon to discuss the Gang of Six talks, which could produce a bipartisan deficit-reduction plan in early May.

One source characterized the meeting as “a status update.”

The three senators are the GOP side of the “gang.” Sens. Kent Conrad (N.D.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats turn on Al Franken Minnesota's largest newspaper calls on Franken to resign Democratic senator predicts Franken will resign Thursday MORE (Ill.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank Comey back in the spotlight after Flynn makes a deal Warner: Every week another shoe drops in Russia investigation MORE (Va.) are the three Democrats.

If the group reaches an agreement, it will likely include a plan to reform the tax code in a way to generate hundreds of billions of dollars in new tax revenues for the government.

Coburn, the most outspoken GOP member of the group, has spoken out in favor of tax reform and battled conservative critics who oppose any reform that would increase the net burden on taxpayers.

Conservatives expect that Boehner would try to put the breaks on any deficit-reduction deal that raised the net level of taxation.

“Since he’s signed a pledge to never vote for a bill like that, he would probably tell them it's not a good idea,” Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, a group vehemently opposed to tax increases, said of the meeting between Boehner and Gang of Six members.

An agreement by the Gang of Six to reduce the federal deficit by cutting discretionary spending, reforming entitlements and reshaping the tax code has a good chance of attracting broad support in the Senate.

Chambliss, Coburn and Crapo have solid conservative credentials and are respected in the upper chamber for their policy acumen.

Durbin, Conrad and Warner wield strong influence in their caucus.

If the six lawmakers reach a deal, it might draw support from the mainstream of both parties, paving the way for Senate passage.

But Senate passage of a deficit-reduction package that raises $750 billion to $1 trillion in tax revenues through reform of the tax code would put the chamber on a collision course with the House.

“Speaker Boehner has never voted for a tax increase, and that isn’t going to change,” Michael Steel, Boehner’s spokesman, told The Hill last month.

House Republican leaders, however, may have a difficult time resisting a bipartisan deficit-reduction plan from the Senate if President Obama throws his weight behind it.

The Gang of Six is putting together an agreement that would be based largely on the work of the Bowles-Simpson deficit-reduction panel, which Obama endorsed this past week.

Obama outlined his own vision for deficit reduction at George Washington University Wednesday, acknowledging his approach “borrows from the recommendations of the bipartisan fiscal commission that I appointed last year.”

Obama is eager for the Gang of Six to wrap up its negotiations, and he put pressure on the group to speed things along by announcing his decision to tap Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenOvernight Tech: FCC won't delay net neutrality vote | Google pulls YouTube from Amazon devices | Biden scolds social media firms over transparency Medicaid funds shouldn't be used to subsidize state taxes on health care Biden hits social media firms over lack of transparency MORE to head bipartisan deficit-reduction talks on the Hill starting next month.

There’s growing concern that the Gang of Six negotiations may drag on without reaching a deal, similar to the laggardly healthcare negotiations that Sen. Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusBooker tries to find the right lane  Top Lobbyists 2017: Hired Guns GOP tries to keep spotlight on taxes amid Mueller charges MORE (D-Mont.) led for months in 2009. Those talks ultimately proved fruitless and sapped political momentum from healthcare reform.

“They’re impatient and I don’t blame them,” Durbin said of the president and his advisers in a Thursday interview. “Let’s look back at the healthcare debate. There was a study group there that never finished.”

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE (R-Ky.), who became a fierce opponent of the healthcare reform legislation, kept close tabs on the three Republicans who met Baucus in 2009: Sens. Olympia Snowe (Maine), Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Thanks to the farm lobby, the US is stuck with a broken ethanol policy MORE (Iowa) and Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Live coverage: Senate Republicans pass tax bill The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill MORE (Wyo.).

Snowe, Grassley and Enzi characterized their frequent conversations with McConnell as status updates, but Democrats suspected that McConnell was holding them back from striking a deal.

Conservatives such as Norquist expect that Boehner would try to put the brakes on a deficit-reduction deal that would raise taxes and force a tough vote on members of his caucus.

Senate insiders say that it’s natural that Chambliss would meet with Boehner because they are close friends from their days of service together in the House. Coburn and Crapo also served with Boehner in the 1990s.

But their shared history doesn’t mean they see eye-to-eye on fiscal issues — Coburn and Crapo voted against the budget deal Boehner crafted with Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidBill O'Reilly: Politics helped kill Kate Steinle, Zarate just pulled the trigger Tax reform is nightmare Déjà vu for Puerto Rico Ex-Obama and Reid staffers: McConnell would pretend to be busy to avoid meeting with Obama MORE (D-Nev.) to cut nearly $40 billion from 2011 spending levels.

Boehner declined to comment on the meeting with the Gang of Six members when asked about it afterward during a hallway interview. Chambliss said “no comment” when queried on his way from the meeting to the Senate Intelligence Committee room.

A spokesman for Coburn and a spokeswoman for Crapo also declined to comment.

Durbin said Democratic Gang of Six members have given status updates to Obama.