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'Gang of Five' opens talks to colleagues

After months of keeping their work secret, the remaining members of the Senate Gang of Six have opened up their negotiations to a broader group of Democratic and Republican colleagues.

About 18 senators, an even mix from both parties, met in Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinAmerica’s waning commitment to the promise of the First Amendment Senate rejects Trump immigration plan What to watch for in the Senate immigration votes MORE’s (Ill.) office Thursday to build support for the Gang of Six’s unfinished work.
 

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Sen. 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.), a Republican member of the Gang of Six, said at an Economic Club of D.C. event this week that the group had neared agreement on $4.7 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years.
 
Members of the gang were very close to an agreement, according to Democratic negotiators, until Sen. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnPaul Ryan should realize that federal earmarks are the currency of cronyism Republicans in Congress shouldn't try to bring back earmarks Republicans should know reviving earmarks is a political nightmare MORE (R-Okla.) pulled out of the group.
 
The remaining Republican members, Chambliss and Sen. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoBeware of the bank deregulation Trojan horse Senate Republicans call on Trump to preserve NAFTA Dems rip Trump's Fed pick as Senate panel mulls three key nominees MORE (Idaho), say they will not strike a final deal in Coburn’s absence.
 
Durbin and Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) the Democratic members of the group are now trying to build broader bipartisan support around what the gang negotiated so far.
 
The lawmakers invited colleagues who signed a letter in March calling on President Obama to take the lead in comprehensive deficit reduction measures.
 
“My purpose is to make sure as many senators who urged us on, the 64 who signed the letter, have a chance to find out where we are, and give a sense of the package as it was developed. It’s not completed but how far we’ve gotten and what the elements are,” Conrad said. 
 
The 32 Democrats and 32 Republicans who signed the letter asked Obama to lead a broad discussion on spending cuts, entitlement changes and tax reform.
 
Sen. Mike JohannsMichael (Mike) Owen JohannsFarmers, tax incentives can ease the pain of a smaller farm bill Lobbying World To buy a Swiss company, ChemChina must pass through Washington MORE (Neb.), who organized the letter to Obama, attended the meeting in Durbin’s office. So did Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinLawmakers feel pressure on guns Feinstein: Trump must urge GOP to pass bump stock ban Florida lawmakers reject motion to consider bill that would ban assault rifles MORE (D-Calif.) and Sen. Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganPolitics is purple in North Carolina Democrats can win North Carolina just like Jimmy Carter did in 1976 North Carolina will be a big battleground state in 2020 MORE (D-N.C.).
 
“We’ve reached a natural point at which it seemed like the next natural step is to share what we’ve been doing with other members,” Conrad said.
 
Conrad said it made sense for the remaining members of the gang to share their work because they were very close to reaching a conclusion.
 
Conrad, Durbin and Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerLawmakers worry about rise of fake video technology Mueller indictment reveals sophisticated Russian manipulation effort GOP cautious, Dems strident in reaction to new indictments MORE (Va.), the third Democrat in the gang, are not looking replace Coburn, however. They hope he may rejoin their talks.