However, Conrad argued, it would be possible to reach a compromise that addresses the deficit without raising taxes on the middle class by eliminating loopholes for firms that currently avoid paying most taxes. As an example, he pointed to a small building in the Cayman Islands that is the supposed corporate home of more than 18,000 businesses.

"The only business they're doing is monkey business. They're avoiding paying the taxes they owe," Conrad said, arguing there are enough companies engaged in similar activities that additional tax increases would be unnecessary.

When asked whether President Obama has shown leadership on cutting the deficit, Coburn replied that the administration's decision to exempt entitlement programs from the budget talks has been harmful.


"Medicare cannot continue the way it is if we are going to survive," Coburn said.

On the topic of the debt ceiling, Conrad said he will not vote for a long-term extension until there is a plan in place to address the national debt. Coburn said the debt limit doesn't mean anything because it has always been extended.

Coburn also dismissed Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's assertion that a failure to raise the ceiling by Congress would be disastrous, noting that Treasury would still be able to pay interest on the nation's debt.

"The idea that we might say that this is catastrophic is wrong," Coburn said. "What is catastrophic is continuing to spend money that we don't have on things we don't absolutely need and continuing to mortgage our future and not fix the very real problems that are in front of us."