'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 DurbinOn The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic 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 GOP lobbyist tapped for White House legislative affairs The Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks 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 CoburnInspector general independence must be a bipartisan priority in 2020 Congress must protect federal watchdogs Tom Coburn's annual gift to taxpayers MORE (R-Okla.) pulled out of the group.
 
The remaining Republican members, Chambliss and Sen. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoTop GOP senator urges agencies to protect renters, banks amid coronavirus aid negotiations Chamber of Commerce, banking industry groups call on Senate to pass corporate diversity bill Senate panel advances Trump Fed nominee who recently supported gold standard 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 JohannsMeet the Democratic sleeper candidate gunning for Senate in Nebraska Farmers, tax incentives can ease the pain of a smaller farm bill Lobbying World MORE (Neb.), who organized the letter to Obama, attended the meeting in Durbin’s office. So did Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing Democrats want Biden to debate Trump despite risks MORE (D-Calif.) and Sen. Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic Unity Taskforce unveils party platform recommendations Democrats awash with cash in battle for Senate The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's job approval erodes among groups that powered his 2016 victory 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 WarnerGOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns Senate Intel panel approves final Russia report, moves toward public release MORE (Va.), the third Democrat in the gang, are not looking replace Coburn, however. They hope he may rejoin their talks.