A bipartisan “Gang of Six” senators is unlikely to reach agreement on a proposal to reduce the government’s long-term budget deficits, Senator Tom Coburn said today.
Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican and member of the group, said his colleagues are “just too far apart on basic issues.” Other members of the group said they remain hopeful for a deal.
The group has been working privately for months to achieve an agreement on a combination of tax increases and spending cuts to reduce the deficit. Its negotiations have been closely followed in part because its members come from across the ideological spectrum of the Senate.
The group’s momentum has been flagging in recent weeks even as debate heated up over what sort of budget cuts to attach to a needed increase in the federal debt ceiling. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has repeatedly said he believes a separate bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Vice President Joe Biden is more likely to agree on a deficit- reduction plan.
Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the Democratic co-leader of the group, said he is an “eternal optimist,” while acknowledging the negotiations face obstacles.
“I still think this is the single best path to address meaningful deficit reduction,” Warner said regarding the group’s effort. “We’ve made enormous, enormous progress, but there are still challenges.”
Senator Saxby Chambliss, the group’s Republican co-leader, said “we’re going to hopefully keep working at it until we come to some resolution.”
Still, Chambliss said, “When you get down to the few issues that are really the game-changers, that’s when it gets tough -- that’s kind of where we are.” He said he would “love to finish this week, but we’ve never had a deadline, so I can’t say that we’re that close.”
Idaho Republican Mike Crapo, another member of the group, said he, too, is hopeful for deal though he said he doesn’t feel compelled to reach an agreement in time for a vote to raise the debt limit. The Treasury Department has said it will run out of options for avoiding default by Aug. 2. Many lawmakers say the debt-limit vote will be their best chance this year to force major changes in the budget.
Crapo disagreed, saying there is no “magic date by which everything evaporates if we haven’t made a deal by that point.”
Also today, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Wall Street investors monitoring Congress’s debt-limit negotiations are more focused on spending cuts than on whether lawmakers raise the government’s borrowing authority before Aug. 2.
“The markets are smarter than to think a date is what makes a difference,” the Virginia Republican said today on CNBC. Investors are “really” concerned about “whether there is going to be movement on actual reform” of budget and entitlement spending to reduce the deficit, he said.
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