Biden talks intensify; Gang of Six considers options

As the budget talks led by Vice President Joe Biden continue this week, the seemingly defunct Gang of Six is exploring whether to continue its work, disband or seek a lifeline from other senators.

The Gang of Six, which is working on a comprehensive deficit reduction plan based on recommendations from President Obama's deficit commission, is seeking a way to remain relevant despite the likelihood that they will not take substantive action ahead of an agreement from the Biden group.

The group was dealt a blow in May when Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said he would take a break from the talks after clashing with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., over Coburn's efforts to seek more savings from Medicare than recommended by the president's commission. The group has been redubbed by some as "Five Guys."

Without Coburn the remaining Republican members are unwilling to negotiate toward a potential deal, according to gang members and their staff.

One possible way forward would be a letter of support signed by a significant number of Democratic and Republican senators that would give cover to the remaining GOP gang members to continue to negotiate. The letter would be similar to one signed by 64 senators in March. The remaining members of the group have briefed over 20 senators in recent week.

An aide familiar with the talks said members will discuss if "we need a proposal with a bow on it to get to a letter, or do we need a show of hands for releasing" an outline of the proposal the group was close to agreeing to before Coburn's exit.

But the group's options are limited. Both Reid and McConnell have asked their members not to endorse any deficit reduction plan before the Biden talks conclude.

"There is a level of paralysis," said a senior staffer tracking the gang talks. "Stalemate, stalemate, stalemate."

Meanwhile, the group of six lawmakers led by Biden embarks on another round of intense meetings this week beginning Tuesday afternoon, as it looks to make big strides on a deficit reduction package that can pass Congress and win votes to raise the debt ceiling.

Meetings are scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons, and come after the group met three times last week and set a deadline of July 1 to reach an agreement in principle.

Congressional leaders are pushing the group to do so well ahead of August 2 when the Treasury Department has said it would exhaust its borrowing authority.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said that he believes the group should work through any congressional recesses to help bring about a deal more quickly. The House is on recess next week, while the Senate will be in session.

Republicans and Democrats remain at odds over including taxes in the plan. Republicans oppose raising taxes as a way to reduce the deficit and are more focused on limiting spending. Democrats, who are in agreement on including spending cuts, also want tax increases, such as closing special interest loopholes.

The White House would not say whether it would accept a short-term debt ceiling increase as a stopgap measure if the Biden talks fail. The idea was floated by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on CBS's Face the Nation this weekend.

"I don't want to negotiate the resolution to the debt ceiling vote from here," White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Monday.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.