Time Magazine's article today by Joe Klein is Deficit Deal? The Gang of Six Ain't Talking. Here's an interesting quote about the negotiations:
There have been "dozens and dozens of meetings," one Senator told me, with the Senate Budget Committee staff adding hundreds of hours to the process. "They want to be able to present a comprehensive deal when they return the first week of May," a staffer said. Agreement hasn't been reached on everything, and the negotiations have been difficult — sometimes apparent deals on specific items evaporate and have to be renegotiated — but there is real optimism that consensus can be attained. "I've been around here for 25 years," Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota told me, "but I've never been involved in a bipartisan budget negotiation of this magnitude and significance before."
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2066600,00.html#ixzz1KBuAGABv
I have a lot of hope that the Gang of Six will have "a comprehensive deal," and it has to do with the fact that the Senate is institutionally better than the House. The Senate can take on bipartisan negotiations based on a collegial atmosphere and trust, whereas there is never going to be a bipartisan deal in the House because there are so few incentives to come to the negotiating table and so many incentives to listen to your party caucus. It will be the best thing for this country if the Gang of Six comes to an agreement and allows the Senate to drive the debate.
This is why Unanimous Consent finds another article about the Gang of Six negotiations in National Review so disturbing. The headline says Norquist to Coburn: Drop Out. Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, has bombarded Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) -- a very conservative member of the Gang of Six -- with a constant stream of attacks for seeming to weaken his principles, compromise, and work with the Gang of Six. Take a look at this Norquist quote from the Robert Costa article:
“Coburn is negotiating with President Obama’s best friend in the Senate, Dick Durbin,” he said. “They are playing Coburn like a Stradivarius. Durbin is walking him down into an alley where he is going to get mugged.”
Clearly, Norquist is ready to be a member of the distinguished U.S. House of Representatives. What is his solution to this Coburn problem? Tell him to drop out of the Gang of Six.
Big mistake. Senator Coburn can't be played like a Stradivarius. Whether Norquist likes it or not, Senator Coburn is an independent person who is doing a tremendous service by being at the negotiating table. The fact that Senators of different persuasions are represented in the Gang of Six shows the diversity of interests that must come together to get a budget deal. You get Senator Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Coburn to agree, and you have a serious deal.
Don't think the interests of the House won't be reflected in the deal, either. Several reports say that Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) keeps Speaker Boehner apprised of the negotiations, and presumably makes sure House interests and opinions come to the Senate negotiating table as well.
Many things could go wrong. But the Gang of Six is our best hope.
For an earlier article on the Gang of Six, see: http://unanimousconsent.blogspot.com/2011/04/today-in-senate-news-gang-of-six-in.html
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