Sen. Tom Coburn drops out of deficit talks, says they're at an impasse
Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, one of six senators who had been trying to craft a bipartisan deficit reduction plan, dropped out of the so-called "gang of six" today because he believes the group has reached an impasse.
John Hart, a spokesman for Coburn, said the Republican senator was "disappointed the group has not been able to bridge the gap between what needs to happen and what senators will support." Thus, Coburn has decided to take a "break" from the talks.
In spite of Coburn's skepticism about the progress of the negotiations, other members of the gang of six -- now, it seems, the gang of five -- say the talks continue, CBS News Capitol Hill producer John Nolen reports. The offices of Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) both said the talks are ongoing and that the group plans to meet tomorrow. Sources say the group will meet with or without Coburn.
The other members of the group are Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).
Stu Nagurka, a Budget Committee spokesperson for Conrad, said the senator "intends to continue to work with this group and others to achieve the deficit reduction package that this country so clearly needs."
Hart said Coburn still hopes to see a long-term deficit reduction package passed this year and will work with "anyone who is interested in putting forward a plan that is specific, balanced and comprehensive."
The debate over deficit reduction continues as Congress faces increasing pressure to hold a vote over raising the national debt limit. The U.S. yesterday hit its $14.3 trillion debt limit, though the Treasury Department has taken steps to keep the government safe through August 2. Economists have warned that if Congress fails raise the debt ceiling by then, it could lead to economic catastrophe.
Republicans have said the vote to raise the debt limit must be accompanied by significant spending cuts. So in addition to the gang of six, Vice President Joe Biden has been working with a bipartisan team of lawmakers to try to hammer out a deal. That group, however, has yet to put forth a proposal despite weeks of collaboration.
Rep. Paul Ryan predicted this week that negotiations over raising the limit would go until the "last minute."
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