'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 DurbinDick DurbinElizabeth Warren stumps, raises funds for Duckworth Senators roll out changes to criminal justice bill Let the Democratic veepstakes begin MORE’s (Ill.) office Thursday to build support for the Gang of Six’s unfinished work.
 

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Sen. Saxby ChamblissSaxby ChamblissWyden hammers CIA chief over Senate spying Cruz is a liability Inside Paul Ryan’s brain trust 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 CoburnTom CoburnGOP faces existential threat Sanders tops 2016 field in newly deleted tweets The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Okla.) pulled out of the group.
 
The remaining Republican members, Chambliss and Sen. Mike CrapoMike CrapoBipartisan effort seeks end to budget gimmicks Republicans mum on possibility of Trump filling Supreme Court seat Senate approves first amendments to energy bill 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 JohannsMike JohannsTo buy a Swiss company, ChemChina must pass through Washington Republican senator vows to block nominees over ObamaCare co-ops Revisiting insurance regulatory reform in a post-crisis world MORE (Neb.), who organized the letter to Obama, attended the meeting in Durbin’s office. So did Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinIntel leaders push controversial encryption draft Democrats block energy spending bill over Iran amendment Durbin: Iran amendment could kill energy bill MORE (D-Calif.) and Sen. Kay HaganKay Hagan10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2016 Senate Republicans are feeling the 'Trump effect' Washington's lobby firms riding high 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 WarnerWeek ahead: Rival encryption efforts clash on Capitol Hill Kaine, Brown, Perez on Clinton’s list of possible VPs: report Encryption commission bill picks up more backers MORE (Va.), the third Democrat in the gang, are not looking replace Coburn, however. They hope he may rejoin their talks.