'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 DurbinRetailers have jumped the shark Dems gain upper hand on budget McConnell: Senate could drop flood money from spending bill 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 CoburnRyan calls out GOP in anti-poverty fight The Trail 2016: Words matter Ex-Sen. Coburn: I won’t challenge Trump, I’ll vote for him MORE (R-Okla.) pulled out of the group.
 
The remaining Republican members, Chambliss and Sen. Mike CrapoMike CrapoLawmakers play catch-up as smartphone banking surges Senate panel approves pension rescue for coal miners Bank lobbyists counting down to Shelby’s exit 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 FeinsteinElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Senators already eyeing changes to 9/11 bill after veto override WH tried to stop Intel Dems' statement on Russian hacking: report MORE (D-Calif.) and Sen. Kay HaganKay HaganPhoto finish predicted for Trump, Clinton in North Carolina Are Senate Republicans facing an election wipeout? Clinton's lead in NC elevates Senate race 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 WarnerDemocrats press Wells Fargo CEO for more answers on scandal Democratic tax bill targets foreign reinsurance transactions Leahy wants Judiciary hearing on Yahoo MORE (Va.), the third Democrat in the gang, are not looking replace Coburn, however. They hope he may rejoin their talks.