U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) continue to keep their distance from a bipartisan group of eight Senators who hope to solve the fiscal issues facing Congress in the coming lame-duck session.
The group — originally known as the “Gang of Six,” but now composed of four Republicans and four Democrats — has never been able to come to agreement on the biggest issues affecting the deficit, primarily entitlement reform and taxes. Consequently, it has not been able to produce a bill or create buy-in for its policy specifics from at least 60 Senators, the number needed to overcome a filibuster.
After last August’s debt deal made it less relevant, the group continued to work sporadically, without producing a legislative compromise on which its members could all agree. There have been large presentations to dozens of Senators to recruit new support and even new members. But the effort hasn’t been without its problems: Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) walked away from the group at one point last year, citing differences with Democrats, such as Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), over Medicare.
Many other members not a part of what is now known as the Gang of Eight are working independently to produce alternatives to other fiscal issues such as sequestration, the across-the-board discretionary spending cuts triggered by the failure of last fall’s super committee.
Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), for one, has mostly been working out of his Capitol Hill office in recent weeks, holding meetings with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, among others.
Talks continue, even if the structure of a possible deal remains just as difficult to conceive as ever.