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Gang of 5 hints at budget plan progress

June 9, 2011 at 8:00 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, June 9 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate's "Gang of Six" -- minus one -- Thursday offered their colleagues "elements" of their plan to reduce the country's long-term debt.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad said the group -- minus Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who abandoned them last month -- is "close to reaching a conclusion" on a debt-reduction plan, Politico reported.

"We've reached a natural point at which it seemed like the next step, the next natural step, would be to share what we've been doing with other members and get their reaction," Conrad said.

"I worked very closely with five wonderful senators who were incredibly honest as we tried to work out an agreement," Coburn said after presenting the plan to 20 other senators. "I have every intention to try to do that if I can, if I think we can come to an agreement that tactually fixes the problem. But what it takes for us to really get out of trouble, it takes $9.7 trillion over the next 10 years.

"My purpose is to make certain that as many senators who urged us on … have a chance to find out where we are and give a sense of the package as it has developed," Conrad said.

"It's not completed, but how far we've gone and what the elements are," Conrad said.

In a sign of just how incomplete the talks are, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., another member of the remaining gang of five, said, "I can neither, confirm, deny or retract anything about the meeting."

White House talks led by Vice President Joe Biden are expected to intensify with three sessions scheduled for next week, Politico reported. Thursday's session focused in part on revenues, even though Republicans have preferred to concentrate on spending cuts, the Capitol Hill publication said.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said there was "a commitment for next week that we will be engaging, once again, in a robust series of meetings to see if we can achieve a result."

"We believe that many of the problems surrounding the lack of job creation and growth in this country have to do with the fact that there isn't a credible plan to manage down the debt and deficit in this country," Cantor said. "That's what we're trying to produce here and we had much substantive discussion today and look forward to more next week."

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner took part in Thursday's talks on revenues, Politico said.

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