WASHINGTON (AP) — A top Republican senator in the bipartisan "Gang of Six" seeking agreement on a plan to cut the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade dropped out of the group on Tuesday, saying that his colleagues weren't willing to cut enough from benefit programs like Medicare.
Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said he doesn't see how the group can reach agreement and that he would stop participating in its discussions.
"It's got to be balanced," Coburn said. "And I didn't perceive where we were was balanced."
The closely watched group has been working for months on a sweeping plan to wrestle the deficit under control through a mix of new tax revenues and cuts across a wide swath of the federal budget. Supporters hoped for a bipartisan deficit-cutting plan that might gain momentum despite the partisanship consuming Capitol Hill.
One of the reasons the Gang of Six was noteworthy was that its GOP members — Coburn, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Mike Crapo of Idaho — were willing to agree to revenue increases of about $1 trillion over the coming decade as the price for getting Democrats to accept cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
But Senate leaders in both parties were always cool to the effort, and Republicans controlling the House have said all along that they would never consider tax increases.
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, a member of the group, said the group will meet again on Wednesday. The other Democrats participating are Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Mark Warner of Virginia.
Coburn was a member of President Barack Obama's fiscal commission and voted for that panel's plan in December.
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