Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., saw the bipartisan effort as having two advantages now that it didn’t have last year. “It’s not an election year,” she said, “and the public is more educated and informed on the issue.”
The bipartisan Senate effort this year has gone in a somewhat different direction from the House. Last year, the “Gang of Six” – Republicans Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Mike Crapo of Idaho and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois, Mark Warner of Virginia and Kent Conrad of North Dakota – had an outline of a plan to reduce deficits and were criticized for appearing to undermine Obama-Boehner talks.
This year, the gang expanded by two – Democrat Michael Bennet of Colorado and Republican Mike Johanns of Nebraska – and has conducted intense negotiations aimed at fashioning another big package. It met last month for several days at Mount Vernon, Va., and then in Washington on Nov. 13.
The senators were unable to agree on the big issues of revenue or entitlements and were reluctant to be painted as damaging any momentum the White House talks could generate.
“We don’t want to do anything that would foul up the negotiations,” said Crapo.
The group has no more meetings planned, but like the House contingent it is hoping it can provide a bipartisan foundation for any agreement.
“The eight of us can be very instrumental in taking whatever agreement is reached between the president and leadership,” said Johanns, “and hopefully we can help try to get that passed, assuming we get a sensible plan.”