Gang of Six returns in debt-ceiling showdown

When last we saw the so-called “Gang of Six” in the Senate, one of the gang members had ridden for the hills while the rest of them kept their super-secret budget plans, er, super-secret.  Almost two months later, with negotiations on debt and deficits between party leaders going nowhere except perhaps Camp David (or perhaps not even there), the gang’s almost all here again to provide another entertaining sideshow:

Talks among the remaining members of the Senate’s Gang of Six have gained new momentum in recent days as negotiations between President Obama and congressional leaders have faltered.

The five active members of the gang met for two and a half hours in the office of Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) Wednesday evening to eat dinner and make a penultimate push to a deal. …

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), one of the members of the group, said he and his colleagues made a lot of progress Wednesday. Several members also met earlier in the day.

“We’ve worked tonight, made a lot of progress,” he said Wednesday. “We got people reducing things to writing tonight, and tomorrow and we’ll see when we get back together tomorrow if people want to go forward.”

Progress, eh?  Just how much progress has Conrad himself made in producing an actual budget of any kind?  Like Barack Obama’s proposals, Conrad’s budget is a lot of talk but no documentation.  It’s been more than 800 days since Conrad has done the work normally expected of a Budget Committee chair, which is, y’know, a budget.

Credibility doesn’t exactly run high here.  However, with the President modeling the mature behavior he demands by, er, stamping feet, shoving chairs, and stomping out of the room, Conrad is starting to look better all the time.  In fact, he’s looking so much better than the embarrassment at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that Tom Coburn might agree to get the gang entirely back together:

The sixth member, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who had taken a hiatus from the group, says he is thinking about returning, and has given the group a new round of deficit-reduction proposals to consider.

All snark aside, if this group actually manages to put together a bipartisan deal on debt and deficit reduction, it will be difficult for either party to resist it.  This standoff has gotten so heated that practically anything that demonstrates a deal is possible will be immediately embraced by the media, and a good portion of the public that has grown disgusted with the spectacle of the last few days, too.  Coburn’s re-entry now is good news in that regard, although Coburn did warn when he quit the Gang that Republicans would have to accept more tax revenue as a trade-off for structural changes in the federal budget.