Gang of Six: Sorry, our plan won't be ready in time for budget talks this week

The absence of a deal deprives policymakers of a bipartisan centerpiece that could smooth the way toward agreement in the contentious battle between Democrats and Republicans over the appropriate size and shape of government.

Members of the Gang of Six said Tuesday that they are continuing to meet daily and that a deal is still possible. However, one of the six, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), left town abruptly Tuesday because of a family emergency, leaving lawmakers and the White House as they begin negotiations over whether to allow the government’s debt to keep rising…

On Tuesday, Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said time was running out for the Gang of Six to produce an agreement that he had hoped would form the basis for the Senate’s 2012 spending plan. Instead, Conrad — a member of the band of three Democrats and three Republicans who have been meeting for months behind closed doors — said he would proceed alone as soon as next week to come up with a blueprint that would incorporate many of the bipartisan group’s goals.

“I don’t know when or if they’ll reach a conclusion,” he said of the Gang of Six. “But I really can’t wait.”