And Then There Were Five

The Gang of Six loses one Republican over cuts to Medicare.

Last Tuesday, Senator Tom Coburn announced he was leaving the Gang of Six, citing differences between himself and his colleagues over cuts in Medicare.

The six senators had been meeting for over five months to develop a fiscal plan to stabilize the American economy and, hopefully, be acceptable to both parties in both houses of Congress.

Four of the six members were part of the president's Deficit Commission. Like Senator Coburn, the other three, Senators Crapo, Conrad and Durbin, supported the recommendations of the commission though it failed to get the votes needed to be formally considered by Congress.

What caused Coburn's departure, and how will it affect the workings of the group?

Coburn was disgruntled over colleagues' unwillingness to consider deeper cuts from benefit programs like Medicare. Democrats were equally angered by Coburn's 11th hour demands for new Draconian cuts in the Medicare program.

But the Senator's sudden demands and departure bring up a number of questions -- including his sincerity.

Rumors surfaced that Coburn's demand for $130 billion additional concessions from Democrats sparked a heated debate ending with his decision to quit the group.

But this is not the first time Republicans have abandoned previous positions and made unexplained reversals. It is, in fact, their modus operandi, which has turned into a level of hypocrisy never before seen in politics.

Not only were Coburn's extreme demands unacceptable to the three Democratic members of the Gang, but they would be highly unpopular with the American people.

Was the doctor confused about the value of Medicare, how 'the people' feel about it, and the effect his proposed cuts would have on his senior Oklahoma constituents?

After five months of intense deliberations, what would prompt Coburn's drastic demands that would surely derail the progress they had reportedly achieved?

Coburn, the media darling for the group, has some problems that might explain his momentary psychosis.

His battle with Grover Norquist over the tax increases he purportedly agreed to, may have prompted his ill-conceived and bold new actions.

But the family values senator from Oklahoma has far more pressing problems. He is implicated in an ethics violation and recently appeared before the Senate Ethics Committee to testify.

His involvement in the ethics scandal of recently resigned Nevada Senator John Ensign could be another reason for him to disengage from the group.

Any involvement in negotiating a deal on behalf of Ensign, a co-resident at the C Street house, would be a violation of Senate ethics and cause for censure and possible expulsion.

How will a compromised Senator Coburn's departure affect the outcome of the Gang of Five's negotiations? Will they be able to complete and present their bipartisan budget plan in time for consideration?

Will their efforts differ enough from the House passed budget, the Ryan Plan, to receive the support of both houses and be signed by the president?

America needs a budget that will be equally weighted between spending cuts and revenues. It cannot be weighted against the poor and favor the wealthy as the Ryan Plan does. The Ryan Plan is a path to privatization and poverty.

It doesn't appear that the Ryan Plan has any traction with the American People and House members may pay a heavy price for their vote last month.

And, with the departure of the senator, the answer to my previous question appears to have been settled. The Gang of Six is not up to the task!

It's time for our congressional representatives to take a serious look at the Congressional Progressive Caucus's budget. It is the most honest assessment of the current fiscal dilemma and proposes the most effective way to fix both near-term problems as well as addressing future weaknesses.

This country needs 'real' solutions to the 30 years of political crap we have endured and the corporatism we are heading toward.

The lying, cheating and manipulation must end if this country -- this democracy -- is to survive.

Insidious Republican manipulations, like those hidden in the Ryan Plan, need to be flatly rejected by informed Americans.

The machinations in the Ryan Plan must be exposed and those that supported its passage -- replaced.

Any proposal from the Gang of now Five, must be highly scrutinized before even being considered. We must be cautious in accepting anything proposed after the departure of Senator Coburn.

It's time for 'the people' to take back this country our forefathers gave us. Not the country the Tea Party imagines, but a smarter, more honest nation.

The free and prosperous democracy they envisioned!

A free nation where everyone can participate in 'the pursuit of happiness.'