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updated: 7/13/2011 1:36 PM

Coburn may return to Senate's 'Gang of 6'

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Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Tom Coburn said Wednesday that he may rejoin the so-called Gang of Six, the bipartisan band of senators seeking to reach agreement on a big deficit-cutting deal that would blend spending cuts with a tax code overhaul.

The Oklahoma Republican dropped out of the group two months ago saying Democrats weren't willing to cut enough spending from programs like Medicare. He says he may rejoin the group depending on how it responds to ideas he's sent over. The closely watched group has been working for months in hopes of a bipartisan deficit-cutting deal that might gain momentum despite the partisanship consuming Capitol Hill.

Asked about rumors he's thinking of rejoining the group, Coburn said: "They're not rumors." But he said he doesn't know whether he will in fact return and that it would depend on how the group reacts to some ideas he's sent over.

"We'll see" about rejoining the group, Coburn said. "I floated a couple of things. Let's see how they're responded to."

Coburn declined to elaborate, but he almost certainly is pressing the group for more spending cuts. He recently proposed a Medicare overhaul with Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., that would, among things, phase in an increase in the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67.

Coburn's possible move comes as a deadlock over spending cuts and must-do legislation to permit the government to continue to borrow to pay its bills and debts is consuming Washington and making markets queasy. Both Democrats and Republicans are increasingly rigid in their positions even as they profess the need to slash the deficit to avoid a European-style economic meltdown in coming years.

Coburn's departure in May was a setback for the group and the talks among the remaining Gang of Six have been eclipsed by other debt negotiations led first by Vice President Joe Biden and now by Obama himself.