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Gangs Of D.C.

Yet again, a bipartisan commission is trying to break Washington gridlock, this time as the budget supercommittee. Below, four of its precursors.


The most recent Gang of Six: Crapo, Warner, Conrad, Chambliss, Coburn, and Durbin.
Illustrations by Tony Millionaire  

Gang of 14
Established in 2005 to avoid a filibuster crisis.

John McCain (R) and Ben Nelson (D)


GOP: Lincoln Chafee, Susan Collins, Mike DeWine, Lindsey Graham, Olympia Snowe, John Warner

Dems: Robert Byrd, Daniel Inouye, Mary Landrieu, Joe Lieberman, Mark Pryor, Ken Salazar

Senate Republicans, furious that Democrats have obstructed votes on some of President Bush’s nominees for the federal circuit, threaten to kill off judicial filibusters forever with the so-called ­nuclear option. Democrats retaliate, threatening to shut down the Senate. On the brink of procedural warfare, the Gang of Fourteen comes to an agreement that preserves the right to filibuster future nominees only in the event of “extraordinary circumstances.” The shaky pact lasts until May 2011.

Gang of 20
Established in 2008 to pass a compromise energy bill.

Saxby Chambliss (R) and Kent Conrad (D)


GOP: Norm Coleman, Susan Collins, Bob Corker, Elizabeth Dole, Lindsey Graham, Johnny Isakson, John Sununu, John Thune, John Warner

Dems: Evan Bayh, Tom Carper, Tim Johnson, Amy Klobuchar, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Mark Pryor, Ken Salazar

Faced with $4 gas prices, the gang proposes to open up new areas to offshore drilling, cut big-oil tax breaks, offer tax credits for buying electric cars, and allot research dollars to the ethanol industry. By early September, an additional ten senators have signed on to the legislation. Then Lehman Brothers goes bankrupt. Worldwide demand for oil craters—energy crisis over. Nearly three years later, in May 2011, Chambliss tells The Hill that the energy gang “will be getting back together at some point.” To date, it has not.

Gang of 6
Established in 2009 to propose a bipartisan health-care plan.

Capo Di Tutti Capi:
Max Baucus (D)


GOP: Mike Enzi, Chuck Grassley, Olympia Snowe

Dems: Jeff Bingaman, Kent Conrad

Baucus starts the gang in early summer. By mid-July, President Obama is growing impatient and pressures Baucus to get a deal done before the August recess. The gang ends up dragging out the process until September. When the Finance Committee finally votes on the gang’s plan in October, Enzi and Grassley oppose the bill, leaving Snowe as the only GOP “yea.” Two months later, she votes against the bill. Health care passes along party lines.

Gang of 6
Established in 2010 to create a “grand bargain” on deficit reduction.

Saxby Chambliss (R) and Mark Warner (D)


GOP: Tom Coburn, Mike Crapo

Dems: Kent Conrad, Dick Durbin

Chambliss and Warner convene a small group to craft a bipartisan deficit-reduction bill. For months, they meet in the Capitol and over dinner at Warner’s home. In mid-May, Tom Coburn breaks rank, telling Politico, “We can’t get there.” On July 19, Coburn rejoins the group after Democrats agree to an additional $116 billion in entitlement cuts. The final plan is introduced that day; the House GOP leadership rejects it.


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