Republican Senator Tom Coburn's sudden defection from the Gang of Six is only a "quandry" if you treat senators as purely autonomous actors. If you treat them as members of a political party (or legislative caucus) with its own goals and incentives, then this makes a lot more sense:
The other senators in the Gang of Six believed they were within reach of a deal last month, but Mr. Coburn asked for more time, according to people familiar with the talks. He returned from a recess in early May seeking to reopen issues related to entitlement programs, they said.
On Monday, Mr. Coburn surprised his colleagues by demanding $130 billion in Medicare cuts beyond the $400 billion over 10 years the group had already agreed on, according to the people familiar with the talks. Richard Durbin (D., Ill.), the group's leading liberal, had said he wouldn't move beyond the $400 billion.
Colleagues of both parties were taken aback by Mr. Coburn's last-minute proposal, people familiar with the talks said. But a Republican aide said that was unfair, since the group had decided that nothing was agreed on until all parts of the plan were settled.
That Coburn wanted a deal on the debt ceiling is interesting, but ultimately less important than the fact that Mitch McConnell was opposed to a deal on the debt ceiling, and without buy-in from congressional leaders, even a friendly plan was dead on arrival. Coburn's departure from the group (making it a Gang of Five) should be read as a definite sign of intransigence from the Senate Republican caucus. Absent major concessions from Democrats, Republicans just aren't interested in raising the debt ceiling. And unfortunately, with public opinion on their side, they don't actually have to budge.
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