Oct. 15, 2012 – 3:33 p.m.

Gang of Eight Concludes Meetings, Heard From Simpson and Bowles

A bipartisan group of eight senators concluded three days of meetings Thursday aimed at finding a compromise to address the looming tax and spending issues known as the fiscal cliff.

Those senators, known as the Gang of Eight, did not release a statement on their progress toward a plan, one some congressional leaders believe could become the basis of an agreement during the lame-duck congressional session after the November elections.

The senators during their meetings heard from former Sen. Alan K. Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the former co-chairmen of the special commission aimed at forging an agreement between Democrats and Republicans.

The group has been focused on framing a compromise package of spending cuts and revenue-raising measures similar to the blueprint of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform chaired by Simpson, a Wyoming Republican, and Bowles, the White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton.

Simpson and Bowles took part in the opening session of the group of senators led by Mark Warner of Virginia on Tuesday.

Simpson said he remained hopeful a solution similar to the commission’s recommendations could be worked out by the senators. The other participants were Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill.; retiring Budget Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D.; Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; Tom Coburn, R-Okla.; Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.; Michael D. Crapo, R-Idaho; and Mike Johanns, R-Neb.

“I’ve come to know them all, and admire them,” Simpson said in an interview. “They are warriors. Democrats as well as Republicans. Durbin has a lot of guts to hang in there. They’ve gotten to know each other. They are trying to make things work. It’s the way things worked when I was in the Senate.” Aides declined to provide details about the group’s work, and said it was unclear whether further meetings would be scheduled before the election.

Simpson said he and Bowles expected to continue conversations with the senators, and hoped to make a number of joint public presentations to promote a bipartisan deal to avert the fiscal cliff.