The complicated machinery of politics will sometimes require an elite approach so that things will get past their regular gridlock. That is when a group like the Gang of Eight comes into the legislative branch and into the public eye. There are key points that ordinary Americans should know about this political force, such as their history, what laws they have protected, and the reason for their existence.

What Is the Gang of Eight: The Leaders of the Free World?

In less than formal terms, the Gang of Eight stands for a group of leaders within the United States Congress who discuss and form plans on a particular topic. For the sake of fairness, it is a bipartisan group made equally of four Democrats and four Republicans. There have been multiple versions of the Gang of Eight throughout congressional history.

The Intelligence Gang Of Eight

The first mention of this group came up during the Bush administration, specifically in regards to the warrantless surveillance program made after 9/11. Congress passed the authorization of bills that expanded the use of military and intelligence resources in order to combat terrorism.

From there, the executive branch created a series of secret programs authorized by President George W. Bush that allowed access to major telecommunications networks that includes phone, email, text, and internet activity. According to normal U.S. national defense codes when dealing with matters of national intelligence, the President is required to inform the members of the congressional intelligence committees of any activity.

However, when the President deems it necessary to limit the access of information, it has allowed the President to report the findings to the following eight members, who are sworn to secrecy:

  • Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
  • Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
  • Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
  • Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
  • Speaker of the House of Representatives
  • House Minority Leader
  • Senate Majority Leader
  • Senate Minority Leader

Fiscal Crisis Gang Of Eight

red senate rooom

Photo by Aditya Joshi on Unsplash

In 2012, the nation was on the road to a “fiscal cliff” made from expiring Bush-era tax cuts and planned spending cuts made a year earlier. The combination of the two would have made a new recession similar to the one formed in 2008. It would have economically affected around 90 percent of U.S. taxpayers, with a possible tax increase of $3,500 per year. News organizations reported that a “gang of eight” was convened by U.S. senators as far back as 2011 to find a way to avoid the approaching tax increase.

It was created by Senators Mark Warner and Saxby Chambliss, later adding senators who either had a connection to a GOP congressional leader or to President Obama:

  • Sen. Michael F. Bennet, D-CO
  • Finance Committee Member Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK
  • Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Kent Conrad, D-ND
  • Sen. Mike Crapo, R-ID
  • Majority Whip Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-IL
  • Sen. Mike Johanns, R-NE

The goal of the 2012-13 Gang of Eight was to gain more support with their economic proposals than that of previous commissions. Their solutions were more ambitious — end corporate loopholes, raise the Social Security retirement age, and force wealthy seniors to pay more for Medicare among other recommendations. Their work led to a 10-year plan that would reduce the deficit by $3.7 trillion dollars. It gained a sizable endorsement from senators on both sides.

Immigration Gang Of Eight

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-CO in a conference

Image via Flickr

The long storied history of immigration reform in the United States continued in 2013 with the creation of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of that year.

It was written and negotiated by a different group of eight senators (although two were also members of the Gang of Eight from the fiscal cliff):

  • Sen. Michael Bennet, D-CO
  • Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL
  • Sen. Jeff Flake, R-AZ
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC
  • Sen. John McCain, R-AZ
  • Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ
  • Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL
  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY

The goal of the bill was to make a comprehensive solution to immigration. The policies this Gang of Eight pushed covered most parts of the process, from migration to employment, with these solutions in particular:

  • Additional border patrol resources and officers
  • Agricultural worker program
  • Changes to family-based immigration
  • The DREAM Act
  • Employment verification systems

After several committee hearings about the provisions of the bill, it passed with the support of all Democrats and most Republicans in June 2013.

Is There a Need for the Group?

an american flag

Photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash

Left Out in the Cold

Politics Always Wins

What Else You Should Know?

government chairman in a metting

Image via Flickr

Gangs of Many Numbers

Other Countries Have Gangs


Pundits, the public, and colleagues will have differing opinions on the meaning of the Gang of Eight in any of its iterations. Even when they are being given intelligence information (and this is still true during the Trump administration and talks of Russian interference), the group still fights for both respect from the executive branch and backing from other members of Congress.

The old rules of politics will trump these gang’s attempts at making concrete changes to the nation, but indirectly they also push others into making ones that have affected millions of Americans who truly needed it. The names might change, but their purposes have always been to fix the country one small team at a time.

Featured Image: Image via Pexels

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