WASHINGTON -- Vice President Joseph Biden said Thursday’s bipartisan deficit talks with lawmakers were the “most frank discussion we have had” but said there will be many more meetings before officials reach a deal on where to make cuts.
"Nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to," Biden told reporters after the meeting. To illustrate his point, he compared the deficit talks to two people making a deal about driving to work together.
"It’s a little bit like saying, you know, look, I’ll agree to drive you to work every day on the condition that you pay for the gas," he said. "The first thing you’ve got to do is, you’ve got to decide, well, let’s talk about whether I can drive you. It’s ok, I’m able to drive you. The guy walks out and says you agreed to drive me, but you’ve not agreed to pay for the gas. There’s no deal. It’s the same process."
Biden said lawmakers and administration officials spent the two-hour meeting, the third one in a week hosted by the White House, combing through the massive national budget "one piece at a time." While it may take time before negotiators can agree on major cuts, he emphasized that participants don't play games in the meetings.
"It’s premature to be optimistic, but I am clearly not pessimistic," Biden said. "I genuinely believe we’re on the right track here and I think there’s a real shot on making significant progress."
Lawmakers exiting the meeting gave no details about the talks. Assistant House Democratic Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) shouted "two thumbs up" to reporters, while Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said, "Another step forward." House Republican Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) ignored reporters' questions.
Other participants included House Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew and National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling.
Biden said the group will meet again sometime after the House returns from its week-long recess, set to kick off Monday. Until then, he said, everyone's staff will have "a lot of work going on in between."