WASHINGTON -- Vice President Joseph Biden emerged from Tuesday’s bipartisan deficit meeting declaring that revenues must be part of a final deal for raising the debt limit—a marker that gives the clearest sense to date of how things are shaping up in the ongoing talks.
Biden, leading the talks with House and Senate lawmakers, told reporters that the group is in a position to agree "pretty quick" to more than $1 trillion in deficit reduction. From there, the lawmakers will look to triggers to reach a total of $4 trillion in cuts, he said.
"We're confident that if we keep on this pace, we will get to a very large number," Biden said, adding, "At the end of the day, revenues are going to have to be a part of the deal."
But House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told reporters after the meeting that tax hikes are still off the table, despite echoing Biden's confidence that the group can agree to more than $1 trillion in immediate cuts.
"This process shows that if people come together, finding spending cuts isn't that hard," Cantor said. But, he added, "I reiterated that tax increases cannot pass the House."
A GOP leadership aide reinforced Cantor's line in the sand on revenues.
"The one thing we've made clear as a non-starter is a tax hike," the aide said. "As the vice president learned in the [continuing resolution] negotiations, saying it to the press doesn't make it so."
Asked whether Republicans in the meeting were warming to the idea of tax increases, Biden joked, "Republicans love it. They just love it."
The group will hold its next meeting, which will be its fifth, next Thursday. The vice president said members of the group will alternate coming in during recess weeks to avoid taking too much time off from the talks. The House and Senate are currently scheduled to be in session on alternating weeks.
Other meeting participants were mum as they trickled out of the meeting.
"We’re making progress," Assistant House Minority Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said repeatedly.
House Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) demurred when asked if negotiators talked about making cuts to Medicare. "A lot of issues were discussed," he said.
The deficit meeting comes on a day when House GOP leaders signaled plans to hold a "clean" vote next week on raising the debt limit. The vote is purely a political exercise: they expect it to fail and to say it proves that most lawmakers, including Democrats, agree on the need to tie major spending cuts to a hike in the debt limit. The White House has regularly advocated for separate votes on a debt limit hike and deficit reduction.
"This vote will show that the administration’s proposal cannot pass in the House, and that major spending cuts and reforms must be part of the solution," Brendan Buck, spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said in a statement.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) warned earlier Tuesday that a failed vote on a debt limit increase, even if just for political purposes, could spook markets.
Administration officials remain "confident" that negotiators will make progress both on deficit reduction and raising the debt limit, said White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage.
"Serious discussions are already underway on how to reach agreement on significant deficit reduction, and all responsible leaders from both parties agree that we need to extend the debt limit," Brundage said in a statement. "That is important so that the U.S. can live up to obligations for debts the country has already incurred and so that we do not run the risk of plunging the economy into another recession."
Negotiators still have tough decisions ahead. A Politico report notes that even after recent concessions, White House and Republicans are still more than $1.1 trillion apart on how much to devote to domestic spending over the next 10 years.
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