WASHINGTON -- House Majority Leader Eric Cantor praised Vice President Joe Biden Monday for his handling of the debt limit talks, a positive sign for those who hope the government will raise its debt limit before financial markets react negatively to the growing potential of a U.S. default.
"I've been very impressed with the way he conducts his meetings -- he does like to talk," Rep. Cantor (R-Va.) said in a meeting with reporters. "I guess we all do, otherwise we wouldn't be here."
Discussions between Biden, Cantor and other congressional leaders about legislation to increase in the debt ceiling are expected to intensify this week as both the U.S. Treasury's Aug. 2 default deadline and Congress' summer recess grow nearer. Three debt talks are planned for this week.
"He has conducted these meetings in a way that has kept the ball rolling, and we are -- I believe -- beginning to see the essence of convergence on savings beginning to happen," Cantor said. "Now, a lot of this will be up to where the speaker and the president end up."
"The role that I play in these discussions," the minority leader added, is to "define the playing field and to push as far as we can to come together to maximize savings and increase the amount of reform."
Both sides have already agreed to over a trillion dollars in cuts, Cantor said. For the GOP's cooperation in the debt ceiling vote, his Party is pushing for spending cuts in excess the $2 trillion it would be raised by.
Cantor said everything is on the table, but not tax increases.
"This place does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem," he said, insisting even considering them would be a disincentive to small businesses. "I don't know whether it's good, bad, indifferent -- it just is what it is."
Cantor reiterated his caucus' belief that corporate tax rates ought to be lowered to make the U.S. more competitive, even though the current tax rate is at a historic low as a percentage of the country's GDP.
Cantor predicted, if Congress simply "checked the box" and raised the debt ceiling without significant cuts accompanying the vote, interest rates would skyrocket and the federal government would be forced to raise taxes.
"No one wants that," he said. "We're not going to going along with that outcome."
No clues were given about where the cuts were going to come from in legislation to raise the debt limit, but Cantor said the focus is on the initial 10-year budget window.
The majority leader declined to provide a target date to have the debt ceiling increase bill written, other than saying he did not want it to get the point where a negative reaction from the stock market forces Congress to raise it.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner wrote to Congress in May, warning that the country is projected to begin defaulting on debts come Aug. 2, 2011. However, Geithner said that is no reason to wait to vote to increase the debt limit.
"While this updated estimate in theory gives Congress additional time to complete work on increasing the debt limit, I caution strongly against delaying action," Geithner wrote. "The economy is still in the early stages of recovery, and financial markets here and around the world are watching the United States closely. Delaying action risks a loss of confidence and accompanying negative economic effects."
The bipartisan Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission previously recommending various tax increases and reforms that Republicans are now opposing. Senior economic advisers to Ronald Reagan have also said tax increases will be needed in some sort to reduce the national debt.
Bruce Bartlett, who was a policy adviser in the Bush Treasury, told The Huffington Post recently that a trillion dollars has been "left on the table" due to the historically low tax levels. Another senior Republican economic adviser, Joel Slemrod, also said a return to Clinton-era tax rates would not necessarily harm the economy, although under current conditions it could be risky.
The original request to raise the debt limit by $2.4 trillion would be projected to last until the end of 2012, past the next elections. An ABC News/Washington Post poll found last week that a slim majority of Americans favor an increase, so long as it's accompanied by spending cuts.
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