Cantor, Kyl to represent Republicans at Biden deficit-reduction talks

Republicans have announced they will join deficit talks next month led by Vice President Joe Biden, with members of the GOP leadership in both the House and Senate slated to participate.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) will be the sole House GOP representative in the meetings; Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) will represent Senate Republicans.

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House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced the heavy-hitting appointment on Tuesday.

“House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will serve as House Republicans’ sole appointee to the deficit spending commission announced by President Obama,” said Boehner. “The issues we’re dealing with here are well known and well understood: Washington’s addiction to spending is threatening our economy and burying our children under a mountain of a debt."

Cantor said he is "skeptical" the Biden effort will succeed.

“I remain skeptical that the Administration will take this effort seriously, especially after it all but ignored its previous debt commission and President Obama had to be dragged kicking and screaming to consider minimal spending cuts for the rest of this fiscal year,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sounded a more optimistic note in announcing Kyl's appointment.

"There is bipartisan opposition in the Senate to raising the debt ceiling unless we do something significant about the debt, and I was encouraged to see the President acknowledge that in an interview Friday. With the President’s acknowledgment, and with the S&P warning of the consequences of inaction, it is my hope that there will be a new urgency from the White House and our friends across the aisle to finding solutions to what we all know must be done," he said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Saturday she would send Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the ranking member on the Budget Committee, and Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) to the talks.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has named Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii).

Last week, President Obama asked congressional leaders to choose 16 members to participate in the talks. The group's size was reduced after Republicans and Democrats questioned its workability.

The Biden talks aim to complete a deficit-reduction plan by the end of June, days before the final deadline for raising the nation's debt ceiling.

Republicans are calling for a plan to be agreed to before the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling is raised, while the administration says the debt ceiling and deficit plan are on separate but parallel tracks.

Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Tuesday they are “optimistic” the talks will succeed.

The first meeting of the Biden group will be held May 5.

The group's hardline partisan line-up stands in marked contrast to the Senate's bipartisan Gang of Six, which is trying to hammer out a deficit compromise that includes both entitlement cuts and tax increases. Inouye is known as a champion of pork-barrel spending, and Baucus has said Medicare will never be cut on his watch. Cantor and Kyl are adamantly against tax increases.


—This post was updated at 3:51 p.m.