Vice President Joe Biden said talks on a long-term budget deal will resume next week, following an initial meeting Thursday to set up the group.
The first meeting included a general discussion of rival proposals, Democrats leaving the meeting said, and the only agreement made was to meet again Tuesday.
Still, participants on both sides of the divide offered some optimistic words about the future of the talks.
“On behalf of all of us, let me say, we had a good, productive first meeting today,” Biden said in a short statement issued after the meeting. “We plan to meet again on Tuesday and look forward to further discussions on these important challenges.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told the group what he has already said publicly: Tax increases are unacceptable, and the House budget prepared by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) offers a menu of policies for reducing the deficit.
But Cantor also suggested there is room for some agreement.
“I do think that there are areas in which we can find some commonality. Coming out of the meeting, there is general agreement that things have to change, and that we need to see reform and spending cuts,” Cantor said.
The biggest disagreements are over taxes and entitlements. The White House and Democrats are interested in increasing some taxes, which Republicans like Cantor say is a non-starter. Democrats say they can't accept changes to Medicare included in Ryan's budget, which would essentially turn it into a voucher program.
Cantor acknowledged the differences, stating: "The House has taken a firm position against anything having to do with increasing taxes, or raising tax rates. We are not interested in having any discussion about tax increases.
"Also, I know that there are areas on the other side where they won’t go,” he added. “The reality is this president has excoriated our budget plan and the Medicare proposal in the plan, and I certainly would like to see what their proposals are. And that’s something that I think will be the subject of future meetings.”
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said each side put its existing proposals on the table.
“This was not going into any great detail. It was outlining the different approaches,” Van Hollen said. “They were all discussed at the general level.”
He said members involved in the talks made opening presentations so that everyone knew what the rival deficit-reduction plans entail.
Aside from Biden, Cantor and Van Hollen, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Assistant House Minority Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) are taking part in the talks.
Clyburn said he remains optimistic that a bipartisan deal can be done.
“We didn't meet as Democrats and Republicans. We just met to see if we can find some common ground,” he said. “I am very positive we can get something done.”
A GOP aide said there is room for compromise on mandatory spending even if Medicare, Medicaid and the new healthcare law are set aside.
Ryan's budget proposed $715 billion in mandatory spending cuts aside from those three areas.
Big ticket items include cuts to farm subsidy direct payments and crop insurance totaling $27.7 billion after 2013, savings from medical malpractice reform estimated to reduce costs by $47 billion and changing contributions to federal employees retirement, which can save $121.5 billion.
The GOP aide said the White House has still not put forth a detailed, scored deficit-reduction plan based on the president's April speech, which called for about $3 trillion in deficit cuts over 10 years.
The White House is trying to reach a deal that would allow the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling to be raised. Republicans are demanding spending cuts as a concession for raising the debt ceiling.
"We know we have two looming concerns. One is the debt limit,” Biden said before the meeting. “They're not technically connected, but the fact of the matter is, practically and politically it's committed."
This story was posted at 2:49 and updated at 3:30