Cantor: It's 'crunch time' for Biden talks

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Monday it is “crunch time” for negotiators led by Vice President Biden to forge a deal to reduce the deficit and raise the debt ceiling.

“From my assessment, it’s crunch time in those meetings,” Cantor told reporters. “We have hit the point at which we are at some really tough stuff. Big numbers, everything as I have said before is on the table except tax increases.”

Cantor spoke minutes before he was to join the Biden group for the first of as many as four meetings this week. Several participants have described this week as critical, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has said the group must decide by July 1 whether they have a consensus or cannot reach an accord.

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The group is working to identify trillions of dollars in deficit reductions to pair with a long-term increase in the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. The Treasury Department has said the debt limit must be lifted by Aug. 2 to avoid a default by the U.S. government.

Cantor was pressed repeatedly whether his staunch opposition to tax increases in the deal extends to closing loopholes in the tax code that would increase revenues. Democrats, for example, want to end tax breaks for the oil-and-gas industry. He dodged the question several times, saying that he supports increasing revenues through economic growth and that closing loopholes should be considered as part of a broader tax overhaul that Republicans are drafting.

He did point out, however, that the revenue that would coming from eliminating certain industry tax breaks would be minuscule compared to the trillions of dollars in savings the group is seeking.

“You look at the value at the so-called revenue savings or revenue enhancement there, versus what we’re talking about, trillions, you have to sort of wonder — is this about policy and substance, or is this about politics?” Cantor said.

Asked again whether he could accept revenue increases that are not simply derived from added growth, he replied: “I’d just turn the question back on you: Why would you do anything to increase revenues that wouldn’t produce growth? Most people would say, ‘Get me a job.’ ”

The majority leader also repeated his preference for doing one large increase in the debt ceiling, as opposed to a short-term measure that would give the group more time to achieve a comprehensive deficit-reduction agreement. “I’m not so sure that if we can’t make the tough decisions now, why we would be making those tough decisions later,” Cantor said.

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