By Erik Wasson and Russell Berman - 05/24/11 11:10 PM EDT
Vice President Biden and congressional leaders left a meeting on the debt limit saying they were on track to find $1 trillion in deficit cuts.
“We are confident that if we keep on this pace we can get to a relatively large number,” Biden told reporters as he exited the meeting in the Capitol that lasted more than two-and-a-half hours. “I think we’re in a position where we’ll be able to get to well above $1 trillion pretty quick, what would be a down payment on the process.”
The top Republican in the Biden-led talks, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), also struck a positive tone and said he thought lawmakers could find “over $1 trillion in spending cuts.”
“I actually found the ability to work together to actually agree on spending cuts,” Cantor told The Hill after the meeting. “I think some are finding that it’s not so hard.”
“I am optimistic that we are making progress in terms of finding areas of agreement of well over a trillion dollars in cuts,” he added.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said trillions in spending cuts will be necessary for the House to agree to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, which President Obama wants raised by Aug. 2.
Biden said the group was also discussing trigger mechanisms to get to a total of $4 trillion in cuts over an unspecified time period. The White House in April called for $2 trillion in spending cuts, $1 trillion in revenue increases and $1 trillion in interest payment reduction over 12 years.
Biden did not specify how that $1 trillion in deficit cuts would be reached. He said that the group has yet to discuss tax increases. He said he told fellow negotiators Tuesday that revenues have to be on the table, something Republicans have ruled out.
“We still have to discuss, and I made it clear today that revenues are going to have to be on the table. And everybody knows that at the end of the day we are going to have to make some really tough decisions,” Biden said.
Cantor pushed back against Biden, reiterating that both he and the House GOP are opposed to tax increases.
“I don’t know what the vice president says, but tax hikes are not on the table as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
Biden said that the group has decided to increase the number of their meetings in order to reach a deal. With the Senate and House out on alternating recess schedules, senators in the talks have agreed to forgo one recess in order to attend meetings and representatives have agreed to give up one recess, Biden said.
“We’re going to continue to meet as long as we can make progress,” Cantor said.
Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.); Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) are involved in the talks.
“We’re making very good progress,” Clyburn told The Hill.
This post was updated at 8:12 a.m. on Wednesday, May 25. An initial misquote of Vice President Biden, on the level of cuts, has been corrected.