No breakthroughs seen as bipartisan Biden debt talks begin busy week

Lawmakers in the deficit talks led by Vice President Biden said they are making progress but reported no major breakthroughs as they completed the first of three meetings this week.

“It went well. We’re getting into some of the tougher issues, and the fact is we’re still all friends and talking around the table,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), one of the negotiators, told reporters after emerging from a two-hour meeting Monday. “So that’s good news.”

Van Hollen said the group discussed discretionary spending Tuesday, with proposals for spending caps and triggers on the agenda for Wednesday.

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The group’s negotiations have taken on greater urgency as the Aug. 2 deadline the Treasury Department has set for raising the debt ceiling draws closer. The House minority whip, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who is not in the Biden group, said Congress should vote on lifting the debt limit within the next 10 days to provide assurance to the markets.

Van Hollen said the group did not have a hard deadline for reaching consensus.

“We’re making progress every day, but I don’t think we should put an artificial deadline on it other than to say, we need to get this done sooner rather than later and we shouldn’t be getting anywhere close to the possibility of defaulting on the debt,” said Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee.

Other participants said little after the meeting.

“We’re doing fine. I’m not going to tell you anything other than to tell you we’re making progress,” Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), said.

National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling said after the meeting that “progress continues to be made.” 

He said that Cantor and Kyl come to the meetings with a “sense of seriousness” and everyone is trying to find enough to agree on. He cautioned that the GOP cannot continue to say revenue is completely off the table because a sense of shared sacrifice is “very difficult” to achieve if that is the case.

Republicans have objected to including any tax increases in a deal to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling while reducing the deficit.

White House Budget Director Jack Lew said he was heading back to the office for a long night of work after the meeting. Lew said the fact that no one is telling the details of the talks is a sign that they are "good enough" to keep secret. He said that there is an "increasing sense of definition" of what needs to be done.

"This week, and next week are a critical period," he said.

Erik Wasson contributed to this report.

Updaed at 7:17 pm.

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