GOP leader Cantor says debt talks are moving on to healthcare

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in a Monday email to colleagues revealed that the debt talks led by Vice President Biden are moving into a discussion of cuts to healthcare entitlements.

Cantor told fellow House Republicans he is “cautiously optimistic” that the talks will yield spending cuts in excess of the amount by which the debt ceiling will be raised — a goal endorsed by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

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"As you know, Speaker Boehner has indicated that any increase in the debt limit ought to be accompanied by at least a commensurate reduction in the deficit. While discussions are still ongoing (and will continue this week), I am cautiously optimistic we can find sufficient common ground with the Administration to enact spending cuts that meet the goal outlined by the Speaker," he said in the email obtained by The Hill.

Cantor said that in addition to the five meetings of the seven members of the Biden group, staff has met “countless” additional times.

“Together, we have been going through all the major spending areas of the federal budget, beginning with non-health care mandatory programs and continuing with discussion on the health care entitlement programs,” he said. “We are also discussing discretionary spending and long-term budget process reforms that will hopefully prevent a repeat of the explosion of federal spending we have witnessed over the past several years.”

Cantor did not mention Medicare by name, or the GOP budget, which would turn Medicare into a system of federal subsidies for private insurance companies. He also didn't address the issue of tax increases, but GOP leaders have made clear they will not put taxes on the table — something Democrats have demanded.

Cantor warned members that interest groups will rise up to oppose the spending cuts, and asked members to contact his staff with any additional ideas for cuts and reforms in the coming weeks.

The Biden talks will reconvene on Thursday. In addition to Cantor and Biden, Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) are participating, as are Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and James Clyburn (D-S.C.).

Biden has said the talks are on track to produce more than $1 trillion in spending cuts. The administration has signaled it wants about a $2 trillion increase in the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by Aug. 2, in order to put the next anticipated raising of the ceiling after the 2012 elections.