Biden: Medicare, taxes are both on the table in debt reduction talks

Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPossible GOP challenger says Trump doesn't doesn't deserve reelection, but would vote for him over Democrat Joe Biden faces an uncertain path The Memo: Trump pushes back amid signs of economic slowdown MORE said after the third round of debt talks between Democrats and Republicans Thursday that he and lawmakers are discussing all aspects of the federal budget, including tax increases and possible cuts to entitlement programs like Medicare.

He also said that tax increases are being discussed, despite GOP attempts to refuse to have that discussion, and that Medicare is being examined despite Democratic resistance to doing so.

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“We agreed everything is discussed. My friends think you can go into a negotiation and say ahead of time that revenues are not a part of this. That is ridiculous,” Biden said. “They know. Now, they may never agree, but it's on the table.”

He added that Republicans want “to talk about long-term Medicare costs — well, Democrats go ‘wait a minute’ … it’s all on the table. It’s all open to discussion.”

The group is trying to find a sufficient deficit-reduction plan that will get Republicans to agree to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling that is set to be breached by Aug. 2.  Republicans have called for real spending cuts amounting to trillions of dollars as well as entitlement reforms.

Biden hinted that the talks may have reached some highly tentative agreements.

“Nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to,” he said. “What we agreed to is tentative.”

Biden said that, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAre Democrats turning Trump-like? House Democrat calls for gun control: Cities can ban plastic straws but 'we can't ban assault weapons?' Churches are arming and training congregants in response to mass shootings: report MORE said earlier in the day, the talks are not a mere “commission” but rather the forum where a deficit deal can be done this year.

“I am convinced that we can get to a significant down-payment on the $4 trillion we all agree has to be cut in the escalation of the debt over the next 10 years. But it’s really hard,” he said.

Biden said there was likely not going to be any announcement for the next four or five meetings of the group. The group will not meet next week because the House is not in session.

Staff will work on about 10 areas of discussion until the next meeting the week after, he said.

“It’s premature to be optimistic, but I am clearly not pessimistic,” he said.