Biden: Debt talks 'in abeyance'

June 23, 2011 at 9:37 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 23 (UPI) -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday debt-reduction talks between the White House and congressional leaders are "in abeyance."

In a statement following the announcement by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor that he was pulling out the talks, Biden said the negotiations "have made significant progress on a blueprint for putting America's fiscal house in order. Working together in good faith, we have found many areas of common ground and potential agreement on substantial savings."

He said congressional leaders will need to "determine the scope of an agreement that can tackle the problem and attract bipartisan support."

"For now the talks are in abeyance as we await that guidance," Biden said. "We stand ready to meet again as necessary."

Cantor, R-Va., said the talks led by Vice President Joseph Biden had reached an impasse that could only be broken by President Barack Obama and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, The Washington Post reported.

In an interview with MSNBC Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the talks had been proceeding in good faith but Republicans are "resisting removing tax subsidies for big oil, removing tax breaks for corporations that send jobs overseas."

Pelosi said Democrats want to "make our tax system fair so everyo0ne pays their fair share."

"We're willing to have a balanced package," she said. "They're not."

Presidential press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Obama talked with Boehner before Wednesday's speech on Afghanistan but would not say whether the president was warned Cantor would leave the talks.

Carney repeatedly said the president would not give $200,000 tax breaks to the rich at the expense of putting an extra $6,000 expense on Medicare recipients. Carney wouldn't say whether Obama would meet with Boehner on the talks.

In a statement, Cantor said he is still optimistic about the talks, which he said have singled out "trillions in spending cuts" and set the "blueprint" for fiscal reforms, the Post said. He gave Biden "a great deal of credit for his leadership in bringing us this far."

But the Post reported a 3-hour bargaining session Wednesday failed to make progress, with Democrats repeatedly urging Republicans to accept a rise in taxes.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he was disappointed Cantor left the talks.

"I guess he wanted to meet directly with the president," the Post quoted Reid as saying.

In a Thursday meeting at the White House, U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other senior House Democrats called on Obama to support a significant tax increase as part of any deal, intended to reduce borrowing by as much as $2.4 trillion in the next decade, the Post said.

Cantor cited taxes as a reason for quitting the debt ceiling negotiations, The New York Times said.

The debt ceiling negotiation group has been working to reach some agreement before the Aug. 2 deadline for the debt limit to be raised.

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