Congressional leaders emerged from the fifth round of talks led by Vice President Biden on Thursday afternoon offering few specifics on progress toward a comprehensive deficit-reduction deal but pledging to accelerate the pace of their meetings.
“The news economically on the jobs front in the last several days underscored the importance of this meeting that we just came out of,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told reporters Thursday afternoon after a session lasting more than 2 ½ hours.
“There’s a commitment for next week that we will be engaging, once again, in a robust series of meetings to see if we can achieve a result. We believe that many of the problems surrounding the lack of job creation and growth in this country have to do with the fact that there isn’t a credible plan to manage down the debt and deficit in this country.”
Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, told reporters after the meeting that the six bipartisan negotiators planned to meet with Biden three times next week.
“I think today was a day of listening and exchanging views,” Van Hollen said. “So I would say that we’re about where we are, and the talks continue to be constructive.”
The working group, which includes Cantor, Van Hollen, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and House Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.), met with Biden for about two hours Thursday. Then the vice president was called back to the White House for a National Security Council meeting, and the congressional negotiators continued meeting for about another 40 minutes.
After the group’s previous meetings, Biden had typically addressed reporters with a brief statement on the negotiators’ progress; on Thursday, however, he went out a back door without taking any questions.
On the agenda for Thursday’s meeting were the budget process, discretionary spending and the issue of revenue. Democrats have been making the case for new revenue as well as a cap on the size of the federal deficit; Republicans have opposed increasing taxes as a means of raising revenue and are seeking a proposal that eventually places a 20.6 percent cap on all government spending, including defense and entitlements.
Any eventual progress hashed out by the Biden group is likely to be followed by a powwow among President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on the scale of a final plan.
Among the options are a $1 trillion deal (with a nine-month debt limit increase), a $2 trillion deal (that would extend the debt limit through the 2012 election) or a deal hitting the $4 trillion target set by House Republicans and the White House’s bipartisan fiscal commission last year.
The Treasury Department has said that Aug. 2 is the final date by which Congress must vote to raise the $14.3 trillion federal borrowing limit or else the country risks going into default on its debt obligations.
Staff writer Lori Montgomery contributed to this report.