Biden: Revenues needed as part of debt limit bill

By Andrew Taylor

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, May 24 2011 5:20 p.m. MDT

Vice President Joe Biden talks to reporters just off the Senate floor after trying to bridge the gap between Republicans and Democrats in Congress on how to solve America's debt crisis, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, May 24, 2011.

J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday that new revenues need to be part of any agreement with Republicans on legislation to raise the limit on how much money the government can borrow to continue to meet its obligations.

"I've made it clear today ... revenues have to be in the deal," Biden told reporters after meeting with GOP negotiators.

The vice president's pronouncement puts the Obama administration at odds with Republicans, who insist revenue increases are off the table.

"Tax increases are not going to be something that we'll support," said Majority Leader Eric Canter of Virginia, who's representing House Republicans in the talks. But he concurred that "progress is being made."

Biden wasn't specific about what new revenues the White House wants as part of any agreement, and he didn't call for any tax increases.

Obama's budget includes user fees and proposes that the government auction off part of the nation's airwaves to raise revenue. Negotiators in the talks already have discussed possible increases in pension costs for federal employees, all of which would reduce federal deficits.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said he's confident that a rollback of tax breaks for big oil companies will be part of any final pact.

The vice president also said talks were on pace to produce deficit cuts exceeding $1 trillion and that the talks would extend to procedural mechanisms known as "triggers" to force further automatic deficit cuts of up to $4 trillion if lawmakers were unable to come up with the savings in future legislation.

Biden is the lead negotiator for the administration on legislation combining the debt limit increase with spending cuts demanded by Republicans.

"We're making progress," Biden said. "Our Republican friends and the Democrats think we're making progress. We're confident that if we keep on this pace we can get to relatively large numbers."

"I am confident that we can achieve over a trillion dollars in savings at this point, and hopefully more," Cantor said.

Tuesday's meeting reportedly addressed federal health care spending. Earlier sessions featured discussions of reductions in student loan subsidies, farm payments and support for federal workers' pensions. Prior to Tuesday, participants such as Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said the discussions centered on spending cuts over the next 10 years or so in the $150 billion to $200 billion range.

"Everybody knows that at the end of the day we're going to make some really tough decisions on some of the big ticket items," Biden said.

The negotiations are expected to take weeks as Congress faces an Aug. 2 deadline to avoid a first-ever, market-rattling default on U.S. obligations. It's a politically perilous vote made more difficult by the influx of tea party-backed Republicans who propelled the GOP into control of the House.

President Barack Obama has set out a goal of cutting the deficit by $4 trillion over the next 12 years. Biden said the initial wave of cuts would be less but that future legislation could meet the goal.

"I think we're in a position where we'll be able to get well above a trillion dollars ... in terms of what would be a down payment," Biden said. "We're going to be discussing trigger mechanisms and how do we do that to get to $4 trillion."

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