Biden optimistic about debt limit deal by end of June

Vice President Joseph Biden is surrounded by members of the press as he leaves after a meeting June 14, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images
Vice President Joe Biden expressed optimism on Tuesday that the team of bipartisan lawmakers currently attempting to work out a deal on approving a raise to the debt limit could achieve their mission by the end of June.

"We pray that, as my grandfather said, by the grace of God, the goodwill of the neighbors and the creek not rising, I think we're going to be in a position hopefully that by the end of the month ... we have something to take to the leaders," Biden said.

Biden declined to discuss the details surrounding the negotiations, however, noting that, "if I do, every lawyer from K Street will be down here."

"The only reason this is still working is because I haven't told you any of those things," he told reporters.

The U.S. government hit its $14.3 trillion debt limit on May 16, but the Treasury Department implemented what it called "extraordinary" measures to keep the government from defaulting on its loans. The Obama administration and several economists have warned, however, that Congress must raise the debt limit by Aug. 2 to avoid economic catastrophe. Republicans, meanwhile, have argued that raising the debt limit without also making significant cuts to the federal budget would be irresponsible.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said on Tuesday that he and the other five lawmakers working with Biden on the deal were getting to the "tougher issues" involved in the negotiations, but that they were "still all friends."

According to the Huffington Post, the group as of Tuesday intended to discuss deficit triggers in Wednesday meetings.

"We're getting into some of the tougher issues," Van Hollen said, but added, "the fact is we're still all friends and talking around the table, so that's good news."

Biden said he thought the group could feasibly "get well beyond" $1 trillion in cuts.

Still, there appears to remain a significant divide between how much each side is willing to compromise in the talks.

Republicans have demanded that any raise to the debt limit be matched in equal amount by spending cuts - and according to the Associated Press, "they also want the legislation to provide enough borrowing room so that there would only need to be one vote on the politically toxic topic before next year's elections."

And GOP leaders remain steadfast in their opposition to including any tax hikes in the deal.

In a Tuesday op-ed for the Baltimore Sun, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote that "over the next several weeks, Republicans in Washington will be engaged in a critical mission: to persuade Democrats of the need to develop a plan that reins in our debt without raising taxes, which we know would kill jobs."

"This effort is taking place in the context of President Barack Obama's request to raise the nation's debt limit, and early indications suggest that many Democrats still need some convincing," McConnell wrote.

Meanwhile, top Democrats say they will not allow the reductions to include Medicare cuts for the elderly.

"We will not allow cuts to seniors' benefits," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., according to the Associated Press.

Regardless, Biden remains optimistic.

"There's a lot of give on everybody's side," he said. "We all have agreed to just keep this thing going around, you know, the clock, basically."

"Somebody has to give up their recess to do this," he added. "Everybody's in the deal."

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