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Deficit talks implode as GOP negotiators drop out

government spending, money, debt, deficit, budget

Updated at 3:15 p.m. ET

Vice President Joe Biden's deficit reduction talks imploded today after the only two Republicans involved in the negotiations announced they are halting their participation because of their objections to Democratic demands for "tax increases."

Democrats meanwhile, suggested Republicans are "playing with fire" by holding up a vote on raising the debt ceiling.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced this morning that he would skip today's scheduled meeting because "Democrats continue to insist that any deal must include tax increases."

Subsequently, Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona announced he was pulling out of the negotiations. Kyl and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement saying, "The White House and Democrats are insisting on job-killing tax hikes and new spending. That proposal won't address our fiscal crisis, our jobs crisis, or protect and reform entitlements."

Cantor, Kyl and McConnell all put the onus on President Obama to inject himself in the talks and come up with a plan for reducing the nation's deficit.

Democrats, meanwhile, learned about their Republican colleagues' revolt after walking out of a White House meeting regarding the deficit.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters, "Yes, we do want to remove tax subsidies for big oil. We want to remove tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas. I don't know if that's a reason to walk away from the table."

Biden has been leading the negotiations (with the two Republicans, four congressional Democrats and three other members of the administration) with the hope of forging a deficit reduction plan as part of a deal to raise the nation's debt ceiling. The group wanted to reach an agreement before Congress leaves for its July 4 recess -- giving Congress a month to actually pass a bill to raise the debt ceiling without risking a great strain on the economy.

The Obama administration and several economists have urged Congress to raise the debt limit by Aug. 2 to avoid economic catastrophe. The Treasury Department has taken accounting steps to keep the government from defaulting since it hit the ceiling May 16, but it has said Aug. 2 is a hard deadline.

Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, one of the Democrats involved in Biden's talks, said, "people are playing with fire and really putting the very fragile economy at greater threat" by threatening to vote against raising the debt limit.

Republicans have insisted that raising the debt ceiling without also making significant spending cuts would be fiscally irresponsible. Pelosi, however, said today that there's no reason why a vote to raise the debt limit must be tied to deficit reduction.

"Somehow, in an amoeba-like fashion, these two merged together," she said.

Van Hollen suggested Republicans were more concerned with keeping taxes low for corporations than they were with deficit reduction.

"The reality is until our Republican colleagues are more concerned about the need to reduce the deficit than they are worried about what [conservative anti-tax advocate] Grover Norquist will say, we will have a very difficult time," he said.

The Republicans' decision to stall the negotiations puts more pressure on Mr. Obama to take responsibility -- and possibly the blame -- for the hard decisions Washington must make to bring down the deficit. The move also takes some of the pressure off of Cantor and Kyl, leaving House Speaker John Boehner to cut a deal with the president.

Speaking to reporters this afternoon, Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid lamented that with Kyl and Cantor gone, the negotiations are "in the hands of the speaker, and the president and sadly, probably me."

A recent CBS News pollfound that 63 percent of Americans think raising the debt limit is a bad idea.

Speaking on the Senate floor this morning, McConnell said Mr. Obama has up to this point "stood in the background."

"He has acted as if it's not his problem," he said. "Well, it is his problem. This is his problem to solve. America is waiting."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today the president still supports a "balanced approach" and expects to see some kind of compromise between Democrats and Republicans.

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