Joe Biden could be key to debt limit compromise

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky, left, and others, about the upcoming Supreme Court appointments, Wednesday, May 13, 2009, in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
Mitch McConnell Joe Biden

Speaking of the debt limit fight Thursday evening, a White House official said, "this thing is a mess." Sources tell CBS News that the president is going to be relying on his vice president, Joe Biden, to leverage his longstanding Senate relationships to try and forge a compromise out of it.

I'm told the vice president - who has been involved in these negotiations for the past three months - is still very much engaged.

With the House GOP bill faltering, the key to any deal may be the Republican leader in the Senate: Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Sources say the vice president and Sen. McConnell have discussed multiple scenarios in the past about how to solve this deficit debacle.

The two have a very good relationship. They have served a quarter of a century together, and they were the ones who negotiated in secret last December to work out that compromise on the extension of the bush tax cuts for another two years. However, I'm told the vice president has not offered any specific compromise at this point. And that they are waiting for that final vote on House GOP bill, expected Thursday evening.

So what happens next?

White house officials believe there is an easy compromise here. The bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has put forward, like Boehner's bill, cuts spending and doesn't raise revenues. No matter the fate of either bill, the White House points to elements of both that could be salvaged.

For example: Both bills set up a committee in Congress that would address the issues of tax reform and entitlement reform. The big difference is that the Boehner bill calls second vote in six months to raise the debt ceiling again. But, as one Democratic official involved in the negotiations said today, "who wants to go through this three ring circus again right before Christmas?"

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    Norah O'Donnell is a co-host of "CBS This Morning." She also contributes to "60 Minutes"