- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 23, 2011

Republican negotiators walked away from bipartisan deficit reduction talks between Congress and the White House on Thursday, saying the bargaining sessions had reached an impasse over tax increases Democrats are insisting must be part of any eventual deal.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, two top GOP members on a six-member congressional delegation that had been meeting regularly with Vice President Joseph R. Biden, said President Obama must now get personally involved if the conversations are going to go any further.

“Each side came into these talks with certain orders, and as it stands the Democrats continue to insist that any deal must include tax increases,” Mr. Cantor said in a prepared statement.

Soon after Mr. Cantor’s exit, Mr. Kyl quickly followed. A senior Republican aide said the senator felt that without Mr. Cantor — the sole House Republican participant — the group essentially was dead.

The move exacerbates the tension and raises the political stakes for both sides to cut a deal on spending ahead of what the administration is an early August deadline to raise the federal borrowing limit and avoid what could be a catastrophic default on the government’s debts.

**FILE** House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican (Associated Press)
**FILE** House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican (Associated Press) more >

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president is prepared to take a more active role in working with Capitol Hill to reach a deal, and played down the notion that talks had ground to a halt.

“It is always been the case that these talks would proceed to a point where the remaining areas of disagreement would be addressed by [congressional] leaders and the president,” he said.

Mr. Biden said it was time for congressional party leaders to push the talks forward.

“The goal of these talks was to report our findings back to our respective leaders,” the vice president said in statement released Thursday evening. “The next phase is in the hands of those leaders, who need to determine the scope of an agreement that can tackle the problem and attract bipartisan support.”

Despite the at-times confrontational rhetoric, there were signs the two sides were keeping the lines of communication open.

Mr. Carney told reporters that House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, had met unannounced with Mr. Obama at the White House on Wednesday evening. The meeting was at the president’s initiative, and the first known encounter between the two men since their widely publicized round of golf last weekend.

There were no details on what the two men discussed.

Mr. Obama had demanded the high-level negotiations in April, and charged the panel with coming up with budget reforms that Congress will accept in exchange for raising the government’s debt ceiling. Republican leaders, pressed by a large contingent of new tea party-allied members, have demanded major spending cuts and reforms as their price for agreeing to another debt ceiling hike.

The talks are being conducted behind closed doors and even party leaders said they are not privy to all the details being discussed, though the outlines are clear: Republicans say the federal red ink should be reduced through spending cuts, while Democrats argue tax increases should also be on the table.

After 11 meetings, Republicans said the talks have gone as far as they can without Mr. Obama becoming personally involved.

Story Continues →