The Washington Times - June 13, 2011, 03:48PM

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Monday said ongoing bipartisan deficit reduction talks between Congress and the White House have gone well and gave much of credit to lead negotiator Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

“We have had some really significant and substantive discussions in these talks, and I think the success of these talks thus far is due to the vice president and the way he had conducted the meetings,” the Virginia Republican said during his weekly briefly with reporters at the Capitol.


Mr. Cantor, offering rare praise of a Democrat, said Mr. Biden has done an admirable job ensuring that Republican proposals get a fair shake.

“I’ve been very impressed with the way he conducts these meetings,” Mr. Cantor said. “I do really think he has conducted these meetings in a way that’s kept the ball rolling. And we are, I believe, beginning to see the essence of convergence on savings begin to happen.”

With three more meetings scheduled for this week, Mr. Cantor said he is hopeful to “begin to focus on where the greater issues of commonality are so that we can begin to really focus on the results that we want to produce the savings.”

Mr. Biden has been meeting regularly since May with a bipartisan group of six members of Congress — three members each from the House and Senate — to discuss ways to lower the nation’s ballooning debt and to hammer out a deal to increase the $14.294 trillion debt ceiling, which is the government’s legal limit on how much it can borrow to pay for its operations.

Congressional leaders of both parties, as well as the White House, Treasury Department, economists and Wall Street agree the debt limit should be raised. Exceeding the limit could lead to the U.S. defaulting on its loans, a scenario that would damage the nation’s credit rating, make financing the existing debt more expensive or even impossible, and could trigger another financial crisis.

The government hit the debt limit last month, though Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said he can juggle accounts until Aug. 2.

House and Senate Republicans have demanded significant cuts in government spending accompany any increase in the debt ceiling. But some conservative Tea Party-backed House Republicans want the debt limit left alone, saying raising it would lead to more unnecessary government spending.

Mr. Cantor said he has meet frequently with his House GOP colleagues to brief them on the talks and to gage “what they view as an acceptable level of (spending) cuts.”

“I’m hopeful that there is a level of confidence that we are building that we can reach a point of which our members feel comfortable that the cuts are real, the reforms are real and that we can achieve a result,” he said.