Biden Says Horse-Trading Under Way in Deficit Talks

Posted June 16, 2011 at 7:02pm

Vice President Joseph Biden outlined the status of his bipartisan negotiation on a deficit reduction deal Thursday, praising his fellow negotiators and saying that they all have a goal of reaching a $4 trillion package over a decade.

The final deal “has to be real,” with a down payment and a believable path to getting to that $4 trillion figure over a decade, Biden said.

He described in general some of the tentative horse-trading involved, saying that the two sides have started cutting smaller deals that are contingent on reaching a larger deal on tougher items, like revenue.

“We’ve said if we could agree on pieces most important to us Democrats, revenue, we’re prepared to agree on some of the things you want. On discretionary spending, if we can agree to more on military, we’re prepared to do more on boom. You all know the ideological divides we have.”

Biden said that there will be four meetings next week, and he’s asked the principals to block off more time in the schedule for the talks.

“Now we’re getting down to the real hard stuff,” he said. “I’ll trade you my bicycle for your golf clubs.”

Biden added that any agreement will require Democratic and Republican votes, saying that there are some Democrats who won’t vote for any cuts and some Republicans who are demanding “60 zillion” in cuts.

“At the end of the day we’re going to have to decide what is good for the country that actually gets the rest of the world saying these guys … are on the right track. … They’ve tackled a significant political dilemma and they’ve solved it, like we used to,” Biden said. “What is the, you know, the shtick out there? This is a dysfunctional place, can’t get anything done. The single most important thing to do for the market is convince them that no, that’s not true.”

Despite Biden’s general optimism, Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), one of the participants, said the talks still have a long way to go and it’s not yet clear whether they can bridge the gap between them. But he acknowledged that tentative agreements have been made on some smaller items that are contingent on a broader deal. Democrats have repeatedly made clear that a larger deal must include revenue, and Van Hollen said he was encouraged that Senate Republicans, at least, seem willing to do away with some tax subsidies, like the one for ethanol.

But House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), when asked what remained off the table for the talks, said, “Taxes.”