(J. Scott Applewhite, AP )
Vice President Joe Biden will convene congressional negotiators Tuesday for a stepped-up round of debt reduction talks as the impasse over raising the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit enters a crucial period and both sides seek to avoid an unprecedented federal default.
With the House and Senate calendars aligned, the next two weeks could offer a productive moment to move closer toward a deal. Democrats and Republicans have indicated an interest in resolving the issue before Aug. 2, when the Treasury Department has said it can no longer pay its obligations.
But finding more than $2 trillion in spending cuts to appease the GOP has become a difficult task. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the majority leader, reiterated that Republicans want the amount of the cuts to be greater than the amount of new borrowing, estimated at $2.5 trillion, to continue paying the government’s bills through next year.
"I think we can accomplish that if parties are willing to make the tough decisions," Cantor said Monday.
Republicans oppose new tax revenue.
Cantor also all but ruled out an intermediary vote on a short-term increase in the debt ceiling to avert the default while negotiations continue, as some conservative groups have suggested. Debt-ceiling votes can be politically perilous, and leaders want to limit the exercise.
"It's my desire to have one debt-ceiling vote," Cantor said.
President Obama, who will be traveling to Puerto Rico on Tuesday, told NBC that the sides are making progress.
"There is a way of solving this problem that doesn't require any big, radical changes. What it does require is everybody makes some sacrifices," he said. "And we make these changes in a balanced way."