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Amid fresh barbs, Biden still 'optimistic' about deficit talks

May 10, 2011|By Christi Parsons and Michael A. Memoli
(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images )

Emerging from a second round of talks on the budget, Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday that he remains optimistic about coming to a consensus plan to reduce the deficit, even as stark differences remain between the parties.

Biden said members of the bipartisan working group went over their respective positions at the latest Blair House summit, and "agree on a lot." But he acknowledged that it is unclear whether "we cross the finish line with [this] group."

In his April speech outlining his deficit reduction plan, President Obama tasked Biden with heading these negotiations with Republicans and Democrats from both chambers of Congress. The first meeting was last Thursday.

This second gathering followed remarks from House Speaker John A. Boehner on Monday saying any proposal to raise the debt ceiling must include comparable spending reductions, which he said should total trillions, not billions. He also said tax increases are off the table.

White House spokesman Jay Carney responded Tuesday that Republicans must be prepared to move beyond such "maximalist positions."

"We understand that there are starting positions. We also understand that compromise involves acknowledging that you have to move off of your starting position," he told reporters aboard Air Force One as the president traveled to Texas for a speech on immigration reform.

Separate from the Biden working group, the so-called "Gang of Six" senators continue to work on developing their own bipartisan plan. And Tuesday another group, this one made up conservative Republican senators led by Pennsylvania's Patrick J. Toomey, introduced its own fiscal plan that would balance the budget in the next decade.

"We're either going to stay on this path ... or we're going to depart from this path and adopt fiscal discipline that our constituents expect from us," Toomey said at a Capitol Hill news conference. "The time to choose is now and time is running out."

Colby Itkowitz of the Morning Call contributed to this report.

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