Joe Biden and the Deficit Reduction Crew: Long on Smiles, Short on Details

May 10, 2011 7:18pm

ABC News' Jon Garcia reports: Vice President Joe Biden said he remains “optimistic” that he and the congressional team tasked with reducing the federal budget deficit are heading in the right direction.

But none of the participants offered details after the second meeting of the “bipartisan, bicameral” team today at the Blair House.

“Look, optimism is an occupational requirement. I remain optimistic,” Biden said to reporters waiting outside of the closed-door meeting.  “We had a really good discussion. We have set an agenda for the next meeting and we’re making real progress. Whether we get to the finish line with this group is another question."

Biden and the White House team — Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew, and National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling — spent almost two hours with Republicans Rep. Eric Cantor and Sen. Jon Kyle and Democrats Sen. Max Baucus, Sen. Daniel Inouye, Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. James Clyburn. When they emerged, members either declined to speak or offered positive praise for how the meeting went. No one offered specifics.

“Good talk,” Baucus, D-Mont., said as he left the meeting. “It was better than the last one,”

He added that the next meeting will be on Thursday.

Clyburn, D-S.C., offered a thumbs up and called the meeting “great.”

Cantor, R-Va., and Kyl, R-Ariz., offered no assessment as they left. 

The deficit reduction team is looking to close a $1.6 trillion budget gap, but Democrats and Republicans have yet to agree on exactly how to do that. Republican House Speaker John Boehner has said that raising taxes is not an option while President Obama has maintained that deep cuts in clean energy, education and infrastructure “are the kinds of cuts that tell us we can’t afford the America that I believe in.”

Biden painted today’s meeting in a favorable light. 

"Everybody is being straight, cordial,” he said. “All the facts are being laid on the table.  We’re going through what we agree on, what we disagree on. And then we’re going to go back after that is all over and figure out the big chunks left or whether we can make any compromise.”

Asked about what they actually do agree on, Biden replied: “We agree on a lot, I’ll tell you when it’s over.”

– Jon Garcia

 

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