Top Republicans Walk Out of VP Biden's Debt Talks

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Senate Whip Jon Kyl leave negotiating table.

ByABC News
June 23, 2011, 5:57 PM

June 23, 2011 -- Vice President Joe Biden's debt ceiling talks hit a brick wall Thursday after two key Republicans walked out in a dispute over the idea of raising taxes.

The departures of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., Thursday morning left the formerly bicameral, bipartisan talks with no Republicans left at the negotiating table.

Cantor said the group had reached an "impasse" because Republicans oppose any and all tax hikes, while Democrats say they are a necessary in a balanced attempt at deficit reduction.

"As it stands, the Democrats continue to insist that any deal must include tax increases," Cantor said. "There is not support in the House for a tax increase, and I don't believe now is the time to raise taxes in light of our current economic situation. Regardless of the progress that has been made, the tax issue must be resolved before discussions can continue."

Shortly after, Kyl announced that he was abandoning the talks as well.

"The White House and Democrats are insisting on job-killing tax hikes and new spending," Kyl said in a joint statement issued with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Mo. "That proposal won't address our fiscal crisis, our jobs crisis, or protect and reform entitlements, and a bill with new spending and higher taxes would fail with bipartisan opposition -- as it should. President Obama needs to decide between his goal of higher taxes or a bipartisan plan to address our deficit. He can't have both. But we need to hear from him."

The negotiations were intended to develop a plan that would gain enough support to pass both Houses of Congress before the Obama administration's Aug. 2 deadline to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.

The vice president's negotiating group, which began talks May 5, met three times last week, twice already this week and was scheduled to have its 11th meeting Thursday afternoon. But that meeting was cancelled after Cantor and Kyl backed out, leaving the current state of the discussions unclear.

Aboard Air Force One today, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that the deficit talks "are essentially in abeyance for now" and that they "may or may not resume in different forms." He did not, however, have any "announcement about specific talks" to come in the near future.

Carney made clear that the talks were always going to reach this point.

"It is not as though this negotiating group could simply declare into law what they agreed on," he said. "So the process was always going to have to proceed out of the negotiating room and move forward with the engagement of the speaker, Senate leaders, House minority leader, the president, et cetera.

"These talks were designed to find areas of common ground," he added. "A lot of progress has been made. Obviously, part of the design of this was to find areas of agreement and common ground and identify areas of disagreement which could then be referred to the leaders in Congress ... to the president, and [the leaders would] try to work out some of the areas of disagreement. So, these talks are in abeyance, but we expect going forward that we will continue to address these issues in search of a compromise."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, accepted the president's invitation to come to the White House late Wednesday afternoon "just to discuss a variety of issues following up on conversations they had on the golf course on Saturday," Carney said.