* Cantor: Opposes second debt-limit vote before elections
* Unusual praise for Biden's leadership
* Optimism ahead of an intensive week of talks
(Repeats to delete extraneous letter in first paragraph)
By Andy Sullivan
WASHINGTON, June 13 U.S. Democrats and
Republicans are starting to agree on significant spending cuts
as they step up talks to stabilize the country's long-term
finances, a top Republican lawmaker said on Monday.
"There's room for us to agree on trillions of dollars in
savings," Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House of
Representatives, told reporters. "We are beginning to see the
essence of convergence on savings begin to happen."
Cantor and other negotiators face growing pressure to reach
an agreement that would narrow record budget deficits and raise
the country's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling before an Aug. 2
The Treasury Department has warned that the country could
face a default if the debt ceiling is not raised by then -- a
prospect that could push the country back into recession and
rattle markets across the globe.
Cantor said he hoped the group including Vice President Joe
Biden would strike a deal that would ensure Congress would not
have to revisit the politically painful issue before the
November 2012 elections.
With Republicans insisting any increase must be matched by
an equal amount of spending cuts, that means the group would
have to agree on roughly $2.4 trillion in spending cuts.
Ahead of three days of talks, Cantor went out of his way to
praise Biden's stewardship of the group, which includes five
other top lawmakers.
"I've been very impressed with the way he conducts these
meetings. He does like to talk but I guess all of us do or we
wouldn't be here. I do believe he has conducted these meetings
in a way that has kept the ball rolling," said Cantor, who is
not normally known for his effusive praise of Democrats.
The sputtering economy poses an additional challenge for
the negotiators as they seek to trim budget deficits that in
recent years have hovered at their highest levels relative to
the economy since World War Two.
Washington is unlikely to sign off on aggressive new
stimulus efforts as Republicans push for spending cuts rather
than additional deficit spending. Cantor said those cuts could
be spread out over 10 years, which would minimize their impact
in the short term.
"We are trying to look toward a plan that will manage down
the debt and deficit and at the same time help signal a return
to economic growth," Cantor said.
The deficit-reduction group is scheduled to tackle annual
spending and budgetary process reforms in three meetings this
(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)