Entries in Negotiations (6)


Biden Basks in Glow of Successful 'Fiscal Cliff' Negotiations

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- For Vice President Biden, the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013 was a chance for him to ride to the rescue again by using his 36-year career in the Senate and relationships on both sides of the aisle to broker a deal to avert the fiscal cliff.

As the progress to reach a deal stalled in the Senate with just over 24 hours until the deadline, the vice president was called in to lend a hand in helping "jumpstart the negotiations," as described by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

And at least one person attributes the eventual success of the fiscal cliff talks to Biden, the former Delaware senator.

As Biden departed from a meeting with Senate Democrats late Monday evening, the vice president was asked what made the difference in the negotiations.

"Me," Biden said with a smile.

McConnell reached out to Biden Sunday afternoon after he was unable to negotiate with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Biden and McConnell, whose relationship dates back to the 24 years they served alongside each other in the Senate, held late-night and early-morning phone calls on Sunday and Monday morning as they hammered out a compromise before New Year's Eve end.

In the span of 14 hours, Biden went twice to Capitol Hill to sell the brokered deal to Democrats. He first met with Senate Democrats late on New Year's Eve and returned to the Hill on New Year's Day to speak with Democrats on the House side.

The bill crafted by Biden and McConnell received overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate with a vote of 89-8, and was passed by a vote of 257-167 in the House Tuesday evening.

The fiscal cliff deal adds to the list of the vice president's successful negotiations with McConnell. In 2010, he worked with the minority leader to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, and in the summer of 2011, they worked together to negotiate a plan to raise the nation's debt limit.

But before Congress and the White House came to an agreement in 2011, the debt ceiling package also experienced a few fumbles. Biden was tasked with leading a debt ceiling panel comprised of members of both parties, but the talks broke down when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Republican, decided to step away from the conversations. Biden and McConnell helped negotiate a plan just days before a potential default.

Biden appeared alongside President Obama late Tuesday evening as the president praised the cliff deal, calling the vice president "extraordinary" for his help in negotiating the package.

The vice president is expected to use his knack for compromise in the coming months as he spearheads efforts to craft gun policy with White House cabinet members and outside groups in the wake of the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Speaking to reporters the day after winning the election, the vice president predicted the role he'd play in his second term as vice president.

"I think I'll probably be asked to play a similar role on the debt issue that we did last time. I think my reaching out to the Congress, the Senate," Biden told reporters aboard Air Force Two the day after the election. "I also know I'll be doing a lot of foreign policy, so it will be whatever the issue of the day is. Like I told him the first time, I only want those assignments that have a 'sell by' date."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Payroll Tax Negotiators Conduct First Meeting

Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- The select group of bipartisan lawmakers responsible for striking a long-term extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance met formally for the first time Tuesday afternoon, hoping to cut a deal before the funding runs out for those programs at the end of February.

Rep. Dave Camp, the chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, was designated the chairman of the negotiations, while Sen. Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance committee, was picked as the vice chairman.

The conference committee must also figure out a way to reconcile funding for the sustainable growth rate, also known as the Doc fix, which reimburses physicians for Medicare services.

“The biggest issue I see is that the House, and only the House, has put forward a plan to extend for one year the payroll tax holiday, unemployment insurance benefits and payments to doctors treating our nation’s seniors and those enrolled in Medicare,” Camp, R-Mich., said.

“As you can see, we have our work cut out for us,” he said. “I am confident that if every member of this conference committee is committed to finding a solution, we can and will do it.”

In addition to Baucus, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid selected Jack Reed, Ben Cardin and Bob Casey to represent Senate Democrats.

“We’ve all come here from different places and we’ve fought for different priorities, but now we’re all in the same boat,” Baucus said. “This isn’t about a Washington debate. It’s about the consequences to our economy if we don’t deliver. Those consequences are real, and they affect each and every family we represent.”

The conference committee is a product of Congress’s compromise on a two-month extension of the three measures that was signed into law at the end of December. Republicans had passed a year-long extension, but efforts to agree with the Senate on a bill of that length proved futile. After weeks of brinksmanship, House Republicans finally caved just before Christmas and agreed to the Senate’s two-month temporary fix.

Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday that he is optimistic that the payroll tax committee can conclude its business quickly -- before the deadline Feb. 29.

“From all that I have heard from the Republicans, they want to do something and get this completed for a full year. That’s what they’ve said, and we hope that can be accomplished,” Reid said following the Senate Democrats’ weekly policy lunch. “I am hopeful that we can work toward completing this very quickly.”

Reid said he fully expects his appointees on the committee to “push” for the so-called millionaire’s surtax.

“We still believe that’s the fair thing to do,” he said.

In the past, Baucus, D-Mont., has been a supporter of the Keystone XL pipeline. Asked Tuesday if he would pressure Baucus to not include that provision as part of the payroll tax extension, Reid said Baucus is a “free agent,” but added of the Republicans’ proposals for the pipeline’s inclusion, “If they have some reasonable proposals, I’ll be happy to look at them. But that doesn’t sound too reasonable to me.”

Other than Camp, House Speaker John Boehner chose Nan Hayworth, Tom Price, Renee Ellmers, Kevin Brady, Fred Upton, Tom Reed and Greg Walden to represent House Republicans. Senate Republicans appointed Jon Kyl, John Barrasso and Mike Crapo to the conference committee. House Democrats Xavier Becerra, Sander Levin, Allyson Schwartz, Chris Van Hollen and Henry Waxman round out the conference’s negotiators.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Optimistic about 'Big Deal' to Raise Debt Limit, Cut Deficit

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama said Friday he's still optimistic that a "big deal" between Republicans and Democrats can be reached to increase the country's debt limit while reducing the deficit with a package of tax increases and "modest modifications" to entitlement programs.

"I am still pushing for us to achieve a big deal," Obama told reporters at the White House, while leaders of both parties huddled with their caucuses on Capitol Hill to mull over a path to a deal.

"We are obviously running out of time," Obama said, adding, "If they show me a serious plan, I'm ready to move, even if it requires some tough decisions on my part. Hopefully over the next couple of days we'll see this logjam broken."

Obama's comments came during his second during his second news conference this week on the deficit reduction negotiations, which have been held at the White House for each of the past five days. The parties have spent roughly eight hours together to try to reach a deal, so far to no avail.

While no negotiations will take place Friday, Obama said he instructed both sides to make a decision within the 24 hours on whether to proceed toward a deficit reduction deal linked to a ceiling increase, or whether to resign towards what officials have called the "fallback option" that would simply avoid default.

"We have an opportunity to do something big," he said, "if we're willing to seize the moment."

Negotiators on both sides are reportedly weighing three options for how to proceed to raise the debt ceiling before an Aug. 2 deadline set by the administration.

The so-called "big deal," which Obama favors, would reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years with cuts to entitlement programs and tax increases. But, this option has seemed to lose traction with both sides at impasse over taxes, and Democrats opposed to entitlement benefits cuts.

A middle-ground deal would trim somewhere between $1.5 and $1.7 trillion in government spending, but impose no entitlement cuts or tax elements. One roadblock with that plan is that Republicans demand that spending cuts at least match the amount of the increase of the debt ceiling, which the president says needs to be $2.4 trillion or so to get to 2013.

The fail-safe option -- conceived by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. -- would allow the debt ceiling to be raised by the president, with Congress voting disapprovingly three times before the 2012 election. McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are talking about creating an independent deficit commission that would recommend cuts to be voted on in Congress. "It's not the preferred option that we have," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday.

McConnell's plan does, however, provides a light at the end of the tunnel as the Aug. 2 default deadline quickly approaches and financial leaders warn of dire consequences.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said this week not raising the ceiling would be disastrous. And leading U.S. credit rating agencies have warned the country's bond rating is up for review and possible downgrade. Standard & Poor's warned that there is a 50 percent chance it will downgrade the government's credit rating within three months because of the impasse.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Injects Urgency Into Deficit Talks: Time to 'Pull Off the Band-Aid'

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama injected a sense of urgency into the high-stakes deficit reduction negotiations Monday, calling on lawmakers in both parties to "pull off the Band-Aid" and compromise on spending cuts and tax increases.

"I've been hearing from Republicans for some time that it's a moral imperative to deal with our debt and deficit in some way. So what I've said to them is, 'let's go,'" he said at a White House press conference just hours before congressional leaders were slated to return to the negotiating table.

Obama has endorsed a "balanced approach" to deficit reduction that would trim close to $4 trillion over the next decade through a mix of spending cuts -- including changes to some entitlement programs -- and tax increases for wealthier Americans and corporations.

But Republicans oppose any deal that results in higher taxes, saying they would burden Americans in a weak economy. And many Democrats say they oppose cuts to entitlements without any new tax revenue. The president acknowledged the seemingly insurmountable standoff Monday, but said leaders on both sides need to sacrifice some of their "sacred cows" to get a deal done. He also rejected the possibility of a short-term extension of the debt ceiling to buy more time.

"We might as well do it now," Obama said of the aversion to compromise in both parties. "Pull off the Band-Aid. Eat our peas. Let's step up. Let's do it. I'm prepared to take significant heat from my party to get it done. I expect the other side should do the same."

So far that has proven easier said than done.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has categorically ruled out any cuts or changes to entitlement program benefits, while some Republican leaders have drawn a line in the sand over taxes.

Both sides may now consider a smaller deficit reduction package -- perhaps around $2 trillion -- based on some of the spending cuts identified in talks led by Vice President Joe Biden over the past few weeks.

The debate over a deficit reduction deal is a prelude to dealing with a bigger issue: raising the nation's debt limit, which must happen by Aug. 2 or the U.S. will run out of money and could default on some of its loans, administration officials say.

Republican leaders have insisted that, at a minimum, any increase to the legal amount the nation can borrow to pay its bills must be matched with corresponding cuts in spending.

Talks will continue Monday afternoon at the White House -- the third meeting since Obama became directly involved in the talks. Negotiators for both sides will meet every day until a deal is made, Obama said Monday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Debt Talks Resume; Promises for 'Robust Series of Meetings' Next Week

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On the Hill Thursday Vice President Biden led the fifth round of deficit negotiations to raise the $14.3 trillion debt limit before the Aug. 2 deadline for action.

“The news economically and on the jobs front over the last several days I think underscore the importance of this meeting that we just came out of,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said to reporters following the meeting, “and there is a commitment for next week engaging once again in a robust series of meetings to see if we can achieve a result.”

Aides say that nothing has been scheduled yet for next week, but the group hopes to meet at least three times next week.

In April President Obama appointed his Vice President to lead the bipartisan deficit reduction talks with a group of lawmakers from each of the four caucuses. Since, Mr. Biden has held five meetings, ether on the Hill or at the Blair House near the White House. This week the House of Representatives is out of session and the week prior the Senate was out of session. Next week both houses of Congress will be in at the same time.

Cantor was the only leader to emerge from the meetings and speak with press.

“We believe that much of the problem surrounding the lack of job creation and growth in this country has to do with the fact that there isn’t a credible plan to manage down the debt and deficit in this country,” Cantor said, “That’s what we’re trying to produce here, and we had a much substantive discussion today and look forward to more next week.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Deficit Commission Chairs Call for Deficit Negotiations in January

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a statement released Thursday, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, co-chairmen of the president’s deficit commission, urged the president to initiate negotiations with congressional leaders about creating a national deficit reduction plan upon their return in January. 

Bowles and Simpson met with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Office of Management and Budget director Jack Lew Thursday morning at the White House and released a statement in conjunction with the meeting.
In the statement, Bowles and Simpson expressed the need for bipartisan negotiations to establish “a serious fiscal responsibility plan to strengthen our economy for the long term.” 

They also encouraged President Obama to use the ideas contained in the commission’s plan unveiled last week as a starting point to develop his own deficit reduction plan.

"We urge the President to build on these bipartisan ideas by putting forward his own plan in his State of the Union address and budget.  We further call on him to bring key congressional leaders together with administration officials to negotiate and reach conclusion on a specific deficit reduction agreement that would be enacted," Bowles and Simpson said in the joint statement.

The co-chairmen concluded emphasizing the importance of working together across the aisle.

"Neither party can fix this problem on its own, and both parties have a responsibility to do their part.  Americans are counting on us to put politics aside, pull together not pull apart, and agree on a plan to live within our means and make America strong for the long haul."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio