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Cantor, Kyl Force Debt Talks to Leader Level

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After House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (right) and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl left bipartisan debt talks Thursday, top leaders are primed to play a larger role in negotiations.

“It appears they are giving up,” Reid said. “We can’t give up. The issues are far too serious.”

Reid said he hopes the Republicans reconsider. “We have to act like adults here,” he said.

Asked if he would join direct talks with Boehner and Obama, Reid said “I haven’t been invited to a meeting yet.”

Still, Reid said the issue now appears to be in the hands of the top leaders, and he dismissed the idea raised by some Senators that this could give an opening for a revival of the bipartisan “gang of six” to fill the vacuum.

“My honest feeling is that I think we’re beyond gangs of five and gangs of sixes,” he said. The gang of six — Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Michael Crapo (R-Idaho), and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) — essentially collapsed when Coburn last month pulled out of those talks.

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), one of the two negotiators for Senate Democrats in the Biden talks, also said he was disappointed at Kyl and Cantor’s decision. “Our deficit problem is too important to walk away,” he said, reiterating that a balanced approach is needed.

“There has to be some revenue,” he said. “I’m hopeful this is merely a temporary setback.”

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the No. 3 Democratic leader, said Cantor seemed to be “spooked” by the need for a compromise in the talks and walked out. “This was not an adult moment,” the party’s messaging chief said.

Schumer said a final deal cannot cut Medicare benefits and must generate revenue by eliminating wasteful subsidies and loopholes and do something to generate jobs in the short term, including tax cuts. Likewise, Carney indicated the president would not sign onto a deal that cut Medicare but continued to allow “millionaires and billionaires” to receive tax cuts.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), who was part of the House Democrats’ representation in the Biden talks, told reporters Thursday he is “disappointed that Leader Cantor has chosen to leave the talks. They had been proceeding well, although there was no doubt that there were some very difficult issues that needed to be decided.”

He added: “The Speaker of the House said it was time for an adult moment. An adult moments means it’s time for making tough decisions. And the reality is: Until our Republican colleagues are more concerned about the need to reduce the deficit than they’re worried about what Grover Norquist will say, we’re going to have a really difficult time reducing the deficit.”

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she did not hear about Cantor’s news until after she left a deficit reduction meeting at the White House on Thursday morning. And until Thursday, the California Democrat said, she had thought the bipartisan talks were constructive and moving ahead.

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