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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.

Updated: 6:54 p.m.

After Republican deputies abandoned debt talks Thursday, the negotiations are now squarely in the hands of the top leaders — Speaker John Boehner, President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — whether or not they’re ready to tackle the massive task.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) decided to walk out of talks led by Vice President Joseph Biden after declaring an impasse over Democrats’ demands for a tax increase to accompany trillions of dollars in spending cuts. But Reid said Thursday he had not yet been contacted to join in any new high-level negotiations.

According to White House press secretary Jay Carney, Obama and Boehner met Wednesday night at the White House. Carney would say only that the meeting was designed “to discuss a variety of issues, following up on conversations he had with him on the golf course.”

Carney also confirmed that Cantor had called Biden on Thursday to inform him he would no longer attend the meetings. A GOP aide also said Cantor informed other GOP leaders including Boehner, Kyl and Jeb Hensarling (Texas) before he announced his decision.

Despite private grumbling among some Republicans that Cantor had essentially blown up the talks while the GOP was still holding the ball, Carney said the end of the Biden-led negotiations simply marks a new phase of the effort to tackle the debt limit.

“It has always been the case where these talks would proceed to a point where the remaining areas of disagreement would be addressed by leaders and the president,” Carney said.

“This process is sort of proceeding as envisioned,” he added.

A GOP aide agreed, arguing Cantor’s decision was aimed at “changing the dynamic” of the negotiations after they had entered their most difficult phase.

Biden cited “significant progress” by the negotiators over the past several weeks and said the process was transitioning as planned.

“As all of us at the table said at the outset, the goal of these talks was to report our findings back to our respective leaders,” he said in a statement late Thursday afternoon. “The next phase is in the hands of those leaders, who need to determine the scope of an agreement that can tackle the problem and attract bipartisan support. For now the talks are in abeyance as we await that guidance. We stand ready to meet again as necessary.”

But Reid said Thursday that he’s “terribly disappointed” that Republicans have abandoned deficit talks with Vice President Joseph Biden, and the Nevada Democrat pledged to keep working to find a solution.

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