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Richmond Times-Dispatch-House GOP, Obama Meet on Debt Limit

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Location: Unknown

By Olympia Meola, Wesley P. Hester

House Republicans met with President Barack Obama at the White House on Wednesday, one day after they rejected an increase of the nation's credit limit.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-7th, said he asked Obama to work with Republicans to keep tax increases out of discussions about the debt limit as well as talks on spending cuts, led by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

"It's counterintuitive to believe that you increase taxes on those individuals and entities that you are expecting to create jobs," he said.

Cantor is among a small bipartisan group of lawmakers who are meeting with Biden and other administration officials to forge agreement on spending cuts in advance of a looming deadline to increase the debt limit.

Republicans want cuts at least equal to the amount of the credit-level increase -- potentially a couple of trillion dollars.

Rep. Robert Hurt, R-5th, said Wednesday that the president was gracious during the meeting and that everyone was respectful.

"I think that we all sincerely would like to see us resolve this debt ceiling question, and I think we all sincerely want to move this country in the right direction, but you can't escape the fact that there are some deep philosophical differences that we're going to have to get through," Hurt said in an interview.

Hurt said he has yet to see a plan that he would support in order to increase the debt ceiling.

"I have an open mind because I recognize the importance of the vote, but I also see here an opportunity to get some real long-term solutions to a balanced budget, to spending caps that cap government spending as a percentage of GDP, and short-term spending cuts that reduce our deficit as soon as possible," he said.

Rep. Scott Rigell, R-2nd, said after the meeting that "profound differences" remain.

Reps. Robert W. Goodlatte, R-6th, Morgan Griffith, R-9th, and Frank R. Wolf, R-10th, also were in attendance. Reps. Robert J. Wittman, R-1st, and J. Randy Forbes, R-4th, had scheduling conflicts.

Cantor said the meeting also gave Republicans a chance to air concerns about the current economic conditions. He referenced a report released Wednesday by ADP, a private payroll firm, that said private-sector employment increased by 38,000 from April to May on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Cantor said it was "woefully short of the amount needed for us to see this economy get back on track and people get back to work."

He said Obama "admitted that we have to look at growing this economy, and the discussion focused on the philosophical difference on whether Washington should continue to pump money into the economy, or (whether) we should provide an incentive for entrepreneurs and small businesses to grow."

On Tuesday, House Republicans held an up-or-down vote on whether to increase the nation's debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion -- an effort designed to fail, illustrating a lack of support for an increase without cuts.

Virginia's delegation split on party lines, with Reps. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott, D-3rd, James P. Moran, D-8th, and Gerald E. Connolly, D-11th, joining 97 other House Democrats in supporting the increase.

Republicans in attendance, including Virginia's eight-member GOP contingent, voted against the increase, along with 82 Democrats.

"We have no choice but to increase the debt limit," Moran said in a statement.

"I am deeply disappointed in House Republicans for bringing a vote on the debt limit in a way designed for it to fail," he added. "It's economically dangerous political theater that threatens to destabilize financial markets and calls into question the full faith and credit of the United States."

Scott said he supported the increase because it was "the responsible thing to do."

He repeated Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's warning that failure to raise the debt limit by early August would at least cause an increase in interest rates.

"Increasing the debt limit is simply an acknowledgment of money that has already been spent," Scott said. "The United States government pays its bills and always has."

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