Vice President Joe Biden said Saturday the Obama administration wouldn't let middle class Americans "carry the whole burden" to break a deadlock over the national debt limit, warning that the Republican approach would only benefit the wealthy.
Addressing Ohio Democrats, Biden said there had been great progress in talks with Republican lawmakers on a deficit-reduction plan agreement. But he insisted that his party wouldn't agree to cuts that would undermine the elderly and middle-class workers.
"We're not going to let the middle class carry the whole burden. We will sacrifice. But they must be in on the deal," Biden said in a speech at the Ohio Democratic Party's annual dinner.
Biden led efforts on a deficit-reduction plan but Republicans pulled out of the discussions last week, prompting President Barack Obama to take control of the talks.
The sides disagree over taxes. Democrats say a deficit-reduction agreement must include tax increases or eliminate tax breaks for big companies and wealthy individuals. Republicans want huge cuts in government spending and insist on no tax increases.
On tax breaks for the wealthy, Biden used the example of hedge fund managers who "play with other people's money."
"And they get taxed," Biden said. "I'm not saying they don't do good things, they do some good things. But they get taxed at 15 percent because they call it capital gains. Because they're investing not their money, (but) other people's money."
To ask senior citizens receiving Medicare to pay more in taxes when people earning more than $1 million a year receive a substantial tax cut "borders on immoral," the vice president said.
"We're never going to get this done, we're never going to solve our debt problem if we ask only those who are struggling in this economy to bear the burden and let the most fortunate among us off the hook," Biden said.
Republican leaders say without a deal cutting long-term deficits, they will not vote to increase the nation's borrowing -- which will exceed its $14.3 trillion limit on Aug. 2. The Obama administration has warned that if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling, it would lead to the first U.S. financial default in history and roil financial markets around the globe.
Obama and Biden are scheduled to meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on Monday. McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, say no agreement can include tax increases.
Biden assailed moves by GOP governors in Wisconsin and Ohio to strip away collective bargaining rights from most public workers while criticizing efforts by Republicans in Congress to alter the Medicare program. He defended Obama's handling of the economy, pointing to difficult decisions on an economic stimulus package and the rescue of U.S. automakers.
Ahead of Biden's visit, Republicans countered that Obama's policies led to GOP gains in 2010 and have failed to revitalize the economy.
"All the visits in the world from President Obama, Vice President Biden and other top-level surrogates won't change the administration's job-killing policies," said Republican National Committee spokesman Ryan Tronovitch.
Biden, who spoke frequently of his blue-collar roots in Scranton, Pa., during the 2008 presidential race, is expected to be a frequent visitor to the Midwest during next year's campaign.
Obama won states such as Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania in 2008. But those states elected Republican governors in 2010 and are considered prime targets for Republicans next year.
Looking ahead to 2012, Biden called Ohio "the state that we must win and will win."
Ken Thomas can be reached at http://twitter.com/AP--Ken--Thomas