Vice President Joe Biden said yesterday that negotiations on raising the debt ceiling are entering a contentious new phase now that Democrats and Republicans have agreed on cuts favored by both parties.

Now we're getting down to the real hard stuff, Biden told reporters. I'll trade you my bicycle for your golf clubs.

Biden has been orchestrating talks between lawmakers and administration officials aimed at finding enough deficit reduction measures to win Republican support for a vote to raise the nation's debt limit. The country risks defaulting on its loans if the limit is not raised by early August, but Republican lawmakers refuse to endorse raising the limit without accompanying cuts to reduce the ballooning deficit.

So far, the negotiators have been able to agree on scaling back subsidies for agriculture and on measures to check the growth of government agencies. But Biden warned that more divisive issues will now be on the table, including the gulf between Democrats' desire to raise more revenue and the GOP's adamant opposition to anything resembling a tax hike. Republicans have opposed Democrats' call to pare back military spending, while Biden said his party is willing to explore measures to hold down healthcare costs.

If we could agree on the pieces most important to us Democrats, revenue, we're prepared to agree on some of the things that you want in discretionary spending, Biden said. If we can get an agreement on military, we're prepared to do more on ... You all know the ideological divides we have.

A raise in the debt ceiling would likely be for about $2 trillion in extra borrowing authority, and Republicans are targeting budget cuts of roughly the same amount in order to offset the increase.