(CNN)-A day before congressional leaders meet with President Barack Obama to discuss how to raise the debt limit, the number-two House Republican opened the door to possible compromise, saying Wednesday he is open to closing some of the tax "loopholes" that Democrats have been pushing, but only if those items are offset by reducing taxes in other areas.
"If the president wants to talk loopholes, we'll be glad to talk loopholes," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said at his weekly session with reporters on Capitol Hill.
"We've said all along that preferences in the code aren't something that helps economic growth overall," Cantor said. But he immediately qualified his comment, noting, "We're not for any proposal that increases taxes and any type of discussion should be coupled with offsetting tax cuts somewhere else."
Cantor drew a distinction between closing tax "loopholes" - such as those for corporate jet owners - and other tax-related proposals raised by Democrats in the negotiations that he said the GOP could not accept because they amounted to tax hikes. Republicans have strongly opposed a proposal floated by Democrats to eliminate tax deductions for individuals making over $200,000 a year.
Cantor's comments Wednesday represented a change from the GOP message that tax revenues were off the table in the debt talks. While congressional Republicans have indicated that they would be willing to look at closing some loopholes, they have insisted up to now those changes had to be done as part of broader tax-reform effort that lowered corporate rates - not as part of a debt-limit agreement. In a sign that Cantor's remarks represented a shift, his office quickly circulated press reports covering his comments.
The majority leader pushed back at President Obama for saying that Republicans left the bipartisan negotiations led by Vice President Joe Biden because they opposed ending a tax loophole for corporate-jet owners, insisting, "that's just not the case."
"Clearly the other side wished to impose tax hikes on small businesses and families in this country," Cantor said.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democratic leader, said his party's pressure had put Republicans on the defensive.
"Our focus on tax loopholes seems to be putting Republicans on their heels on the issue of revenues," Schumer said in a statement. "But if Republicans are going say we can only close these loopholes in a revenue-neutral way, it is like taking one step forward and then two steps back. The point isn't to get rid of these loopholes simply to pay for new tax breaks elsewhere; it's to do it in a way that contributes to the reduction of the debt."
A GOP aide told CNN that Cantor's comments were coordinated with Speaker John Boehner's office, and the two met Wednesday morning to discuss Boehner's meeting with Obama over the weekend and the upcoming White House meeting on Thursday.
Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, asked whether he could support closing loopholes, appeared skeptical, telling reporters, "I'm open to tax reform; we need to do it broadly. To sort of cherry pick items in the context of this current negotiation with the White House strikes me as pretty challenging."
Cantor outlined the spending cuts in the Biden-led talks, indicating they could be a blueprint for a deal that could pass the House. Cantor said the group discussed cutting "non-health care" mandatory spending by over $300 billion; over $400 billion in health care mandatory spending; and a mix of discretionary spending reductions plus interest savings, which added up to more than $2 trillion in cuts over a ten-year period.
The number-two Republican echoed President Obama's opposition to any short-term approach to raise the debt limit for a few months. "I agree with him. We need to go and drive towards a deal which is not a deal which kicks the can down the road," Cantor said.