By Peter Schroeder - 02/12/13 04:33 PM EST
"If the priority really was deficit reduction, you'd be willing to close some oil and gas loopholes," he said. "The overall priority here is really not deficit reduction on the Republican side."
Price chided Van Hollen for questioning the motives of Republicans.
"We have got, in this town, to get to talking about specific policy solutions. Let's take motivation off the table," he said. "If we're going to impugn each other's character and motive with every discussion of policy, how destructive is that?"
Van Hollen pointed to the GOP loyalty to the Taxpayer Protection Pledge advanced by Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform to defend his claim.
"I didn't make any of my colleagues sign the Grover Norquist pledge," he said. "When you make arbitrary pledges to people like Grover Norquist, on behalf of whoever it may be, that is the kind of maybe unintended consequences you get."
On actual fiscal policy, Price contended that the pending automatic spending cuts known as the sequester, set to take effect on March 1, are better than nothing at all.
"If it's the only way to make it happen, then that's the way that it'll have to happen," he said, adding that Republicans would prefer to replace the across-the-board cuts with a more targeted replacement.
Meanwhile, Van Hollen contended that deficit reduction merely for the sake of deficit reduction misses the mark, and any policy proposals need to ensure the middle class can feel the benefit alongside the wealthiest.
"Our goal has to be an economy that works for the middle class and for the entire country," he said. "How we deal with the deficit has to be addressed within that context."
The standoff comes as both sides are continuing to maneuver around the sequester just a few weeks before it takes effect. Senate Democrats are currently drafting a plan to replace the sequester cuts with a combination of targeted spending cuts and revenue raisers. Meanwhile, House Republicans had previously passed sequester replacement measures in the last Congress, which have since expired, and have indicated they are waiting for the Senate to take action.