Van Hollen blames Republicans for 'huge missed opportunity'

A senior House Democrat on Sunday blamed Republicans for “a huge missed opportunity” in backing away from a grand bargain on the deficit and cast doubt on the chances for a quick accord on a more modest package of cuts.

“This is a huge missed opportunity for the country,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen said on CNN’s “State of the Union” after Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Debt ceiling games endanger US fiscal credibility — again MORE (R-Ohio) abandoned his pursuit of a $4 trillion package of deficit reduction over tax disagreements.

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Van Hollen said it was “disappointing” that Republicans appeared more set on protecting corporate tax breaks than deficit reduction. He also accused Republicans of “a form of extortion” by tying an increase in the debt limit to a deficit reduction deal solely on their terms.

BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Debt ceiling games endanger US fiscal credibility — again MORE said President Obama and congressional leaders should pursue a deal to raise the debt limit based on agreements of more than $2 trillion reached in discussions led by Vice President Biden.

But Van Hollen, a representative of House Democrats in those talks, said Republicans were overstating how much savings was agreed to. “They’re dreaming if they think we have $2.4 trillion in cuts. We were nowhere close to that,” he said.

Van Hollen, citing Biden, said the group had coalesced around about $1 trillion in cuts, and even that was contingent on Republicans agreeing to some revenue increases. The Biden talks broke off after House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorBottom line Virginia GOP candidates for governor gear up for convention Cantor: 'Level of craziness' in Washington has increased 'on both sides' MORE (R-Va.) left the meetings over what he said was a Democratic insistence on tax increases.

It was “not a done deal at all,” Van Hollen said.

Congressional leaders head back to the White House on Sunday evening with just over three weeks remaining before an Aug. 2 deadline set by the Treasury Department to raise the $14.3 trillion debt limit.

Earlier on Sunday, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the No. 3 Republican, defended Boehner’s decision and said there were “no votes for a tax increase” in the House.

He touted the House GOP budget and cited Friday’s weak jobs report in making the case against tax increases. And he said it was not only Republicans who were reluctant to end the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy. “Speaker Pelosi did not have the votes for it when they had the majority,” McCarthy said.