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McCarthy, Van Hollen Demonstrate Divide in House

Top House officials on Sunday underscored the divide between the two parties as they negotiate a debt deal, just as their leaders prepared for a crucial White House meeting on reducing the deficit and raising the debt ceiling.

Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) stood behind Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) decision to withdraw support for a sweeping debt deal because it includes tax increases. “Boehner has been very clear that there is no votes for a tax increase,” the No. 3 House Republican said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“We have sat in a room with the vice president, with the Democratic leaders, and they have agreed to $2.4 trillion in cuts,” McCarthy added. “The Speaker laid out at the beginning of this negotiation, if you want to raise the debt ceiling, you have to cut as much as you are willing to raise the debt ceiling, at least.”

The California Republican called for passing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, and he suggested that a proposal worked on by bipartisan negotiators under Vice President Joseph Biden could be the basis for a deal.

But House Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen, who participated in the Biden-led talks, said the group was not close to reaching an agreement and that those cuts were contingent on finding revenue.

“We’re nowhere close to $2.4 trillion. So to go back to that process, I think is, it’s set in motion all over again,” the Maryland Democrat said on “State of the Union.”

Van Hollen said that tax increases favored by his party would go into effect after 2012 and that Democrats are prioritizing the closure of corporate tax loopholes.

As Democrats consider a willingness to tweak entitlement programs, a proposal that is still in flux, Van Hollen said, “We are willing to have a balanced approach like the bipartisan commission recommended in terms of framework, not every detail.”

He faulted Republicans on the tax issue, saying, “It’s very disappointing that we may lose this opportunity to do something significant on deficit reduction because of this priority of protecting special interest tax breaks.”

Van Hollen noted the urgency to raise the debt ceiling before Aug. 2, when the Treasury Department forecasts the United States will default on its debt. “We never said we will hold the United States’ full faith and credit hostage in the discussions,” he said.

“I would personally support raising the debt ceiling if we’re not able to reach an agreement,” he added. “I would prefer to reach an agreement, but unlike our Republican colleagues, we’re not saying that if we don’t get deficit reduction in these talks our way, we’re prepared to let the whole economy go down.”