Politics killed any deal by the congressional deficit-cutting "supercommittee" after it came "very close" to an agreement, one member told CNBC Thursday.
"A month before the deadline we got pretty close. We touched gloves then went back to our respective corners," said Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican.
"It was tough because Democrats have a very different point of view on taxes and Republicans wanted to be sure we did something pro-growth" including corporate tax reform.
Portman, a member of the Senate budget and armed services committees, said he, too, was "disgusted, or maybe frustrated is a better word" the committee of 12, formed when a deal was reached last year to raise the debt ceiling, was unable to find a way to cut $1.2 trillion over 10 years by its Thanksgiving deadline.
"You've got to work together. You have to find common ground," said the senator, who has been touted as a potential running mate for Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney.
Politics on both sides had a role in the failure, he said. But he singled out the role not played by President Barack Obama.
"President Obama had made a decision that summer…after having failed to reach an agreement with Speaker Boehner, [that] he was going to campaign. He wasn’t engaged at all in the process," said Portman, referring to House Speaker John Boehner, a fellow Ohioan and Republican. "For the Democrats, frankly, I felt sorry for them. They didn’t have the cover of the president working with them on the deficit reduction committee."
Congress needs to tackle the $15 trillion deficit now, not after the presidential election in November. "These issues aren't going to go away. We have to do what we have to do in the next nine months and after the election get back at it again," Portman said.
On the recess appointment of Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Portman stressed he had no problems with the former Ohio attorney general — his first choice for the job, he said — but with the bureau itself, which he said is "totally unaccountable" to the Congress.
"All we said is, let’s put some more accountability into this bureau," he said. "The White House won’t reach out to us and talk about these issues."
Portman said he is not interested in being vice president but wouldn't directly say no when asked if he'd accept if Romney made an offer.