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White House Stays Out of Deficit Panel

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Sen. Patty Murray (right), co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, hasn’t had much help from the White House while negotiating a deal to cut $1.2 trillion from the deficit.

“If we get a deal, it’s going to piss people off, and if we don’t get a deal, it’s going to piss people off,” the House aide said.

The White House is getting political mileage from running against a “do-nothing” Congress, and Obama’s leverage could actually increase if the committee fails to act.

Republican leaders sense an opening to attack Obama for campaigning instead of crafting bills they can support.

“While the president is out doing campaign events all over the country, what he could do is to actually come to Washington and be focused on trying to help pass bills that would create a better environment for job creation and help put the American people back to work,” Boehner said Wednesday.

A senior Republican aide called the White House “completely disengaged in one of the most important tasks this Congress will take on. That being the case, they better not complain much about the bill that gets sent to them.”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, who was peppered with questions about the president’s hands-off approach Wednesday, minimized the value of holding more meetings with the GOP. “He is engaged,” he insisted. “He put his cards on the table with his [September] proposal.”

Carney noted that Obama had already negotiated the details of a “grand bargain” with Boehner earlier this year, but “in the end, it was not politically possible for the Speaker to do.”

He pushed back against Republican criticism that the president is out on the stump instead of working to pass bills in Congress.

Carney criticized the House’s work schedule as “quite anemic.” He also noted that the super committee has “no seats at the table for members of the

“We’ll have to see” what they produce, Carney said, but a solution is “just not that complicated” — it needs an approach that includes taxes on the wealthy.

Office of Management and Budget spokeswoman Meg Reilly said that White House staff stands ready to assist the panel. “We will continue to provide any assistance needed to help the committee do its job to craft a plan that makes balanced, tough cuts while supporting economic growth and job creation,” she said.

Some Democratic aides don’t fault the White House — sensing that the campaign approach of bashing the GOP is working.

“He drew a bright line at the beginning by saying he would veto a bill that didn’t include revenues, and he has been out on the stump every week slamming Republicans for their obstruction,” said a Senate leadership aide. “No one’s complaining. To the contrary, people on our side feel like he has our back and we’re all on the same page.”

Though super committee members have been loath to talk about the panel’s inner-workings, many sources, especially on the GOP side, singled out Obama’s joint address to Congress in early September as a sign of both lingering frustration at the White House and the administration’s lack of regard for the panel’s work.

At the time, Obama asked the group to pay for his $447 billion package by finding more savings. Republicans exploded at the idea and Democrats gently bristled at having another task heaped on them.

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