President Barack Obama is minimizing his role in the high-stakes bipartisan budget negotiations that he helped schedule.
“The president will be as involved as he and members of the Congress believe to be useful,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Thursday.
However, Carney strongly hinted the president will remain absent from negotiations.
“The president has already demonstrated a level of seriousness through the budget he put forward [in April]… which includes tough choices for Democrats and Republicans,” Carney said. The White House’s view is that budgets are developed by the House and Senate, and they can run their own joint conference, he said.
The president’s absence will make it easer for him to instigate and exploit another partial government shutdown in January, when the October budget deal ends. (RELATED: Obama: My partisan vitriol shows the value of bipartisan harmony)
Another shutdown can be ensured if congressional Democrats continue to demand cancellation of the 2011 “sequester” deficit-reduction deal, and an end to the December 2012 “fiscal cliff” tax deal.
if the GOP declines the Democrats’ revived demands for tax and spending increases, Obama can enter stage left, to repeated his October success, when he rallied his political and media allies to hammer the GOP’s poll ratings.
Prior to the October impasse, Obama stayed away from the budget fights. Once the partial shutdown began, he did little to craft a compromise, partly because Democrats’ leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, told him to avoid talks with the GOP.
Obama suggested on Thursday that he wants the next budget deal to include tax and spending increases, which the GOP exists to oppose.
But he made that task harder by also pushing Congress to approve an immigration rewrite during the same months. If the GOP-led House approves the unpopular Senate immigration plan, it would triple the inflow of low-skilled, government-dependent, Democratic-leaning immigrants, by up to 33 million over the next decade.
Carney also announced the president wants to establish a government-run kindergarten for every child, pass new gun controls and continue to redesign the nation’s energy sector.
“The president absolutely… has made clear in his comments both last night and today that he believes that we all need to set aside other obstacles and focus on the objective of helping the American people,” Carney said.
But Carney repeatedly suggested that the president will not play a role in the budget talks.
When asked by a reporter if the president would try to persuade Democrats to adopt compromise budget goals, Carney replied that “if the question is ‘Does he think it is necessary to lead his party in making these tough choices,’ the answer is yes.” But Carney said, Obama already has delivered on that leadership.