Carney: Obama a better leader for not proposing debt ceiling plan

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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White House spokesman Jay Carney today argued that President Barack Obama is a better leader for not proposing a debt-ceiling plan that can be debated and voted on by elected legislators in the House of Representatives.

“Leadership is not proposing a plan for the sake of having it voted up or down, and likely voted down,” he told ABC News’ Jake Tapper, who has spent a week fruitlessly pressing Carney to detail the administration’s budget proposals.

Since the start of the debt-ceiling negotiations, the president has refused to develop a detailed plan that could be measured or criticized by voters, D.C. advocates and legislators.

Obama’s closed-door strategy stands in sharp contrast to the very transparent and formal course taken by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee.
He developed a detailed budget plan, and persuaded a sharply divided House to vote it up, not down.

House leaders also worked with many legislators and groups to develop the Cut, Cap and Balance bill, which the House has now approved.

The president’s debt ceiling strategy is also very different from his successful effort to revamp the nation’s health care system. He won that massive shift in national policy by aggressively using his lopsided majorities in Congress, and a vast array of health sector lobbyists eager for more government funding, to push a bill past GOP and public opposition. (Obama signals support for ‘balanced’ Gang of Six proposal)

Throughout the debt ceiling dispute, Obama has sought to develop a closed-door deal that would help him win the 2012 election, via an agreement that does not hurt the economy with short-term spending or significantly anger his base, but instead showcases him as a moderate leader while splitting the GOP’s anti-tax coalition.

To get that back-room deal adopted by Washington insiders, Obama has refused to detail his budgetary preferences, downplayed his own affiliation with the Democratic Party, and adopted euphemisms — ‘revenues’ — to argue for tax increases.

He has also repeatedly portrayed his $4 trillion package of tax hikes and promised spending cuts as a “big” deal, even though it would only trim the 10-year deficit.

The ten-year deficit is expected to reach $12 trillion, partly because Obama has ramped up government spending by one-third since 2008.

Obama continued this mix of exaggeration, dissimulation and reliance on closed-door deals during his five-minute appearance at the White House’s press room today.

“I was in contact with all the leadership over the course of the weekend and continued to urge both Democrats and Republicans to come together around an approach that not only lifts the debt ceiling but also solves the underlying challenges that we face when it comes to debt and deficits,” he said.

Obama offered almost the same answer when he was asked today about the bipartisan Gang of Six proposal being developed in the Senate. (Obama whacks GOP Cut, Cap, Balance plan)

”I want to congratulate the Gang of Six for coming up with a plan that I think is balanced. We just received it, so we haven’t reviewed all the details of it. It would not match perfectly with some of the approaches that we’ve taken, but I think that we’re in the same playing field. And my hope is, is that we can start gathering everybody over the next couple of days to choose a clear direction and to get this issue resolved.”

As Obama’s spokesman, Carney usually echoes Obama’s preference for closed-door deals. The Gang of Six plan, he told reporters today, “in its particulars, it may not overlap precisely with our approach … what has to emerge is a balanced package that everyone can agree to in the leadership or the negotiators who are participating in this, and then sell it to the members of Congress.”

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