Carney avoids compromise on budget bill

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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On Wednesday, White House officials pushed to win a political victory, blaming House Republicans for the payroll tax fight.

White House spokesman Jay Carney delayed his daily press briefing by 40 minutes, allowing him to announce that President Barack Obama had called Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner to urge the House to simply pass the Senate’s version of the bill.

“The deal is the only option … the negotiations have happened already,” Carney said.

The deal “was worked out by the Senate Democratic leader and the Senate Republican leader, in a process that was agreed upon by the Republican leader of the House,” he said.

Obama initially sought a one-year extension of the Social Security tax cut for 160 million Americans. House Republicans initially opposed the extension because it would undermine funding for the already underwater Social Security program, but subsequently said they would accept a one-year rollback.

However, the bipartisan deal in the Senate offered only a two-month extension.

The House has voted against the two-month deal.

Democrats in the Senate have since left town, leaving the House of Representatives to deal with the issue.

Democratic lawmakers are eager to use the payroll tax fight as a morale-boosting political victory while they head into a 2012 race with a stalled economy, an unpopular candidate and a campaign trail strategy that seeks to portray the GOP as petulant, self-serving obstacles to economic recovery.

Recent polls by CNN and the Washington Post show Obama regaining some of his lost traction.

Republican legislators and advocates say the GOP has flubbed the negotiations and allowed the Democrats to paint them as opponent of tax cuts.

House Republicans are pushing back. “The Senate voted to give the people a [two-month,] $166 tax cut. We voted to give the people a $1,000 tax cut,” Boehner said on Tuesday. “I need the president to help out.”

But the Democrats are using their media clout to shape the debate in their favor. For example, the Democrats have used Twitter to generate 17,000 responses from people saying how they could spend an extra $40 — the approximate value of the payroll tax holiday to average voters. Carney quoted a few of the responses during his press briefing, including one that read, “This is going to hurt, please don’t let this happen.”

“The voices are growing louder from average Americans, from Republicans in Congress … from respected commentators in the conservative arena,” Carney said at the Dec. 21 briefing. “The House needs to act — they’re not behaving in the interest of the country.”

Carney also continued to portray the GOP as petulant and childish. That theme has been pushed since late November by administration officials, and was pushed by Obama during a brief Dec. 20 appearance in the White House press room. (RELATED: Obama, Boehner face off on payroll tax)

“The speaker is very capable of helping himself,” Carney said. “There is a bipartisan compromise available to him as a lifesaver … Honestly, the important thing here is not who is up or who is down.”

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