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Obama pressed for specifics on debt ceiling plan

July 26, 2011|By Peter Nicholas
  • White House Press Secretary Jay Carney answers questions at his daily briefing Monday.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney answers questions at his daily briefing… (Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated…)

A question that keeps popping up in the drama over the debt limit is whether the Obama administration has a plan of its own.

Obama has talked repeatedly about what he'd like to see in a "grand bargain" between the parties. He has talked about the revenue he wants to raise, the amount of spending he'd like to cut and the changes he would make to various entitlement programs.

But is he committing ideas to paper, so that all sides know precisely what it is the White House is proposing?

There's no lack of paper the White House is generating; it's just little of it is being released publicly.

When briefing reporters on the stalled negotiations last Friday, White House aides sat in the Roosevelt Room with plenty of paper in front of them detailing the state of the negotiations. At one point, one aide referred to a piece of paper a colleague was holding in his hand and said the White House wouldn’t be putting it out.

The next day, another White House aide reviewed a memo on the debt talks and declined to make it public.

None of this is by accident. The White House wants maximum room to maneuver through difficult negotiations. Spelling out the White House position in black and white might constrict Obama's options and give opponents a target to shoot at.

But it's unclear whether the strategy is working. The deadline for raising the debt limit is a week away – and still no deal.

Republicans are trying to exploit the issue, accusing the White House of having no plan whatsoever.  An aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) sent out an email Tuesday with the headline: "WH has no plan."

Some of the frustration spilled into the press briefing room on Tuesday. Reporters peppered Press Secretary Jay Carney with questions about why the White House won’t release something in writing laying out its position.

That would be a risky move, Carney said. If the White House were to do that, "your chances of actually getting an agreement diminish significantly," he added. "That's how it works. You know that’s how it works."

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