Upset at the “circus” caused by reporters asking questions of the president at the beginning of Monday’s debt negotiations meeting, the White House on Wednesday said it was restricting access to that day’s meeting only to photographers.
“The last time we had TV cameras in the meeting, it was less than three hours after the president had given a press conference, and people shouted questions at him, including people who had just had questions in the press conference,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters.
“The … purpose of the meeting is not to create a circus but to negotiate,” he said.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are beginning to rebel against the closed-door negotiations, which are being attended by President Obama and top Republican and Democratic leaders from Congress.
Rank-and-file members say they don’t want to be surprised by a last-minute deal that requires them to accept trillions of dollars in tax increases or spending cuts.
Asked by a reporter why the White House doesn’t shift to open talks considering that confidential negotiations have not produced a deal, Mr. Carney suggested the talks needed to be secret in order to ensure lawmakers would compromise on thorny issues.
“I think that you know as well as I do that … this is difficult,” he said. “And one of the reasons why when we talk about, and leaders of both parties have put it in these terms, that you have to get in the boat together, is because that there is — that it’s hard to get this done because of the differing opinions, and that it requires approaching it this way so that we can get in the boat together and it doesn’t tip over.”
Before Wednesday, access to the negotiations had been granted to the full “pool,” a rotating group of reporters that is given closer access to the president when he travels or holds noteworthy events.
The pool had been let into the meetings for less than a minute and then ushered out, usually giving reporters a chance to shout a few questions, and giving both print and video photographers a chance to get images.
Wednesday’s meeting, though, was restricted just to the print photographers.