- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The White House on Tuesday defended President Obama’s level of involvement in ongoing budget talks, pushing back against critics who say he’s taken a hands-off approach as the federal government inches closer to a possible shutdown Friday.

Press secretary Jay Carney said Mr. Obama’s meeting with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders Tuesday morning is far from the only engagement the president and his deputies have had in the matter, citing Mr. Obama’s phone calls to lawmakers and personal visits to Capitol Hill made by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Mr. Carney, speaking at an off-camera gaggle, told reporters that reaching an agreement over a funding bill for the remainder of this fiscal year is ultimately “an appropriations process that’s supposed to be done between the House and the Senate.”

“Obviously, our input is important and our role in this is significant, but it is a congressional process, and the fact is [Mr. Obama is] calling this meeting in part because Congress can’t get its work done,” he said.

The GOP-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate have been at an impasse over how much to cut from current spending levels, a task made all the more difficult by the fact Democrats failed to pass a budget document last year. A Republican proposal to cut $61 billion failed in the Senate, which has yet to produce its own spending bill.

Some critics have blasted Mr. Obama for not taking a more assertive role in the negotiations, but Mr. Carney bristled at suggestions the president hasn’t been involved.

“The engagement at the presidential level, at the vice presidential level and at the senior staff level has been intense and regular and ongoing,” he said. “I think there is a great misperception out there about the relative engagement of the leaders in the White House in this process and the leaders in the Congress.”

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