The White House on Thursday defended President Obama’s fundraising jaunt to Manhattan, where he headlined a pair of exclusive events for high-dollar donors after a visit to an advanced battery plant in Michigan.
The fundraisers — a small reception at the Ritz-Carlton and a dinner co-hosted by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and movie producer Harvey Weinstein — took place amid a wild week on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones industrial average rebounded more than 400 points Thursday after plummeting below the 11,000 mark earlier this week on the heels of Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the nation’s credit rating.
Administration officials pushed back against suggestions that the optics of the glitzy fundraisers were unfortunate given Americans’ anxiety about the economy.
“Americans understand that our political system functions the way it does and that candidates have to raise money,” press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on board Air Force One. “I certainly expect that members of Congress are doing the same thing as well as presidential candidates.”
Before hitting the Big Apple, the president used a speech at Holland, Mich.-based Johnson Controls Inc. to lay into Congress, which he called “dysfunctional.”
“There is nothing wrong with our country. There is something wrong with our politics,” Mr. Obama said in what sounded like a lecture aimed at lawmakers, particularly the GOP-led House. “This downgrade that you’ve been reading about could have been entirely avoided if there had been a willingness to compromise in Congress.”
Republicans said that’s a change from last week, when Mr. Obama was praising the debt deal as a compromise that staved off a potential government default.
The final deal Capitol Hill reached with Mr. Obama included far less deficit reduction than both sides had said they wanted after Republicans refused to agree to tax increases, which they said would harm an already struggling economy, and Democrats balked at tackling entitlement spending.
“President Obama likes to talk about being ‘the adult in the room’ — but there’s nothing ‘adult’ about political grandstanding,” House Speaker John A. Boehner said. “If the president wants to do something productive, he can start by delivering on his promise to outline his own recommendations to rein in the massive deficits and debt that are undermining job creation in our country.”
Mr. Obama and other Democrats have warned against deeper cuts to fund new spending on infrastructure or unemployment benefits. Instead, they’ve called for ending tax credits for oil companies and corporate-jet owners.
“In order to pay for these things, Congress has to finish the job of reducing the nation’s budget deficit in a sensible, responsible way — not just with more cuts this year or next year,” Mr. Obama said. “Those cuts would weaken the economy more than it already is, and we’ve already cut $1 trillion in what’s called discretionary spending. What we need is a long-term plan to get our nation’s finances in order.”