- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 30, 2011

The White House on Thursday defended President Obama’s plan to attend a pair of campaign fundraisers in Philadelphia one day after he chided Congress for taking too much time off without reaching a deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.

“We can walk and chew gum at the same time,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said, making it clear that Mr. Obama was turning down an invitation from Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to meet with GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill Thursday to discuss the ongoing negotiations.

“There are any number of elected officials who are raising money for their campaigns probably all week and all weekend,” Mr. Carney said. “That is not the issue.”

The president heads to Pennsylvania Thursday evening for a fundraiser at a downtown hotel, followed by a private dinner at the home of Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen, tickets for which start at $10,000.

Mr. Obama took direct aim at Congress during his Wednesday press conference, accusing lawmakers of procrastinating as an Aug. 2 Treasury Department deadline nears — even suggesting his two daughters have a better work ethic.

“They’re in one week, they’re out one week,” a combative Mr. Obama told reporters in the White House’s East Room. “And then they’re saying, ‘Obama has got to step in. You need to be here.’ I’ve been here. I’ve been doing Afghanistan and bin Laden and the Greek crisis. You stay here.”

The talks have stalled as Democrats insist that tax increases be included in any final deal to help tamp down the nation’s long-term deficit. Republicans have balked at Mr. Obama’s proposals to close certain tax loopholes he says benefit the wealthy, saying the focus should remain on spending cuts.

In the wake of Mr. Obama’s remarks, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced the chamber would scrap its traditional weeklong July 4 recess. The Republican-controlled House has been out of session this week and is set to return July 6.

Asked how Mr. Obama justified attending fundraisers instead of meeting with Mr. McConnell, Mr. Carney pointed out the two men met along with Vice President Joe Biden earlier this week, and argued the gathering would not have been fruitful anyway.

“What the senator invited the president to do was to hear Senate Republicans restate their maximalist position,” he said. “We know what that position is.”

In inviting the president to the Capitol, Mr. McConnell said he wanted Mr. Obama to see the parameters of a deal that can pass Congress and, more important, what cannot pass — namely, tax increase.

But Mr. Carney said there’s no reason to do that.

“That’s not a conversation worth having. What we need to have is a conversation about what will pass,” he said.