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White House blames GOP in supercommittee stalemate

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President Obama on Monday blamed Republican lawmakers "who have refused to listen to the voices of reason and compromise" for the collapse of the congressional supercommittee's efforts to trim deficits by $1.2 trillion.

"They continue to insist on protecting $100 billion worth of tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans at any cost, even if it means reducing the deficit with deep cuts to things like education and medical research," Mr. Obama said of the GOP in a hastily scheduled statement at the White House, just before the nightly network news broadcasts. "That refusal continues to be the main stumbling block."

Mr. Obama vowed to veto any congressional effort to dilute the automatic cuts to domestic and defense programs now scheduled to begin in 2013.

The supercommittee's members announced Monday that will not reach an agreement to cut deficits by $1.2 trillion, which will require mandatory spending cuts later.

The president praised Democratic lawmakers for their "reasonable" efforts to reach a deal.

"To their credit, many Democrats in Congress were willing to put their politics aside and commit to reasonable adjustments that would have reduced the cost of Medicare as long as they were part of a balanced approach," Mr. Obama said. "But despite the broad agreement that exists for such an approach, there are still too many Republicans in Congress who have refused to listen to the voices of reason and compromise that are coming from outside of Washington."

But New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Monday laid the failure of the supercommittee on Mr. Obama's doorstep.

"It's the chief executive's job to bring people together and to provide leadership. I don't see that happening," Mr. Bloomberg said at a news conference in Staten Island.

Mr. Bloomberg added, "The executive branch must do more than submit a plan to a committee — and then step aside and hope the committee members take action. That's not how any CEO would run a business — and at least in modern times, it's not how landmark pieces of legislation have gotten through Congress. Tough problems require determined, forceful and bold leadership — and real action."

Mr. Carney acknowledged that the president hasn't been as engaged in debt-reduction discussions as he was during the summer, when he led direct negotiations at the White House with Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican. But Mr. Carney said the ball is in Congress' court now.

"They're entirely different circumstances," Mr. Carney said. "We made clear from the beginning what the president's position was."

He dismissed a recent proposal by Sen. Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican, that would have raised about $400 billion while lowering overall tax rates, saying it "wasn't the kind of balanced plan that the public supports, that the president called for."

Republican lawmakers have expressed frustration that Mr. Obama has not shown leadership in the most recent negotiations. Some in the GOP say they believe the president is quietly rooting for Congress to fail in its task, because it would dovetail with his re-election campaign theme of blaming congressional Republicans for gridlock in Washington.

Said Mr. Carney, "This committee was established by an act of Congress. Instead of pointing fingers and playing the blame game, Congress should act. Congress assigned itself a task. They have to hold themselves accountable."

While blaming Republicans for the impasse on the supercommittee, White House officials also noted repeatedly that deficits will be cut anyway as mandated in the legislation that created the panel. But they said it would be preferable for Congress to specify cuts.

Earlier Monday, Mr. Obama seized on the only victory to date from his $447 billion jobs bill, signing legislation that gives businesses tax breaks for hiring veterans and waives a withholding fee for government contractors.

"Today, because Democrats and Republicans came together, I'm proud to sign those proposals into law," Mr. Obama said in a signing ceremony at the Old Executive Office Building of the White House. "My message to every member of Congress is, keep going. Keep working."

Among the lawmakers appearing at the signing ceremony with Mr. Obama was Sen. Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Republican who authored the withholding tax repeal legislation. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, had asked the president to invite Mr. Brown as a show of bipartisanship.

The president will hit the road again Tuesday, traveling to New Hampshire to promote another portion of his jobs legislation. He will advocate Tuesday for an expanded payroll tax cut, another feature of his jobs package.

He urged lawmakers to work on the proposal with "no politics, no delays, no excuses."

When a reporter at the event asked for Mr. Obama's reaction to the supercommittee "throwing up its hands," Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who also attended the ceremony, smiled broadly and threw up his hands in a mock gesture but made no comment.

On stage with Mr. Obama were supercommittee co-chair Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, and Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat.

The president said lawmakers should approve an extension of payroll tax cuts because families can't take another hit in the fragile economy.

"If Congress doesn't act by the end of the year, then the typical family's taxes is going to go up by roughly $1,000," Mr. Obama said. "That's the last thing the middle class and our economy needs right now. It is the last thing that our veterans need right now. So let's keep at it. Keep finding more ways to put partisanship aside and put more Americans back to work."

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