A top White House adviser, in comments to reporters Wednesday, accused House Republicans of pushing the country toward a government shutdown because of their intransigence on fiscal policy in comments to reporters Wednesday.
Dan Pfeiffer, a top White House communications adviser, said that while President Barack Obama seeks compromise to spur the economy, Republicans refuse to budge from their tax-cutting, budget-shrinking positions.
"We're talking to both sides to see what opportunities there are to make progress going forward [but] there's not currently anything from the House other than things the president cannot sign," he said to reporters at an event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "So unless they change their trajectory, they're pushing us to a shutdown."
Congress and the White House face tandem looming fiscal issues: an upcoming debt-ceiling vote and a need to pass a spending plan. But Pfeiffer said the president refuses to approve any bill that would continue the automatic government spending cuts, known as the sequester, for nondefense spending.
"What he is adamantly opposed to is the idea that you would fix the defense sequester and leave things like head start education behind," Pfeiffer said, adding that's just what the House has tried to do. "We have months to go, these things usually come together at the end, so we'll see what folks are willing to do; the president in principle thinks we should get rid of the sequester."
But House Speaker John Boehner's office rejected Pfeiffer's claim that Republicans are forcing a shutdown.
"The House is passing spending bills at the level required by the sequester that President Obama designed and signed into law," says Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner. "Saying he will force a government shutdown rather than sign them is absurd."
Both sides are potential losers if failure to come to an agreement results in a government shutdown. Yet the White House has moved in recent weeks to get ahead of Republicans on the spending front, with the president making a series of high-profile economic speeches, so far in Missouri, Illinois and Tennessee.
Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council and a top economic adviser to Obama, said the president has been forthcoming about his policy goals but will continue to work to win GOP support.
"[Obama] has shown enormous political courage putting out very difficult details that are what's necessary for both sides to come together," he said. About the current impasse, he added: "That doesn't mean we're less committed, it just means that we need to look for every avenue possible to make progress on middle-class jobs and strengthening the economy."
Pfeiffer acknowledged that it generally takes approaching on a deadline for deals to get made in Washington, but continued to paint Obama as a willing partner with no takers on his dance card.
"He has an offer on the table and he has spent hours and hours and hours meeting with Speaker Boehner over the years, meeting with Republicans and Democrats to try to get a big fiscal deal," he said. "And if Republicans were willing to get something done, he'd do it tomorrow."