The White House said Wednesday that Capitol Hill Democrats are partly to blame for the tax-cut deal they have criticized the president for negotiating.
The tax-cut package has been scorned by Democrats livid that it would extend for two years controversial tax cuts for the wealthy that were signed into law by President Bush nearly a decade ago.
But senior administration officials said their own party is at least party to blame for the deal. White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said President Obama wanted Congress to extend the tax cuts, but there was no consensus on how to do so in the Democratic caucus.
"He and the White House, frankly, urged the House and Senate to hold votes on this before the election," Pfeiffer said on the liberal Bill Press radio show. "But they didn't do that, in part because there's not unanimity in the Democratic Caucus on this."
Pfeiffer's remarks underscore the tensions between the White House and members of its own party on Capitol Hill, where Democrats have threatened to vote down the tax proposal.
Few Democrats have come out in support of the agreement outside the White House, and the deal was criticized at a House Democratic caucus meeting on Tuesday night. Vice President Joe Biden will meet with House Democrats on Wednesday.
The critics say Obama should have been more willing to pick a fight with Republicans and allow the tax cuts for households making over $250,000 to expire, as he had campaigned for all of this year.
In a surprise press conference Tuesday, Obama argued that he had to compromise to protect the middle class form a significant tax hike.
He and the administration reject the notion that Republicans would cave in a prolonged fight on Capitol Hill over the tax cuts. T
Instead, the White House argues a later compromise would almost certainly have been worse.
"If you ask them where this ends if we don't compromise now, basically they say we can have this protracted struggle and show Republicans favor the wealthy over the middle class," White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Wednesday on CNN. "But nobody can tell you it would end better than this compromise."
Pfeiffer blamed the Senate in particular, and said that the handful of Democrats who had voted with Republicans in two test votes last weekend against bills allowing taxes to rise on high earners made it virtually impossible for Obama's original view to prevail.
"Right now, because Democrats don't all agree with the president on this in the Senate, and there are enough Republicans to filibuster a bill, you have two choices: You can either let taxes go up on everyone, or work to find some sort of compromise," he said.
The White House has also signaled the deal is unlikely to change. Axelrod said the administration views the compromise it struck with Republicans as largely a finished product.
"I think the framework of the deal is in place," he said on ABC's "Good Morning America."
This article was originally posted at 7:51 a.m. and was last updated at 10:10 a.m.