White House: Congress should quit 'pointing fingers' for failure

White House press secretary Jay Carney said lawmakers should quit "pointing fingers" and fulfill their responsibility when it comes to the nation's debt. 

Carney lashed out at Republicans who have sought to blame President Obama for the failure of the supercommittee, which is expected to announce on Monday that it can't agree on a deal to cut at least $1.2 trillion from the nation's deficits over 10 years. 

“Instead of pointing fingers and playing the blame game, Congress should act and fulfill its responsibility,” Carney said at the White House daily briefing. 

Congress assigned itself a job, assigned 12 of its own members a task, a task that wasn’t really that difficult to achieve,” Carney said. “There wasn’t a seat at that table, as far as I’m aware, for a member of the administration.”

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Republicans increasingly have sought to put the blame on Obama for the failure of the supercommittee, criticizing the president for leaving town last week and for taking a hands-off approach when it came to the supercommittee's work. 

Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) office sent out a memo Monday morning saying the supercommittee “was unable to reach agreement because President Obama and Washington Democrats insisted on dramatic tax hikes on American job creators, which would make our economy worse.” 

The memo from the Speaker's office says Obama set the deficit panel up for failure by demanding it become the vehicle for economic stimulus. 

“The President designed a political strategy that doomed the committee to failure first by insisting the committee include $450 billion of his failed stimulus policies in any agreement, making deficit reduction much harder and second by issuing a veto threat warning he would not accept an agreement that did not include a job-killing tax increase,” the memo obtained by The Hill states.

The premise that Obama has been "disengaged" or "less engaged" in the supercommittee's deficit-reduction negotiations is "simply false," said Carney, who noted the president offered his proposal to the supercommittee in September. 

"It's never been a mystery for the members of this committee what the president thinks," he said.

“At the beginning of the supercommittee process, [Obama] put forward a comprehensive proposal,” Carney said. Obama's proposal went beyond the mandate of the supercommittee, with suggestions that would cut between $3.4 and $3.6 trillion from annual deficits over the next 10 years.

“That [proposal] has been available to the committee and is available today in the waning hours” leading up to the deadline, Carney said. 

Even before Boehner's memo, Republicans were rallying around the argument that Obama is to blame for the supercommittee's failure. 

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), a favorite of Tea Party groups, and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney both accused Obama of a lack of leadership when it came to the supercommittee. 

Carney said Republicans have failed to approach deficit-reduction negotiations in the "broad and balanced" way that Obama promoted throughout debt-ceiling negotiations this past summer. 

"I don't disagree that [Obama] wasn't having one-on-one conversations with the Speaker of the House here in the White House on this," Carney said, saying the supercommittee process was a different situation from the negotiations over the summer when he “was engaged directly and personally” in negotiations.

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“Congress assigned itself a task,” Carney said. “They have to hold themselves accountable.”

Carney also slammed Republicans for taking a hard line in negotiations.

"The path to compromise was always quite clear," he said. "But there has to be willingness on both sides."

Republicans such as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, have suggested lowering tax rates but broadening the tax base. 

Ryan defended GOP negotiators on Monday, saying "it's tough to talk about compromise when [Democrats] offer nothing in return."

Democrats "can't even find agreement with themselves in the supercommittee," he told The Wall Street Journal. "It's difficult to see where you are going to compromise when you have nothing in the alternative."

The 12-member supercommittee was tasked with negotiating at least $1.2 trillion in debt reduction by Nov. 23. Negotiations appeared to grind to a halt over the weekend, and an announcement that negotiations have failed is expected Monday after the markets close. Failure by the supercommittee would trigger $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts scheduled to go into effect in 2013.

The "onerous" consequences of the supercommittee's failure “was designed so that it never came to pass," Carney said. He emphasized that the deficit-reduction process would proceed one way or the other and that Congress still has time to avoid the "dire" consequences of the automatic cuts known as sequestration.

“Congress still has it within its responsibility to be responsible and act," he said. “Congress has plenty of time to act. We call on Congress to fulfill its responsibility.”