White House stands by chief of staff's remarks

The White House on Friday stood by an interview given by Chief of Staff Bill Daley in which he said Democrats have joined Republicans in making it difficult for President Obama to get things done on the economy.

White House press secretary Jay Carney offered a qualifier for those remarks, but for the most part, Carney backed Daley’s assessment.

Carney, who noted that the White House chief of staff “can be very candid and clear in his language,” was speaking “broadly about presidents and Congress.”

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“But there’s no question that Democrats haven’t agreed — or some Democrats haven’t agreed with every position the president’s taken on every issue,” Carney said.

“We certainly saw that during the debt-ceiling crisis, where the president was willing to make some political — had some tough choices that would have been challenges for him within his own party, in the effort to get a grand bargain with the Speaker of the House.”

Senate Democrats like Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Jon Tester (Mont.) have added to administration heartburn in recent days by voting against the president’s jobs bill, somewhat undercutting the White House argument that it is Republicans who are blocking Obama.

“But let’s make no mistake here,” Carney said. “Let’s be clear about what the overwhelming obstacle here is to getting things done that the American people want, and that is understood by the chief of staff, the vice president, the president, everybody else here. The obstacle to getting things done that the American people want done on the economy and jobs has been congressional Republicans.”

Daley told Politico’s Roger Simon that “on the domestic side, both Democrats and Republicans have really made it very difficult for the president to be anything like a chief executive.”

“This has led to a kind of frustration,” Daley said.

In an email to The Hill, Carney went further in clarifying Daley's comments.

“Let’s be clear: on the issues that matter most to the vast majority of the American people – jobs and the economy -- Democrats in Congress have been stalwart allies of the President. In the Senate, Democrats voted overwhelmingly in favor of the American Jobs Act. But every Republican voted no – no to putting teachers back to work, no to rebuilding our schools and bridges and highways, no to tax cuts for 160 million working Americans – all because they didn’t believe millionaires and billionaires should pay a little more.”

Daley also told Simon that the first three years of the Obama administration have been “ungodly” and “brutal.”

“Considering the debacle that he came in with, the tough choices he’s made and how there have been few, if any breaks, he says it himself all the time,” Daley says. “He doesn’t know why he’s as high as 44 percent.”

When asked Friday what the president thinks his job-approval numbers should be, Carney demurred but acknowledged that Americans are frustrated that the economy has continued to struggle.

“And he’s president,” Carney said. “He’s chief executive. And he’s had to make a lot of difficult decisions to get the economy growing again, to stop the freefall, to put people back to work. And that’s been a tough situation.”

Carney said there is “no question” that Americans are frustrated, and he said they are “exceptionally frustrated by the … unconscionable dysfunctionality of Congress that has prevented commonsense solutions from passing the House, passing the Senate and being signed into law by the president.”

“I think that frustration is borne out in the polls. It’s borne out in polls that measure the president’s job approval and it’s borne out in polls that measure congressional job approval — the latest of which, I think, was 9 percent for Congress,” Carney said.

This story was updated at 4:29 p.m.