White House downplays 60 in the Senate

The White House said Wednesday that it is irresponsible for Republicans to wash their hands of the president's agenda just because Democrats now hold a 60-member supermajority in the Senate.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, responding to comments from Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele, said Republicans are mistaken to suggest that Democrats will have total ownership of whatever is passed because they now have a filibuster-proof majority.

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"I don't think one party can simply say, 'OK, it's all yours,' " Gibbs said. "That certainly doesn't seem to be the message, again, in prior weeks about making sure that they're part of the solution."

Wednesday morning, on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Steele said that he "can say without hesitation that this government is totally theirs now, and everything that comes out of it and everything that results from it is on their plate."

"So I don't know what that means," Steele said. "I don't know how easy it will be for Harry Reid to wield the 60 votes when he thinks he needs it, but we're going to be watching very closely. And this one-party government rule is going to be interesting for the American people to see, particularly given what we've seen on polls from this administration so far. "

Gibbs said later that he hopes "the implication by Chairman Steele is not that addressing America's problems isn't the priority of all Americans that serve in government, not simply one party."

"I think all of us, Democrat or Republican, have a unique responsibility serving in government in times like this to work as much as we can together to address and solve these problems," Gibbs said.

The White House said Tuesday that the president was "pleased" that Minnesota Sen.-elect Al Franken had finally been declared the winner of his drawn-out battle against former Sen. Norm Coleman (R), but Gibbs said Wednesday that the president will "continue to reach out to Democrats and Republicans to make [his] agenda happen."

"I don't know that the seating of one senator changes the notion that Democrats control both houses of Congress and the White House," Gibbs said.

When asked to confirm that the White House does not now view the Senate as a rubber stamp for Obama's agenda, Gibbs said: "I assume there's about 60 U.S. senators that would confirm that for you."