It was all about the debt ceiling Wednesday today at the White House press briefing. White House spokesman Jay Carney fielded question after question about the continuing budget talks aimed at thwarting the looming Aug. 2 deadline. That’s the day the country will go into default on its loans if the debt ceiling is not raised.
On several occasions Carney recited the mantra, “We have reason to be optimistic” that a budget plan will be achieved. Carney made reference to talks among the so-called “Gang of Six” lawmakers, who are charged with coming up with a solution to country’s money woes. He said the White House is “immensely enthusiastic that the six lawmakers came together to come up with a proposal that mirrors the approach the president endorses.”
Carney again echoed the president's sentiments when he said, “We believe a majority in both houses should support a balanced approach. We understand the political dynamics in Congress are complicated but we continue to make the case that this is the approach that best serves the American people.”
Many people were wondering if issuing a temporary extension could serve as a bit of a band-aid to keep the country afloat if the Aug. 2 deadline is missed. But the White House seemed ambivalent about such a measure fearing it could send a wrong signal that Washington is ill-equipped to deal with big problems.
What toll is this debate taking on the president and his party? One reporter asked if Obama is concerned that the failure to come up with a final budget plan is dragging him down. To that, Carney said, “There’s no question that even though the economy is growing, we’re nowhere near the place we need to be. This president is focused on ensuring that every person who wants a job can get a job, not his approval rating.”
Also, the White House held an on-the-record conference call about an issue that’s near-and-dear to first lady Michelle Obama: Making healthier food choices more accessible in underserved neighborhoods. The call focused on commitments from food stores Supervalu, Walgreens, Walmart and regional retailers to open or expand more than 1,500 new stores in places that need them most. (Related: Obama announced initiative to aid food deserts.)
White House Domestic Policy Advisor Melody Barnes provided background on the call. She said, “One in three children are overweight or obese and 23.5 million Americans live in areas that lack stores with healthy food choices. Access to healthy and affordable food is critical if we are going to tackle this issue of childhood obesity.”
Barnes touted studies that show that those who have access to affordable nutritious food are more likely to consume them. The new and expanded stores are expected to serve some 9.5 million people, and thousands of jobs are expected to be created.
(Photo: El Kebir Lamrani/Getty Images)