WH Spokeswoman Jen Psaki: ‘Aggressive Conversation’ Coming on Entitlements

Feb 16, 2011 3:28pm

UPDATE: 

After today’s program aired, a Republican aide pointed to these comments from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell yesterday, where he reiterated his call for “presidential leadership” on entitlements.

“With regard to our long-term unfunded liabilities, the entitlements, we’re waiting for presidential leadership. We know and will say again that entitlement reform will not be done except on a bipartisan basis with presidential leadership.”

“I’ve been inviting the president to have that conversation since he took office two years ago. It doesn’t have to be in public. We all understand there are some limitations to negotiating significant agreements in public. But we’re still waiting for the president to lead. The one thing I can tell you, at the risk of being redundant, there will be no entitlement reform without presidential leadership.”

Original Post:

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:

President Obama is expressing a desire for an “adult conversation” among members of both parties on entitlement programs, and a top White House spokeswoman told us today that he’ll endeavor to drown out “the noise of Washington” when those conversations commence.

On ABC’s “Top Line” today, deputy White House communications director Jen Psaki told us to expect an “aggressive conversation” about programs including Social Security and Medicare, though the president hasn’t committed to a timeline for those talks.

“He will be having the conversation and looking forward to sitting down at a table with Democrats and Republicans with those principles in mind,” Psaki said. “I think we’re hopefully gonna put the noise — the noise of Washington and many people out of our ears while we have this conversation, and he’s looking forward to having it. And I think it’s just a matter of time before he sits down with Democrats and Republicans to start that process.”

Psaki called the president’s budget proposal – which has been criticized for not tackling entitlements – the “beginning of the process, not the end.”

“This is an opening bid he’s putting out there but not the final offer. We’re hopeful that this is going to be an aggressive conversation moving forward,” she said.

Psaki also pushed back against the suggestion that the president hasn’t articulated principles on entitlements.

“He’s said that he does not want to hurt current retirees. He doesn’t want to slash benefits. And he will be having the conversation and looking forward to sitting down at a table with Democrats and Republicans with those principles in mind,” she said.

And with new White House Press Secretary Jay Carney making his first appearance behind the podium today, Psaki assured us there was “no hazing” in store for him.

“He may come out wearing a donkey suit, but we’ll see,” Psaki said.

Watch the full interview with Jen Psaki HERE.

We also checked in with ABC’s chief White House correspondent, Jake Tapper, on Carney’s first briefing, and the president’s budget proposal.

Watch that portion of “Top Line” HERE.

 

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