By PHILIP ELLIOTT
WASHINGTON — The White House on Sunday warned Republicans that a “my way or the highway” approach would spell the GOP’s defeat in upcoming budget negotiations and told its Democratic allies that they, too, will have to bend on President Barack Obama’s delayed spending plan set to be released this week.
White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said the White House was willing to work with rank-and-file Republicans to come up with an outline that both jump-starts the economy and reduces the nation’s red ink. Yet Pfeiffer also told the GOP that stubbornness among their party’s leadership would only yield public embarrassment akin to the one the GOP faced last year when voters rejected Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s economic proposals and gave Obama a second term.
“Right now, the approach of many Republicans — particularly the leadership in the House — is my way or the highway. Their view is the only acceptable plan is to try to cut away prosperity, turn Medicare into a voucher program and essentially enact the Romney economic plan,” Pfeiffer said. “The American people rejected that and Republicans shouldn’t be doubling down on it.”
But he also warned Democrats who are wary of some of the president’s cuts that they will have to sacrifice.
“Look, this is compromise,” Pfeiffer said. “And compromise means there are going to be some folks on both sides who are not happy.”
Obama is set to formally release his budget outline Wednesday morning. Its delay from February, then to March and now to April has left lawmakers in the Republican-led House and Democratic-controlled Senate to write their own budget proposals and move ahead without a concrete plan from Obama’s economic team.
Even on the eve of its release, the president’s budget was seen more as a starting point for negotiations than a final proposal.
“The president is showing a little bit of leg here, this is somewhat encouraging,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, noting the Obama proposal as a whole “isn’t going to make it.”
“We’re beginning to set the stage for the grand bargain,” the South Carolina Republican added in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Such a large-scale deal has proved elusive for Obama — first with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and now with Senate Republicans. Time and again, the White House has tried to negotiate an overarching compromise that brings down spending while protecting social safety nets for those who need them most. Each time, talks have fallen apart amid revolt among the strongest partisans in Democrats’ and Republicans’ caucuses.
Yet Obama is again working to find a deal, his top advisers said.
On Wednesday night, the president is scheduled to meet with Republican senators for dinner.
“What we’re looking for is what the president calls a caucus of common sense, folks who are willing to compromise and who understand that in divided government, both sides aren’t going to get everything they want,” Pfeiffer said told “Fox News Sunday.”
In a separate interview, Pfeiffer told ABC’s “This Week” that the White House sees an opening to work with rank-and-file lawmakers on a deal, perhaps bypassing the party’s leadership.
“Is it going to be easy? Absolutely not. But there is a possibility,” Pfeiffer said.