WASHINGTON -- White House spokesman Jay Carney signaled Thursday that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is still a welcome participant in debt talks, as long as he and others "play the role of the leader."
Democrats are increasingly blaming Cantor for complicating negotiations because of his firm opposition to any deal that he believes raises taxes. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) lashed out on Thursday, calling Cantor "childish" and saying his inability to negotiate in good faith means "he shouldn't even be at the table."
But Carney demurred when asked if the group would be better off without Cantor in the mix.
"The president believes that we have to reach a deal with the leaders of Congress, of both parties, and everyone has to participate and be engaged in that process," Carney said during his daily briefing.
Most important, he said, is "that everyone decides to play the role of the leader and to think, again, not just about the constituents in his or her district or state, and not just the constituents who are the most vocal in his or her party, but about the whole country and what's right for the whole country."
President Barack Obama told the group of lawmakers involved in debt ceiling negotiations he expects a final decision by Friday on whether they can move forward with a major deficit reduction package. If they can't, Carney said the group's task will become more narrowly focused on doing what is necessary to avert debt default.
The group, which includes House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), saved the most contentious issue for Thursday afternoon's meeting. They were set to discuss raising new revenues, by both looking for savings in health care entitlements, which Democrats don't like, and for savings in the tax code, which Republicans don't like. Carney said not to count on any breakthroughs.
"I do not expect, today, a hallelujah moment," he said.