White House seeks to calm storm after Social Security comments

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney responds to remark Mark Halperin made about President Obama
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney sought to assuage concerns on Wednesday about the possibility that Social Security checks might be delayed as a result of stalled debt ceiling negotiations, telling reporters that "we will not get to that point."

President Obama caused a stir Tuesday when he told the CBS Evening News he "cannot guarantee" the 27 million Social Security checks due out on August 3rd would be mailed as scheduled if Congress did not first reach a deal on raising the amount of money Congress is legally allowed to borrow from the current $14.3 trillion by Aug. 2.

Obama: No guarantee for Social Security checks

Carney expressed confidence on behalf of the White House that "we will get an agreement" - and that concerns about Social Security checks would be null.

"Our position, the president's position, has always been that we will not get to that point because Congress will do the right thing," he said.

Carney also said that Mr. Obama was still hopeful of reaching a comprehensive bipartisan bill that would significantly reduce the deficit "in a balanced way."

"We remain confident that we will get an agreement that reduces spending, that cuts the deficit," Carney told reporters. "What is at issue here is... how significant an agreement [is possible]? And he is absolutely confident that it is the right position to take to push this process forward to get the biggest possible deal."

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Carney maintained that Republicans, despite having made "a lot of declarative statements about what's acceptable and not acceptable," had not ruled out a comprehensive deal.

He also said that Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's recent proposal for a debt limit solution - which would authorize President Obama to raise the ceiling three times before the end of 2012 with the contingency that he submit (but not necessarily enact) a list of commensurate spending cuts - was "not a preferred option."

"We have not discussed or analyzed the components of the plan or endorsed it in its particulars," Carney said, of the McConnell plan. "There is no plan B...We believe the American people expect us to do something about reducing spending, getting our deficits and debts under control."

Still, the press secretary said the administration appreciated the acknowledgement, implicit in McConnell's proposal, that "we cannot play a game of chicken with the full faith and credit of the United States government."

"There has to be some mechanism -- no matter what happens -- to make sure that Congress takes action to do that," he added.