White House aims to spend 10% of its time on controversies
May 18th, 2013
05:33 PM ET
1 year ago

White House aims to spend 10% of its time on controversies

(CNN) – With the White House slashing its way through the recent brush of controversy, the president is putting out the message that he's focused on the economy as the administration enters another week of hearings on Capitol Hill.

"That’s why I like getting out of the Washington echo chamber whenever I can – because too often, our politics aren’t focused on the same things you are," he said Saturday in his weekly address, referring to his jobs tour that took him to Baltimore this week. "Working hard. Supporting your family and your community. Making sure your kids have every chance in life."

His chief of staff, Denis McDonough, is telling White House staff to devote no more than 10% of their time to the controversies involving the Internal Revenue Service, the Justice Department and the terror attack in Benghazi, Libya, a Democrat aware of McDonough's instructions confirmed to CNN.

Clearly there are no time cards floating around but the message was conveyed that the White House needs to focus on its jobs agenda and not get knocked off course by the rest.

The New York Times first reported the 10% message.

In Baltimore Friday for the second leg of his jobs tour, the president also called on Washington to not get sidetracked by "fleeting" issues.

"I know it can seem frustrating sometimes when it seems like Washington's priorities aren't the same as your priorities," he said in a campaign-style speech about the economy. "Others may get distracted by chasing every fleeting issue that passes by, but the middle class will always be my number one focus. Period."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney spent a large chunk of his time taking questions over the issues during his daily briefings last week, especially as two IRS officials stepped down in a scandal that drew scorn from both Obama and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

IRS officials took to Congress Friday in the first congressional hearing over the agency's targeting of political groups seeking tax-exempt status during the past few years. Those grillings continue next week, with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Democrat, planning to hold a hearing Tuesday and the House Oversight Committee scheduling a hearing on Wednesday.

Invited guests to Capitol Hill include former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman and IRS Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner.

Lew is also slated to appear at hearings next week to testify on the Financial Stability Oversight annual report to Congress, but will likely face questions over the IRS inspector general's recently released audit that confirmed the agency's political targeting of conservative groups.

– CNN's Jessica Yellin, Dana Bash and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.


Filed under: Denis McDonough • President Obama
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. BO

    It should be noted that this poll was most likely taken in Chicago.

    May 19, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  2. Daniel Maddigan

    The fundamental problem this country faces is that 20% of the population own 84% of the wealth and the 30% of the population that still salute the confederate flag is too stupid to understand that.

    May 19, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  3. Susan

    Why all of a sudden is he focusing on the economy? He saw the picture of bill clinton's desk with the saying 'it's about the economy, s tupid". obama is about as corrupt as any other corrupt politician that has come out of chicago.

    May 19, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  4. Rick Schrager

    That's a good start. Now the current admin has ten percent less time to trod on our individual rights.

    May 19, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  5. noneyobeeswax

    Why on earth do GOP supporters keep saying everything is Obama's fault when the President has such limited power compared to Congress? They have singlehandedly stalled out our legislative branch... they keep pulling a debt ceiling crisis out of thin air (John McCain referred to this as "bizarro" about House GOP) and use filibusters to an almost unprecedented level, well beyond anything remotely close to what George W. ever dealt with.

    Democratic Senators could have done all this to George W. but for them the country came first.

    Pardon me but to all GOP why do you insist on lying to yourselves? Yes you are lying to yourselves... I don't know how else to describe people who obstruct to functioning of the legislative branch and then blame Obama for everything that goes wrong.

    FYI the only people who are buying your drivel are the crazed rabid members of your own extreme wing. Don't believe me? Take a look at how much you are having to gerrymander to stay relevant when women, young people, latinos and others are getting very sick of your excuses.

    May 19, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
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