WASHINGTON — White House Press Secretary Jay Carney blamed the unexpected drop in gross domestic product last quarter on congressional Republicans, saying they introduced uncertainty into the economy with fiscal cliff brinkmanship.
"There is more work to do and our economy is facing headwinds," Carney said in response to a government report showing that the economy contracted by 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, "and that is Republicans in Congress."
The Bureau of Economic Analysis preliminary report, released Wednesday morning, showed a sharp decline in defense spending, which administration officials are blaming on mandatory spending cuts to defense under the 2011 debt limit agreement that both sides fought to avert. Congress and Obama face another deadline in a month to avoid those spending cuts after a temporary stop-gap expires.
"It can't be we'll let sequester kick in because we insist tax loopholes remain in place for corporate jet-owners," Carney said, laying the blame on Republicans and pressuring them to avoid another crisis over the next round of talks on the sequester.
"It's not a game — it's the American economy," he said.
"'We should let the government shut down beacuse it's good for member management' – another Republican leader on the record," Carney said, paraphrasing a quote on background given to POLITICO from a GOP leadership aide to try to paint Republicans as willing to "do harm to the economy in the name of acheiving some political objectives here in Washington."
Carney also criticized some Republicans for increasingly saying that the sequester "wouldn't be a bad thing."
"If they've changed their minds, they've changed their minds apparently for nakedly political reasons," he said.
The defense sequester was first proposed by White House officials to be so onerous as to force Republicans to agree to a deal to cut the deficit.
"These arbitrary, automatic cuts were a creation and demand of the White House in 2011," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Speaker of the House John Boehner in response to Carney's comments. "Twice the House has passed legislation to replace them with common sense cuts and reforms. If there was any uncertainty late last year about the sequester, it was because the Democratic-controlled Senate, per usual, never lifted a finger to pass a plan to replace it."
Updated with Boehner office response.