White House Aims To Spend 10% Of Its Time On Controversies


The White House

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(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.

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