By Alister Bull
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama is deeply involved in trying to win a debt deal and his White House was working flat out, aides said, pushing back against any impression Congress had sidelined the administration.
"He's getting absolutely no sleep. He's working tirelessly, meeting with his economic team, doing a lot of outreach, exploring all kinds of possibilities for compromise," top Obama aide Valerie Jarrett told Reuters Insider.
White House officials have blanketed U.S. cable television in the last few days to get their message over that Republicans were harming the U.S. economy by refusing to compromise over measures to cut the deficit and lift the borrowing ceiling.
Lawmakers must lift the country's $14.3 trillion borrowing ceiling by an August 2 deadline to act or risk a devastating default and downgrade of its vital AAA credit rating.
Obama Chief of Staff Bill Daley, key adviser David Plouffe and Jarrett herself have been almost constantly on air, while also reaching beyond the Beltway to regional press and radio.
"I don't know how you can get more actively involved," Daley told CNN when charged that the White House has been relegated to the sidelines in the deficit debate by Congress. "I'm in constant conversations, as are many of our staff, with people on the Hill," he said.
Vice President Joe Biden, who led bipartisan negotiations to explore a deal, has been a key conduit to Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, with whom he has a rapport.
White House budget chief Jack Lew and top Obama economic aide Gene Sperling have also reinforced Obama in reaching out to Congress. Daley and Jarrett, both with business backgrounds, have been the president's top emissaries to the business community, where concerns over the debt ceiling have grown.
"Today they are very nervous. My phone was ringing off the hook all day long," said Jarrett, who said she canceled several meetings just to be able to field incoming calls.
Several press conferences and a prime-time televised address to the nation by the president from the stately East Room, plus a background briefing by senior Obama aides that went late into Friday night, have added to the controlled frenzy at the White House.
This has translated into even longer days than normal at the White House, which already begin in the early hours of every morning as senior staff prepared for their daily 7:30 a.m. meeting in the office of the chief of staff.
(Additional reporting by Caren Bohan; Editing by Eric Walsh)