One day after ordering $85 billion in automatic, across-the-board spending cuts to go into effect, President Barack Obama was on the phone with members of both parties Saturday, trying to find the "bipartisan compromise that we need to get out of this," said Gene Sperling, the president's senior economic aide.
"He's reaching out to Democrats who understand we have to make serious progress on long-term entitlement reform, and Republicans who realize if we have that type of entitlement reform, they'd be willing to have tax reform that raises revenues to lower the deficit," Sperling said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
As the hours ticked down to Friday's deadline to reach a deal that would avoid the cuts, officials in both parties acknowledged there was little to no talking going on between Congress and the White House on ways to avert the sequester.
Republicans chided Obama for holding a last-minute meeting at the White House on Friday morning, less than 12 hours before the president signed the cuts into place.
Each side faulted the other for not compromising on a deficit-reduction deal. Obama and Democrats wanted a deal that included tax revenue, while Republicans said taxes are off the table. Members of the GOP called for more targeted spending cuts and entitlement reform instead.
While Obama made calls to members of both parties on Saturday, the conversations came just one day after he placed blame squarely on Republicans.
"Republicans have made a choice that - maintaining an ironclad rule that we will not accept an extra dime's worth of revenue - makes it very difficult for us to get any larger comprehensive deal. And that's a choice they're making," he said during a press conference in the White House press briefing room Friday.
Sperling, echoing comments from the president's Friday press conference, said Republicans have entrenched themselves in the fight and refuse to compromise.
"What's keeping us from working together is the Republicans taking this absolutist position that all future deficit reduction must come from the middle class, from seniors, from children, from national security," he said.
Pressed by CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley to reveal the names of lawmakers Obama called on Saturday, Sperling said, "We're not just trying to make those calls to read out the names."
"He's making those calls to see where there might be a coalition of the willing, a caucus for common sense, and trying to build trust, so he's going to be having a lot more conversations like that," Sperling said. He did indicate, however, the president was not calling the same congressional leaders he had at the White House on Friday.
But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday he doubts Obama will have much luck finding a Senate Republican to go along with any tax increases.
"The president is free to call whoever he chooses to. He doesn't have to go through the speaker and myself to talk to our members, and I fully expect him to do that," McConnell said on "State of the Union." "So far I haven't heard a single Senate Republican say they'd be willing to raise a dime in taxes to turn off the sequester."