The White House's budget director says there is time yet for the committee charged with bringing the nation's debt under control to come up with a solution, but he adds that in any budgetary clipping, there are certain non-negotiables.
"I think that we have habit in Washington of trying to write obituaries while the patient is still fighting, and the Super Committee is not done," Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew told Politico's 'Playbook Breakfast' Thursday.
"There's no major undertaking like this where a few weeks out we've been able to accurately predict whether it would work, whether it wouldn't work, if it worked, where it would go," he added.
The "Super Committee" deadline to find $1.2 Trillion in federal budget cuts is November 23.
But when talking about the ongoing appropriations debate on Capitol Hill, Lew said certain items were off the table and would prompt a guaranteed veto from President Obama.
"If Congress is going try and repeal financial reform and put us back into the world of the Wild West on Wall Street, the president's not going to sign a bill that does that. The Affordable Care Act: we have to implement it, not debate right now whether or not to fund it or to limit it in riders," he said.
Lew added that he's encouraged Congress is passing appropriations bills, and said that there is no reason the situation should devolve into a government shutdown. Yet he held out an oft-stated fear of the Obama administration: that the Tea Party could derail the process and pull Republicans in an "extreme" direction.
"There's no doubt that this could become another one of those ideological head-to-head conflicts," he said. "It shouldn't and it needn't."
As far as the Super Committee's efforts are concerned, Lew says he's an optimist. "I think this goup of senators and congressmen, for the most part, know how important it is. They don't want to fail."
Both the White House and Congress know that if they do, across the board budget cuts are looming; something neither side wants to grapple with.