White House press secretary Jay Carney speaks to reporters about the so-called "sequester" at the White House in Washington February 28, 2013. (Credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque) White House press secretary Jay Carney. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

White House press secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday fought back against criticism that President Obama has been disengaged from legislative battles on Capitol Hill.

"He has twisted arms," Carney said. "He has used the powers that are available to him to try to convince, persuade, cajole Republicans into doing the sensible thing...."

Pressed on Obama's role in the current budget debate and his refusal to negotiate over the debt ceiling, Carney rebuffed the idea that the president isn't involved.

“You’re assuming he’s above the fray," Carney said. "He’s not. He’s in the fray. And he was in the fray today, and he'll be in the fray until Congress does the right thing.”

At the same time, Carney emphasized that the president can't simply overrule House Republicans whenever he wants.

"As much as we would like to be in charge of the House Republicans, we're not," Carney said. "And that's not how the system works."

Throughout Obama's presidency, members of both parties have accused him of being unwilling to participate in the kind of personal politics and occasional arm-twisting that are required of a president trying to get Congress to work his will.

Philip Rucker contributed to this report.