The White House late Wednesday called on Congress to approve a short-term resolution to keep the government running past Friday, as efforts to pass a payroll tax cut extension and a broader funding measure have devolved into a political game of chicken.
The move by the White House comes as House Republicans suggested after a closed-door meeting that they may attempt to pass a sweeping funding measure with Republican support alone and then head out of town, leaving the Senate to deal with House-passed versions of both that bill and a payroll tax package opposed by Democrats.
Republicans have argued that Democrats are refusing to sign off on the funding measure to gain leverage as leaders negotiate a deal on the payroll tax cut, considered a must-pass piece of legislation by members of both parties. Democrats say that’s not true and contend that Republicans are the ones playing politics by refusing to give consent for a Senate vote on the House-passed payroll tax plan, which is expected to fall short of passage in the upper chamber.
In the meantime, progress on both measures remains stalled, with the resolution currently funding the government set to expire in a little more than 48 hours.
White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement Wednesday night that it continues to have “significant concerns” about the provisions of the omnibus spending bill related to financial regulatory reform, social and environmental issues and foreign policy.
“Given the magnitude of the legislation -- providing over $1 trillion dollars in funding -- coupled with the unresolved payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance extension, Congress should pass a short-term continuing resolution as it has seven times already this year so that all parties have an appropriate opportunity to consider and complete all of the critical budget and economic issues necessary to finish our responsibilities for the year,” Pfeiffer said.
Both sides are also at odds on whether an agreement was actually reached on the funding bill: House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said this week that bipartisan appropriators from both chambers had shared a “handshake” on a deal, but Democrats have argued that’s not the case.
The administration’s push for a stop-gap measure would appear to be a departure from its position earlier this year, when White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that it was a dangerous precedent for Congress to rely on short-term funding bills.
“If we keep returning to this process every couple of weeks, that will be bad for the economy because of the uncertainty it creates and the tension around that,” Carney said in February.