By Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 7, 2011; 6:44 PM
The White House is not ruling out supporting another temporary funding measure to keep the federal government open.
White House officials have repeatedly called for a long-term budget deal instead of stop-gap measures, such as the provision President Obama signed on Thursday that extended funding for two weeks, until March 18. But asked at Monday's White House press briefing if Obama would sign another short-term agreement if necessary, Press Secretary Jay Carney was noncommittal.
"I'm not going to draw a line in the sand on what we will or won't do," Carney said, while adding that the administration believes such temporary deals cause uncertainty that could hurt the economy.
The White House and congressional Republicans remain about $50 billion apart as the debate over this year's federal spending drags into its third month.
A two-week budget deal reached last week will fund the government until the end of next week, but there will be even more pressure to reach a permanent deal then. Obama is scheduled to leave for a trip to South America the week of March 20, and there also is a congressional recess.
The two sides remain far apart not only in details but even in agreeing on the math. The administration argues that compared with his original request for 2011, Obama has already proposed about $52 billion in cuts, about "halfway" to the $100 billion Republicans called for during the congressional elections.
But last month Republicans pushed through a provision in the House that cut $61 billion, and the White House has agreed to only about $10 billion in cuts over a similar amount of time. So the GOP disputes the halfway argument and says the White House supports about one-sixth of the cuts the Republicans have endorsed.
Republicans are calling for cuts in job training programs, Pell Grants and other spending that Democrats support.
White House officials have appeared optimistic about reaching an agreement, but leaders from both sides in Congress are declaring positions that will make compromise difficult.
"To go any further [with cuts] is to push more kids out of school, to stifle the innovation which small businesses and large alike need to create more jobs. And it stops the investment in infrastructure, which kills good-paying jobs right here in the United States," said Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) in an interview on "Fox News Sunday."