Obama signs short-term spending measure that includes some easy cuts

By David A. Fahrenthold and Felicia Sonmez
Sunday, March 20, 2011; 3:00 PM

Washington has a new drop-dead date.

President Obama signed a new stopgap budget bill on Friday morning, keeping the federal government open until April 8. The measure passed the Senate on Thursday afternoon, and the House earlier in the week.

The bill will cut $6 billion in federal spending. That makes twice this month that lawmakers from both parties have agreed to slash billions from the budget.

Obama signed the bill--the sixth "continuing resolution" passed this fiscal year, as short-term fixes in the absence of a yearlong budget--before he left on a trip to Central and South America. The White House has said Obama wants Republicans and Democrats to stop this approach, and agree on a spending plan to last the rest of the fiscal year.

This measure does not get the two sides any closer to that deal. It just puts three more weeks on the clock.

"Patience is wearing thin on both sides with these stopgaps," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), the Senate's No. 3 Democrat. "All signs point to this being the last one. Three weeks should be enough to negotiate a final deal."

Already, however, there are reasons to think it might not be.

For one of those three weeks, Congress will be on recess. And the two sides began their key negotiations Thursday with an argument - over how they should negotiate.

Schumer said that House Republicans should make the next move, by offering a proposal that's closer to what Democrats will accept.

Republicans said the opposite.

"I again implore the president and Senate Democrats to give us an offer," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) said in a statement. He continued: "We cannot continue to fund the government with a series of band-aids."

There was one sign of progress: Senate Democratic leaders said that White House staff members and aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) held a late-afternoon meeting on Wednesday to talk about the budget.

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