White House signals support for stopgap budget measure

WASHINGTON — The White House signaled Monday that it would be open to a proposal to avert a government shutdown for two weeks, but congressional negotiators have not come up with a way to prevent a possible disruption in services later in the year.

Congress and the White House may act in time to avoid a shutdown this week, but deep divisions between Republicans and Democrats continued to cast doubt over whether the two sides will be able to compromise on a more durable proposal.

The House is expected to vote today on a stopgap measure proposed by Republicans that would cut $4 billion over two weeks by eliminating programs President Obama has already targeted for termination, among others. Senate Democrats have indicated they would be open to the proposal and the administration said it may go along.

Yet the White House also said that a longer term deal is essential to reduce "uncertainty" of continued stopgap measures that could negatively affect the economy.

"If we keep returning to this every couple of weeks," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, "that is a concern."

Carney declined to pinpoint a time frame that would be acceptable to the president, saying only that the "focus has to be on the impact on the economy."

Lawmakers returned to Washington after a week at home in their districts as Americans begin to focus on the size and scope of the cuts approved last month by the Republican-led House.

The GOP bill, which Obama had vowed to veto, would cut more than $60 billion over the remaining seven months of the fiscal year, in one of the largest one-time reductions of its kind.

It would take billions of dollars from the Head Start preschool program, college grants, health, infrastructure and other domestic federal programs, and would result in the loss of thousands of federally funded jobs. But Republican leaders are confident of public backing.