President Obama signed legislation on Friday that will cut $6 billion from current discretionary spending and fund the government for another three weeks.
The bill was passed by the Senate on Thursday and the House on Tuesday. It gives House Republicans, Senate Democrats, and the White House additional time to strike a deal on spending for the rest of fiscal 2011, which ends on September 30. The current stopgap spending measure expires at midnight Friday.
The White House is looking to step up negotiations with House Republicans in an effort to iron out a package by the end of the month, according to GOP sources.
Aides of House Speaker Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., met with White House staff on Wednesday, Reid said at a press conference after the Senate vote. More meetings are expected next week while the House and Senate are on recess.
Enactment of the law comes as Republicans are growing increasingly impatient with the short-term continuing resolutions. The one signed Friday would be the sixth since the fiscal year began on October 1. The discontent puts pressure on congressional leaders and the White House to reach an agreement on a funding bill for the rest of the fiscal year, because lawmakers in both parties say it will be difficult to win enough support for a another short-term bill.
The new short-term CR cuts $6 billion from current spending and the previous, two-week stopgap pared $4 billion. Republicans want to cut a total of $61 billion from current spending this year, or $100 billion from Obama's fiscal 2011 budget proposal-a GOP campaign promise.
Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Chairman Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on Thursday that negotiators should also take a harder look at military spending, which is mostly untouched by the House bill. "There is a pretty universal feeling on our side that you have to go beyond domestic discretionary to get to a number that would be a compromise number," Schumer said.
Democrats also continue to urge Republicans to accept a smaller volume of cuts in the final deal and are hoping to split the difference. That would put them close to what House Republican appropriators initially recommended before some in their GOP caucus, including the tea party-backed freshmen, demanded deeper cuts.
Some Republicans warn that a compromise would show a lack of resolve. Senate Budget Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., called the Democratic alternative a "pittance reduction."
"We need to do $61 billion; we do not need a compromise halfway, some $30 billion reduction in spending," Sessions said. "I do believe that will show weakness on our part, a lack of resolve, which would not be a good signal for our economy today."