WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama said Saturday that he was prepared to make deeper spending cuts than his initial budget offer to Republicans as the White House seeks to avoid stopgap measures that officials worry could breed uncertainty in the economy.
Obama’s appeal for common ground came in his weekly radio and Internet address, but lacked specifics on how to bridge the gulf that divides the White House and Democratic budget proposal from the deeper reductions offered by Republicans.
Republicans panned the administration’s opening bid of $6.5 billion in reductions beyond those already approved by Congress. Republicans are seeking $60 billion in cuts.
“I’m prepared to do more,” Obama said in his weekly radio address. “But we’ll only finish the job together – by sitting at the same table, working out our differences and finding common ground.”
With the parties stalemated over the scope of budget reductions, Congress passed a temporary bill to fund the government through March 18, which Obama signed into law.
Congressional leaders further agreed at a closed-door meeting last week with Vice President Joe Biden to quickly hold a series of votes to gauge support for the Republican and Democratic proposals.
The Senate is set to vote early this week on the White House’s proposed cuts through the remainder of the fiscal year as well as the House-passed GOP proposal.
Neither package is expected to advance, but leaders from both parties see value in holding the votes so resistant lawmakers will understand they need to bridge the deep divide. Both parties want to avoid a government shutdown.
In rejecting the White House offer, Republicans insisted government must spend less as a way to spur private sector job creation – a link often lost on voters.
“What we need is a new approach – a path to prosperity that gets government out of the way by cutting unnecessary spending and removing barriers to job growth,” said freshman Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., in the GOP radio message.
Voters tell pollsters they want spending cuts but oppose many specific reductions in education and other programs.