White House "deeply concerned" about GOP effort to avoid government shutdown

The U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, is seen February 28, 2013. Two competing bills aimed at averting huge spending cuts failed February 28, 2013 in the Senate, virtually assuring that the USD 85 billion in indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts known as the sequester will kick in after the March 1, 2013 deadline.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Without going so far as to issue a veto threat, the White House today issued a statement of policy declaring that it is "deeply concerned" with the bill House Republicans are drafting to avoid a government shutdown on March 27.

"The bill raises concerns about the Government's ability to protect consumers, avoid deep cuts in critical services that families depend on, and implement critical domestic priorities such as access to quality and affordable health care," the statement of policy says. That said, the statement said the administration is "committed to working with the Congress to address these concerns in a way that strengthens the middle class and helps to grow the economy."

Specifically, the administration says it is concerned that the legislation leaves federal agencies -- aside from a few like the Defense Department and Veterans Affairs -- left to operate at last year's spending levels, which, the statement says, "will impede their ability to provide services to Americans and efficiently allocate funding to key programs including those in infrastructure, clean energy, education, and research and development."

The statement said the administration looks forward to working with Congress to "refine" the legislation and will continue to work with lawmakers on a larger deficit reduction plan with which to replace the sequester.

The GOP-led House plans on considering the legislation tomorrow morning, before taking snow days on Thursday and Friday following an expected Wednesday storm. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, unveiled the $982 billion spending bill on Monday. The measure would keep the government open and funded through the end of the fiscal year in late September. Current government spending is set to expire on March 27.

In an effort to ease concerns over the sequester's impact on defense, the Appropriations Committee attached to the legislation full spending bills for the Departments of Defense and Veterans' Affairs, giving those agencies some cushion and flexibility in implementing the cuts.

Some House Democrats plan on voting against the measure since it does not scrap all of the sequester spending cuts. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, said today that she will vote against it, as did Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., and Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said today he was displeased with the GOP-drafted bill and that he supports Lowey as she urges colleagues to vote against it. Keeping the sequester cuts in place, he said, is "a punch to the solar plexus of American job creation."

However, Hoyer said he will not whip against the spending bill and was not clear on whether he would vote against it himself. He stressed that he wants to avoid a government shutdown.

While there have been complaints about the bill, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have expressed a clear interest in passing legislation so that government spending doesn't expire on March 27, prompting a partial shutdown.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., today noted that "Senate Democrats are going to want to have some imprint" on the legislation and that the Democratic-led Senate should be in negotiations with the House over the bill.

"There's a sense of urgency and cooperation on both sides to get this done," he said.