Obama calls Boehner amid high-stakes debate over spending

Shortly after House Speaker John Boehner complained that the White House has been disengaged during the discussion about a two-week resolution to fund the government, President Obama called Boehner to discuss avoiding a shutdown.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama did not call Boehner in response to the Speaker's criticisms, but because he thought it was the right time to reach out to the Republican leader.

Obama is scheduled to fly to Miami for public events and fundraisers on Friday, the same day the federal government's spending authority stops if a new measure is not passed.

Carney said Obama is optimistic that Congress will move to avoid a government shutdown, but he again cautioned about continuing to debate short-term measures to fund the government.

Carney said the phone call between Obama and Boehner early Tuesday afternoon lasted about 10 to 12 minutes, but Carney would not divulge its details except to say it was a "good call."

The White House has refrained from either endorsing or condemning the continuing resolution (CR) in its current form that would fund the government for two weeks with $4 billion in cuts from the current spending levels. 

But Carney said Tuesday that while Obama wants to avoid a shutdown, he is also wary of a "toll-booth" approach that would result in debates over spending every two weeks for the coming months.

"Whether it's two weeks, two weeks and two days, three weeks, four weeks, the point is that what we do not believe would be helpful, Carney told reporters. "In fact we believe it would be harmful to the economy, and, therefore, not something the American people would support ... if we created a toll-booth, where we are negotiating again and again on continuing resolutions to fund the government for two weeks or another short-term period."

Carney said the White House might agree to double the amount of time and cuts the GOP is proposing, saying that a month-long CR with $8 billion in cuts instead of a two-week measure with $4 billion in cuts "is something we could agree on."

Carney added that stopgap measures might be acceptable "once or twice" in order to keep the federal government running.

"But the focus needs to be on the longer-term deal, so that we can come to an agreement, find common ground and then put that in place so we can focus on the longer-term issues that we all realize the nation faces and the American people want us to grapple with," Carney said.