White House holds off threatening veto on Republican spending bill

The White House said Tuesday that it is “deeply concerned” about the $984 billion spending bill coming to the House floor this week, but it is not threatening to veto it if it passes.

In an official Statement of Administration Policy, the White House said it “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.”

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The spending bill wraps up appropriations for fiscal 2013, which began Oct. 1, and prevents a government shutdown when the current stopgap bill expires on March 27.

The accommodating White House stance makes a shutdown less likely even as it may give Democrats less leverage to get the higher spending and tax increases they want.

The House bill contains full, detailed spending instructions for the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments but not the rest of the government, which would run essentially on autopilot.

The White House notes “the remainder of Federal agencies are left to operate at last year's level, which 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 policy statement leaves the debate over $85 billion in across-the-board sequestration cuts that started on March 1 as a separate issue.

Democrats could have tried to use the threat of a government shutdown to force a reversal of the cuts, but have decided not to play that card.

“As the Congress considers this bill, the Administration will continue to press the Congress to eliminate the automatic and arbitrary cuts to current funding levels imposed by the Joint Committee sequestration, which will harm middle class and working Americans while costing the Nation's economy hundreds of thousands of jobs,” the White House says.