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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 03/ 2/2011

Delaying the real budget fight

By Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza

The House took the first step Tuesday toward averting a government shutdown, passing a two-week bill to fund the government past Friday.

But even with the Senate expected to follow suit this week, Congress is merely kicking the can down the road, and the real budget fight still looms in the immediate future.

That coming battle was evident even Tuesday. In what otherwise could have been billed as a bipartisan moment in which 335 members of the House voted to cut $4 billion from the budget while funding the government for two weeks, the lingering tensions shone through in the hours before the vote.

The White House, hoping for more time to deal with the long-term budget, had been pushing for a month-long extension rather than a two-week one.

"We do believe that if $4 billion in cuts over two weeks is acceptable, that $8 billion over four or five weeks is something that we could agree on, again, if it was a clean, continuing resolution," White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday afternoon before the vote.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), at a press conference Tuesday morning, suggested the White House's proposal was too late in the game.

"If we had had a conversation about this 10 days ago or two days ago, we might have had something to talk about," Boehner said.

The back-and-forth is telling and highlights the touchy nature of negotiations on the subject. Those negotiations will continue to be tortuous, because once a more long-term budget is on the table, compromise will become even more difficult to secure -- think the marathon session the House engaged in two weeks ago.

And with a more compressed two-week period during which to avoid another shutdown, the ante is raised even higher.

Also, it's not even clear that all Republicans would favor a longer version of what they passed Tuesday. All but one freshman voted in favor of the extension, in a surprising show of unity and a win for the GOP leadership. But those members and the people who elected them may be looking for something different in a long-term bill.

Many freshman Republicans, vocal about making bigger cuts all month, began pushing immediately after the vote for the Senate to take up the long-term budget bill that the GOP-led House passed two weeks ago.

The only members to vote against the bill were liberal Democrats and six maverick Republicans. But it's easier to cast a vote on a two-week extension, as the vote will be quickly forgotten.

The vote the counts is after the coming budget battle, and while the two sides may be getting closer to seeing eye-to-eye, its clear that there's still plenty to work through.

Canter to be lead DSCC spokesman: Matt Canter has been hired as the communications director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and will start the job March 14.

Canter comes to the DSCC from the office of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), where he helped the newly minted incumbent fight off the prospect of a 2010 primary challenge from former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr., amongst others. Gillibrand, who must run for a full six-year term in 2012, is widely expected to cruise to victory.

Prior to his work for Gillibrand, Canter served as communications director for the successful candidacy of Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) and had that same role in the office of Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle. (Canter is a Wisconsin native and Green Bay Packers fan.)

"Senator [Patty] Murray [D-Wash.] has laid out a smart, aggressive strategy for preserving Democratic seats and electing new Democratic senators in states across the country," said Canter. "I am extremely excited to join her team and go to the mat helping Democratic senators and new candidates in states across the country."

Canter replaces Eric Schultz at the DSCC and will work under executive director Guy Cecil.

Gingrich camp says no announcement Thursday: Aides to Newt Gingrich say the former House speaker will not, as has been reported, launch a presidential exploratory committee on Thursday, when he will be in his home state of Georgia for an American Enterprise Institute forum and to meet with Gov. Nathan Deal (R).

"Gingrich is not travelling to Georgia to announce that he will form 'an exploratory committee,' as stated in the Des Moines Register," Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler said in a statement. "To be clear, while Speaker Gingrich is in Georgia on Thursday, he will NOT announce the formation of an exploratory committee."

The clarification is odd, because in reporting the formation of Gingrich's exploratory committee, the Register quoted senior Gingrich adviser Joe Gaylord.

"It is exactly that, an exploratory committee," Gaylord reportedly said.

Fixbits:

The Columbia Law School has a new website featuring redistricting maps drawn by students. For redistricting junkies, it's definitely worth a look.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) unveiled a budget full of aggressive cuts on Tuesday.

Potential presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Haley Barbour will be at the Club for Growth meeting in Florida this weekend.

Pawlenty has pegged April for an announcement.

Sarah Palin is going after Obama for his administration's decision to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act.

Must-reads:

"Romney gives big to vulnerable freshmen" -- Tricia Miller, Roll Call

"Mass. dems weighing 2012 challenge to Brown" -- Steve LeBlanc, AP

By Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza  | March 2, 2011; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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