The White House says that a short-term resolution may be the only workable option to avoid triggering the sweeping package of federal budget cuts known as " the sequester," unless Congress can reach a broader deficit-reduction agreement.
Lawmakers have a legally mandated deadline of March 1 to select $85 billion in cuts from the nation's $3.8 trillion budget. But with little indication of progress and Congress in recess this week, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today that the chances of such agreement were slim.
"There is no way to do this - $85 billion over that short window of time?" he said at a press briefing. "There is no way, if you follow the law written by Congress, that implementation of these cuts would not have the draconian, drastic effects that the president talked about today and that everybody has written about, that has talked about or everybody who's spoken about this has made clear will happen."
The comment came the same day President Obama assailed the lack of progress in coming up with a resolution to avoid the cuts, which he said would take a " meat cleaver" approach to the country's fiscal issues.
Should the deadline pass without a solution, the sequester will cut $1.2 trillion over 10 years to the budget, equally divided among defense and non-defense spending. Last week Senate Democrats proposed delaying the measures using a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes that would push the deadline into 2014.
On Sunday newly-appointed White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said the finding cuts necessary to avoid the trigger was "not impossible." But in his interview with Chief White House Correspondent Jon Karl, he continued to stress the Democratic party's position on what they call a "balanced" approach, pairing spending cuts with closing tax loopholes on the wealthy.
"The question isn't whether we're going to insist on some position because that's the ideologically right position," he said on ABC News' "This Week." "This should not be a social science experiment. This should be a question where we ask ourselves, what is most important to the economy, what is most important to the middle class families of this country, and that's the way the president is going to do this."
Republicans have drawn their line in the sand over this question of tax reform, which they purport would be a tax increase in all but name. Stating that the president already achieved enough in new revenue during the recent "fiscal cliff" budget ordeal, some party members have publicly said they would rather see the mandatory spending cuts take effect than budge again.