With less than 48 hours to go before Uncle Sam runs out of money, the Senate passed a GOP-drafted measure to fund the government for an additional two weeks - and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor called the White House's support of the proposal a positive sign for Republicans in the bigger budget battle to come.
"If you listen to what the White House is saying...it seems to indicate they don't want to see a shutdown, and we in the House, as Republicans, have said all along, we don't want to shut down the government. We just want to cut spending," he said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Wednesday.
The House passed its version of the bill, which contains $4 billion in spending cuts, 335-91 on Tuesday.
"The president is encouraged by the progress Congress is making towards a short-term agreement," White House press secretary Jay Carney said after the vote, urging both sides to find "common ground" in order to pass a more long-term budget to fund the government.
"[T]he White House sort of arrived at the scene very late," Cantor told FOX & Friends, but the House's Number two Republican added that West Wing staff seemed willing to work together with House Republicans. "Yesterday, I talked to the White House chief of staff, and he indicated that they would have gone along with four weeks of cuts at this rate, which again is the rate that we had originally proposed in the House," he said.
Cantor said he's spoken to new White House Chief of Staff William Daley more in "the last couple weeks" than he spoke to Daley predecessor Rahm Emanuel in over a year. "So if that's any indication that the White House is willing to try and work things out and reflect the outcome of...last November's election, I think maybe it's a positive sign," he told "Morning Joe."
Senate Democrats and House Republicans will have an additional two weeks to hammer out an agreement on a budget to fund the government for the rest of fiscal year 2011, which ends in September. Cantor says that Republicans plan to tackle entitlement reform as part of the longer term budget, an issue the White House has said should be treated separately from other cuts.
"We're taking the small steps this week, and we're going to continue to do that for this fiscal year, but everyone knows the uncertainty hanging over the economy is caused by the entitlement future of this country, and we just can't keep going like we're going," Cantor said.
As for whether the House, the Senate, and the White House will still be able to come together on a "big picture package" on entitlement and tax reform in order to stave off the deficit, Cantor says, "I don't think we have a choice."