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Obama says budget extensions "irresponsible"

President Barack Obama answers a question during a press conference on the White House complex in Washington, Friday, March 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

Updated 2:58 p.m. Eastern Time

President Obama said at a press conference Friday that short-term extensions to fund the government are "irresponsible" - even as another one appears to be on the horizon.

"We can't keep on running the government based on two-week extensions," the president said. "That's irresponsible. I mean, we've got a war in Afghanistan going on, we've got a wide range of issues facing the country on a day-to-day basis, and the notion that we can't get resolved last year's budget in a sensible way with serious but prudent spending cuts I think defies common sense."

The comments come as members of Congress appear close to agreeing on a three-week extension of the so-called "continuing resolution" that would keep the government operating. (A two-week extension passed on March 1; without a new deal, the government would begin shutting down on March 18.)

A congressional source tells CBS News that the new extension would cut $6 billion from the budget, including about $1 billion in Census money left over from 2010. That would square with the precedent of cutting $2 billion per week established in the first short-term extension, which lasted two weeks and cut about $4 billion.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, the #2 Republican in the House, said Friday that the House will approve the measure next week.

The Senate on Wednesday voted down both the Democrats' and Republicans' budget proposalsin a move designed by the Senate Democratic leadership to force compromise.

President Barack Obama answers a question during a press conference on the White House complex in Washington, Friday, March 11, 2011.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

The Republican proposal, which has passed the GOP-led House, would fund the government for the next seven months but slash $61 billion. Democrats complained the cuts to federal agencies -- hitting everything from border security to cancer research and food safety inspectors -- were too draconian.

The Democratic plan would cut about $5 billion, which Republicans say is not nearly enough in light of the nation's ballooning deficit and debt.

Mr. Obama went after the House GOP bill in his press conference Friday, stating that "there are going to be certain things that House Republicans want that I will not accept."

"And the reason I won't accept them is not because I don't think we've got to cut the budget. We do," he said. "And we've already put forward significant cuts in the discretionary budget, some of which have not made members of my own party happy. But the notion that we would cut, for example, Pell Grants, when we know the single most important thing to our success as a nation long term is how well educated our kids are, and the proposal that was coming out of the House would cut, this year, about $800 out of Pell Grants for 8 million kids, and if were extended into the next year, would cut in half the Pell Grants that they're receiving, that makes no sense."

The president also criticized Republicans for attaching so-called "riders" to their budget proposal related to social issues, which he said "aren't really budget items; these are political statements."

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"The principle that I've tried to put forward since the State of the Union is we've got to live within our means, we've got to get serious about managing our budget, but we can't stop investing in our people, we can't stop investing in research and development, we can't stop investing in infrastructure: those things that are going to make us competitive over the long term and will help us win the future," he added.

The president acknowledged that "we may not be able to fully resolve this and meet next week's deadline for the continuing resolution, which means there may be potentially one more short-term extension." But he said that the White House wanted to work with Republicans "to get to a sustainable discretionary budget."

Some Democrats have called on the White House to take a more active role in the budget negotiations, and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said earlier this week the president has "failed to lead"on the issue.