Continued from page 1

Republicans warned that the bill’s tax hike on some U.S.-based international firms - used to finance in part the $26 billion price tag - could hamper the private job market, which is faring worse than the public sector. They also hit Democrats for approving additional funds when many states still have not spent all the stimulus dollars earmarked for education.

But the White House defended the move, saying most stimulus funds either have been allocated or spent and that the additional aid complements existing programs.

“We need to build on the progress that we’re making,” White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton said.

Separately, Mr. Burton tried to play down the political fracas on the left sparked by Mr. Gibbs‘ remark, which exposed long-existing tensions between the administration and its political base.

Mr. Burton said his boss was merely answering a question “honestly,” and was referring to criticism by cable-TV pundits and not “progressives around the country” who are pleased with the administration’s legislative accomplishments.

The state aid bill marks the first time the White House has backed congressional efforts to redirect unspent stimulus dollars originally intended to spur new economic activity.

In the past, administration officials have rebuffed proposals by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to cut the stimulus to pay for unemployment benefits or other measures, saying the law should be allowed to work as intended.

The more than $2 billion in stimulus cuts include $1.5 billion originally meant for an Energy Department loan-guarantee program for innovative technology and $300 million for broadband-technology initiatives.