Pressure builds on Obama to broker budget cuts 

With a government shutdown averted for at least two weeks, the Obama administration is up against increasing pressure to put its stamp on a longer-term deal that would appease Republicans looking for significant cuts in coming months.

The Republican-controlled House overwhelmingly approved about $4 billion-worth of spending cuts in avoiding a government shutdown until at least March 18 -- a blueprint that would keep government running just half as long as Obama proposed Tuesday.

Senate Democrats, led by Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, promised to pass the stopgap bill by Thursday, but Reid implored Obama to get more involved in solving the budget crisis.

White House officials are now concerned about a "toll-booth" approach to budgeting that would force Democrats to embrace Republican spending proposals every few weeks or risk a government shutdown.

Analysts say the difficulty in solving just a fraction of this year's budget does not bode well for tackling more significant shortfalls.

"It's not very encouraging," former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker told The Washington Examiner. "They're arguing about the bar tab on a cruise ship when the ship is heading for an iceberg."

The federal budget deficit is already projected to hit a record $1.6 trillion this year and Obama's proposed budget would add to that debt over the next 10 years.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama remains committed to finding a solution that would keep the government running while not compromising investments needed to help the economy rebound. Obama called House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Tuesday but was unable to push him away from the two-week Band-Aid in favor of a longer-term fix.

And now Republicans are expected to put more pressure on the White House to meet their pledge to take a machete to the federal budget in coming months. The House passed a plan that would cut more than $60 billion in spending this fiscal year. Obama has said he would veto such a proposal.

"It's no longer a conversation about a government shutdown but instead about cuts," said former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin. "Republicans are on firm ground in that area. They aren't holding anybody hostage. The White House has made no effort to do anything."

Republicans uniformly blamed the president for not doing more to broker a deal in the face of a government shutdown. Yet the general public seems divided on who would be at fault if the federal government were to close shop.

A new Washington Post/Pew Research Center poll shows that nearly an equal percentage of Americans would blame Obama and House Republicans for a shutdown.

By striking a two-week deal, lawmakers will be forced to broker another compromise and then potentially another after that if officials cannot agree on funding for the rest of this fiscal year.

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Brian Hughes

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