WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama says he's willing to make deeper spending cuts if Congress can compromise on a budget deal that would end the threat of a government shutdown.
Obama's appeal for common ground came Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address, but lacked specifics on how to bridge the $50 billion gulf that divides the White House and Democratic budget proposal from the deeper reductions offered by Republicans.
The competing plans are headed for test votes in the Senate in the coming week; neither is expected to survive, setting the stage for further negotiations.
The government is running on a temporary spending bill that expires March 18, so the parties have until then to come up with a plan to pay for the remainder of the budget year through September.
"We need to come together, Democrats and Republicans, around a long-term budget that sacrifices wasteful spending without sacrificing the job-creating investments in our future," Obama said.
"My administration has already put forward specific cuts that meet congressional Republicans halfway. And I'm prepared to do more," said Obama.
But the claim that Democrats are meeting Republicans halfway only stands up under the Democratic explanation of the intricate numbers game being played on Capitol Hill.
"We'll only finish the job together -- by sitting at the same table, working out our differences and finding common ground," the president said.
Facing a federal deficit of $1.6 trillion, Republican leaders are under pressure from tea partiers to stick to a deep lineup of $61 billion in spending cuts for the current budget year that's been passed by the GOP-controlled House.
Obama has threatened to veto that plan, and a Democratic offer of $6.5 billion in cuts -- on top of $4 billion already signed into law -- restores money the House GOP cuts from education, health and other programs.
Republicans used their weekly address to reject Obama's approach on the budget.
"You may have heard President Obama say that we need to make sure 'we're living within our means,'" said freshman Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. "He's right about that. Unfortunately, his budget doesn't match his words.
"It continues out-of-control spending, it adds to our $14 trillion debt and it adds to the uncertainty that makes it harder to create jobs. Maintaining the status quo -- and refusing to offer a credible plan to cut spending -- is just unacceptable and inexcusable," she said.
"The American people want us to keep the government running while cutting its cost," Black said