Reporting from Washington — The Senate had barely finished voting to move a short-term spending resolution on to President Obama for his signature before both parties returned to their corners for the start of a new confrontation over funding the government for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year.
Obama praised Congress' swift action on a two-week continuing resolution in a statement after the lopsided Senate vote, and he urged lawmakers to get serious about passing a final budget.
"We cannot keep doing business this way. Living with the threat of a shutdown every few weeks is not responsible, and it puts our economic progress in jeopardy," he said.
Stepping up the White House's engagement in the budget process, the president announced he has tasked Vice President Joe Biden with leading negotiations with congressional leadership, along with Bill Daley, chief of staff, and Jacob Lew, his budget director.
Obama called for an agreement that reduces spending but does so in a way that protects the fragile economic recovery.
"This agreement should be bipartisan, it should be free of any party's social or political agenda, and it should be reached without delay," he said in his statement.
Republicans would not commit to taking part in talks with the vice president, however. Speaker John Boehner reminded reporters after the Senate vote that the House had already passed a spending bill covering the remainder of the fiscal year — one that Obama has threatened to veto — but that Democrats have yet to offer a counterproposal.
"How do you start a conversation where one house has spoken, but the other house hasn't? And so where is the starting point?" he said.
Democrats have rejected the GOP's more ambitious plan to chop more than $60 billion in the largest one-time reduction of its kind. But Republicans insist that voters are on their side as they seek to extract steep cuts and fulfill their campaign promise to rein in government spending, and have been unwilling to move away from their proposal.
Both sides privately remain doubtful the congressional impasse can be bridged in the two weeks before the stopgap measure expires March 18, likely requiring another temporary spending plan.
White House press secretary Jay Carney later reiterated the president's call for negotiations.
"We believe and hope that an initial meeting will take place soon," he said.