Congressional negotiators set to work Wednesday trying to sell a compromise budget plan to conservatives who are upset by continued deficit spending and liberals who want an extension of unemployment benefits for long-term jobless Americans. President Barack Obama called the agreement a good first step, one that would prevent another government shutdown early next year.
The path to the bipartisan deal was greased by falling poll numbers for both Democrats, who control the Senate, and Republicans, who control the House of Representatives.
Obama and his Democrats are taking a major hit over the flawed roll-out of the president's massive health care overhaul. Republicans have lost favor for having forced the government shutdown and bringing the U.S. to the brink of a debt default in October, when budget negotiations fell apart over the opposition party's attempt to derail the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. The shutdown cost the government and the U.S. economy billions of dollars.
In welcome news to House Republican leaders, Rep. Jeff Miller said most Republicans would back the deal worked out by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and applauded by the White House.
The House plans to vote by week's end before it adjourns for the year on Friday.
Still, there was some grumbling from liberals and conservatives as the pact doesn't solve long-term tax and spending issues, and ignores expiring unemployment benefits.
Sen. Rand Paul, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, announced his opposition, saying that ''undoing tens of billions of this modest spending restraint is shameful and must be opposed.''
House Democrats were less than enthusiastic, too.
''Stay tuned,'' said Minority Leader Nancy Pelos, when asked about whether Democrats would support the bill.
The deal reached Tuesday restores about $63 billion in across-the-board automatic spending cuts to programs ranging from parks to the Defense Department. Those crude cuts - known as the sequester - were the delayed result of yet another failure by Congress to negotiate a deal on government spending, that time back in 2011.
Congress needed to reach a deal this time because the legislation that ended the 16-day partial government shutdown in October expires on Jan. 15. The agreement stipulates a new spending level for the remainder of the current budget year as well as the one that begins next Oct. 1.
The deal is aimed less at chipping away at the $17 trillion national debt than it