Senate Democrat unveils bill preventing a shutdown

WASHINGTON (AP/ABC7) - President Barack Obama pressed on with his Republican charm offensive Thursday, holding a White House lunch with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan in an effort to soften the ground for potential talks on a long-term deficit reduction deal.

On Capitol Hill, efforts to stave off a late March government shutdown shifted to the Senate after House Republicans swiftly passed legislation to keep federal agencies running, while also easing some effects of $85 billion in budget cuts. If the shutdown can be avoided, it could clear the way for lawmakers and Obama to at least discuss a broader budget agreement.

Voters in Virginia say they are still anxious for the White House and Congress to resolve their differences and find a way to make big budget cuts without the automatic axe of sequestration.

Jill Hettermann of Falls Church said, "I would love for Congress and the president to get together and work this out. I think they are both being very stubborn."

"I think it would be better if we actually took the time now - we found sort of a stop gap solution - but really take the time to better distribute it," added Arlington resident Gautam Ramnath.

Wednesday, the House acted to avert a government shutdown by approving funding for the federal government through the end of the year. But House Speaker John Boehner complained that counting on the Democrat-controlled Senate is a bit like betting on a snow day.

"Trying to predict what the Senate will or won't do is like trying to predict the weather here in Washington, D.C.," the Republican said.

A top Senate ally of President Barack Obama says Democrats won't push to get money for signature party initiatives in advancing a huge spending measure that would fund day-to-day federal operations through September.

The chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski, says the Senate will give agencies like the Agriculture, Homeland Security and Justice departments their detailed, line-by-line budgets as part of the legislation advancing next week. Its aim is to head off a government shutdown at the end of March.

The House passed a narrower version of the bill on Wednesday. Mikulski said Thursday that the Senate measure would leave in place automatic cuts of 5 percent to domestic agencies and 7.8 percent to the Pentagon.