President Obama threw his backing behind a last-minute compromise effort in the Senate that would cut the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade and raise the federal debt limit.
The proposal, put forward Tuesday by the bipartisan "Gang of Six," would pay down the nation's deficit with a mix of deep spending cuts and revenue increases achieved in part by closing loopholes in the nation's tax code.
Obama called the plan a "significant step" and said it is "broadly consistent with the approach I've urged."
"The hope is that everybody seizes this opportunity," he told reporters at a White House news briefing.
But he acknowledged that time is running short for Congress to address the debt crisis and that it may be "tough" to adopt the sweeping solution that would both raise the debt limit and address the nation's growing deficit.
"We are in the 11th hour, and we don't have a lot of time left," Obama said. "We don't have any more time to engage in symbolic gestures, we don't have any more time to posture. It's time to get down to the business of actually solving this problem."
The president said he's still negotiating with House Speaker John Boehner and other congressional leaders on a separate proposal and reported that "some progress" has been made. But in the meantime, he noted, Sens. Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid continue to draft a "failsafe" plan that would focus only on raising the debt limit.
"That's the bare minimum that has to be achieved," Obama said. "But we continue to believe that we can achieve more."
Obama's comments came as the House prepared to vote on a "Cut, Cap and Balance" proposal that would raise the debt limit, but only if Congress approves a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget. The measure is expected to pass the GOP-led House (UPDATE: It passed), but not the Democratic-led Senate. Obama has said he would veto the measure, though he acknowledged Tuesday it's unlikely to reach his desk.
The White House has pressed Congress come up with a debt plan this week to give lawmakers enough time to debate a proposal ahead of Aug. 2, the date which Treasury officials say the United States will begin to default on its financial obligations.