…Lawmakers have just two weeks — until midnight on March 18 — to forge a long-term compromise, amid US voter anger at stubbornly high unemployment and worries about the bloated government deficit and swelling national debt.

“There’s no question it (the vote) doesn’t solve the problem,” said Tony Fratto, a former White House spokesman under president George W. Bush who heads a consulting firm and tracks government fiscal and monetary policy.

“But it definitely helps to sharpen the senses about the tough decisions and the time ahead, and for people to get serious about spending reductions,” he told AFP by telephone.

The president, who reached out to top lawmakers in recent days, urged them in his statement to open talks “immediately” with Biden, White House Chief William Daley, and budget director Jacob Lew in a bid to find “common ground.”

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