According to a senior administration official, Obama told Boehner that they were the two most consequential leaders in the United States government and that if they had any hope of keeping the government open, their bargain had to be honored and could not be altered by staff. The official described the scene on condition of anonymity to reveal behind-the-scenes negotiations.

The accomplishment set the stage for even tougher confrontations. Republicans intend to pass a 2012 budget through the House this week that calls for sweeping changes in Medicare and Medicaid and would cut domestic programs deeply in an attempt to gain control over soaring deficits.

In the April 9 Republican radio address, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., warns of a coming crisis. “Unless we act soon, government spending on health and retirement programs will crowd out spending on everything else, including national security. It will literally take every cent of every federal tax dollar just to pay for these programs.”

Progressives argue that closing tax loopholes allowing corporations to avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes each year is a better way of reducing the deficit that cutting what are commonly referred to as entitlement programs.

That debate could come soon. The Treasury has told Congress it must vote to raise the debt limit by summer—a request that Republicans hope to use to force Obama to accept long-term deficit-reduction measures.