updated 4/19/2011 4:39:39 PM ET 2011-04-19T20:39:39

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Tuesday tried to reassure nation that President Barack Obama and Republican lawmakers will agree on a plan to whittle down the federal government's massive budget deficits over the next decade.

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Geithner also downplayed an unprecedented warning that the government risks losing its coveted debt rating if the two parties can't reach a deal.

In an interview on CNBC, Geithner said he disagrees with Standard & Poor's decision to lower its long-term outlook for the federal government's fiscal health. The credit agency on Monday warned the government could lose its top credit rating in the next two years if lawmakers fail to come up with a long-term plan to bring down the federal deficit.

"We are not going to get behind this problem; we're going to get ahead of it," Geithner said.

Obama hits the road to sell deficit reduction approach

The U.S. government is projected to run a record $1.5 trillion deficit this year, marking the third straight year that the deficit topped $1 trillion. But so far, S&P sees little chance that the White House and Congress will agree on a deficit-reduction plan before the November 2012 elections, and the rating agency doubts that any plan would be in place until 2014 or later.

Obama faces pessimism as he focuses on budget sale

Two views on cutting deficit
Obama and Republicans in Congress have proposed cutting $4 trillion from future deficits over the next 10 to 12 years. However, they disagree on how to do it.

The White House wants to reduce the deficit through spending cuts and by ending the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.

Republicans reject that, calling it a tax increase. They want to narrow the deficit largely by overhauling Medicare and cutting spending elsewhere.

The clash over how to cut future deficits has put a critical decision — whether to raise the nation's borrowing ability — in limbo.

Geithner has informed Congress that the government will reach its $14.3 trillion debt ceiling no later than May 16. He can manage to keep the government running until about July 8 by juggling funds. But after that, the government would not be able to pay its bills and it would default on the nation's debt.

Video: Can a bipartisan bargain be reached on the budget? (on this page)

Geithner on Sunday said Republican leaders have privately assured the Obama administration that Congress will raise the government's debt limit to avoid an unprecedented default.

But Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the chairman of the House Budget Committee, said there was no guarantee Republicans would agree to increase the debt ceiling without further limits on federal spending.

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Video: Obama takes deficit message on the road

  1. Closed captioning of: Obama takes deficit message on the road

    >>> spring break for the president and his budget message, hitting the road this week for town hall meetings , the campaign swing is the first since the the president formally announced his re- election campaign and pair a fund-raising push with an attempt to rally support ahead of the big fight over raising the debt ceiling. meanwhile, republicans are using tax day to hammer a no new taxes message. dan balls is national political reporter for the washington post and joins us now. you heard congressman gutierrez. the white house view will probably be they have no place else to go, but if they're not enthusiastic, that's a problem in key states we're talking about, nevada, north carolina , florida, the whole southwest. the hispanic community is a very big deal .

    >> no question about it. and the president is going to have to work to make sure that the -- that group of voters among a number of groups of voters are as energized in 2012 as they were in 2008 . they have identified a number of groups that are important to his re-election and hispanics have to be at or near the top of that. and they are not yet as enthusiastic as the white house will need. the obama folks will say, well, they don't have anywhere else to go, in the end they'll be with him, but he has to make sure that all of the parts of the democratic base are enthusiastic because this is going to be a tough election for him.

    >> we saw over the weekend the re-emergence of sarah palin on the republican side at a tea party rally in wisconsin. let me show a little bit of that.

    >> we didn't elect you just to rearrange the deck chairs on a sinking titanic. maybe i should ask some of the badger women's hockey team, those champions, maybe i should ask them if we should be suggesting to gop leaders they need to learn how to fight like a girl.

    >> fight like a girl, dan . she's back. at least somewhat back. i'm not saying she's running, but she's back. what about the dynamic of the republican side ? we'll talk about donald trump and that little exercise, but how do you see the 2012 hopefuls shaping up? is it romney's to lose?

    >> no. i think it is a very unsettled field, andrea. it seems like it is more unsettled the longer we go along. part of it is just the hesitation of people to make a final decision about whether they're running. sarah palin being one of them, mike huckabee of arkansas being another, mitch daniels of indiana being a third. there is so much uncertainty about this field that i don't think you can say anybody is an overwhelming favorite. certainly romney has a lot of attributes he starts this race with. as everybody knows, he's got some liabilities as do others in the field. i think republicans are looking around wondering is this what we have to choose from and if so, what are we going to do.

    >> dan bals, thank you very


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