(CNN) – Stepping off Air Force One Wednesday in Tel Aviv, President Barack Obama seemed to breathe a sigh of relief at escaping a gridlocked Washington.
"It's good to get away from Congress," Obama was heard telling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a formal arrival ceremony at the Ben Gurion Airport. The quip elicited a big laugh from Netanyahu and a grin from Obama, who then posed for photos.
The president's trip to the Mideast comes as lawmakers and the White House continue to haggle over tax rates and spending cuts. The two sides weren't able to strike a deal avoiding mandatory spending cuts at the beginning of March, and are currently deadlocked over how to fund the federal government past the end of the month.
The current funding measure expires March 27, and a partial government shutdown would occur if a new funding authorization isn't in place.
Obama's relations with lawmakers, icy for years, seemed to thaw recently as the president embarked on a "charm offensive" with rank-and-file members. He took GOP senators out to dinner in Washington, lunched with the House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, and traveled to Capitol Hill for meetings with the entire Republican and Democratic coalitions in the House and Senate.
But some Republicans were skeptical of the outreach, saying it was a way for Obama to appear conciliatory without striking true compromise.
Netanyahu also faces the task of working with legislators who don't always see eye-to-eye with him. In January's election, his faction lost seats, and the coalition government formed last week excludes ultra-religious parties, which have in the past been Netanyahu's allies.
The prime minister said last week that passing a budget would be the first task for the new government. Israel also faces a budget deficit, and like the U.S. must negotiate spending cuts and tax rates as part of a solution.