Good thing the White House is taking the imminent government shutdown so seriously. President Obama designated Joe Biden as his lead negotiator with Congress on a long-term plan to set spending for the rest of the year. They had a meeting Thursday, and I’m not certain they followed up on Friday. And now, Biden’s headed to Russia, Finland and Moldova for a week:

Vice President Biden plans to “take stock” of the reset in relations between the United States and Russia that began after President Obama’s January 2009 inauguration, and he will also visit Finland and become the first U.S. vice president to visit Moldova during his March 7–11 trip to Europe.

Tony Blinken, a Biden adviser, said March 4 that two years after the “reset” in the U.S.-Russia relationship, “we can see the practical and important results,” such as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) cutting the number of nuclear weapons, and deeper bilateral collaboration on Afghanistan and against Iran and North Korea’s nuclear activities.

Congress enacted a two-week stopgap because they believed they could not possibly get all the issues with a continuing resolution solved in a single week. Now the lead negotiator is skipping town on a trip, leaving all the outlying issues with the continuing resolution… to be solved in a single week.

All that this week will accomplish, then, is a bunch of back-and-forth shouting in the media. And that started on the Sunday shows today. Jeb Hensarling told Fox News Sunday that House Republicans would not pass a bill that didn’t “dramatically” cut down the deficit. Dick Durbin told the same show that his party had “pushed to the limit” with their proposal for an additional $6.5 billion in cuts above the $4 billion passed into law this week. “I’m willing to see more deficit reduction but not out of domestic discretionary spending,” he declared. John Kerry said on Face the Nation that the Republicans’ budget-cutting plan was dangerous and reckless, and Mitch McConnell replied by asking “What planet is he living on?”

But the President, staying above this partisan fray and tipping his hand in negotiations, said in his weekly address that he has already met the Republican demand halfway and is “prepared to do more.”

We need to come together, Democrats and Republicans, around a long-term budget that sacrifices wasteful spending without sacrificing the job-creating investments in our future. My administration has already put forward specific cuts that meet congressional Republicans halfway. And I’m prepared to do more. But we’ll only finish the job together – by sitting at the same table, working out our differences, and finding common ground. That’s why I’ve asked Vice President Biden and members of my Administration to meet with leaders of Congress going forward.

Except Biden will be unavoidably detained 10,000 miles from Washington for the next week.

The likely scenario is another two- to three-week stopgap that includes the $6 billion in cuts proposed by the White House, while negotiations continue. You’re starting to see a pattern emerge. Democrats offer small cuts. Republicans take them and ask for more. Democrats offer more small cuts. Lather, rinse, repeat. And pretty soon, the small cuts add up to everything the Republicans wanted in the first place.