President Barack Obama faces a looming battle with Republicans over deficit reduction and government spending despite setting a conciliatory tone in his State of the Union speech.

With an eye on his 2012 re-election bid, Obama used his televised address to the nation Tuesday night to further a move to the political center that he made after Republicans routed Democrats in congressional elections in November.

But he will have a fight on his hands over his budget plan to be presented in February. Republicans are calling for steep spending cuts to close the gaping budget deficit.

Republicans seeking $100 billion in cuts this year to help get the United States on a sounder fiscal footing called plans by Obama for a spending freeze too little, too late.

“There’s got to be some kind of absolute, iron-clad path to getting [spending] down,” Republican Sen. John McCain said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” program yesterday.

In a bid to show he has fiscal discipline, Obama proposed a five-year freeze in some domestic spending, which he said would cut $400 billion from budget deficits over a decade, a move applauded by U.S. debt and stock traders.

“A partial freeze is inadequate at a time when we’re borrowing 41 cents of every dollar we spend, and the administration is begging for another increase in the debt limit,” said House Speaker John Boehner.

Obama’s prime-time speech offered some potentially appealing proposals to his newly empowered Republican opponents — a corporate tax cut, reform of the tax code and an end to pet spending projects coveted by many lawmakers.

Road to Congress through Biden

As President Obama seeks Congress’ back­ing for deficit reduc­t­ion and spending programs, he will rely on Vice President Joe Biden, who has been playing a growing role as the White House’s emissary to Capitol Hill.

The Obama administration has been turning increasingly to Biden as its link to Congress, where he spent 36 years as a Delaware senator, since the departure of former congressman Rahm Emanuel as Obama’s chief of staff last year.