Asked about criticism from progressives over President Obama's budget deal with congressional leaders, White House senior adviser David Plouffe said Sunday that the president made tough choices on cuts but protected programs he thought were necessary.

"The president's approach ... has been -- and he stated this clearly -- we need to take a scalpel, not a machete," Plouffe said on CNN's "State of the Union." "You know, all spending is not alike. You've got to sort of go line by line, program by program. And that's what this budget debate came down to."

The budget deal, struck between the White House and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) Friday night, cuts $78 billion in federal spending compared to the president's fiscal 2011 budget request. The details of the agreement are being worked out in Congress this week.

Plouffe said the president's spending compromises with Republicans stemmed from his being realistic about the current political environment.

"Listen, we live in divided government. OK, you are going to have to find common ground and move forward on anything," Plouffe said. 

"We have a responsibility to the American people to look at every allocation here and make a determination, is it working for people? Can we afford it? Is it going to help the economy? And that's what the president did. So again, this is a budget agreement and this is the principle he's going to use bringing forward."