Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Thursday said he’d take any deal that would avoid across-the-board cuts to defense spending.

Lawmakers have begun floating short-term agreements to stop the $500 billion in defense cuts known as sequestration from beginning in January amid concerns they won’t be able to strike a “grand bargain” on taxes and spending.

“I’ll take whatever the hell deal they can make right now to deal with sequestration,” Panetta said.

He said the problem now was Congress had “left town” for the election. “All of this has now been put off into the lame-duck session,” Panetta said.