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27

Feb

Congressional leaders to meet with Obama on Friday

President Obama is meeting with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders to discuss the sequester on Friday—the same day that automatic federal spending cuts are scheduled to go into effect. 

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky; will attend the meeting at the White House. 

The sequester officially becomes law at 12 a.m. ET on Friday. The automatic indiscriminate budget cuts amount to $85 billion in cuts this year and $1.1 trillion more over the next 10 years. 

Republicans are criticizing the president for scheduling the meeting for after the sequester becomes law.

"At this point, the Obama administration isn’t even pretending to try to stop the sequester," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said. 

McConnell, meanwhile, described the meeting as an opportunity to broadly discuss spending reductions.

"The meeting Friday is an opportunity for us to visit with the President about how we can all keep out commitment to reduce Washington spending," he said in a statement. "With a $16.6 trillion national debt, and a promise to the American people to address it, one thing is perfectly clear: we will cut Washington spending. We can either secure those reductions more intelligently, or we can do it the President’s way with across-the-board cuts. But one thing Americans simply will not accept is another tax increase to replace spending reductions we already agreed to."

The White House has said it’s not hopeful Washington leaders will agree on a way to avert the sequester before Friday. 

The sequester’s origins have been a point of contention between both parties. The president has blamed Republicans for refusing a compromise that would include the closure of tax loopholes. Meanwhile, the GOP has blamed Senate Democrats for failing to propose a legislative fix. 

Boehner has said the House will wait for the upper chamber to act first, mentioning that the House passed two bills to avert the sequester last year. 

"We should not have to move a third bill before the Senate gets off their ass and begins to do something," he said yesterday. 

Reid has said the Senate will vote on a Democratic plan and a Republican plan this week, but neither is expected to gain enough support to pass through Congress.

The latest poll has Americans divided on the issue. A Wall Street Journal/NBC survey released today shows that 52 percent of Americans say the sequester is a bad idea. Another 21 percent say it’s a good idea, and 25 percent say they don’t know enough to have an opinion. Half of the poll’s respondents say the cuts are too severe while 46 percent say it’s time for drastic measures to reduce the deficit.