Steep and harsh federal spending cuts kick in Friday.
And that's when President Barack Obama has invited Congressional leaders to the White House to try and resolve the standoff.
The White House on Tuesday invited House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to trek down Pennsylvania Avenue to meet on the $85 billion across-the-board cuts, known as the sequester.
Republicans on Capitol Hill say the last-minute invitation to the White House Tuesday for a Friday meeting is a sign that the president is not serious about stopping the cuts.
"If the President is serious about stopping the sequester, why did he schedule a meeting on Tuesday for Friday when the sequester hits at midnight on Thursday?" a Capitol Hill Republican said. "Either someone needs to buy the White House a calendar, or this is just a -- belated - farce. They ought to at least pretend to try."
The Senate is set to unveil competing plans -- one Republican and one Democratic -- to stop and perhaps give President Barack Obama more flexibility to reprogram the spending cuts in the sequester. But those measures, which will get a vote on Thursday, both are expected to need a 60-vote threshold in the Senate, and both are expected to fail.
Senate Republicans are working to decide whether to present a measure that would transfer authority to reprogram the cuts to Obama, allowing his administration to implement them with more flexibility. But some conservatives are balking about transferring so much legislative branch power to a Democratic president. Furthermore, Reid and Obama are firmly against such a plan.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats intend to push forward with a plan that includes a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes to replace the sequester, mainly funded by a 30 percent minimum tax hikes on millionaires. That plan is nonstarter with Republicans, who fiercely oppose new revenues as a part of a sequester deal. But Obama is insisting they be part of a sequester fix.
Obama has been appealing to the public in the last couple of weeks, sounding the alarm over the sequester's impact on such things as airline travel and public schools. On Tuesday, he traveled to Newport News, Va.., to showcase the impact of the spending cuts on the military. But Republicans say that while they aren't fans of the method, it's about time the federal budget got serious about its finances and that the president shouldn't be in campaign mode.
McConnell said in a statement Wednesday that the meeting "is an opportunity for us to visit with the President about how we can all keep our commitment to reduce Washington spending.
"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," he said. "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."
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