Obama, Congress no closer to averting automatic cuts after White House meeting

WASHINGTON—President Obama and congressional leaders emerged from a nearly hour-long White House meeting Friday with no deal to avert automatic spending cuts, assuring the reductions known as sequestration will start going by day’s end.

The meeting came after last-ditch efforts by both parties to replace the $85 billion in cuts or lighten their impact failed in the Senate Thursday. And the finger-pointing over who’s at fault for the reductions—a debate that set the tone for failed talks on Capitol Hill this week—continued.

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Obama said during a White House press briefing that it was Republicans who failed to come to the negotiating table, adding he can’t “do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what’s right.”

“None of this is necessary,” Obama said. “It’s happening because a choice that Republicans in Congress have made. They’ve allowed these cuts to happen because they refuse to budge on closing a single wasteful loophole to help reduce the deficit.”

Obama pushed for a deficit reduction plan to avert the sequester that included targeted cuts, entitlement reform and a closed tax loophole that would impose a 30 percent effective tax rate on millionaires.

House Speak John Boehner spoke to reporters for about a minute following Friday’s meeting and took no questions. The discussion regarding new revenue is over, the Ohio Republican said, and the House will move forward next week on a plan to fund the federal government through the rest of the fiscal year. The government is currently slated to run out of cash on March 27.

“I hope the Senate will act soon,” Boehner said.

Obama and Boehner were joined at the meeting by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.