President Obama and congressional leaders today failed to reach a breakthrough to avert a sweeping package of automatic spending cuts, setting into motion $85 billion of across-the-board belt-tightening that neither had wanted to see.
Obama met for just over an hour at the White House Friday with Republican leaders House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Democratic allies, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Vice President Joe Biden.
But the parties emerged from their first face-to-face meeting of the year resigned to see the cuts take hold.
Officials have said the spending reductions immediately take effect on Saturday but that the pain from reduced government services and furloughs of tens of thousands of federal employees would be felt gradually in the weeks ahead.
The sticking point in the debate over the automatic cuts -- known as sequester -- remains whether to include more new tax revenue in a broad deficit reduction plan.
The White House insists there must be higher tax revenue, through closure of tax loopholes and elimination of some deductions. Republicans seek an approach of spending cuts only, with an emphasis on entitlement programs.