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Automatic US Budget Cuts to Begin Friday

Eighty-five billion dollars in automatic government spending cuts appear inevitable after the Senate defeated competing bills seen as alternatives to the painful cuts.

Democrats voted down a Republican proposal Thursday that would have given the president more flexibility in deciding where to reduce spending. Republicans rejected a Democratic measure to replace the cuts with tax hikes on the wealthy and scrapping some farm subsidies.

The automatic budget cuts, known as the sequester, take effect Friday and will hit nearly every federal government agency. Services would be reduced and many federal employees could be forced to take unpaid leave. States would also feel the effects, with fewer federal dollars coming in.

The failure of Congress and the White House to avoid the sequester has left many in Washington frustrated over the lack of progress toward a budget deal.

President Barack Obama and many Democrats have proposed eliminating certain tax breaks for the wealthy to raise revenue along with spending cuts as a way to reduce the budget deficit.

Many Republicans oppose tax increases of any kind and want to focus solely on cutting spending.

President Obama meets with congressional leaders Friday for what the White House calls "constructive discussion" on doing something about the automatic cuts.

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