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Automatic US Budget Cuts Set to Begin Friday

The Capitol plaza is seen as automatic spending cuts are set to take effect on March 1, in Washington, February 26, 2013.
As the countdown toward automatic U.S. budget cuts continues, Democrats and Republicans are at a standstill on avoiding the so-called "sequester" that would take place starting Friday.

U.S. President Barack Obama plans to meet with congressional leaders Friday. That is when $85 billion in automatic cuts kick in - the result of a failure among lawmakers to arrive at a compromise budget that would help reduce deficit spending and bring down the national debt.

The White House says the talks are meant to be a "constructive discussion" on doing something about the automatic cuts.

President Obama says the cuts will harm the economy, force thousands of people from their jobs, and hurt military readiness. He wants to combine spending cuts with ending certain tax exemptions for the wealthy and for corporations.

Many Republicans oppose any kind of tax hikes and want to focus on spending cuts.

On Wednesday, the Senate confirmed former White House chief of staff Jack Lew as the new treasury secretary. Lew is likely to be at the center of difficult negotiations with Congressional Republicans on reaching a budget deal.