President Obama is meeting with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders to discuss the sequester on Friday -- the day the sweeping budget cuts are set to kick in.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; will all head to the White House, CBS News has confirmed.
The White House has said it's Washington leaders will agree on a way to avert the sequester before it kicks in on Friday. The automatic, indiscriminate budget cuts amount to $85 billion in cuts this year and $1.1 trillion more over the next 10 years. Since they are across-the-board cuts rather than strategically targeted cuts, most members of both parties agree they will have a negative impact on government operations and the economy.
According to aides to Reid and Boehner, the sequester officially becomes law at 12 a.m. ET on Friday - that's midnight from Thursday into Friday. Republicans are criticizing the president scheduling the meeting after the sequester becomes law. "At this point, the Obama administration isn't even pretending to try to stop the sequester," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.
One congressional Republican told CBS News, "If the president is serious about stopping the sequester, why did he schedule a meeting on Tuesday for Friday when the sequester hits [Friday]. 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."
Still, since the cuts go into effect gradually, Congress does not necessarily need to avert them by Friday to avoid all of their negative consequences.
Boehner has saidfor the upper chamber to move legislation first, noting that the GOP-led House passed two bills to avert the sequester last year (those bills have now expired). "We should not have to move a third bill before the Senate gets off their ass and begins to do something," he said yesterday.
Reid has said the Senate will vote on a Democratic plan and a Republican plan this week, though neither is expect to gain enough support to pass through Congress.
Meanwhile, the latest poll shows the American public split on the issue: A new Wall Street Journal/NBC survey released today shows that 52 percent of Americans say the sequester is a bad idea. Another 21 percent say it's a good idea, and 25 percent say they don't know enough to have an opinion. Half of the poll's respondents say the cuts are too severe while 46 percent say it's time for drastic measures to reduce the deficit.
CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes and CBS News producer Jill Jackson contributed to this report.