NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- There was more squabbling in Washington on Thursday as the nation prepared to go over the latest fiscal cliff -- $85 billion in budget cuts.
The White House defended days of warnings about the so-called "sequester." Press Secretary Jay Carney stressed that thousands of Americans will soon feel the effects, CBS 2's Jessica Schneider reported.
"The effects of sequester will be real," Carney said. "Ask the family whose child will not have a slot in Head Start if they think it's real. Ask the civilian defense department employee who's already gotten notification that ... he or she will be furloughed."
Here in New York, it would mean deep cuts to many things, including senior centers and hot meals for the elderly, CBS 2's Marcia Kramer reported.
"Don't starve our seniors," Councilwoman Jessica Lapin (D-Manhattan).
That was the emotional plea from Lapin, who said New York City's elderly population would be devastated if the budget cuts known as "sequester" go into effect.
* 136,000 meals for the home-bound elderly would be on the chopping block
* 261,000 fewer meals service at senior centers this year
* 106 senior centers might have to close
"It would be devastating particularly to our city's homebound elderly. Think about it, our most vulnerable, people who literally cannot leave their own homes," Councilwoman Lapin said.
And with time running out for a way to avoid the budget cuts -- they go into effect at 12:01 a.m. -- President Barack Obama began softening his rhetoric about the impact.
"This is not a cliff, but it's a tumble downward," the president said.
Still, he said the cuts will hurt.
"This is going to be a big hit on the economy," Obama said.
And Congress being Congress, there was squabbling and dysfunction on Friday. On the one hand a Senate bill called for tax hikes; on the other a House bill offered a different way to apportion the cuts, but without a tax increase. Both were dead on arrival.
Both sides seem to agree on just one thing: the cuts will go into effect Friday.
"They prefer to keep it alive as a political ploy," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said of the Democrats.
And there was also the blame game.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California wasted little time pointing a finger at the Republicans, saying, "750,000 American workers laid off because of sequester implementation. Unless the House GOP stops the mindless, across-the-board spending cuts, you, too, could lose your job."
But the Republicans were also quick to defend themselves.
"They want it to fail so they can go around the country blaming Republicans for a sequester the president, himself, proposed," Sen. McConnell said.
"I'm happy to talk to the president. I'm happy to work with the president, but the House has done its job. It's time for the Senate to do their job," House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said.
The cuts are so bad that even Congress itself will take a hit, losing a cherished perk. Boehner told his members that he's suspending the use of military aircraft for official trips by House members.
Congressional leaders will have the first meeting with President Obama at the White House on Friday.
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