Obama, top lawmakers to meet Friday on spending cuts—before deadline

Rachel Rose Hartman and Olivier Knox
The Ticket

President Barack Obama has invited top congressional leaders to a meeting at the White House on Friday to discuss ways to avert across-the-board spending cuts that he says may devastate the economy—the day after cuts start kicking in.

Or did he?

Obama on Friday will sit down with Republican House Speaker John Boehner, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, an aide said on condition of anonymity on Wednesday given the event is not yet on the president’s public schedule.

And because the sequester deadline is March 1, it first appeared as if the meeting would be held after cuts began taking effect.

The administration had received criticism for the timing, and reporters at Wednesday's White House briefing immediately questioned press secretary Jay Carney on why the gathering was being held after cuts begin going into effect.

The question set off a discussion and some confusion in the White House briefing room over when the cuts will actually begin: midnight Thursday, Feb. 28, or midnight Friday, March 1?

"My understanding is that it happens midnight on Friday," Carney said.

Reporters and Hill aides immediately reacted.

From Anita Kumar, White House correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers:

And Boehner's press secretary Brendan Buck:

An official with the Office of Management and Budget, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed to Yahoo News on Wednesday that the president has until 11:59 p.m. on March 1 to issue the sequestration order.

So there you have it.

Although, we still don't know when the president will issue the order if necessary.

Regardless, the timing of the meeting is not as silly as it seems. Many observers have said that gridlocked Washington may need the reductions, which will hit defense and domestic spending, to go into effect before politicians can seriously discuss a possible replacement.