WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama has signed an order authorizing the government to begin cutting $85 billion from federal accounts, officially enacting across-the-board reductions that he opposed but failed to avert.
Obama acted on Friday, the deadline for the president and Congress to avoid the steep, one-year cuts.
Earlier, the White House says automatic spending reductions set to kick in Friday will be put off until as close to midnight Friday night as possible. Call them the Cinderella cuts.
President Barack Obama says he can't do a "Jedi mind meld" with Republican leaders and persuade them to do what he believes is right when it comes to trimming federal spending.
Asked if he could refuse to allow Republican leaders of the House and Senate to leave a White House meeting until a budget agreement was reached, Obama said that's not how a constitutional form of government works.
Obama took questions from the media at the White House after meeting with congressional leaders.
The law, passed by Congress on Jan. 2 simply says that "on March 1, 2013, the president shall order a sequestration for fiscal year 2013." That's budget talk for an $85 billion reduction in defense and domestic spending between now and Oct. 1. Obama can issue that order at any point in the day.
And White House press secretary Jay Carney says that means midnight, Friday - or as close to midnight as possible: 11:59 p.m. and 59 seconds.
Because, Carney's says, Obama is "ever hopeful."