Obama Signs Order to Begin Sequester Cuts After President, Congress Can't Reach Deal

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"This idea that somehow there's a secret formula or secret sauce to get Speaker Boehner or Mitch McConnell to say, 'You know what, Mr. President, you're right; we should close some tax loopholes for the well-off and well-connected, in exchange for some serious entitlement reform and spending cuts in programs we don't need' -- you know, I think if there was a secret way to do that, I would have tried it," he said. "I would have done it."

Meanwhile, another deadline looms on the horizon: how to fund the federal government after March 27, or face a shutdown.

Both sides pledged to move ahead next week with plans to avert that possibility, even as the gridlock over the automatic spending cuts still stands.

"I'm hopeful that we won't have to deal with the threat of a government shutdown while we're dealing with the sequester at the same time," Boehner said.

"The House will act next week, and I hope the Senate will follow suit."

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