The Note's Must-Reads for Friday, March 1, 2013

The Note's Must-Reads are a round-up of today's political headlines and stories from ABC News and the top U.S. newspapers. Posted Monday through Friday right here at

Compiled by ABC News' Jayce Henderson, Amanda VanAllen, Carrie Halperin, and Will Cantine

BUDGET CUTS: ABC News' Devin Dwyer, Mary Bruce, Sunlen Miller and John Parkinson: " President Obama, Republican Leaders To Meet As Sequester Cuts Look Likely" The budget ax is about to fall, and there's little lawmakers in Washington are doing to stop it. Despite a parade of dire warnings from the White House, an $85 billion package of deep automatic spending cuts appears poised to take effect at the stroke of midnight on Friday. The cuts - known in Washington-speak as the sequester - will hit every federal budget, from defense to education, and even the president's own staff. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Damian Paletta and Janet Hook: " Cuts Roll In As Time Runs Out" The federal government enters a controversial new phase of deficit cutting Friday, as an automatic trigger begins slicing budgets in some areas while leaving programs such as Medicare and Medicaid-among the largest drivers of future debt-largely untouched. LINK

The Washington Times' Dave Boyer: " Friday's sequester meeting to provide cover for Obama, lawmakers" It's the kind of risky procrastination that any teenager facing a book-report deadline would recognize. With $85 billion in mandatory budget cuts due to start kicking in at midnight, President Obama will sit down with congressional leaders at the White House on Friday morning to discuss ways to avoid those cuts. It will be their first face-to-face meeting on the subject, although they've known for two months that the deadline was approaching. LINK

The New York Times Ashley Parker: " Boehner Halts Talks on Cuts; G.O.P. Cheers " Speaker John Boehner, the man who spent significant portions of the last Congress shuttling to and from the White House for fiscal talks with President Obama that ultimately failed twice to produce a grand bargain, has come around to the idea that the best negotiations are no negotiations. As the president and Congressional Democrats have tried to force Mr. Boehner back to the table for talks to head off the automatic budget cuts set to take effect on Friday, Mr. Boehner has instead dug in deeper, refusing to even discuss an increase in revenue and insisting in his typical colorful language that it was time for the Senate to produce a measure aimed at the cuts. LINK

The Washington Post's Lori Montgomery and Rosalind S. Helderman: " Competing sequestration bills fail in Senate" One day before automatic spending cuts were due to hit the Pentagon and other federal agencies, Congress on Thursday abandoned efforts to avert the reductions and left town for the weekend. The sequester is here, and policymakers have no plans to end it. President Obama is scheduled to meet Friday at the White House with congressional leaders, but expectations for the meeting are low. LINK

Politico's Jake Sherman: " Sequester blame game as leaders head to White House" The who-created-the-sequester narrative is no longer a sideshow - it's become the main act, as the congressional leadership heads to the White House Friday for the first meeting with the president in months. Republicans triumphantly argue (with a big assist from Bob Woodward) that President Barack Obama is responsible for the mechanism that set up the massive spending cuts that take effect March 1. LINK

The New York Daily News' Dan Freidman: " Capitol Hill lawmakers still show no desire to compromise to lessen economic impact of $85 billion in automatic spending cuts, set to hit books March 1" With $85 billion in automatic, across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect March 1, Capitol Hill lawmakers were busy pointing fingers but showed little inclination to negotiate to broker a solution to a crisis that budget experts said could harm the economy. It prompted Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, to call Thursday "the low point of my time in the United States Congress." LINK

PROP 8 / GAY MARRIAGE: ABC News' Ariane DeVogue: " Obama Administration Joins Legal Fight Against California Gay Marriage Ban" The Department of Justice filed a brief Thursday in the case of a controversial California ballot initiative that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, asking the Supreme Court to affirm a lower court decision that struck down the measure, known as Proposition 8. LINK

USA Today's Richard Wolf and David Jackson: " White House Takes Stance Against Gay-Marriage Ban" The Obama administration came out forcefully Thursday against California's ban on same-sex marriage and, by extension, implicated similar bans in 37 other states. In a brief to the Supreme Court, which will hear two landmark same-sex marriage cases in late March, the Justice Department argued that gay and lesbian couples should have the same right to marry as heterosexuals. LINK

Bloomberg's Greg Stohr: " Obama Lawyers Back California Gay Marriage at High Court" President Barack Obama's administration urged the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate same- sex marriage in California, calling for broad constitutional protections that ultimately could let gays marry nationwide. The filing adds a new and powerful voice behind the legal bid for same-sex marriage. The administration stopped short of directly calling for that right across the U.S., saying the court should focus on "the particular circumstances presented by California law." At the same time, the government's reasoning would leave the 41 states that ban gay marriage little room to defend their laws. LINK

The Hill's Kyle Balluck: " Obama urges Supreme Court to overturn Calif. gay marriage ban" The Obama administration on Thursday urged the Supreme Court to overturn California's same-sex marriage ban, according to multiple reports. While the friend of the court brief calls on justices to strike down California's Proposition 8 ballot measure, the Associated Press reports that it stops short of the marriage equality rhetoric Obama expressed in his inaugural address in January. LINK

SECRETARY OF STATE, JOHN KERRY: The Boston Globe's Matt Viser: " Statecraft is the latest bond for Kerry and Thorne" In 1965, John F. Kerry and David Thorne were college-age kids driving around Europe together in a used English cab they bought for $100 and named Baxter. Inspired by Ernest Hemingway, they went running with the bulls in Pamplona. They drove around England, through France, along the Italian coast, two young men with a summer to kill. The friendship has shaped Kerry's life in so many ways that even Hemingway might have found it too far-fetched for a plot line. The two were side by side in Yale's secretive Skull and Bones society. They went off to Vietnam and returned to lead antiwar protests together. Kerry married Thorne's twin sister. Thorne was by Kerry's side when he lost his presidential bid. LINK

IMMIGRATION: ABC News' Jim Avila and Serena Marshall: " Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano Regrets surprise Announcement Of Immigrant Release" Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano had no part in a decision by underlings to release low-risk illegal immigrant detainees as a way to save money before the sequestration and was surprised to learn about it, Napolitano told ABC News in an exclusive interview. LINK

ABC NEWS VIDEO: " Sequester Countdown: The Reality Of Budget Cuts" LINK " Clint Eastwood back President Obama On Gay Marriage" LINK " Michelle Obama Gets Moving With Kids In Chicago" LINK " Bob Woodward Claims White House Threatened Him" LINK

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