The Note's Must-Reads for Friday February 22, 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 www.abcnews.com

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

FISCAL BATTTLE ABC News' Chris Good: " 57 Terrible Consequences Of The Sequester" If the heads of 20 federal agencies are to be believed, disastrous consequences await if President Obama and Congress fail to reach a budget deal, triggering the automatic, across-the-board cuts known as "sequestration." The cuts are slated to begin March 1, and earlier this month, the Senate Appropriations Committee asked agency heads to explain what would happen in such a scenario. LINK

USA Today's David Jackson: " Obama Speaks To GOP Leaders Amid Sequester Campaign" President Obama took some time off from his sequester campaign Thursday to speak with his top two Republican rivals in Congress, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Obama and GOP aides had little to say about the conversations. The White House announced that Obama would travel to Virginia next week to discuss what effects automatic budget cuts would have on the defense industry. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Sudeep Reddy: " Sudden Spending Cuts Likely To Bleed Slowly" The political jousting over the federal spending cuts set to start March 1 largely comes down to how much of an economic blow they could deal. But it may take a while to assess whether it feels more like a punch or a pinch, because the reductions will take effect over many months. LINK

The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny and Jonathan Weisman: " For Obama and Team, Calm, Not Crisis, in Latest Fiscal Battle" President Obama is just seven days away from the first significant test of his second term as deep spending cuts loom, yet inside the White House a clear sense of confidence stands in contrast to the air of crisis that surrounded previous fiscal showdowns with Republicans. The confrontation holds peril for both the president and Republicans. But for now, Mr. Obama believes he is acting from a greater position of strength, advisers say, pointing to several recent polls that show he holds an upper hand in the budget debate. Yet his standing would be at risk if the so-called sequester caused economic growth to collapse. LINK

The Washington Post's Ernesto Londono and Lisa Rein: " Military service chiefs warn budget cuts will undermine readiness" After staying largely on the sidelines of the debate over deficit reduction, the U.S. military's service leaders have begun painting a stark picture of the toll a congressionally mandated budget cut could take on the readiness of the world's largest armed forces. The $46 billion dent to the Pentagon's fiscal 2013 budget, long considered by the brass as nothing more than a political pawn, has taken on an air of inevitability, forcing commanders across the military to plan for painful reductions and argue that American lives and livelihoods are hanging in the balance. LINK

Politico's Darren Samuelsohn and Scott Wong: " Sequestration: Excuses, excuses, excuses" President Barack Obama and members of Congress have dubbed sequestration "stupid," "dumb" and "irresponsible." But here's one thing none of them are calling it: "My fault." With across-the-board spending cuts about to start March 1 absent a last-minute breakthrough, the excuses are piling up for how the country is yet again on the brink of a new fiscal fiasco that has everything to do with the other guy. LINK

PRESIDENT OBAMA AND HIS ADMINISTRATION The New York Daily News' Dan Hirschhorn: " Jimmy Carter says President Obama 'profusely' thanked his grandson following release of Mitt Romney's '47 percent' footage" Mitt Romney's presidential campaign may never have sunk the way it did were it not for the disclosure of his notorious "47 percent" comments - and President Obama is apparently quite grateful for the opposition researcher who helped unearth the video. Former President Jimmy Carter, whose grandson James helped bring the video to light, says Obama thanks James Carter "profusely" when the two met last week. LINK

The Hill's Jeremy Herb: " Inhofe pushes against proceeding to final up-or-down vote on Hagel" The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee is calling for Republican senators to block former Sen. Chuck Hagel's (R-Neb.) confirmation once again when the Senate returns next week. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) sent a "Dear Colleague" letter to senators Thursday lobbying for them to vote against cloture on Hagel, saying that voting to end debate is the equivalent of voting to confirm Hagel for the top Pentagon post. LINK

AFGHANISTAN The Los Angeles Times' Shashank Bengali and David S. Cloud: " U.S. drone strikes up sharply in Afghanistan" One morning recently, a teenager named Bacha Zarina was collecting firewood on her family's small farm in eastern Afghanistan. About 30 yards away, as family members recall, two Taliban commanders stood outside a house. LINK

IMMIGRATION Univision/ABC News' Ted Hesson: " Business And Labor Reach An Agreement On Future Immigration" Business and labor leaders have come to an agreement in principle about one of the thorniest parts of immigration reform - what to do with future flows of immigrant workers. LINK

ABC NEWS VIDEO " Will Sequestration Turn US Into 'Second-Rate Power'" LINK " Biden Urges Stricter Gun Laws At Connecticut Conference" LINK

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