President Obama has invited John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi to the White House for a meeting on Friday—the same day the sequester cuts are scheduled to kick in and the House is scheduled to leave town, the White House announced today. Does this mean we're in for yet another zero-hour deal to avert fiscal catastrophe? Don't count on it. One GOP aide tells CNN that Republicans see this as an "optics" play, with Obama trying to show that he's talking with Congress.
- To this point, of course, he hasn't been. Boehner and Obama haven't spoken since Thursday, and Boehner and Reid haven't spoken since Jan. 21, Politico reports. Senate Democrats are working on a tax-hiking bill that wouldn't clear the House, while House Republicans refuse to do anything until the Senate, in Boehner's words, "gets off their ass."
- Senate Republicans, meanwhile, are deeply divided over what to do. GOP Senate leaders are pushing for an approach that would give the president flexibility in how the budget is cut, but some Senate Republicans are balking at giving Obama so much power, the Hill reports. Both Senate plans are set for a vote tomorrow, and both are expected to fail, notes Politico.
- Another reason a deal looks unlikely: It's not going to hit everyone, the Washington Post points out. It will instead whip tornado-like around the country, smashing some towns—like those based around big military bases and factories—while skipping over others, giving some legislators little reason to compromise.