WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama and congressional leaders are meeting at the White House, with billions of dollars in automatic budget cuts ready to start kicking in.
The meeting got under way shortly after 10 a.m. EST. Representing Republicans are House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are the Democratic leaders in the meeting.
No breakthrough is expected to come out of the talks. But the meeting is an opportunity for all sides to stake out their fiscal positions with the threat of a government shutdown looming less than four weeks away.
There is a bit of good news amid the doom and gloom of the government's automatic spending cuts: They shouldn't delay tax refunds.
Any furloughs at the Internal Revenue Service will be delayed until summer, after the tax filing season ends. That's according to acting Commissioner Steven Miller, who sent employees a memo saying he wants to minimize the impact on taxpayers and IRS workers.
Miller says employees could be furloughed for five to seven days, if the spending cuts remain in effect this summer.
The IRS boasts that most taxpayers get refunds within 21 days, if they file electronically and get refunds deposited directly into bank accounts.
The spending cuts, known as the sequester, are to take effect Friday.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)