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Obama Reaches Out to GOP Leaders in Effort to Stave Off Sequester

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House is hoping good conversations will lead to good results as the administration steps up efforts to avoid deep automatic spending cuts a week from Friday that could waylay the economic recovery.

Up to now, President Obama and Republican leaders have found no common ground to avert the sequester on March 1, the first in a series of spending reductions totaling $1.2 trillion over a decade.

Round one will pare $85 billion from the Pentagon and numerous domestic programs, something both sides believe the nation can ill-afford with the economy just showing signs of rebounding.

According to White House spokesman Jay Carney, the president spoke with both House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday, describing their chats on the phone as "good conversations."

However, the Republicans didn't seem as enthusiastic.  Boehner's office said the last real significant conversation the speaker had with the president was during the fiscal cliff negotiations in late December.

McConnell's office said Obama hasn't spoken to the Kentucky senator since New Year's Eve.

Essentially, the White House wants a "balanced" approach of spending cuts and tax revenues to avoid the sequester.  The GOP says any more tax hikes, which would actually come in the way of closing loopholes used by the wealthiest Americans, are off the table.

The calls came after Boehner wrote an op-ed alleging "[the sequester] is a product of the president's own failed leadership."

Meanwhile, one House Democrat is imploring Republicans to end their recess early and come back to Washington to hammer out a deal.

New Jersey Congressman Rob Andrews told reporters, "Our job is to represent the people who sent us here and make our decisions, not to avoid them."

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