Obama presses Congress for deal to end U.S. spending cuts

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Just hours after across-the-board spending cuts officially took effect, President Barack Obama pressed Congress on Saturday to work with him on a compromise to halt a fiscal crisis he said was starting to "inflict pain" on communities across the United States.

Obama and a bipartisan group of congressional leaders failed on Friday to avoid the deep spending reductions known as the "sequester," which automatically kicked in overnight in the latest sign of dysfunction in a divided Washington.

If left in place without legislative remedy, government agencies will have to hack a total of $85 billion from their budgets between Saturday and October 1, cuts that over time could cause economic harm, slash jobs and curb military readiness.

"These cuts are not smart," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. "They will hurt our economy and cost us jobs. And Congress can turn them off at any time - as soon as both sides are willing to compromise."

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