The frustration at his administration's failure to agree a deal on radical spending cuts, due to go into force at midnight on Friday, has finally got to Barack Obama, with the President telling a White House press conference that he is "not a dictator" and "cannot do a Jedi mind meld."

Set to begin at 11.59pm, "the sequester" is a set of automatic spending cuts put into law by the Budget Control Act.

Signed by President Barack Obama in August 2011, that legislation sought to apply pressure on Congress to come up with a longer term plan for deficit reduction.


President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks to reporters in the White House briefing room in Washington

During the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year, $85 billion worth of cuts are set to go into effect - from education, to defence, to police, disaster relief, unemployment benefits, non-profit organization funds, scientific research and more.

The budget cuts would end in 2021.

Both Democrats and Republicans are trying to figure out how to stop the sequester from going into effect, but the two parties can't agree on a plan.

President Obama has on Friday even asked the White House press corps what they would do. "This is a room full of smart people," he said.

"I like to think I've still got persuasive power left."

"Give me an example of what I might do," he said. "What I'm suggesting is, I've put forward a plan that has serious spending cuts, serious entitlement reform... I've offered negotiations around that kind of balanced approach. So far I've gotten rebuffed, because Republicans have said, not a dime [on taxes]."

President Obama was even asked if he had the power to physically hold senior Republicans, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Speaker John Boehne in a room until an agreement was reached.

He replied: "I'm not a dictator, I'm the president. I can't have Secret Service block the doorway. I know this has been some of the conventional wisdom. Somehow, even though most people agree that I'm being reasonable, the fact that they don't take it, that I should somehow do a Jedi mind meld."

Earlier the President described how the cuts would hurt middle class Americans, but said people were "strong and resilient. We will get through this as well. Even with these cuts in place.

"Washington sure isn't making it easy."

What Is The Sequester?

As Sequester Looms, US Set To Repeat Europe's Austerity Mistake

He slammed the legislation as "series of dumb, arbitrary cuts to things that workers depend on, like education, research, infrastructure and defense."

"It's unnecessary and at a time when too many Americans are looking for work, it's inexcusable.

"Many middle class families will have their lives disrupted in significant ways."

"Every time that we get a piece of economic news over the next month, six months... we'll know that news could have been better.

"They [the Republicans] allowed these cuts to happen because they've refused to budge on closing a single loophole.

"They think that's apparently more important than protecting the middle class or the military from the pain of these cuts.

"There are Republicans in Congress who privately at least say they'd rather close those loopholes than let these cuts go through.

"There is a caucus of common sense on Capitol Hill. It's a silent group so far."

"We're not here for ourselves, we're not here for our parties, we're not here to advance our electoral prospects. We're here for American families.

"This is not a win for anybody. This is a loss for the American people."

"Starting tomorrow, everybody here, cleaning the floors at the Capitol. They're going to have less pay. The janitors, the security guards. THey just got a pay cut. They've got to figure out how to manage that. That's real."

Obama met at the White House Friday morning with Republicans Boehner and McConnell, and senior Democrats Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

Boehner's office said he and McConnell told Obama they're willing to close tax loopholes but only to lower taxes overall, not to replace spending cuts. Obama and congressional leaders have agreed that Congress should pass a bill funding the government beyond the end of March while they keep working on a way to replace the spending cuts, Boehner's office said.

"The president got his tax hikes on January 1st," Boehner said bluntly after the meeting with Obama. "The discussion about revenue in my view is over. It's about taking on the spending problem here in Washington."

Loading Slideshow...
  • Defense

    About half of the sequestration consists of <a href="" target="_hplink">defense spending cuts</a>, which would "drastically" shrink the military and cancel defense contracts, according to the House Armed Services Committee. (John Cantlie/Getty Images)

  • Emergency Response

    The sequestration would slash funding for the government's <a href="" target="_hplink">emergency response system</a> for disasters such as hurricanes, according to the White House. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

  • Unemployment Benefits

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Checks for unemployed people</a> looking for work would shrink by up to 9 percent, according to the White House. (J Pat Carter/AP Photo)

  • Homelessness Programs

    More than 100,000 <a href="" target="_hplink">formerly homeless people</a> would lose their current housing as a result of sequestration, according to the White House. (Mark Lennihan/AP Photo)

  • Rental Assistance

    About 125,000 low-income families would be at risk of losing their housing because of <a href="" target="_hplink">rental assistance cuts</a>, according to the White House. (Barry Gutierrez/AP Photo)

  • Mental Health Programs

    The sequestration would eliminate care for up to 373,000 <a href="" target="_hplink">"seriously mentally ill" people</a>, according to the White House. (Eric Gay/AP Photo)

  • Food Safety

    The FDA would conduct fewer <a href="" target="_hplink">food inspections</a> as a result of sequestration, according to the White House. (Mike Hentz/AP Photo)

  • Head Start

    About 70,000 children would lose access to the early education program <a href="" target="_hplink">Head Start</a> as a result of the sequestration, according to the White House. (Elaine Thompson/AP Photo)

  • Small Business Assistance

    The government's <a href="" target="_hplink">small business loan guarantees</a> would get slashed by nearly $1 billion as a result of the sequestration, according to the White House. (Steven Senne/AP Photo)

  • Scientific Research

    The sequestration would slash <a href="" target="_hplink">scientific research funding</a> at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF), according to the White House. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • HIV Prevention

    Up to 424,000 <a href="" target="_hplink">HIV tests</a> would be on the chopping block as a result of sequestration, according to the White House. Thousands of people with HIV also would lose access to "life-saving" HIV medications. (Darren Abate/AP Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)