Barring a last-minute deal that at the moment seems unlikely, months of brinkmanship are set to culminate on Friday.
The sequester — $85 billion worth of across-the-board cuts in federal spending — will begin to kick in, with potentially serious economic consequences, including federal furloughs and the slashing of programs.
Here are three stories we've plucked from the ether that should give a good picture of what's going on as we approach sequester D-Day:
Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 8:01 am
With less than a week before the across-the-board-spending cuts go into effect, Republicans and Democrats are sounding off about the sequestration.
"There's easy ways [sic] to cut this money that the American people will never feel," Rep. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said on Fox News Sunday. "What you hear is an outrage because nobody wants to cut spending ... and it will be somewhat painful, but not cutting spending is going to be disastrous for our country."
They've been everywhere this week: dire warnings about threats posed by across-the-board federal spending cuts.
Unless Congress acts, the cuts are due to take effect a week from Friday. The administration is trying to drive home the ways that could affect you.
For example, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned Friday that air traffic controllers will have to take unpaid days off beginning in April. Fewer controllers on the job could mean airport delays, and some airlines may decide to cancel flights.
In Sumter, S.C., home of Shaw Air Force Base and the 20th Fighter Wing, cars sport bumper stickers that say, "Jet noise is the sound of freedom."
Throughout the day, F-16s on training runs blast from a runway on base, disappearing into the foggy sky. But if automatic, across-the-board federal spending cuts slated for March 1 go into effect, there will be a lot less of that sound.
"To cut to that level, we just could not pay for the amount of flying hours that we currently have," says Capt. Ann Blodzinski, the base's chief of public affairs.