Happy sequester day, America. By 11:59 tonight, Barack Obama will have to formally notify federal agencies that it's time to start implementing across-the-board cuts, barring a last-minute deal that at this point seems wildly improbable. While Congressional leaders will meet at the White House today, there's so little hope of compromise that the event has "the whiff of a photo op," Alex Altman at Time writes. Here's what you need to know:
- Congress has already left town for the weekend. "I think the sequester is crazy," Rep. Peter King told CNN as he headed back to New York yesterday. "But just to sit here by myself serves no purpose."
- But many Congressional Republicans are thrilled by the no-compromise stance John Boehner has taken. "I think Friday will be an important day that shows we’re finally willing to stand and fight for conservative principles," one GOP rep tells the New York Times.
- Most Americans won't feel any immediate impact, the Times reports, and so far it's unclear where exactly the axe will fall. Pressed yesterday to name which services or contracts the cuts might hit, Jay Carney could muster only that the sequester would reduce funding for school children in Ohio.
- Most of the pain will only gradually roll over Americans, CNN Money explains. Starting today, agencies will limit their contracts and grant awards, but furloughs won't take effect until March 26 or later—the IRS, for instance, has said it won't furlough anyone until after the April 15 tax filing deadline, the Washington Post reports.
- But all of this is just a prelude to the next fight: The battle over the continuing resolution funding the government, which needs to be passed by March 27 to avoid a shutdown—which could make the sequester look like a cakewalk.
- Republicans want to lock in spending at post-sequester levels; Democrats are expected to go along with the spending levels, and focus their fight on individual spending priorities, the Wall Street Journal reports.