Less than a month after averting one fiscal crisis, Washington began bracing Tuesday for another, as lawmakers in both parties predicted that deep, across-the-board spending cuts would probably hit the Pentagon and other federal agencies on March 1.
An array of proposals are in the works to delay or replace the cuts. But party leaders say they see no clear path to compromise, particularly given a growing sentiment among Republicans to pocket the cuts and move on to larger battles over health and retirement spending.
Adding to the sense of inevitability is the belief that the cuts, known as the sequester, would improve the government’s bottom line without devastating the broader economy. Though the cuts would hamper economic growth, especially in the Washington region, the forecast is far less dire than with other recent fiscal deadlines, and financial markets are not pressing Washington to act.
Cuts to the military and the defense industry remain politically problematic. But Tuesday, even some of the Pentagon’s most fervent champions seemed resigned to the likelihood that the cuts would be permitted to kick in, at least temporarily.