Weeks of Washington hype about looming budget cuts may have finally peaked. The president is now softening his tone as Republicans have been pushing back.
At stake is $85 billion in cuts set to kick in Friday at midnight unless last-minute action is taken.
At a meeting with business leaders Wednesday, President Obama suggested the impact may not be felt immediately. Still, he warned the economy will still take a big hit.
Has the impact of the automatic spending cuts been overstated? Seton Motley, founder and president of Less Government, explains more, on CBN Newswatch, Feb. 28.
"It means that you have fewer customers with money in their pockets ready to buy your goods and services," the president said. "And the worst part of it is it's entirely unnecessary. It's not what we should be doing."
But the federal government is already doing it in some cases. Arizona has released hundreds of illegal immigrants from prison, saying it will save millions by putting them in a supervised release program.
Gov. Jan Brewer called the move the "height of absurdity given that releases are taking place even before the federal sequestration cuts have even gone into effect."
Meanwhile, members of the president's cabinet are still warning of dire consequences if the cuts take effect.
"So the only choice I could make would be to hurt fewer poor children and help more special needs kids or do the opposite. It's a no-win proposition there. There's no good answer," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said.
But the Washington Post caught Duncan making false claims about teachers already being given pink slips in West Virginia.
Even independents like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the White House warnings are overkill.
"There's a lot of posturing: 'I'm going to lay off my employees today unless you do something.' 'We're going to close the hospitals down.' 'We're going to take all the prisoners from jail and put them on the street.' Spare me!" the mayor said. "I live in that world. I mean come on let's get serious here."
In the meantime, many government workers can do nothing but wait as they wonder whether they will or will not be spared.
"We come from good hardworking people that have earned everything that they've got. But we're all kind of on the line now," one person said.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans and Democrats have come up with their own plans to solve the sequester.
Democrats want to postpone the cuts through the end of the year and come up with other ways to limit spending.
Republicans want to keep the automatic cuts. They would, however, allow President Obama to redo the budget to make the cuts easier to bear. Their bill, however, wouldn't let the president raise taxes.
Neither side expects their plan to pass.