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:
— The Washington Post does a good job of reiterating the political stakes.
"Obama is betting Americans will be outraged by the abrupt and substantial cuts ... and is hoping they will rise up to demand what he calls a 'balanced approach' to deficit reduction that replaces some cuts with higher taxes. ...
"But if voters react with a shrug, congressional Republicans will have won a major victory in their campaign to shrink the size of government."
— In a new poll, The Hill reminds us that the majority of Americans want debt reduction and spending cuts, just not to Social Security or Medicare.
" ... a solid 58 percent of respondents in The Hill Poll prioritized cutting America's debt over maintaining current spending levels on domestic and military programs. This figure is almost double the share of voters, 28 percent, who believed the opposite."
— And Politico lays out the states' perspective. Republican governors, it says, are putting the heat on GOP congressional leaders to get a deal done.
"Their message for House Speaker John Boehner and other GOP leaders: It's not OK to just sit on the sidelines. It's time to do something to stop the automatic cuts, and fast."
As an extra, it's worth taking a listen to this week's "On The Media" (from NPR), which examines how journalists have fallen into "a pox on both their houses" trap in covering the looming sequester.
As host Brooke Gladstone puts it:
"Mainstream media are happy when they can point fingers at everybody. Nonpartisan blame has no political downside. The problem with the 'blame everybody' false equivalency is that it doesn't answer basic questions ... "