From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
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And I'm Audie Cornish. Tick-tock goes the sequester clock. Three more days until automatic across-the-board spending cuts kick in. And today, President Obama was once again on the road trying to build public pressure on Congress to delay or replace the cuts. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson begins our coverage.
You are Barack Obama and you find yourself hacking away in the weeds of sequestration — and some frustration. What's going on?
After all, you won a second term as President of the United States. You withstood the hooks and slices of a nasty campaign. Your approval rating is on the rise. Over President's Day weekend you played golf with Tiger Woods. For an American politician, it probably doesn't get any better than this.
President Obama has for weeks warned congressional Republicans and the American public of the dangers facing the nation from the sequester budget cuts.
Failing to reach a deal between the White House and Congress by Friday could lead to some young children being dropped from Head Start, the FBI furloughing agents and fewer food inspectors, according to the president.
If the cuts unleash these and other harms, like longer lines at airports, Congress and voters won't be able to say they weren't warned.
And now we turn to a political stalemate that seems to be turning into a crisis. We've been talking about the across-the-board cuts to the federal budget that seem more and more likely to go into effect this Friday because Congress and the White House have not agreed on a deficit reduction plan. It's being called sequestration.
Edward Blum isn't a lawyer, and he doesn't play one on TV.
But he has been the driving force behind two race-related cases before the U.S. Supreme Court this term, including one that justices will hear Wednesday that seeks to roll back a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The other, Fisher v. University of Texas, which challenges the use of race and ethnicity in public college and university admissions policies, was heard by the court in October and awaits its decision.
As Friday's deadline approaches, we're pointing to stories that should help everyone get ready for "the sequester" — the $85 billion worth of across-the-board cuts in federal spending that would begin to kick in that day if lawmakers don't strike some sort of deal before then. (We won't call them "must-reads" because we'd never want to tell anyone that they "must" read anything about this subject. Let's refer to them as "should-reads.")
Military communities are keeping a wary eye on the sequester debate in Washington, D.C. In Maine, employees of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard have already been dealing with budget cuts. Now they could face furlough days as well. The smaller payroll could send shock waves through the local economy.
The country has been debating gun regulations for months. Later this week, a Senate committee will start work on various proposals, including a background check on every gun sale and a ban on assault weapons.
But this debate over guns goes beyond disagreements about policy. Advocates on both sides quite literally disagree on the terms of the discussion — as in, the words they use to describe it.
Ask "gun control advocates" to describe what this debate is about, and they'll say "control" really isn't the word they prefer.