The scheduled sequestration of government spending begins on March 1st.
Background: The debt ceiling debate in 2011 was a trade-off between an increase in the debt ceiling, at that time and $1.2 trillion in spending cuts that need to be agreed to by the first of March of this year. If Congress and the President cannot pass new legislation by then the cuts will go into effect. The cuts are arbitrary and across all areas of the government and were designed to be so punitive that it would force compromise.
Notably, agreement on another increase in the debt ceiling has been post-poned again until May 18th.
The President’s Strategy in the debate: He is preparing for another public relations tour to areas in the country that will be most affected by the sequestration in an appeal to the public to put pressure on Congress produce legislation that is “fair”. The President would like to close tax loopholes that would mostly affect the wealthiest Americans in order to raise more revenue. Essentially, another tax hike. The narrative that the White House is using is the choice is to protect the wealthy or cut jobs and compensation for first responders and teachers.
The Republican response has been that the looming sequester is a product of the President. However, it is law so by definition it is something that passed the Republican House. The House of Representatives has attempted to pass two different budgets, but neither was able to clear the Senate and the impasse continues with one week to go before the deadline.
Politico has a great page following the issue.