Following last month's agreement on a temporary extension of the federal debt limit, Congress is now confronted with the prospect of automatic spending cuts -- called sequestration -- scheduled to begin March 1.
The cuts would slice equally across defense and domestic spending and substantial government funding out of the economy, the Los Angeles Times said Thursday.
"I think it's likely to happen," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who opposes cuts in military spending. "In a body that's known for doing pretty dumb things, this, to me, wins the prize."
The issue has divided Republicans, with many conservatives concluding severe cuts are better than none, the newspaper said.
"The sequester's going to go into effect on March 1 unless there are cuts and reforms that get us on a plan to balance a budget over the next 10 years," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said after the House approved temporary debt-ceiling legislation. "It's as simple as that."
Democrats are seeking tax hikes on corporations and the wealthy while Republicans want only spending cuts, particularly in domestic programs, the newspaper noted.
Some expect the sequestration to go into effect only temporarily, the newspaper said -- perhaps until March 27, when lawmakers will need to reach agreement to continue funding the government, or risk a shutdown.