Threat of sequestration looms as deadline approaches

(CBS News) WASHINGTON - We are now six days from the deadline for Congress and the White House to reach a deal to avoid across-the-board cuts that would total $85 billion and be divided equally between defense and domestic programs. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the cuts would put 750,000 people out of work. Both Democrats and Republicans dug in and showing little sign of movement.

In one of the most detailed warnings on sequestration, the Federal Aviation Administration says that starting in April, air travelers should get ready for delays.

If budget cuts go into effect, 47,000 workers -- including air traffic controllers -- would be furloughed one day every two weeks. And 100 air traffic towers would close at small city airports.

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The reductions might mean longer lines, fewer flights, and fewer customers for Joe Mellace, who owns a deli across from Caldwell Airport in Essex County, New Jersey.

"I do get a lot of business here and taking this thing away -- I just feel like this land would just be wasted," he said.

Furloughs are also coming for 800,000 civilian employees of the Defense Department. Across the country, towns with military bases are bracing for the loss of thousands of jobs, and the tens of millions of dollars those jobs bring to the local economy.

The president is using the potential loss of jobs to push congressional Republicans into a deal that would lower the deficit by closing tax loopholes on higher-income Americans.

"Are they seriously prepared to inflict more pain on the middle-class because they refuse to ask anything more of those at the very top?" asked President Obama.

Republicans say they will not deal on the sequester until the president proposes more spending cuts.

"So the question is: 'Why won't he work with us?'" said GOP Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota. "And the answer, quite simply, is because he wants higher taxes."

Both sides want to blame sequestration on each other and now there is no apparent movement toward compromise. The president has asked to speak to congressional Republicans, but no serious talks or negotiations have been scheduled.

  • Wyatt Andrews

    Wyatt Andrews is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Washington D.C. He is responsible for tracking trends in politics, health care, energy, the environment and foreign affairs.