The White House is conceding that efforts to avoid $85 billion in automatic budget cuts are unlikely to succeed before those cuts kick in on Friday.
President Barack Obama and congressional leaders are scheduled to meet Friday, after the deadline.
White House spokesman Jay Carney says the talks are intended to be a "constructive discussion" about how to keep the cuts from having harmful consequences.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell says it's a chance to address ways to reduce government spending. He says Americans won't accept more taxes as part of a deal to avert the cuts.
Meanwhile, agencies and workers affected by the cuts are laying out what that will mean. The Coast Guard says rescue helicopters and planes will cut back on patrols and there will likely be fewer interdictions of illegal immigrants, drugs and illegal fishing. The Smithsonian says it will keep museum hours the same, but delay maintenance and construction projects and freeze hiring. And air traffic controllers warn of widespread flight delays.