(NECN/NBC News: Steve Handelsman) - Even the most diehard Democrats and Republicans in Washington bet it would never happen, but despite a last minute White House meeting sequestration is kicking in: $85 billion in across-the-board federal spending cuts.
Democrats call it a disaster.
Republicans call that hype.
Both sides agree this takes Washington hyper-partisanship and dysfunction to a new level.
President Obama said the sequester is dumb, inexcusable and not his fault.
"It's happening because a choice that Republicans in Congress have made, but people are going to be hurt," he said.
House Speaker John Boehner is refusing the Obama demand to raise taxes on the rich.
"The discussion about revenue in my view is over," Boehner said. "It's about taking on the spending problem here in Washington."
The sequester will cut $85 billion from defense and domestic spending.
Some Republicans say that's a good start, not a crisis.
"It's a lot of money but its 2% of our broader budget," said Indiana Representative Luke Messner.
Most Americans aren't affected yet, but may be soon.
Head Start will be affected.
"We will have to shorten our school year," says Brenda Zedlitz, Head Start director in Washington County, Arkansas.
Thousands of border patrol agents could be furloughed, as well as FDA meat inspectors and air traffic controllers.
Another fight looms in 27 days when the temporary budget expires.
"I'm hopeful that we wont have to deal with the threat of a government shutdown while we're dealing with the sequester at the same time," Boehner said.
Some are asking why didn't the president just lock the doors until they had a budget deal.
"If Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are saying we've got to go to catch a plane, I can't have Secret Service block the doorway," Mr. Obama explained.
The White House says longer the cuts go on the greater the impact, and it looks like they could last for months.