It is perhaps more likely that the fate of the sequester cuts—for which most Republicans and Democrats have expressed disdain—may be tied to the upcoming fight over increasing the nation’s ability to continue borrowing, and perhaps a larger “grand bargain” to address the nation’s debt. A measure approved in January put off a debt-ceiling decision until May 19, and some Republicans have said they are willing to consider allowing the nation to default unless deeper budget cuts are enacted. The Treasury will be able to keep meeting the nation’s spending obligations through at least the end of July, analysts say.

Against this backdrop, both parties will be gauging the public reaction to the sequester cuts set to begin on Friday. Groups on all sides of the debate plan to highlight the effects of the cuts once they are officially in place, in an effort to sway public opinion. Obama and Democrats may be evaluating the reaction with an eye on whether a significant public outcry might work to their benefit as they press to replace some cuts with revenue from sources such as levying higher taxes on millionaires, reducing farm subsidies, and closing tax loopholes for oil and gas companies.

If the sequester is met with a shrug, Republicans could use a lack of significant public anger to press Obama and Democrats for still more concessions on the spending they see as a driver of the federal debt. Whichever way it goes, the sequester is set to start soon, and the public’s reaction to the cuts will likely set the stage for what lies ahead.