For Maryland, the stakes are particularly high. The state is home to more than 314,000 federal employees, according to Census figures. The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development estimates the number who work for federal contractors at an additional 171,000. The federal government awarded about $27 billion in contracts to Maryland businesses in the 2012 fiscal year.
Some of those contractors have said their biggest concern is the uncertainty over what Congress will do. Rogers Wells, a vice president for FLIR Systems Inc., said he is worried about work slowing down.
The Oregon-based company, which operates a 100-employee plant in Elkridge, makes thermal imaging and other sensing devices for the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security.
"In this period of uncertainty, we just need to make sure that we're financially responsible and that we don't overextend ourselves," Wells said at an event last week with O'Malley.
But despite the budget cuts the plant continues to hire.
For weeks it appeared the best chance to address sequestration would come at the end of March, when the government's current stop-gap budget runs out of money. Schools, businesses and federal agencies indicated they could continue to operate without significant changes during March in the hope that cuts would be reversed or mitigated in April.
But Republicans who control the House of Representatives, many of whom were elected on the promise of reducing budget deficits that have grown to $1 trillion annually, have warmed to the idea of locking the sequester in as part of the next budget.
Rep. Andy Harris, Maryland's only Republican in Congress, said he supports that position, along with giving the president more flexibility on where defense cuts should fall.
The Cockeysville lawmaker said he is concerned the administration will chose to make the reductions as painful as possible to score political points.
"It all depends on how the president implements the cuts," Harris said in an interview. "If he chooses to cut teachers … instead of cutting free cell phones, then we're going to have problems."
The Obama administration has said the law leaves little room to prioritize where to cut. With few exceptions, reductions must be distributed evenly across funds and federal programs.