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If Congress doesn't decide on a budget agreement by March 1, hundreds of thousands of jobs will be cut or furloughed, with the Defense Department alone, slashing nearly $43 billion.
"My husband works for DoD, and he's going to be furloughed possibly for 22 days," said one stay-at-home mom, who asked that her name not be mentioned. She spent the afternoon with her toddler at the National Zoo.
But her days spent doing leisurely things like this are numbered if her husband, "the bread winner," doesn't work in March.
"I'm having to find a job, because who can go a month without pay? " she said.
Even the Zoo will likely be affected. Staffers tell the Washington Post that sweeping budget cuts over the long term could force popular, yet expensive, exhibits to close.
"They seemed to be able to get things right with the fiscal cliff and resolve that with minimal impact, and hopefully that can happen with the case here," said Jason Smith, who walked briskly by the National Zoo on his way to Metro.
If a deal isn't met, automatic cuts of $85 billion go into effect.