STRATEGIC CHANGE: Republican conservatives are pushing to permit painfully large automatic spending cuts to strike the Pentagon and domestic programs in an effort to force Democrats into making concessions on the budget.

RISKY SWITCH: It's a turnabout from last year, when GOP leaders were among the loudest warning of dire consequences for the military and the economy if more than $100 billion worth of across-the-board cuts were allowed to take effect.

RAISING THE PRESSURE: Republicans see the strategy as their best chance of wringing cuts from costly government benefit programs like Medicare that President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies have been reluctant to touch.