With deadline looming, White House details cuts
February 24th, 2013
08:00 PM ET
5 years ago

With deadline looming, White House details cuts

(CNN) – Food safety inspections, early education classrooms and mental health treatment are all at risk if massive forced spending cuts are allowed to take effect at the end of this week, the White House said Sunday.

Those cuts would accompany deep reductions in defense spending - including stalling maintenance on Navy ships - that are also poised to trigger March 1.

In detailed reports for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, President Barack Obama's budget office spelled out how the cuts - which are the result of a stalemate between Congressional Republicans and the White House over reducing the federal deficit - will affect localities, putting the stakes of the budget debate in stark terms as Congress returns to Washington after a week-long break.

But some Republicans question whether the Obama administration is simply crafting a doomsday scenario for the indiscriminate cuts to force Congressional Republicans into accepting a deal that includes more tax increases for wealthy Americans, which GOP leaders say is unacceptable. They would rather cut spending on entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security, which they say are the real drivers of the country's debt.

Nationwide, the White House said, 70,000 children would no longer have access to Head Start early education programs, and 10,000 teacher jobs would be at risk, consequences that Education Secretary Arne Duncan detailed Sunday.

"It creates tremendous instability," Duncan said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "And there are literally teachers now who are getting pink slips, who are getting notices that they can't come back this fall."

Reduced federal funding for vaccines would mean children would go without shots that prevent measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza and hepatitis B. The report indicated 2,100 fewer food inspections would occur, and medical research would be stalled.

READ MORE: 'These cuts do not have to happen,' Obama says

Hundreds of thousands of "seriously mentally ill adults and seriously emotionally disturbed children" could go without treatment for their ailments, according to the White House, which could lead to higher rates of hospitalization and incarceration.

And the Federal Aviation Administration would be forced to cut $600 million from its budget, which the agency's boss said Sunday would result in furloughs - or forced leave - for nearly all of the FAA's 47,000 employees.

"We're going to try and cut as much as we possibly can out of contracts and other things that we do," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. "But in the end, there has to be some kind of furlough of air traffic controllers, and that will also begin to curtail or eliminate the opportunity for them to guide planes in and out of airports."

All told, non-defense programs would be forced to reduce their spending by 9%, the White House said, while defense programs would have to cut 13%.

Cuts to the military would include calling off maintenance on 11 ships in Norfolk, Virginia, home of the world's largest naval base. Air Force operations in the Commonwealth could be cut by $8 million. In San Diego, maintenance on five ships would be canceled. In Jacksonville, Florida, funding to maintain an aircraft depot would disappear.

The state-by-state analysis by the White House is a continuation of the administration's attempt to demonstrate in stark terms how the forced spending cuts would affect Americans - and to pin the blame on the GOP. That effort has been met with some skepticism from Republicans.

"Rather than issuing last-minute press releases on cuts to first responders or troop training or airport security, [Obama] should propose smarter ways to cut Washington spending. After all, Washington spending, even with the sequester, is bigger than it was when he got here," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in response to the White House's detailing of the cuts.

“There are smarter ways to reduce the size of government. And with the national debt well over $16 trillion dollars, it’s time for the White House to stop spending all its time campaigning, and start finding smarter ways to reduce the deficit," McConnell continued.

Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said "The White House needs to spend less time explaining to the press how bad the sequester will be and more time actually working to stop it."

Some Republicans argue the White House is exaggerating how much Americans would feel the effects of the cuts.

"The American people, we see all these claims about what a tragedy it's going to be," Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said on "Fox News Sunday," pointing to statements from LaHood and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

"They have plenty of flexibility in terms of discretion on how they spend money," Coburn said. "There are easy ways to cut this money that the American people will never feel. What you hear is an outrage because nobody wants to cut spending."

Another Republican, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, called the dire warnings from Obama administration officials merely "great political theater about how cutting less than 3% of the federal budget can cause all these awful consequences."

"Here is (Obama's) chance to say, 'Here is how we can do it better.' The reality is, the federal budget, even after the cuts, will be larger than last year's budget," Jindal said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to the president, denied that the White House was overstating the effects of the cuts, saying that it's Obama's "responsibility to make sure the American people understand what's at stake here in this debate."

"This is going to have a very real impact on people's lives and on communities, and people need to know why that is," Pfeiffer said. "Are all these things going to go into effect on the first day? No. But there are hundreds of thousands of Americans who are working today who will lose their jobs as a consequence of this Republican decision."

Filed under: Budget • Congress • White House
soundoff (152 Responses)
  1. rla

    he democrats have us on the road to economic collapse, lie about the recovery and have my children in debt for a lot of foolishness All are fools and America is paying the price BLAME 354 +1 Easy!

    February 24, 2013 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  2. Chipster

    Republicans have been concentrating on their talking points – "the PRESIDENT's sequester" being repeated as frequently as possible. And "the Sequester, which was the PRESIDENT's idea...." blah, blah, blah. Their first priority is to deceive the American public by repeating these phrases, denying that they have any blood on their hands. The fact is, the President didn't pass the sequester legislation, Congress did. It was recommended by a White House economic adviser that something like the sequester should be passed in order to encourage legislators to work together to resolve the difficult financial situation. Instead, Republicans in Congress now want to continue to campaign and deny responsibility. Congress passed the Bill but they don't want to own their part in this farce. Can't they just get to work on the problems and try to reach some reasonable consensus?

    February 24, 2013 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  3. Sam

    This is great now we will finally save money

    February 24, 2013 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  4. John

    The GOP may not like it but Obama wins here. The GOP still looks like a bunch of miserly and miserably old farts.

    February 24, 2013 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  5. rs

    The ridiculous aspect of the Sequester, is that it will likely COST the government more: rapidly rising unemployment will mean reduced economic growth and lower tax revenues, along with higher unemployment costs- so in the end the reduced spending accomplishes no good.
    Sure, for "cut tax and spend" Republicans, this probably makes sense- especially the good bits like losing 40,000 teachers (they don't like education much anyway).
    I'll give Republicans this- when they write an armageddon- like bill, they really do it. As Boehner says "I got 98% of what I wanted". All this is further proof the Republicans just want to wreck this nation in their pursuit of not working with the President.
    End of GOP: 5 days and counting.

    February 24, 2013 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  6. Scott

    Well I guess the only way we'll know which side is correct is by letting the cuts happen. I tend to believe the republicans more on this issue. It seems the democrats and Obama are scared to let the cuts happen as the results may not even be noticable. That would pretty much ruin the rest of Obamas carrer as president as more people will not believe him.

    February 24, 2013 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  7. Name lynn

    Obama dont the republicans take over in cutting the wrong budgets cuts, you a good man them republicans dont care about the people at all.

    February 24, 2013 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  8. Dan5404

    The Tea Party and Michelle Bachman said long ago to just let big cuts happen, we can afford it, the United States can pay its debts, and we have plenty of revenue. We'll see. If nothing happens, they can gloat. If what everyone else says will happen does happen, what little approval they get from the public will pretty well disappear, and so will many of their representatives in 2014, including Rand Paul.

    February 24, 2013 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  9. plain&simple

    Cut the tea party out of the republican party. Then cut the obstruction. Then tax loopholes . It's time to grow up and work for your pay congress. You are the law makers. The president is not a dictator....no matter how much you want to have the American people hear that. It's just sour grapes from petulant children!

    February 24, 2013 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  10. Larry L

    I plan to focus my efforts towards removal of our Congressional Representative – Lamar Smith. As a Republican Party lap-dog he never strays from the party-line and his surveys and town hall meetings are staged conservative love fests. Meanwhile, his district is heavy with federal civil servants who will lose 20% of their family's income because conservatives consider these dedicated employees the problem with our deficit. How about politicians too gutless to even propose a real budget? Old Lamar has been on the Federal teat all of his career and produced nothing. There's a savings we'll all enjoy!

    February 24, 2013 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  11. taxpayinghorse

    Guns, bullets and beans the new American Currency.

    February 25, 2013 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  12. George in Wyoming

    Totally despicable scare tactics being used by Obama. Instead of cutting fat, he'll try and hurt people to save his bloated federal government. I can't believe this fool was re-elected. If he had his way, he'd raise taxes a trillion dollars a year to keep growing the government.

    February 25, 2013 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  13. phoenix86

    Another pathetic political play by Obama. Still betting that Americans are stupid. So far it is a winning bet, unfortunately.

    February 25, 2013 03:19 am at 3:19 am |
  14. J.V.Hodgson

    Gosh CNN. How many times do you think we the people need the same expalanations we were given back when the sequester was put in place!?
    What gets me is that both sides say the budget act or sequester take you pick is not the right way to go.And are only interested in trying to tell us all who is to Blame.... what a load of baloney!! Fix the problem.
    QED sit down, compromise, and come up with a better solution. And please please forget solutions the voters said no to in the majority like repealing the PPACA or effectively gutting it, or accross the board tax cuts per Romney.
    The senate compromise looks good to me as it
    a) Saves money, avoids draconian cuts, probably halves them to the military as desired
    b) Has a plan for some job creation, education spending infrastucture activity Funded by the elimination of tax breaks and loopholes.
    Lets fix the issue once and for all, and move on to a more comprehensive review of Entitlements and further spending cuts including re-alignment of the medicare and medicaid systems to future needs and how to reduce the long term cost.
    Both sides with that compromise can say they won, if they agree to do it via a comission that must report before the 2013/2014 budget is finalised.

    February 25, 2013 03:20 am at 3:20 am |
  15. Orwell seen it before

    Tea Party full steam ahead to the cliff.

    Balanced budget amendment on trainer wheels, here we come.

    February 25, 2013 04:30 am at 4:30 am |
  16. Orwell seen it before

    Would like to see the Red States take the first hits,
    close those DOD bases, military weapon contracts, highway construction funds, NASA, NSF, FDA, CDC, all those liberal activities in the heart of red country that floats their economies.

    February 25, 2013 04:34 am at 4:34 am |
  17. Somd

    The political gradstanding has to end.. Federal workers are looking at a 20 percent reduction in pay. Not all federal employees make the "6 figure income" that most americans beleive they make. More importantly is the fact that the those people most responciable are not affected by sequester. We all agree cuts ned to be made but no one wants the political repercussions from cutting spending and raising income tax. It will not take months for the effects of sequestering to occur. It will be immediate by everyone.

    February 25, 2013 06:08 am at 6:08 am |
  18. Name lynn

    All the people is reading an hearing about what them republicans are cuttings, what about obama what is he going to say an do. All the media is takling about is republicans is saying they dont run nothing but their mouths an shoes.

    February 25, 2013 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  19. eagerliving

    More Republican bashing and fear mongering from the campaigner in chief. Big surprise. *yawn*

    February 25, 2013 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  20. whisperonthewind

    It's time Obama stopped whining about all the pain these cuts will cause and just get to work on finding ways to cut that won't hurt so badly. He knows where those places are, so if the cuts cause pain in areas that hurt the middle class and the poor, we can – and should – blame Obama. There's a lot of fat in the budget that can be cut. There's a lot of sweet spots that we really don't need. Mr Obama should be hunting for those. If he can find them, he will be the real hero he claims to be.

    February 25, 2013 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  21. GOP = Greed Over People

    "great political theater about how cutting less than 3% of the federal budget can cause all these awful consequences."

    Yep, Howdy Dowdy, it ALMOST rises to the political theater that a few words of praise from a single GOP governor "stole" a national Presidential election from Robme, and gave it to President Obama!

    February 25, 2013 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  22. David

    Here's a thought – why not cut a fraction of the foreign aid we give to countries that hate us to make up the difference in aid to children and elderly in this country?

    February 25, 2013 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  23. Dewayne

    The President agreed to it a few months ago because of his lackluster leadership, and now he has to live with the consequences. He thought he could push the Repubs and moderate Dems in a corner and make them do what he wanted them to do and now it's backfired!

    February 25, 2013 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  24. DJ

    This is all a bunch of misinformation. Even after the spending cuts happen the US government will still be spending more then when Obama took office. So basically it is not a cut but reduction back to where we were before.

    February 25, 2013 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  25. Dick_D

    This is all part of the GOP plan to break government, then complain that it doesn't work and sell it off to their corporate owners. They don't care about people's lives, the nation's economy or defense, just about pointing the finger at Obama for anything and everything. It is treasonous and should be treated as such.

    February 25, 2013 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
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