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. Megamimi

    For goodness sake, this is a three percent cut, not a thirty percent cut. The President's doom and gloom hyperbole over a piece of legislation that was HIS brain child is both insulting and amusing. His previous and vigorous denunciation of the Republicans' desire to take a meat cleaver to the budget really should have been pointed to his own proposal, if his gnashing of the teeth and beating of his breast is to be believed. Does any one consider that were either the President or Congress really on board with cutting spending more judiciously, each has the capacity to propose and then have Congress pass legislation that would give the various departments the ability to engage in a more thoughtful manner? It is time for all the folks we elect to represent us grow up and quit the school yard posturing that has become the norm within the Beltway. The President needs to quit campaigning, and get back to the job he was elected to do. Congress needs to quit wringing its partisan hands and get back to performing its Constitutional duties. And to be fair to those folks in the rarefied atmosphere of the Potomac swamp, each one of us in the hinterlands need to remember JFK and quit asking what our country can do for us, but rather what we can do for our country and stop with the NMBY regarding real cuts in spending.

    February 25, 2013 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  2. pindleton

    "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."

    I'm really getting tired of media reporting this disinformation. These are not entitlement programs. We pay in to them. Every worker puts money into these programs. Its not like free handout money (welfare, food stamps). Keep your grimey hands off Medicare and Social Security both Democrats and Republicans.

    February 25, 2013 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  3. Anonymous

    This is Obama sequester and nobody else, he said if it didnt get passed he would veto. Makes it all his. Dems can spin all they want , but not going to work this time.

    February 25, 2013 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  4. Dave

    once again,we see nothing that would hurt the rich or the politicians.If they were serious about saving money,they would start with their own salaries and benefit cuts.hahaha

    February 25, 2013 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  5. michael t

    So we are to cut 85billion from a total of 3.5 trillion year in spending ? My basic math shows that to be about 3% I also understand that we are spending almost 100% more than 10 years ago.
    Meanwhile, Ben is printing money at the rate of 85billion a month, to prop up the stock market and the POTUS says nothing about this ? Even though unemployment refuses to fall ?
    We all and as a nation, need to live within our budget and no, the sky will not fall in on March 2nd.
    The legacy of this POTUS will be the debt he leaves us, the longest recession ever and the title of Food Stamps President.
    How stupid are we, to continue to pay attention to this administration, who are only capable of printing money and incurring debt ?

    February 25, 2013 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  6. Andy

    Now all he government employees, even the military, will make exaggerated claims about how bad this will be. If I had a department at work and they said they were going to cut my funding I would say the world will end also. These guys operate just like we do and how people do at the places we work.

    February 25, 2013 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  7. Andy

    Oh and by the way, the day we cannot afford to fuel up an aircraft carrier to go fight another unjustified war in the mideast will be a great day for America, and the world.

    February 25, 2013 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  8. Marty Porter

    Remember the 1994 election sweep by republicans, if the administration keeps it up we'll see a repeat in two years. Typical over reach by this administration, just like Clinton did...

    The federal government has doubled in size in the last 11 years, yet liberals act like an 8% cut is draconian- GET REAL!

    February 25, 2013 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  9. Rudy NYC

    Let's rewind the clock, and consider the chances and odds that Republicans would be willing to compromise and go for a balanced approach. The super committee failed to reach a compromise. The GOP POTUS candidates unanimously refused to accept a hypothetical 10:1, cuts to revenue, deal. Roughly 3/4 of House Republicans voted FOR the sequester, and most of those that didn't did so because they wanted bigger cuts.

    Finally, Boehner said of the sequester bill that it was 98% of what he wanted. But once the 2012 elections didn't go off as the Tea Party had planned, suddenly the sequester was an axe that they refused to acknowledge even existed. Now they act as if the sequester bill is 98% of what they didn't want, despite the fact that 75% voted in favor it.

    All of this is unfortunate, because the Republicans are looking for a way to save face following the thumping in November and raising taxes at the start of the year. Unfortunately, the only redemption the GOP will accept is a complete surrender from the Democrats, which I think means no compromise.

    February 25, 2013 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  10. Wake Up Call

    So the federal gov't and it's employees will have to face what the private sector has had to deal with for years now; pay cuts, job loss, and less opportunity. Boohoo, cry me a river. Sad thing is everyone arguing from both sides of the isle will continue to party like rock stars on our dime daily. The common man is screwed yet again. Make it so none of ELECTED officials get their pay checks until this is settled and see how fast they come up with a compromise.

    February 25, 2013 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  11. amf140

    Might be nice if the POTUS started governing for once in 5 years. Chicago poloitics – no more for me.

    February 25, 2013 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  12. saintlasa

    I agree with George in Wyoming. The cuts that need to be made are the fat in government. To many people in the government making to much money and paying nothing for health care. If half of the freeloaders would get out of politics and try to find a job we wouldn't be in this mess.

    February 25, 2013 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  13. papo1957

    The Federal Gov't knows that Pres. Obama will cut the deficit in 1/2 during his reign in office by laying off 99% of the work force in order to balance the budget to create a revenue. Closing almost every American Businesses in the public sector while the private sector works slowly but surely. Military spending cut in 1/2 which includes the Fire Dept., Police Dept., State Gov't, & Local Gov't. The very few Americans working a double shift monday thru friday will even have long lines @ the Unemployment, Education, & etc....This will be the greatest depression of all time since the early 1930's. Everyone wants $$$$$$$$$ to live & this is the result of a ca$hle$$ society in America. Major cut throats in jobs reduced & education will be too expensive to even go to school. No more free education unless its useless courses that don't pertain to a job description. Food $tamp$ & Disability is on the rise to get $$$$$$$$$. Very sad that America is going broke & this country is for $ale!!

    February 25, 2013 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  14. Neo

    What is becoming clear is that the Obama Administration doesn't know how to govern.
    Any of the 50 governors would know how to deal with a 3% "cut", but our President appears that he will try to hurt us by furloughing those who affect our lives, our safety the most. Shame on you, Mr. Obama.

    February 25, 2013 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  15. Mark

    Chicago-style politics gone Chicken Little.

    February 25, 2013 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  16. Steve

    Makes sense the whitehouse would know the most about sequestration since the idea originated there. He wanted it, he got it, even talked a coalition of reps and dems into voting for it. It was politically well done. But now that chicken is coming home to roost. Personally, I like chicken. Not sure how the presidents going to feel after this chicken hits the fan. He can't lie his way out of this one or blame bush. It'll be interesting to see how he handles some actual personal responsibility, if he's man enough to do it. I don't think he is.

    February 25, 2013 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  17. BHOviaJFK

    Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

    February 25, 2013 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  18. sifto

    this white house is a piece of work......the rich are the ONLY ones paying-except for Obamas and friends like Buffet ,facebook and google...get real..

    February 25, 2013 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  19. T

    ............CUT DEFENSE SPENDING AT ALL COST...............and when the public realizes they didnt need that much spent (10 TIMES what China spends).....(USA spends what the next 16 1/2 countries do ....COMBINED.....on Defense) for 120 FOREIGN BASES.............we will get back some of the money wasted on defense to BUILD BRIDGES IN THE USA, not Pakistan and Mali.............

    February 25, 2013 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  20. Rudy NYC

    saintlasa wrote:

    I agree with George in Wyoming. The cuts that need to be made are the fat in government. ... ....
    How do you define "fat"? The two sides seem to have very different standards and priorities. Let's not forget that Romney and the Republicans had proposed to dramatically *increase* DoD spending had they won in November. Some point to the Dep't of Homeland Security as being bloated with "fat", which I tend to agree. It has grown from an original annual budget of $5 billion to an annual budget well over $100 billlion, which includes more than 500 sub-contractors with contracts worth at least $10 million.

    February 25, 2013 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  21. EM

    It's not a CUT! They only are reducing the rate of increase. The Federtal govenement will spend more money next year, and more after that. There is NO CUT!

    February 25, 2013 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  22. tiresofhearingit

    Everyone took a 2 % paycut through medicare deduction in our paychecks, and we are all supposed to be fine. But when the govt is made to cut 2% , the sky is falling? Not believeing the hype. Tired of the doomsday threats by the white house, he doesnt want to stop spending money. And these "cuts" are reduced increases, not cuts. So if your cable bill was going to be going up 10$ next month, an instead you are only allowing it to go up 8$, somehow you are cutting spending? I wish I had the ability to just borrow way more than I make so I can have every thing I want, but Im not a politician.

    February 25, 2013 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  23. Lane

    Sick and tired of politicians wanting to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Let them take a pay cut and no more perks and benefits. These politicians are paid too much for what they do. They waste a lot of time. The majority of those in Congress are millionaires or billionaires and can well afford to pay for their own health care. There should be term limits too. Get rid of McConnell and Cantor. We don't need obstructionists.

    February 25, 2013 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  24. Justician

    Is this where we finally found out which of the GOP's corporate buddies are going to get the 500 trillion in tax breaks that uncle joe told us about? Granny git yer double barrel shotgun! The 30 armed secret service agents need your help.

    February 25, 2013 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  25. what's up

    The clown will make his low intellect voters suffer. But then those are the people that deserve it most.

    February 25, 2013 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
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