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. EM

    "When both sides are saying my way or the highway, nothing gets done."

    When "things get done" the Feds just spend money they don't have. Starve the beast.

    It's not a cut, everyone remember. A cut would mean you spend less. They will spend more.

    February 25, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  2. Another Huge Obama Failure

    And they said the BUSH White House was all about posturing based on fear???? Pffffttttt.....

    February 25, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  3. vic , nashville ,tn

    Small business surrounding Fort Campbell will affect by spending cuts many will lose their jobs most of them voted for Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul

    February 25, 2013 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  4. Sniffit

    "an unvetted affirmative action president."

    Thank you for continuing to damage the GOP/Teatrolls by broadcasting their racism.

    February 25, 2013 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  5. rs

    "A cut would mean you spend less."
    Yes, remeber that sentiment- especially the next time you don't get a raise, or your costs (like rent, or gasoline) go up, because after all you too can always spend less.

    February 25, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  6. rs


    What about Foreign Aid??
    Yeah, what about thta? Well, the Republicans didn't write that into their Sequester Bill.

    February 25, 2013 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  7. ANOEL2005

    these Washington Democrats don't care about OUR kids, the people who will have this debt on their backs. The kids are the future and this will impact their lives more than ours.

    February 25, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  8. rs

    Facts people, stick to facts:
    1. The Sequester Bill was written by House Republicans
    2. House Speaker Boehner said "I got 98% of what I wanted" in the Sequester vs. Government shut-down negotiations
    3. The Sequester bill was passed in Congress by nearly all of the Republicans in both houses
    4. It is therefore in fact and philosophy a Republican Bill with their spending priorities
    5.Republicans are simply too ideological to actually stop their Sequester Bomb from going off
    6. They (the GOP/TP) have a 14% approval rating in Congress, once the American public see the effect of the Bill-guess what happens?
    7. 5 days and counting to the end of the GOP

    February 25, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  9. EM


    I've recieved two raises in the last year, I work hard and earn my paycheck. We had our cuts, back in 2008. You know, back when things were bad. Government employees lived in a fanasty world for the last 4 years. Let's expand, here, have some raises. I understand what a cut is, you don't. A cut is a reduction in spending. There are not reducing spending, it's going up. Year after year, it will increase. That's not a cut in ANY way.

    February 25, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  10. Lynda/Minnesota

    vic , nashville ,tn

    Small business surrounding Fort Campbell will affect by spending cuts many will lose their jobs most of them voted for Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul

    Lived and worked in the little town of Oak Grove, KY when my husband was stationed at Ft. Campbell. You are so correct. That little town (if it still exists) absolutely depended upon Fort Campbell. I suspect this is true of all military posts and bases and the surrounding cities that depend on military revenue. God knows, it's all the revenue they've got going for them.

    February 25, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  11. Timothy

    Instead of cutting and slicing regular citizen wages, and jobs, and hours. Lets stop funding for the Legislative staff (ALL OF THEM) and see how they like it. We the people did not vote on these spending issues, we elected people to vote for us. Well those people have failed atthier jobs so lets stop thier pay and the pay for those that help them do htier jobs until they can reach a BALANCED budget, help people get off of social programs, and pay for medicare and social security. I understand the need for taxes to apy for our countrys operating expenses however, the group that controls how that money is spent needs to start working within thier budget (TAXES COLLECTED) instead of contiually printing more money to cover thier lavish spending habits.

    February 25, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  12. samstewart

    Cut the handouts!!
    No more foreign aid, extended unemployment insurance or welfare.

    Time to make people accountable all over the world!!

    February 25, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  13. Ancient Texan

    The "cuts" are being portrayed by the Campaigner in Chief as catastropic but are like 3 drops of rain in the ocean. Sine Obama refuses to any spending cuts, this is the only way to make progress, but is just stopping the INCREASE by a small amount. We will still spend more in 2013 than in 2012.

    February 25, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  14. Sniffit

    "The "cuts" are being portrayed by the Campaigner in Chief as catastropic but are like 3 drops of rain in the ocean."

    Sorry, but economists agree with him, not you, not the GOP/Teatrolls and not the corporations and plutocrats who they are defending from tax increases while they rob the country blind.

    February 25, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  15. Rick in OP

    The sequester will involve a spending reduction of $85 billion dollars on a $3.8 trillion dollar budget. That is a 2.2 % reduction in spending. So what is the problem?
    Those of us in the private sector deal with spending cuts on a continual basis. I won't bore you with all the stories of friends who own businesses who have not paid themselves a dime in the last couple of years in an effort to keep from having to lay off their employees. Or the rest of us who save seen 10% to 40% percent (or more) reductions in their annual incomes. And don't get me started about the "economic recovery". Personally, I am not too sure that the last recession has ever ended.
    Government employees had better get used to the new reality. We are broke and government spending has to go down.

    February 25, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  16. Alex

    "The reality is, the federal budget, even after the cuts, will be larger than last year's budget" This says it all. Obama just doesn't want any cuts. He cut defense hard last year and of course the sequester is 50% defense. So there will be no cuts to Obama's handouts just underhanded deliberate slashing of defense and are men/women in uniform.

    February 25, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  17. Realist

    I'm hoping March 27th comes and no CRA is passed. Let the goverment do a true shutdown and then I can listen to all the right-wingers cry about how they were unfairly targeted. I work for a living and I didn't get a pay raise for the last 3 years! Why hurt people who dedicate themselves to public service when we can cut bloated contractors off at the neck. People complain the goverment employees are the problem yet time and time again contractors make more and more work for themselves so their contracts get extended. Dosn't sound fair to me!

    February 25, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  18. SuperD

    If you are stupid enough to listen to the Democrats and realize this is coming from a group who still to this day has not produced a budget in 4 years, then there is no hope for you and any rational argument.

    The power of the Democrat Party is the power to tax and spend. Take away some $$, they have less power and they cannot win elections without throwing taxpayer money at their low information voter base. Simple as that.

    Starving the Democrats is the only way. Sequester, shut down the govt, call out their lies, they are never going to bargain with the Republicans and this right here is a consequence of the election.

    February 25, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  19. Dave

    Maybe the WH should have spent as much time on solving Obama's sequester as they did compiling data on how his idea will hurt the US!!!!

    February 25, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  20. Dave

    @ rs Wrong....Obama wrote the sequester. It was his idea because it included an immediate debt ceiling increase. you saying it, doesnt make it fact.....

    February 25, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  21. steve

    Both sides are trying to scare us all. These giant cuts are not all going to happen on March 1 . They are going to happen over a couple of months. Maybe the idiots on both sides of Congress can start working things out instead of going on a well paid vaction and stay at their jobs long enough to make some decisions for the people that voted for them.

    February 25, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  22. Sniffit

    Stage 1: "This is horrible and akin to the apocalypse...the sky is falling and you should all blame Obama for it."

    Stage 2: "This is no big deal...if it was your family's budget, no big deal...and there are magic ways to do these cuts that are no big deal, so you should blame Obama for making it a big deal." (i.e., Stage 1 wasn't working and the GOP/Teatrolls have implicitly recognzied that they will get the blame, so this can't remain a BFD)

    Stage 3 (approximately Wednesday): The House GOP/Teatrolls will pass some ridiculous legislation that pretends to "save" everyone from the Sequester and pretends to give Obama something he supposedly wants, but laden with poison pills. They will then wash their hands of the issue and say "we did our part...now it's all up to Obama and the Senate to pass the House legislation and take yes for an answer."


    February 25, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  23. Dave

    The Budget Control Act of 2011 (Pub.L. 112–25, S. 365, 125 Stat. 240, enacted August 2, 2011) is a federal statute in the United States that was signed into law by President Barack Obama on August 2, 2011. The Act brought conclusion to the 2011 United States debt-ceiling crisis, which had threatened to lead the United States into sovereign default on or about August 3, 2011.

    The law involves the introduction of several complex mechanisms, such as creation of the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (sometimes called the "super committee"),[1] options for a balanced budget amendment and automatic budget sequestration.

    The bill also included a $400 billion immediate debt ceiling increase.

    February 25, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  24. Dave

    @Steve.....Giant cuts? ITS 2.2 % of the $3.8 TRILLION budget. Exactly what we need.

    February 25, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  25. Paul

    For us this means 600$ less a month with the furlough days. Certainly better than outright dismissal. Some of that would have been paid out in taxes. So we're looking at about 400 less per month. It certainly means that we won't be assuming another note on a car and will be cutting back drastically.

    The question we need to be asking is whether or not we should have a sequester but it is what to cut "next" after the sequester.

    February 25, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
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