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. bearced

    @ Russ in MD
    Throw in Boehner and youv'e got a deal!

    February 25, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    "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."

    What you just described will do massive damage to demand and wil harm the economy and recovery. So, while you're enjoying your $400 month less and struggling to make ends meet, guess who won't be having to adjust to anything at all. Guess whose "adjusting" your doing for them so they won't have to. Go ahead. Guess.

    February 25, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Dave wrote:

    @ 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.....
    So, if it was Pres. Obama's "bad idea" in the first place, then why did 3/4 of Housre Republicans vote FOR passing it. Furthermore, of those who voted against the sequester bill, most did so because they wanted deeper cuts. Never mind the fact that it was 98% of what Boehner wanted.

    Finally, if the sequester is as bad of an idea as Republicans say it is, then what does it say about Republicans when the overwhelming majority of them voted in favor of it? Aren't openly they admitting incompetence by claiming that they were bamboozled in voting for it?

    February 25, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  4. cbr

    Speaker Boehner will not provide leadership because he does not have the support of his party. Meanwhile we have a manufactured crisis because Congress and the White House cannot get together to make the necessary decisions to alleviate this crisis. Instead we hear the Republicans complain about the President and tell us how they dislike him. the real problem is that he beat them in the election and they cannot stand to lose to a person of color. Just listen to what they have to say about him and you can get their drift.

    The actions of the politicians are shameful. It would be good to vote them all out and start with a new group. They certainly are not earning their pay. As taxpayers we are paying their salary and watching as they do nothing and come up with excuses as to why they cannot work together. Meanwhile, their staffers will face cuts while they continue to draw their pay and perqs.

    February 25, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  5. rs


    @ 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.....
    Sorry- Facts are facts. The President does not write legislation for Congress. It came out of the House.

    February 25, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  6. critical thinking

    The cuts they are talking about are reductions to the increase in spending, not real cuts. It will be the budget level we experienced last year and I dont remember hearing the Prseident talking about the end of the world during his campaigning trips. He must tell a mean bedtime story to his girls.

    February 25, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  7. Darrell

    Obama said jump over the cliff and GOP House jumped. Yeah, folks those fools went along with the sequester idea and now they are complaining that they were too stupid to say no to Obama.

    February 25, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  8. Malory Archer

    Rudy NYC

    So, if it was Pres. Obama's "bad idea" in the first place, then why did 3/4 of Housre Republicans vote FOR passing it.


    Because they believed their own hype that the also-ran was going to clean President Obama's clock. In their world this TRULY IS President Obama's fault, but only because he won!

    February 25, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  9. Malory Archer

    critical thinking

    ....I dont remember hearing the Prseident talking about the end of the world during his campaigning trips.


    It's called giving the opposition "enough rope".

    February 25, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  10. Laurie in Spokane

    Well, I guess we only have ourselves to blame. After all, we elected all these morons to Congress. Guess they're not up to the job. agreed?

    February 25, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  11. Ferret out the BS

    While any of you are sitting there contemplating why there are increases in budget items consider this: we are still at war. Our weapon systems are operating at a high level and need maintenance at an increased rate, ammunition needs constant replenishment, wounded warriors need medical attention and those that are fighting still need their training, weapons, food, and living quarters. Their families need education, housing, medical attention and medications which continue to increase in price. And to think this was all started withought the slightest attempt to pay for it except by giving out tax cuts for political points and this is only a small fraction of why the budget keeps going up.

    February 25, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  12. n222s

    A couple of things. The President should lead and resolve to take no vacations beyond Camp David and use Air Force 1 as little as possible to show a commitment to cost cutting. No more vacations beyond these two locations until the sequester is dealt with.

    Congress should take no salaries to show solidarity with the people.

    Did you ever notice that the people NOT affected by cuts are the White House, their staff, the Congress and their staff? There always seems to be enough money for them but not for other things. When THEY sacrifice a little of their comfort (includes the President and Congress) I will believe them "down with the folks". Till then, party down till China refuses to borrow more money!

    February 25, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  13. gary

    The sequester was obama's idea and he could end this mess tomorrow if he wanted to. obama needs get off his ass and start leading this country instead of playing political games with the American people. What a mess this man has created.

    February 25, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  14. Ferret out the BS

    The House prepares a budget and submits it to the Senate. The Senate makes their changes and sends it back to the House to work out the changes (or not) and sends it to the president who signs it or not and sends it back to the House and they work out the issues. The budget does not originate with the President or the Senate, it originates with the House.

    February 25, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  15. Dave

    Lowest of the low from President Obama. In my home state of Oklahoma, Senator Coburn has routinely identified hundreds of millions of dollars in Federal money wasted in the state. Instead of cutting the number of empty Federal buildings, the President would rather cut education for mentally disabled children? Wow. Just wow.

    February 25, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  16. Sagebrush Shorty

    More scare tactics from Obama. He wanted this,so let him take care of it, or preferably stay out of it.

    February 25, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  17. n222s

    Gas prices go up. But there is no inflation because it isn't counted. Food costs increase. But there is no inflation because it isn't counted. 2% increase in Payroll taxes affects everyone.

    Yes, I know the sequester affects discretionary spending and disproportionately hits some departments hard than others. I also know that half the government fiscal year is over and the cuts only total 44 billion in FY 2013. I also know that even with the cuts, discretionary spending will increase over the last year.

    Somehow, some way, we must deal with a 2% decrease in pay. A hidden reduction in pay because of higher energy and food prices. For some reason we are expected to deal with such adversity. However, the almighty Federal government cannot cope with a 2.5% reduction resulting in a decrease in the INCREASED spending due to take place. (and it won't even be that big this year).

    For some reason, you and I must cope with a reduction in spending power. However, the Federal government will go off the cliff even though they are spending more than they did last year. Really?

    February 25, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  18. Sal Voce

    Hopefully the CUTS include all his expensive vacations and alot of that foreign aid...then REAL CUTS IN SPENDING!!!

    February 25, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  19. real American

    If this is Obama's sequester, Republicans should throw a parade for him. No Republican President has been able to reduce the size of government as much as he has.

    February 25, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  20. Moderate Texan

    @Ancient Texan

    The "cuts" are being portrayed by the Campaigner in Chief as catastropic but are like 3 drops of rain in the ocean.
    My son and his wife (both military veterans) chose to work in Civil Service when they left the military. They will lose 20% of their paychecks when the sequester kicks-in. That income will never be recovered and when raising a family, 20% is a huge deal – not "drops of rain in the ocean". They continue to serve their country with dedication and passion – yet have become demonized by radical Republicans who apparently want our Federal Government to fail. The next time the flag passes by don't bother to stand... That tradition is for people who are proud of America.

    February 25, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  21. british lady

    Remember Chicken Little....the sky is falling!...the sky is falling! When we can't pay our bills, we cut back and live with it. Stop spending! Stop blaming!

    February 25, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  22. Larry L

    "I got about 98% of what I wanted... So I'm pretty happy"... A quote from Speaker Boehner.

    The sequester was written and approved by the House of Representatives. The typical Republican revision of reality can't negate those facts. Read the Speaker's quote!

    February 25, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  23. Sly

    Make the cuts, it's a no-brainer. Our military is way fat.

    Not even cuts anyway – 5%, and it's really just a slight reduction in spending increases! Nothing is being cut.

    Big non-issue. Until we cut our massive Pentagon waste, our deficit will grow. Make the cuts Mr. President.

    February 25, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  24. Rudy NYC

    Uh, didn't Republicans blame Defense spending cuts for the weak GDP in the final quarter of 2012? [Cuts which the Tea Party House authored, BTW.] Now all of a [big D} sudden they are whole hog, all in with additional apending cuts. Has the entire party come down with Romnesia or something?

    February 25, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  25. Fubarack

    Obama spends all his time trying to fix his own errors. lol

    February 25, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
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