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. n222s

    Ferrett, your scenario would be true if the Senate had actually passed a budget in the last, what, 4 or 5 years? And while your scenario is true for spending bills from a procedural point of view, it implies that the President is powerless as he can't originate any bills.

    You know fully well that members of Congress introduce bills on his behalf. Happens with every President.

    It was his idea. It was agreed upon as a method of increasing the debt limit. Read Woodward's article about how it originated and how the President was not going to ask for tax increases or closing loopholes to avoid it.

    February 25, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  2. Disgusted

    If the White House is soooo concerned about it, then why did the White House propose this mess????

    February 25, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  3. Doug in NYC

    I say we cut all of Congresses pay to minimum wage, take away their health insurance and if they want it, they can pay for it themselves. Install time clocks in the Capital building, and make them use punch cards and pay them for hours actually worked. Eliminate their staffs, eliminate their office budget, make them actually work! No extra pay for Speakers of the House, if they want it, then the extra pay can come out of their parties budget. same for Majority and Minority "leaders", majority and minority whips etc. No more pensions for them either!

    I fired my Congresswoman Nan Hayworth, before she was in too long to collect a pension and healthcare for life.

    February 25, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  4. Larry L

    @Sal Voce

    Hopefully the CUTS include all his expensive vacations and alot of that foreign aid...then REAL CUTS IN SPENDING!!!
    The President has already cut more than any Republican Administration. Remember, Bush cut taxes revenues (not spending) as he was starting two un-funded wars with falsified intelligence data! He triggered the recession and issued the first bank-bailout package. Bush also vacationed far more than any other President. Did you complain?

    February 25, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  5. g

    get rid of all foreign aid for ten years and arms shipments spend that money in the usa. why should you pay taxes if their just going to give the money away

    February 25, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  6. rs


    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.
    Even if this "was his mess" (and it isn't), how can he fix it? The Republicans simply refuse to work with him- in other words, they have decided to lead by doing nothing- and in the case of the Sequester, their leadership takes the form of badly designed budget cuts. So, who here is irresponsible?.

    February 25, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  7. max


    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 |
    Amen....thought they said he was bright....ugh!!!

    February 25, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  8. Rudy NYC


    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.
    You forgot a couple of them. Debt can go up, but it doesnt count under a GOP POTUS. Annual deficits can go up, but it doesnt count under a GOP POTUS Shucks, you can crash the whole global economy and give nearly a trillion dollars to Wall Street banks with no requirement to ever pay it back, but it doesnt count under a GOP POTUS.

    February 25, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  9. Solomon Walker

    Washington simply doesn't care. Most of these people are teetering on billionaire status. They simply dig in and hunker down while the United States falls around them.

    And it required a 2nd term to get the job done.

    Mr. Obama should pick out his royal crest and shield now – his sceptor and crown. This is where the United States is headed.

    February 25, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  10. Obama Sequester - Obama's idea, his Senate Democrats voted for it, Obama signed it into law, Obama said he would veto changes to it, OBAMA OWNS IT

    Obama strategy is to cause as much damage and suffering as possible to con the American people into believing that a $3.5 TRILLION government bureacracy (which doubled in size the last 11 years) is just too lean to be cut.

    Obama is ready to throw everybody under the bus to further his far left agenda. Which is pretty much what he has done with the country the last 4 years and will continue to do for another 4 years.

    February 25, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  11. Paul

    This is where you hope supply and demand in the micro economic spear really works. The argument about these being supposed increases may be true in a sense but this is actually taking money away from people which I happen to think is a good thing. The bad thing about the sequestration is that the cuts aren't more generalized. They should cut all mandatory spending by a third. A third less paid to seniors who are on National Old Age Insurance and a third less in payments to Medicare.

    The resulting cut backs in hours and job losses will have a deflationary effect.

    "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 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  12. Dave

    Ask your Obama. He wrote it to get his debt ceiling increase..... Campaigned on cutting spending then forgot it after he was elected....No taxes... Remember "I can make a firm pledge. Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes"

    Forgot the second he was re-elected..... lol

    February 25, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  13. jpmichigan

    Obama can have money moved around to avoid this picture from happening, but ten he could not use the trigger of the Sequester to tax more so to spend more. The games a foot, Mr. President, the Sequester is now on your watch, you initiated it, encourage persons to vote on it and you sign it in to law. So it is for you to come up with a solution, the Republican House came up with 2 bills to avoid the Sequester and you vowed to veto if it came in front of you. SO NOW WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO, THE ENTIRE WORLD IS WATCH FOR YOUR LEADERSHIP OR LACK OF!

    February 25, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  14. Dave

    Damn, Doug in NYC, They attacked YOUR city? Thats the best you got to a terrorist attack? Remember that wasnt the first time terrorists attacked the towers....It WAS the first time we did anything about it!

    get off Bush. He's been out of office nearly 5 years. Obama has to do something other than blame it on Bush.... You should also.....

    February 25, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  15. betterdays

    I laugh at the majority of voters. This is what you voted for, and this is what you get. Just enjoy it. I find it entertaining. Perhaps you fail to see the humor in it, but I don't.

    February 25, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  16. Dave

    @ betterdays LMAO! Ive taken to just typing, ITYS.......I TOLD YOU SO......The same ones calling us racists for campaigning against Obama.....lol

    February 25, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  17. Jose79845

    The government puts the drug war over food safety. Isn't it time to start asking the questions that need to be asked?

    February 25, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  18. W.

    This seems like two realities or two realms of existence that occupy different classes, or castes of people. It is as if one is a kingdom inside walls with all the nobles; the President, congress, SCOTUS, lobbyists... et al. The rest of us live outside the castle and are serfs subsisting off the land with whatever is tossed our way. We have no voice, we have no leverage. I have no motivation for this world much longer and find no real comfort in the direction of ANY government. Machiavelli would be so proud, until the next plague.

    February 25, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  19. james mishoe

    i see where the presidents plane is used more than i dont mean to be cridecal but cost of fuel and control needs to be madated when it is importent to use not fly to the awards in california and 4 to 5 trips a year unles it is crucial get some smarts in washington impossible

    February 25, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  20. heathergirl1234

    Liberal fear tactics, nothing more. Obama will just point at any cutting he thinks will scare people. This amount of money as not all that large when you like at the size of the federal budget......... If he cant cut this amount with the entire goverment going into chaos then what did ever plan to cut?

    And suddenly he is worried about cuts to defense? Have you ever heard a Democrat talk about cuts without suggesting the bulk come from defense spending? But suddenly Obama is worried about the jobs of defense contractors?

    And then we have the media! Suddenly the media tells us we should not be wasting time looking for who to blame. Now isn't that odd, seeing how much time they invest telling us to blame things on republicans! But with sequestering originating from the Whitehouse and Obama, suddenly the media thinks assigning blame is a bad thing.

    At least until they can find something they can once agian blame mostly on Republicans...... then pointing fingers and assigning blame will be OK to do once more.

    February 25, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  21. domoore

    n222s: the Senate could pass a budget resolution, but without the cooperation of the house or 60 votes in the Senate, that resolution would not take effect; it would be an empty gesture. And the GOP Senators and the House would never approve it so that individuals such as yourself can complain about them not having a budget.

    February 25, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  22. Char

    Instead of threating to cut first responders, FAA controllers and Food Inspectors, why don't they cut IRS agents.

    February 25, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  23. domoore

    In discussions such as this it is important to understand that 56% of Republicans believe that the earth is 10,000 years old. That doesn't necessarily make them evil, but it does reflect their collective ignorance. One should not give credence to the opinions of a group that believes that the earth's age is determined by adding up the total number of "begats" in the Bible.

    February 25, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  24. bluebird

    obama had to that frig. bill because he had no choice because those dumb republicans would let the US become the 3rd. world country. So, enjoy your life under the republican leadership

    February 25, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  25. Joe

    Let America go bankrupt.

    February 25, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
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