The day that was never supposed to happen is here
March 1st, 2013
06:00 AM ET
1 year ago

The day that was never supposed to happen is here

(CNN) - Today is the day lawmakers have known about since August 2011: the day those forced federal spending cuts kick in.

This Friday is also a day many never expected would come. After all, the cuts known as sequestration were designed to be so draconian that lawmakers would be forced to compromise and avoid them.

But they haven’t, and as lawmakers left Washington to begin their weekend on Thursday, so left any prospect of avoiding the cuts that President Barack Obama and his administration have warned will lead to long airport lines and fewer air traffic safety controllers; federal government furloughs and layoffs; cuts to food inspection and border security programs; and education funding decreases that will shut young students out of Head Start programs.

For all of the dire warnings, Obama acknowledged Wednesday that the cuts are “not a cliff, but it is a tumble downward.” He’ll set the cuts in motion on Friday with a stroke of his pen.

He is required to sign an order enacting the spending cuts by 11:59 p.m. Friday and will do so privately, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday.

Before that happens, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will meet with top congressional leaders: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

But Friday is seen by many as too late to reach a deal averting the cuts, especially with Congress out of town for the weekend.

After Obama signs the order, the Office of Management and Budget will send to Congress a detailed accounting of the cuts – how much from which agencies and which accounts. Every "program, project and activity" has to be trimmed without regard for what it is, according to the OMB.

Those who are employed by the government or rely on federal agencies’ spending are expected to feel the effects first. From there, the effects of the sequester will ripple outward across the economy.

The Obama administration has said the law gives them no leeway to spare one budget line at the expense of another, and insiders expect the cuts to be about 9% for nondefense programs and 13% for defense accounts.

What agencies do have some discretion over is how they roll out the cuts. In some cases, furloughs and other cuts could be backloaded, scheduling them to take effect at a greater rate later in the year in hopes that Congress will reach a deal to replace the sequester that has so far been elusive.

OMB sent affected federal agencies a letter on Wednesday reminding them to prepare for the cuts. Some agencies have already given employees their official 30-day notice of upcoming furloughs. Others are expected to follow soon, and budget uncertainty has already caused some agencies to cut back.

Congress delayed the cuts from triggering in January at the time of the fiscal cliff. The two month delay from January 1 to March 1, however, made the cuts steeper than the original 5% for nondefense spending and 8% for defense programs.

Not everyone is convinced these forced spending cuts are a bad idea. Some deficit hawks see them as one way to reduce ballooning federal spending and others who favor reducing military spending see their virtue, too.

Altogether, the cuts will amount to some $85 billion dollars this fiscal year, which ends September 30.

While today means the end to one fiscal showdown, fans of Washington financial wrangling have another date to anticipate: March 27. That’s the deadline for Congress to extend the continuing resolution that’s funding the government.

– CNNMoney.com’s Jeanne Sahadi and CNN’s Gregory Wallace contributed to this report


Filed under: Budget • Deficit
soundoff (775 Responses)
  1. Wyobob

    Washington can't cut the corporate welfare

    March 1, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  2. John B

    There are NO "massive spending cuts" as reported by CNN only a decrease in the increase in spending. Obama was obligated by law to submit a budget in the beginning of February...to date no budget. He's too busy campaigning and doing photo ops. When he does get around to submitting a budget it will request even more spending and more taxes. He just doesn't get it. The federal government needs to be cut back significantly and entitlements need to be reformed...yesterday! He and his democrat minions will never voluntarily reform Social Security, Medicare and Medicade.

    March 1, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  3. Dani

    "as lawmakers left Washington to begin their weekend on Thursday..."

    I think that line says it all right there. These cuts will not be felt by Congress. The ONLY way I think America will become strong again, is to FIRE each and every one of these lifetime politicians. Next time elections come in your state, make sure to vote for the new guy or gal. I guarantee you he or she will not do worse than the person before them, and likely better!

    March 1, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  4. Doug

    Wait......so Congress gets to start it's weekends on Friday? Wtf?

    March 1, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  5. CA

    What am I missing? $85 billion is less than 0.3% of the federal revenue and less than 0.2% of federal spending. Does not seem to be much of a cut.

    March 1, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  6. YC

    I do hold Obama responsible, since he is the leader of our country. He had 18 months to get the Congress to work together. If only people had longer memories and DID something about this when the elections roll around. If our Congressmen aren't going to do their jobs then we need to elect ones that do...will we remember this when the polls come around?!!!

    March 1, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  7. RA

    Before the end of the day, He'll probably blame Bush. But it's clear that He's trying to destroy this country by punishing those who make it work. They holler and scream if you want to give just one dollar back to the people who earned it. You people who voted for Obama should be ashamed of yourselves.

    March 1, 2013 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  8. c

    I am anticipating that the March 27th deadline will also come and go.... somehow our elected officals will find some way to "go home" and ignore the issue all together like they have with this one since August 2011...... I love how that during this time of crisis elected officials can not simply take a paycut to help out, that this can only happen at election time..... wait a minute did we not just have a Federal Election this past November, why was this not addressed then. It would be interesting if somehow a "glitch" can up in the federal payroll department that stopped all paychecks going to lawmakers; in a reverse situation to "Milton" in Mike Judges " Office Space" where he was fired, no one told him but a glitch meant he kept getting paid, so the glitch was fixed and he stopped getting paid. I wonder if this would acutally make lawmakers get back to work.

    March 1, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  9. gmh45069

    Notice who has their back turned to who.. Smug BHO. Now, paste a picture of yourself in place of Boehner.
    Could you work with anyone with that much contempt and disengagement?

    This is something that all true American, blue or red should consider before throwing-up.

    March 1, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  10. tuscany590

    How many shows will Michelle Obama appear on next week??The safest jobs in the country are her travel & security details.

    March 1, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  11. Don

    Of course that day is here. It's yet another step in the direction of total economic collapse that the hijacked government is setting us up for.
    I would say wake up people but, it's too late for that, just brace yourself.

    March 1, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  12. panorain

    Obama has come up with some great ideas so far. Release illegal felons onto the streets instead of sending them home. Stop feeding poor kids and old people. Enforce a slowdown at airport security check-ins. Hold flights on runways. PLUS keep them in the air until they are almost out of gas. SWEET! The possibilities are endless. Limited only by Obama's limited imagination.

    March 1, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  13. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Sequester???

    The Clinton Surplus the GOP squandered – $230 Billion

    The GOP's Iraq and Afghan wars – $5.5 Trillion

    Bush's Prescription Drug Program – $1Trillion

    Bush Era Tax Cuts for the rich – $1.2 Trillion

    Bush's TARP Bailout failing Wall Street Banks gave to their partying CEOs – $700 Billion

    Can anyone spare $85 Billion for the American people please???

    March 1, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  14. Anonymous

    Why dont they start by cutting senator pays and the fact tha office admins in govt make 100,000 a year..

    March 1, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  15. disgustedvet

    You wanted it Mr. President and now you have it Mr. President. But you can still score some points with the foolish sheep by acting outraged and blaming everyone except yourself. How "Presidential "

    March 1, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  16. Anonymous

    America sold out a long time ago.

    March 1, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  17. sonny chapman

    The 9-13 ratio shows that Repubs. underestimated the toughness of Obama.

    March 1, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  18. Pete

    Supposidly Pres.Obamas sequester is ready to politically explode and republicans who almost unanimously in both houses voted it in now don't know what to do..They fillibuster jobs,infastructure and other bills at record levels but now the bombs in their court and what happens ,finger pointing as they go home this weekend to relax at taxpayers expense..Republicans with their arrogence again overshadowing their ignorence just never seem to get anything right do they because wasn't it McConnells rant on the senate floor saying his job is making Pres.Obama a one termer,just reelected and again with Boehner saying he got his 98% worth months ago and now this sequester ready to go off in his lap .Where does this political stupidity end republicans when you become political lepers like your reps were decades ago after the Great Depression brought on by your Pres.Hoover and it took Pres. Roosevelt 12 years mine you to fix up that catastrophic mess and your party paid dearly for that didn't they ..Remember if this sequester hurts an already fragile economy history again just might repeat itself and don't say we didn't warn yah because happily we have!!

    March 1, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  19. bcrunner

    So, I hope all of you who want these cuts will not be screaming and complaining when unemployment starts going up. Because these cuts are not future cuts like some people keep saying. These are cuts that are happening NOW. Someone said on TV the other day, "this is terrible"! "If we cut the military, unemployment is going up".. Well... cuts will happen and unemployment will go up in just about every area.... Wake up everyone! Haven't you seen what austerity is doing to Europe?

    March 1, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  20. TG

    Congress left town? Gee, I wish I could just up and leave town during a crisis at work. But I would have any vacation request denied if there was a crisis at work. And if I didn't show up anyway, unless I had a doctor note to prove I was sick, I'd be fired on the spot. We need to not reelect these 535 morons. These idiots need to be replaced by people who actually care about what's good for the country more than what's good for them themselves.

    March 1, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  21. Joseoph

    Not sure why this comes as any surprise???? Look at the idiot how has been allegedly leading our country for the last four years, and the lazy unemployed morons who voted for him again a second term? Did anyone not watch the documentary, "Obama 2016?" That pretty much sums it all. Remember, we're in year one of his second term. What will America look like in 2016? Well, if we don't start an impeachment soon, then this will be the start of a fallen empire.............

    March 1, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  22. dc

    It's a "blunt object" approach, which you would think intelligent, educated people would be able to avoid. Having said that, it's not that big of a cut. My operating budget for my facilities at work is being cut 3.1% this year as well, and you figure out how to get better and more efficient and you move on. Happens every year. It's indicative (and fiscally ridiculous) that so many agencies' response is to simply furlough employees for a period of time until they save enough on labor and expenses to cover the cuts. Lazy, ignorant, easy (in a bad way) solution. Suck it up, figure out how to target 2-3% off of your P&L (which is really all the cuts amount to in operating dollars) and move your agency forward. This is first day of Finance 101 stuff here, which many government bureaucrats apparently slept through.

    Incompetence when it comes to even the most basic business principles continues to cripple the public sector, and we're all paying for it. Ridiculous.

    March 1, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  23. Let's make cuts with no real solution to increase revenue

    America ruined by the same things that bulit it. Racism hate and greed.

    March 1, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  24. n222s

    We all make the assumption that the Federal government cannot do without more money. But let's face it, money is power. And the further from us we send that money the less we can oversee how it is spent.

    Many people thought, and still think, Bush was the worst President ever. Should have been impeached, right? Okay. Let's assume you are correct. If his crimes were so egregious, why wasn't he impeached with a Dem senate and house? Because it is astoundingly difficult.

    Now, let's contrast that with the effort to recall Scott Walker. It didn't work but it came close. The PEOPLE had another say in what was going to happen in Wisconsin. It didn't work but it came a lot closer than impeaching Bush.

    We have more control over our politicians and can better hold them to account when they are closer to us. And the most powerful politicians are the furthest from us! AND we want to send them more money to boot.

    Stop giving all power to the Federal government and seek ways to invest it instead with governments closer to you. Since money is power, perhaps we should starve them...just a little...so they might lose some power or at least sit up and notice.

    March 1, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  25. Kev

    Isn't it funny how this President changes his wording and outright lies to all of us. And the Media allows him and never ever calls him out on it. How ignorant is that? Good Reporting I'd say. NOT!! It is bias or kissing Obama butt. I'd say both. In this article it says (draconian cuts), well if they are boys they are because Obama signed this bill 2 years ago. So these cuts are because of him and only him. The trouble with Obama he wants a blank check to do what he wants when he wants. This is not a act of a President more of a Socialist.. Didn't Hugo Chavez do this? Now the same thing is happening in Bolivia. See the comparison? Obama and the Democrats want more revenue by taxing the rich again an or corporations, didn't he get that tax he asked for the last time we went through this, and on top of that Obama Tax is coming and a tax on Medicare/Medicaid just went up to there is two taxes already. And now those idiots want more.

    If you ask me I think we put those boys all of them on notice your time is running out. Do your fricken job or your out of office. Tell Obama that bozo to stand up and take responsibility for his own actions and stop blaming other for his own doing and STOP playing the Race Card. We are Americans here, we are not White, Black, Latino (legal to be here) Indian or others that are here Nationalized Americans, we are AMERICANS

    March 1, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
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