The day that was never supposed to happen is here
March 1st, 2013
06:00 AM ET
2 years 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. thelthyg

    I'm deeply embarrassed that I ever considered myself a Republican. yet another joins the ranks of those who will never vote Republican-anything ever again. way to go, alienating your own base. don't pretend you are governing for The People.

    March 1, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  2. Chad Delk

    Perhaps the sequester will finally force both sides to be fiscally responsible and get the national debt under control.

    March 1, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  3. Jeff

    We the people, in order to form a more perfect union... Do politicians even know these lines? Nope.. but they do know these lines " I the politician, know how to get money in my pockets, vote to get a pay raise and how not to care about my country" People, things don't change if things don't change. Vote out the politicians.

    March 1, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  4. gdaym8

    Raising debt limits. Fiscal cliffs. ...now THIS! This has got to stop............................NOW!

    March 1, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  5. clem kadiddle

    DEATH to the New World Order/Global Economy. It will ultimately fail

    March 1, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  6. on StreetWise

    Sequestration... what a twisted definition for economic stimulus. NO added jobs, no safety net, only more stagnation.

    March 1, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  7. San Agelo

    The Problem is Spending People. !!!

    March 1, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  8. Bob

    I LOVE that this is happening. Our government cutting it's budget and spending less is NEVER a bad thing.

    March 1, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  9. Sidb1980

    Obama is to blame: "My message to [Congress] is simple: No. I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off-ramps on this one." (President Obama, Super Committee Statement, November 21, 2011)

    On February 12, 2013, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney admitted that Sequester was the President's idea. “Sequester was one of the ideas put forward, yes, by the President's team." (Fox News Special Report with Bret Baier, February 12, 2013)

    he is a failed leader.

    March 1, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  10. Kenman

    Can tell from another misleading headline that this article isn't worth reading, and CNN should encourage more responsible "reporting".

    First of all, what we're talking about is a 2% REDUCTION in the AUTOMATIC SPENDING INCREASES built into the baseline budgeting; so it's not a CUT.

    Second, since it's not even a CUT, it can't be a MASSIVE cut!

    Third, when Obama and Jack Lew presented the sequester they knew, or should have known like all of us, that the group of partisan "representatives" couldn't agree on a lunch menu, much less a dollar of spending cuts.

    Stop betraying the American people, you're nothing more than a corporate arm of the White House propaganda machine.

    March 1, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  11. Sidb1980

    "My message to [Congress] is simple: No. I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off-ramps on this one." (President Obama, Super Committee Statement, November 21, 2011)

    On February 12, 2013, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney admitted that Sequester was the President's idea. “Sequester was one of the ideas put forward, yes, by the President's team." (Fox News Special Report with Bret Baier, February 12, 2013)

    March 1, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  12. traveller180

    At no other time in my life have I seen so much derision and divisiveness. Not only between members of the Congress and Executive Branches of the current government, but also among the people of this nation. It is humbling that my opinion, formed on the basis of the lack of support this government is providing to the interests of the PEOPLE of this country, is that both the Legislative and Executive branches of the government be censured immediately until such time as the true consensus of the voting population of this country is presented to the floors of Congress and the President ratifies the peoples vote. That, during that time, NO person shall be infringed their due process of their rights to work based on Congress inability to act. Both the Legislative and Executive branches in the current government should, by law, not be allowed to present personal and/or party agendas, opinions, or posture without the direct consent of the people they work for. CENSURE THEM!!!

    March 1, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  13. Sidb1980

    The President Said he would veto any attempt to get rid of the auto spending cuts. Interesting how he and all the libs have such short memories. Blame everyone else.

    March 1, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  14. Charles

    Once again, if my work isn't done on Friday before 5pm, I am expected to stay and get it done.. Here you have lawmakers leaving on Thursday for the weekend so they can go home.. First of all, when they take the job, why aren't they relocating to DC ?? I wish *I* could have a job that would fly me back, every weekend, to whatever state I wanted to live in. Absolutely ridiculous.

    I am, for one, sick and tired of these push-it-down-the-line measures, these deadlines, these "cliffs". How about we pass a budget one of these years?? What's it been now, three years since congress has passed a budget? For God's sake, this is a country we are talking about! To not have a plan on how we are going to spend money is completely unacceptable! Wasteful pork-barrell spending is rampant, lobbyist practicically write every new law we have these days, and I am personally sick of it.

    And until the rest of this country wakes up and realizes that they need to get involved, this stuff is going to continue. It's already affecting you, it's already in your back yard, so let's DO something about getting these deadbeat, career politicians out and get some people in who actually care about the country, instead of getting re-elected, or appointed to their committee of choice via fundraising for their political party. It's shameful, it really is.

    March 1, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  15. cedar rapids

    I am left wondering what is actually required to get congress to work together because if even this threat didnt work then there isnt a lot left.

    March 1, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  16. TexaSam

    If you're broke & have high credit card debt, you don"t sit around and wait to starve to death. You do 2 things: Cut your expenses as much as possible (but not food, shelter, or medicine) and get another job to increase income. You then pay off your credit card debt and start living within your means. Then you can finally quit that additional job that was needed only temporarily.

    Sound too simple right? Tax Wall Street, who's greed created most of the financial mess, on evert trade. Force Repubs to tax the rich again, since they are ones who put the 2 wars, Medicare Part D and all the tax cuts for the rich on the credit card.

    March 1, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  17. jason

    They all suck - get them all out

    March 1, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  18. Robb

    The Republicans did their fair share in taking the tax increase hit...about time for the Democrats to take a hit. Not saying that some of these programs should be funded and stay in play, but the Democrats have been so unwilling to compromise to spending habits that there is no other choice but to let the pedulum swing.

    March 1, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  19. rockinrandy

    The world will not end. It is necessary and should be a 1st step. Military spending can easily be cut and the US stop providing world police work and cut big defense contracts that have no practical supervision. For example, almost 1 million dollars for a new soccor field in Guatanomo Bay for the prisoners. I say $300 for a lawn mower and a ball and they get exercise also.

    March 1, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  20. Capitan

    I may lose my job (again) because of this. The only thing that frightens me is the cost of healthcare should I require it.

    March 1, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  21. Kirk

    first agency on the chopping block should be the BATF – dismissed -PERMANENTLY!

    March 1, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  22. Kirk

    first agency on the chopping block should be the ATF – dismissed -PERMANENTLY!

    March 1, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  23. Nicholas

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

    Pretty much sums up the problems in this country.

    March 1, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  24. kevin

    This is a Democrat's worst nightmare. $85 Billion cut from government spending......and 99.9% of Americans will not feel a thing from it. This could even get some people thinking...."hhhhmmm....if they cut $85 Billion without the sky falling like they said it would, what other scare tactics are they using?". It kinda reminds me of that part in the movie Bugs Life where the mean grasshopper says "if the stupid ants finally realize the truth, we are done for". This is actually the best idea Obama has had in 4 years.

    March 1, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  25. WISEupFED

    At this point government might as well be an island. Everyone in D.C is looking out for their own self interests. ( I have seen more maturity in a preschool classroom!) The only backs they are protecting are those whom make their wallets fatter. No one has any real intention doing any real work. Poor things, it's hard and it may make those powerful friends angry. Better to sit around and make excuses. If any one of us acted like this in our jobs we would be fired. Seems like such standards apply only to those below the law. Those who run it are apparently above it. They all make me sick! What a sad and humiliating day to day to be an American.

    March 1, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
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