The day that was never supposed to happen is here
March 1st, 2013
06:00 AM ET
10 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.

-’s Jeanne Sahadi and CNN’s Gregory Wallace contributed to this report

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

    I see quite a few people pointing out that all working Americans too ka 2% paycut earlier this year and "Government" should have to do the same. Let me remind you all, that "Government" is not taking a 2% paycut... because the Government doesnt get a paycheck. I too took that same 2% paycut in January... and now my family and I have taken an additional 20% pay cut! So, how many of you are willing to do the same in the name of breaking down Government spending? How many of you are willing to do your same jobs for 20% less pay? Oh, and you'll expect the same level of customer service too, we should still show up with smiles on our face right?

    March 1, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  2. Larke Marie

    The uniter in chief has turned out to be the divider in chief, he believes in politics first and country second! Wait till Obamacare taxes kick in, the voters will revolt!

    March 1, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  3. Jody

    Now is the time for any remaining courageous members of congress to step forward and act in the manner our founding fathers envisioned Congress operating – doing the best they can for the benefit of ALL the citizens in the U.S. Start by giving Federal agencies a 12 month budget. I doubt federal agencies are operating efficiently when they can't plan for 12 months in advance. While I have my personal views on what I would like to see cut and not cut, the congress failing to even make an attempt to use their intelligence to compromise and make the difficult decisions on what we can no longer afford to fund is absurd. But then since I am unable to contribute $100,000 to anyone's political campaign, my views and the direct impacts of the current political stalemate on my family and neighbors mean little to any elected official in Washington. Congressional members can fly back to their states, whip $9 out of their pockets if they fly a certain airline and quickly get thru security. They are more likely to be worrying if their nanny is legally in the country or that their grandchild gets on the waiting list of the best preschool then worrying about the mother earning $12 an hour and trying to make a better life for her children, losing her child's head start slot on short notice, worrying about how to piece together any affordable daycare which certainly won't include preschool programs so her children enter kindergarten with the same skills as the child of congressman, so she can keep her job which isn't paying enough to keep food on the table, have a safe place to live and affordable medical care. I realize that sometimes congress may make decisions that aren't necessarily in my best interest but are in the best interests of a vast number of Americans. But I refuse to vote for any party or person that can't put the good of the majority of the country's citizens above their ideological beliefs. Is there anyone left in Washington who will trust and use their intelligence to deal with the mess? This is no longer a debate about welfare people draining our resources or overpaid federal employees, this is a political battle between 2 political parties unyielding on any ideological viewpoints, and unconcerned with the consequences/impacts on anyone, except those have considerable sums of money to donate to their reelection campaigns and the 2 political parties.

    March 1, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  4. Andrew

    Can you say too much government? Time for a revolution

    March 1, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  5. Schoolboy!

    I got it fire all in Congress in Senate stop the massive bleeding! Put the voting back to the people! They are overpaid, bureaucratic BS'ers who only look at party not the people. Youuur Firred!!!

    March 1, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  6. Alex

    I'm glad they are going to take the weekend off early, especially on a thursday. I guess all u.s. soldiers should take the weekend off early too, Mission first people, fix the issue that you have know for the last year or even more than that. Every politician should take a large paycut because they are not worth what they are getting paid. This is embrassing and they probably think it's a joke that they look like incompentent clowns on TV.

    March 1, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  7. Frank

    Ohh no! this will lead to many distraught people that snap and shoot people and it will all lead back to gun control...

    March 1, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  8. Gurgyl

    I think it the time to remove all these gongressional idiots–they are acting worst than Talibans in USA.

    March 1, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  9. Tea Party

    So Congress has since 2011 to get this done and they fail...and it's Obama's Fault?

    Dear fellow citizens. Congress believes your dumb. Prove them wrong.

    March 1, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  10. Tonya

    Mitch McConnell said from day one that we will not work with " that man". They have not worked with that man.
    So to all of you good old boys and you know who you are. If you think the American people are so stupid that we don't see what this is; Racism at its finest. The whole world is watching. Shame on you.

    From a fair white American!

    March 1, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  11. bradley

    Strip them on citizenship.

    March 1, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  12. Enough!

    The biggest Threat toU.S? CONGRESS! This is Treason.

    March 1, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  13. Dr Veruju

    This is all part of the shock therapy that the criminal elements running the US government are so fond of.

    March 1, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  14. davecu

    I'm REALLY concerned now!
    Maxine Waters warns that 170 million jobs will be lost.
    What concern me is that this race baiter is paid by MY tax dollars to bellow blatant lies without being accountable.

    March 1, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  15. Crocker

    "Every program, project and activity has to be trimmed without regard for what it is, according to the OMB." Well good. They can start by trimming the politicians salaries and benefits until they decide to DO THE JOB WE PAY THEM TO DO. Maybe it's high time we recycle Congress. Out with the old and in with the new.

    March 1, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  16. yep

    I meant to say our kids shouldn't have to suffer for our debt.

    March 1, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  17. Pan

    Alright... so the country is going to shi*t and Congress is on vacation. How is this news?

    March 1, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  18. Pan

    Alright... so the country is going to hell and Congress is on vacation. How is this news?

    March 1, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  19. Dave

    Makes me wish we could do something like the countries with parliamentary governments do and have a "no confidence" vote, dissolve the whole thing, and start over.

    March 1, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  20. Richard Shia

    There is a lot of waste in US government, and if there is a will there is a way to cut down all of the waste.

    When I was on assignment in Bangkok, I remembered the US ambassy used to have those lavishing parties in five star hotels. I used to think where all those funding came frome, the tax payers are paying for them of course.

    March 1, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  21. Ferret out the BS

    Ugh...Bama bad....Rethuglicans good....ugh

    March 1, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  22. Name Danielle Simm

    GOP Godless other people, greed is a terrible thing. What is going to happen when the backbone of our country goes down. There is not anything Chritian about the GOP. Oh by the way. Where is George Bush? Golfing??? After he spent all of this countrys money. That he said he would pay back. That is why we are in this mess. Going to war! All because he said there were weapons of mass destruction! How many people have to die or lose everything, all because of greed?

    March 1, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |

    citizens of this great nation been a president of a country devastated by a huge deb is not the same as to be in the kichen making burritos,or tacos is much more complex than all you think we are all in this ship if it sink we all go down with filling the pain.

    March 1, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  24. RandyIA


    Read your own post the first thing you shuold do is cut spending, get a budget, then you get additional income. You contradicted yourself on your own post, all you said for a solution was to tax tax tax.

    March 1, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  25. Julie

    Is there anyway we can "FIRE" Congress????

    March 1, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
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