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

    This is what Obama wanted all along, yet he has been out speaking against the sequester and blaming the GOP for not stopping it. Obama was the early supporter of the sequester yet now he lies again and again to place blame for the pain that is coming on others. Barack Obama is a con artist that has weaseled his way into the White House twice by deceiving and lying to the American people on everything!!

    March 1, 2013 06:16 am at 6:16 am |
  2. Marie MD

    Dont worry US. Our cogress is hard at work making sure that there are no furloughs (not for them because they keep their whole paycheck even if they don't work every day of the year).
    WAIT!!! Just heard that our politicians left DC yesterday for another long weekend leaving their work undone again!
    For the haters, the President is still at the WH.

    March 1, 2013 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  3. Guest

    Lets stop calling them forced cuts. Both parties signed on and the president signed it into law, they are planned cuts – albeit poorly planned. Could they have fixed it? Yes. Should they have fixed it? Yes. Unfortunately every department of the govt. is on it's own program, lacking sufficient oversight, and spending the tax payers into the poor house. How do we fix it? Screw the tax payer again! Thanks Obama – I knew you werent cut out for the job which is why I didnt vote for you!

    March 1, 2013 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  4. Name lynn

    All the media is talking about the cuts, the media an the news cast what congress an the white house is going to cut, but the people havent heard the president going to do. The people is waiting on obama, obama has to sign the paper to pass or veto. The is saying the congress is the president an what congress says goes, Thas backward media an news cast.

    March 1, 2013 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
  5. jonaty

    Great now we need more cuts

    March 1, 2013 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  6. Reddog

    To all the lawmakers who have left to enjoy their weekend at home without doing what is necessary to avoid this I say one thing: Please do America a favor and don't come back.

    March 1, 2013 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  7. Ray E. (Georgia)

    With a 16.5 Trillion Dollar Federal Debt it is time to close all Federal Sccial Programs and return them to the States for their disposition. After these cuts take place the people will adjust just fine.

    March 1, 2013 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  8. jeff

    They sky is falling, this is the "ONLY" way we are going to get "ANY" cuts in spending in Washington.

    March 1, 2013 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  9. joesmith

    new world order, just around the corner..just another way to re-state..those who have it,$$, and those who,don't,and won't..

    March 1, 2013 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  10. joesmith

    you must think, every American citizen will just roll over..NOT the case..

    March 1, 2013 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  11. joesmith

    let me ask you a question..when are you going to do an indepth inquiry of the bilderberg group, and there membership., and how they have been given a free pass by the so-called elite media?? exactly what is their agenda..

    March 1, 2013 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  12. Rudy NYC

    It is newsworthy to note that House Republicans have not voted on one measure that addresses the sequester. Bills passed before the November elections were meaningless, ideologically biased, tactical votes: taken so that Republicans could have some false talking points.

    Neither side was going to act prior to the outcome of the elections. Since that time, the House has done absolutely nothing, not even one vote, towards resolving the sequester much less seeking compromise. The only actions that the Repubilcans have taken have been to make self prophesizing predictions that the sequestered cuts will come to pass. Isn't it amazing how accurate they were? Remember how The House took no votes [they took a vacation, instead, just like they did this time] prior to the Jan 1 deadline, and let that one expire?

    March 1, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  13. Ferret out the BS

    I hope our congressional leaders are really proud of the way they stood up to each other, the American people and compromise. Yes, their platitudes are safe and waiting for the next week or so when they can all stand on them again and yell at each other across the hall and make it another week that nothing gets done. I am convinced that several conservatives want this country to go into economic depression with the resulting pain and suffering that goes along with it. Some in my organization have lost their jobs as of today, I hope this makes our Representatives proud.

    March 1, 2013 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  14. survival gear

    Think of it you're going camping. A number of hardcore protesters, which uses down insulation and real Coyote fur. survival gear

    March 1, 2013 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  15. The Elephant in the Room

    The Republican Party is responsible for these cuts. Let`s not hear, nor tolerate, claims of FALSE EQUIVALENCY regarding both parties being blamed.

    It was the Debt Ceiling spectacle in 2011, beought on by Obstructionist Tea Party Republicans that: 1.) torpedoed Obama`s "Grand Bargin" with Boehner. Eric Cantor has been exposed for his scheming to kill the GB as his contribution of to make Barack a 1-term President.
    2.) Agreed to the squester because the deal gave Boehner "98% of what they wanted" [was this one of those facrual inaccuracies the GOP ia known for?]
    3.) refused to compromise on the BALANCED APPROACH [Revenues & spending cuts to prevent / replace the sequester, Bob Woodward] via the so-called Super Committee.

    If the GOP had done it`s job, put America 1st [not threatened our AAA credit rating] or simply met the INTENT of the sequester bill, we wouldn`t be in the mess we are today. Fire the entire House GOP!

    March 1, 2013 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  16. Pete

    Just ask what job,infastructure and social bills has been passed or addressed by republicans,nada,zilch,nothing period..Over 300 fillibusters going back to Pres.Obamas inaugeration by republicans and this sequester is just another in a long line of debacles that your arrogent,ignorent republicans can't run away from..Remember republicans you historicly have tried more then once since Hoovers Great Depression to destroy America but as usual this country keeps bouncing back to face the same republican idiots again that just can't seem to get anything right can yah!!

    March 1, 2013 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  17. GLK20c

    "The day that was never supposed to happen is here."


    March 1, 2013 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  18. Dave T

    Today the Rs and Ds could not reach a budget deal. It is hopeless that they ever will. Today we are without a Pope and we are out of hope. Was it god's will to not change the political landscape even after spending 2 billions dollars on the last election? I guess this is a test to love your enemy; though we are all Americans. If you were to place the first letters of both parties you will discover the following. You have R&D to advance our scientific knowledge; thus create new jobs. You get your medical advice from your DR. Either way we need the Rs and Ds to work together, no matter who leads. We will not progress things unless the Rs and Ds work together. Today we are without a Pope and we are out of hope.

    March 1, 2013 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  19. Anonymous

    love that congress gets four day weekends... must be nice

    March 1, 2013 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  20. Joe

    If you want to blame someone, blame the American people. The American people voted for leaders that are simply not qualified to be in office starting with Obama. Americans voted for failure and Obama delivered failure.

    March 1, 2013 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  21. Don

    This is equal to 3% of the budget. I sure if any household was told they have to cut 3% out of their budget they would still be just fine. We need to stop spending so much money on reasearch only to have the program stopped after 10s of billions were invested.

    March 1, 2013 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  22. SokrMom

    Polls show that everyone in America except Republican Congressmen think the Sequest/Fiscal Cliff is a really bad idea.

    March 1, 2013 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  23. rad666

    "President Barack Obama and his administration "

    The same president and administration that put all those programs on the chopping block?

    March 1, 2013 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  24. Meki60

    Obama is without a doubt the worst Potus we have ever had in the world.

    March 1, 2013 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  25. Meki60

    Woodward is a hero

    March 1, 2013 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
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