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. rs


    America has become the land of the Fruits and Nuts.........the FAKE President is leading us down the path of RUIN.

    A TRUE President is to LEAD not to Divide the Country
    Interesting point. Which political party in America has held the economy hostage for the last 6 years?
    Which Party vowed NEVER to work with the President, in fact swearing to make him a "one-term" President?
    Which Party filibustered in the Senate yesterday two different fixes for the GOP Sequester Bill?

    March 1, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  2. Solomon Walker

    Yahoo! is filtering out users that politically oppose Mr. Obama today.
    Comment appears but the text box is empty.

    Must be one of the reasons for re-grouping at the office.

    March 1, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  3. onebro5

    Jackmex is right... where does our government get off giving 60 bil to Syria and let's not forget all the aid we give Pakistan – these are 2 Terroristic countries

    March 1, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  4. Beth

    Couldn't agree with you more, Cat. For not doing their jobs, Congress and the Senate should all be FIRED! That was the topic of conversation around our breakfast club table this morning, and everyone concurred, regardless of their party preferences. So why aren't we, the American people, doing anything about it?

    March 1, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  5. rs


    Nobody to blame for this except Obama he signed off on it and so did the House and Senate.

    Obama has to learn you can't continue to spend what you don't have
    Gee, Ed1- Ever hear of George W. Bush? Were you alive then?

    March 1, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  6. McRCN

    Obama will likely be the last President to sign a bill into law if he is actually against it. The bottom line is if you sign it, you own it. If you are against it, you veto it and make the Congress override the veto.

    March 1, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  7. jus-say'n

    Again... the middle/low class will be hurt the most and have to pay for governments failure to manage debt and play well with each other. The GOP will not let the wealthy step up or make them pay but they sure will let the working class suffer. My family and I are facing a 20% income loss for the rest of the year because of this.... yet the GOP just keeps saying I just want something for nothing. I just want to keep my income... not asking for anything more!

    March 1, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  8. Mrs. gg

    Ok, here is a prime example- we have so many americans out of work and homeless, however, washington lets these american companies ( insurance and cell phone companies) outsource their customer service to other countries!! I do medical billing and I just got off the phone with someone in the phillipines!! Really, the insuranc ecompany is Cigna, an american company!!

    March 1, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  9. Brian

    If the directors of the various departments can't find a significant portion if not all of the required cuts through eliminating waste, eliminating duplication and improving efficiency, then they need to be the first ones let go. 85 billions is not that much and given the amount of government waste, it should be easy to find this money without breaking a sweat.

    March 1, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  10. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer


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

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

    March 1, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  11. RONALD777

    Obama is probably out playing golf today. What a worthless leader we have!

    March 1, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  12. mike

    Gotta love the conflicting GOP talking points: "it's not a big deal!", but..."it's Obama's fault!". If it's not a big deal, why are they deflecting blame? Bottom line: it IS a big deal, and fixing this is a CONGRESSIONAL responsibility. The President doesn't manage the budget. Congress does. The President can only sign or veto what they put in front of him. PUT SOMETHING IN FRONT OF HIM.

    March 1, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  13. calamity jane

    I think everyone in Washington at this point is mentally unstable. I'm guessing they have arranged for excellent disability insurance for themselves though.

    March 1, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  14. Lynne Buchanan

    I wish the Senate would have at least read and responded to the TWO laternative plans to the sequester the House put forth. Many of us recognize the president is taking us into darker and darker days, but if Harry Reid were not such an obstructionist, maybe the MANY items put to the senate would get voted on and BIPARTISANSHIP would actually happen. Until that guy is voted out, there will be no House and Senate working together. He is a disgrace to the position he holds and is singularly responsible for most of the gridlock. Too bad it has taken the sequester to make spending cuts. I once thought, "this president is a smart guy; why doesn't he LEAD on budget issues." Now I realize, he's not smart; he's just arrogant and instead of improving how Washington works, he's brought Chicago politics to town and employs bullying and threats. It's time the Congress - both sides - quit behaving like lapdogs and recognize the importance of having separate branches of government that balance the executive branch and not cowtow to it. Thank gawd for one bright moment since 2009 - the sequester forces spending cuts; not the right way, but we'll survive better than doing nothing!

    March 1, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  15. dwight

    Why don't we try cutting the spending before taxing the very wealthy? Let's see we tax the very wealthy so that they want to move out of the country and take the company with them so they won't be taxed even though they pay for those that don't work at all and then we give that money to people in the government who waste it on politically correct, but stupid programs or fancy dinners, flights to exotic conventions, etc.

    March 1, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  16. Iowa MAN

    I for one am very happy! Every WORKING person had to tighten their belts in Jan when we went back to the standard SSI payments.NO taxes did not increase we lost the discount items are not on sale for ever! In Feb we had to tighten even more when gas started to climb again. If cutting the budget by 9% means they have to give people unpaid days off I am sure they will be fine.

    March 1, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  17. Lori R

    I don't think people really understand what is going on. Everyone is saying 2% is no big deal. It is to me. It means instead of working 40 hours per week, I will be working 32. My husband is active duty army( thank God they are exempt). I have 3 children and just took an approx 10% pay cut with this measure. I work at a military hospital serving our service members and make about $30k a year. Tell me how this is a good thing again? It isn't doing anything to the people that can take the cut in pay. It is once again taking it from the people that can't afford it. I really wish people had a clue. And to think, my husband fights for this country?

    March 1, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  18. Jesse from KC

    The problem is that this is such a polarizing issue. Liberals blame the Conservatives, Conservatives blame the Liberals.

    Dems vs Repubs again.

    We spend too much money on our military. We mis-manage the money spent on domestic programs. We robbed social security and now owe it enough to fund to it fully for over 60 years.

    These are the things that BOTH sides have done to destroy the economy.

    However, with all of this happening, the rich get richer.

    You really think these people care about you? Any of them? They don't. They care about who pays for their bottom line. They care about power.

    The fairy-tale land of America is being shown to be a lie.

    March 1, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  19. guest2014

    all those putting all the blame on gwb: why not blame george washington? lincoln, wilson, roosevelt, kennedy and of course nixon, reagan, carter?
    all history and gone.
    our problems are here and now and we only can look to our future. means 4 years obama administration, take it!
    full stop

    March 1, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  20. Bunch of Jokers

    Its amazing to see how many idiots are out there and cant see the truth ...

    March 1, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  21. Sidb1980

    Fire them all, including our "On Tour" President who talks, but doesn't act. He started this problem. HR offered solutions that the Senate wouldn't consider. A leader would make them come together, but yes, for his photo op he calls them in at the last hour. Frankly let it ride. Maybe people will finally wake up that we have a spending and bankruptcy problem.

    March 1, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  22. Tank Manhammer

    God bless our crappy government. I'm sure this is what the founding fathers had in mind back in the late 1700's.

    March 1, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  23. bee13

    "The Day That Was Never Supposed to Happen...?" What? Is the author kidding us? Never Supposed to Happen? IT MUST HAPPEN! There is no way to avoid its EVENTUAL HAPPENING. If faith in the system is to be maintained then the accounts MUST balance at some point in time, and it seems that time begins now.
    This, this sequester that has revealed itself unto us, is just the beginning of austerity that MUST visit the United States of America in order for things to balance themselves out. The bad news: It will get worse before it gets better but IT MUST, otherwise all faith in the system is lost.

    March 1, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  24. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    O' and Bush's tax cuts for for the rich – $1.2 Trillion.

    March 1, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  25. ricke1949

    No money. No programs. A good manager knows where to make the correct cuts.
    Lets see if Obama can manage.

    March 1, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
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