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. nop

    Why is Dow Jones heading the biggest fall?
    1. Reduction in Purchasing Across the Board
    2. American Economic Policy with Europe. Smoot-Hawley Tariff
    3. Involving scams,, fraud, etc soo many of them. Banks can't handle it.
    4. Release the prisoners, cuts, deeper cuts, and allow drug cartels to take over government's technology and power
    5. Unemployment, Layoff. inflation rate of college graduate unemployment.

    Internet Age to Computer Age... Where is it heading?

    March 1, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  2. Alex

    let the cuts happen already!

    March 1, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  3. Greg Williford

    Legal or not this is why I support the Texas Secessionist movement. The Fed Gov. is broken, no longer a government for the people. It wasn't legal when the 13 colonies declared independence, in won't be legal but I think it is necessary. When the government ceases to work for the good of the people it is our responsibility to depose and replace the government. If this continues we can only blame ourselves. Texas Secession.

    March 1, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  4. eric

    Look at the picture = destroy USA

    March 1, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  5. mike

    Well, this just solidifies the thought that our government is not working in the best interests of the people. There is no way we would do this without some kind of influence from the special interest groups that now control the country. There is no deficit issue, this is all made up. The deficit is actually shrinking faster than it has since WW2. Common Sense – the US prints its own money so you can't compare it to your personal finances. The corporate controlled media does a good job of brainwashing the sheeple. Good luck everybody...

    March 1, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  6. Deathtotyrants

    Politician is french for useless....

    March 1, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  7. MM

    This article is pure stupid:
    – From a tax PAYER'S perspective, spending cuts are a GOOD thing.
    – This 2% 'sequester' is NOT MASSIVE. 50% would be much BETTER.

    March 1, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  8. Heather

    How did racism ruin America? This is on Obama and his unfulfilled promises that some people chose to believe.

    March 1, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  9. gbere

    ricke1949 – Obama has no choice in how the cuts are made!

    This is pure idiocy. Egos and self-interest are the only things ruling this county. Shame on all of them.

    March 1, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  10. Andrew

    We can have afford to send Syria 60million dollars and jets to Egypt but we can't afford to keep teachers in school due to tw sequester? America has a real problem and this is just the start.

    March 1, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  11. LWOP

    These "CUTS" are crippling to federal managers trying to execute the many different missions of our nation. They are indeed cuts to the PLANNED FY13 budget. We plan 5 years out, but can't get an execution (current year) budget on time. Fed employees would likely be fired if they missed a deadline on a report to congress with a one week turnaround. Congress has failed to perform their most critical function, even with a 5 year "heads up" from their federal managers who are trying to manage to mving targets!

    March 1, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  12. phdinlogic

    All going as planned
    – elite

    March 1, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  13. MN

    So, you liberals, see what you get for approving what Obama has done with his hand at spending and more spending. Surely, we don't run our households that way, and why should Obama get away with that? We have got to cut the spending and this is just the beginning. Good, it's about time that you realize that the White House has to pay back what it owes. Obama and his croonies are clueless!!

    March 1, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  14. rbrucecarter

    Good. Lets wean people off of government money. It was always unconstitutional – government aid is not a power specifically granted the federal government by the Constitution. It is a power reserved to the people and the states.

    March 1, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  15. Guest

    The truth in a nutshell: Oblabla does not want ANY cuts during his term! His own vision of his legacy trumps solutions for our nations problems. Impeachement is the only way for the name to come back together. After the lefties riot that is.....

    March 1, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  16. anchorite

    We don't SPEND money on illegal immigrants, you fools, we spent a TON of money keeping them out, thanks to your "better safe than sorry" paranoia about border security after 9/11. But luckily for you right wingers these spending cuts will cut border security so more will get in and reduce your costs for you, as you wanted all along. You just wanted to be racist and attack Obama about it, even though he's deported TWICE as many illegals as Bush has.

    March 1, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  17. Nil

    Is anyone in congress going to be affected by the furloughs? Is obvious they want Obama to fail since day 1.

    March 1, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  18. dc

    Another point quick- $85B is not a 9-12% decrease in the budget. The federal operating budget is upwards of $3.5T. The actual impact of sequestration on the federal budget is less than 3%. That's NOTHING. That's an agency doing an honest self-evaluation and making simple, readily-available efficiency improvements. "Low hanging fruit", as they say.

    The entire private sector is just shaking their heads and laughing hysterically at the government's inability to cope with a "productivity increase' (which is how agencies should be viewing it) that is smaller than most corporations self-inflict every year to continue to grow and make themselves more efficient. My company does it every year and it never costs us a single job; we just figure out how to do business smarter, faster, and better. Tell me there isn't any room to do THAT in these federal agencies, huh?

    March 1, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  19. Mike

    Blame Obama all you want for not stopping this or having "18 months to get Congress to work together" (quoted from YC, above). Congress is made up of 535 wealthy people – wealthier than 95% of Americans. Just because Obama is president, does not mean he can work miracles and get 535 other people, all with their own agendas, to agree on what needs to happen. But then again, Obama will likely be the blame for everything that ails 49% of the American people and 38% of the Electoral College.

    March 1, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  20. atheist2432

    Great to see the government actually cutting some spending, even if only a small amount. Let's do another version of this where they cut even more. We are going to find out that the government wastes FAR FAR too much money and can easily run on far less.

    March 1, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  21. Slinky

    nop – typical doom and gloomer. Sorry to disappoint you, but the market will not fall because of the sequester. I know you want it to, but it isn't happening today, and won't over the next few weeks or months, either, not for any of the silly reasons you are regurgitating from some right-wing fear-mongering blowhard.

    March 1, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  22. Enough

    I'm with johnathanness Fire them all and let God sort them out!

    March 1, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  23. kennyzales

    It's all Bush's fault.

    March 1, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  24. Joe

    I'm sure the first spending cut will be the legislators pay.

    March 1, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  25. bully

    Congress should work for $1/ea./yr. It is a priviledge and an honor to represent your people. 2 years max, then give someone else the priviledge. Run out on your job; sorry, you're fired – we have work to do, and if you are not willing to find a solution, we will find someone who can.

    March 1, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
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