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. Kris

    The fact of the matter is simply this: Obama is just like every other politician... he cares only about his own bank account and you were all duped by the flavorful looking Kool-Aid. A flat tax would have solved these problems long ago before he started. Along with certain leniency or repealing certain laws we could save money and even profit but our "Liberal" leader has done nothing of the sort in the last 4 years. Passing the buck along has become commonplace and pointing the finger has replaced the promised action. This current situation will have a major impact on the middle to lower class far greater than the upper class and these officials won’t be losing a dime in the process. End rant and on to fixing the problem, first enact a flat tax on income across the board its fair and it allows accurate projections for future budgets all the way from the bottom up. Second stop wasting money on stupid court cases involving such minor infractions as marijuana... legalize it, market sell it. Save your false sense of morality for your churches, it’s obvious there is no real objection to addiction or poisoning one’s self evident by the current legality of alcohol and cigarettes. This is just a short way to fix it with MANY more options but it’s a start.

    March 1, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  2. Rudy NYC

    Lynne Buchanan wrote:

    @rs. Did you ever hear of a promise made in the campaign of 2008 to bring the spending under control?
    Yes, then Sen. Barack Obama did make promises to bring spending under control in early 2008. He had been making remarks like that throughout 2007, after he announced his candidacy. Since that time, the entire landscape changed. Major Wall Steet banks suddenly began to fail, the markets crashed, and of course we had the great giveaway known as TARP.

    BTW, the Tea Party has also promised to "bring spending under control" and look how far they've gotten. They've actually made some progress, though. The annual budget deficit has been decreasing from one year to the next since Barack Obama took office. That's a big CHANGE from the annual 7-9% increases that we say throughout the Bush years. Did you know that the annual budget doubled between 2001 and 2009?

    March 1, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  3. Borderless

    Obama's idea. When is he going to take ownership for his fails? When is the US going to start holding this president accountable? Obama has made the wildly false assertion that his is the most transparent administration in history. Mr. President, it's time you step up to the mic and answer some hard questions. Don't go on talk shows or Reddit. Answer hard questions from seasoned reporters. You owe it to this nation. Stop hiding, you coward.

    March 1, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  4. crash14

    Our government does not care for its people. If they did, I don't think they would have left on Thursday for a 3 or 4-day weekend. They would have sat their fat behinds in session, trying to figure a way out of this mess. NOPE!! To hell with it, I'm going home they say. Let someone else deal with this. Curious. All of the 800,000 Government jobs going to be cut, does that include Senators and Congressmen, or just the "Blue-collar" worker who barely makes enough to get by every pay check? Yes. Spending needs to be "curbed", but why is it ALWAYS at the expense of the people who have everything to lose? For years, everyone made jokes about the bread lines in Russia and their failing state of affairs, well guess what, now we're the jokes! Except the agencies who provide service for the soup kitchens are being cut. We don't even have bread lines. Maybe Obama will give out free mints!

    March 1, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  5. Ancient Texan

    If 2.4% cuts in INCREASED spending is going to throw our whole world into chaos, then our country was in even deeper trouble that we expected. Scare tactics and hype is the only thing this inept, incompetent administration knows how to do. Then they are dead set on punishing the nation in order to say" I told you so."

    March 1, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  6. bob curran

    Why does "Bonehead" look like he hates the entire world-especially President Obama? Congress is taking off for a long weekend right in the middle of the worse economic crisis this country has seen in a long,long,long time. Probably because they really don't care what happens to this country or they would have stuck around, they are getting out of tombstone while the getting is good!

    March 1, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  7. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Sequester??? Can the American people please wake up???

    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 Era Tax Cuts for the rich – 1.2 Trillion

    The GOP's Pork Barrel earmark for the Gravina Island Bridge to no where – $398 million. Note: the total population of Gravina Island is 50 inhabitants.

    Bush's TARP Bailout that failing Wall Street Banks gave to their partying CEO's – $700 Billion

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

    March 1, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  8. atheist2432

    Great to see some cuts happening finally.

    March 1, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  9. george samson

    Great news.

    March 1, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  10. Nanners

    Pretty simple, vote them ALL out!

    March 1, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  11. wade

    Yes thanks to Obama it is here. His refusal to except he is not GOD or King but President and his job is to lead not follow and blame. People overwhelmingly want the GOV to cut spending as re[ported in pol after pol but Obama never listens to the people and never work's with the PEOPLE"S hose of representatives. Obama wanted this it was his sequester after all and he made it happen. He knows Americans are stupid after all he was elected twice and they will probably blame the GOP the ones that are not to blame at all. The Liberal news like CNN and NBC and ABC who twist the truth ,lie to America to protect Obama on a daily basis even going so far as to alter tapes or stories or fake them altogether so as to make sure Obama is always seen in a good light. The very worst president in history but for the Liberals it is important that even at the cost of bankrupting America they protect Obama.

    March 1, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  12. dmanSD

    Working an FY13 budget based on a contiuing resolution based on 2012 enacted funds – $2.469 trillion
    Expenditures 2012: $3.796 trillion (enacted)
    Deficit: $1.327 trillion (enacted)
    Sequestration 1 March 2013: $85B
    Approximate Total % of current budget .003% My math may be off but the point is this squestration does nothing to fix the deficiti.
    What they are doing is relying on driving fear into peoples and telling them that everything will fall apart. What they are doing is hand picking programs to cut, like DoD to show biggest impact. Like those that wrote previously, what's the deal with all the funds sent overseas that end up padding individual accounts for presidents and dictators who continue to take advantage of USAs help.
    What about all the money spent on medical (billions) for illegals? How many more people are going to get free education? When are we going to finally figure out that we can't continue to spend funds like this all over the world.

    March 1, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  13. Eileen Porter

    Nothing wrong with spending cuts–it is needed. What is wrong is that it is not enough to even begin solving the debt problem AND we sat by and said nothing while allowing Obama to dictate where the cuts were made. Congress and House (OUR representatives) should have listened to us and established some better cuts. We are continueing to allow pork while we cut the necessary meat. We have no one to blame but ourselves cause a 52 + % of Americans voted for Obama and he has led us straight into this mess.

    March 1, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  14. Al

    This is just one of the many failures of this president. What a jerk !!

    March 1, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  15. JC

    Maybe everyone is actually on the same side....the side of Wall Street and "Big Money" and this is playing out exactly as they want it to....."people" made a lot of money on 9/11, the mortgage crisis and other, what do are they calling them? Manufactured Crises? Betting on the losses.....When Budge-A-Geddon happens...check the records and see who made it will be interesting.....

    Not the first time.....didn't one of the Too Big To Fail Banks make tons of money betting against Mortgage Backed Securities while they were encouraging their clients to buy them???

    March 1, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  16. WillyNilly

    The cuts are not a good thing for the economy for sure. Look at the bright side... perhaps we'll learn that we can manage. Maybe we'll figure out that there really is a lot of waste in some areas. Could be that the people will be so incensed that they'll elect a whole new Congress next time and throw the bums out. Nah.... that won't happen.

    March 1, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  17. sally-ann

    If everyone paid a fair share we could double out revenue base. If we put everyone to work we could double it again.

    March 1, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  18. Anonymous

    Seriously – who's surprised?

    March 1, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  19. tuscany590

    Hey blah blah; Your posting the same junk over & over but you miss the 900 billion dollar Obama Stimulus, or shall we say donor paybacks, which have not accomplished a thing, unless you count getting this incompetent fool reelected.

    March 1, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  20. LOL

    "This Friday is also a day many never expected would come" are you serious CNN? EVERYONE knew except for you CNN!!!

    March 1, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  21. ProudAmerican

    We teach our children how great our country is, and how lucky we are to be Americans, but here is the greatest country in the world fighting amongs themselves. I see myself as a good human being, willing to help those that need help but I am also a realist. How can we send millions of dollars overseas to help another nation revolt against its government and at the same time layoff hundreds of hardworking americans. Is Washington going to send financial and humanitarian aid to our states, when americans are not longer able to pay for the basic of human needs? When our children start starving? All I ask is for both parties to stop thinking about themselves and start thinking about the people that elected them to those positions. We need to stop identifying ourselves as Republicans and Democrats and jsut identify ourselves as AMERICANS!!! May God bless this great country.

    March 1, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  22. Realist

    Seriously – who is surprised?

    March 1, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  23. n222s

    Secession. Democracy doesn't work, someone else said (which is why we are a democratic republic but I digress).

    Blame every Republican you want (the only way for progressives to listen to you) but we have done a poor job of educating the populace. I'm NOT assigning blame. But to think otherwise is silly. We have a large segment of the population that has incredibly high self-esteem but lack the skills or knowledge or accomplishments to back up that level of self-regard.

    Many lack the skills to balance their own check points or read the fine print on a mortgage let alone wisely choose our leaders. And if you tell the average person that we can't grow our way out of debt (even Krugman admits) or what purchasing our own debt does to the dollar over time, their eyes glaze over.

    It isn't that they lack intelligence. They were poorly educated and are too busy trying to make their way in the world to make sense of much of anything. To whit; we have met the enemy and it is us.

    March 1, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  24. dc

    I am 100% confident that a private consulting firm could walk into every federal agency and achieve a 3% cost reduction without decreasing services one bit, and probably do it in the first week. In most cases, I bet they could do it without reducing headcount. I'm 100% confident that they could achieve these phantom 9-12% "the sky is falling" cuts in every agency without decreasing services as well, although that would likely mean actually bringing their bloated government payrolls and headcounts back in line with their private-sector counterparts to create an org chart that actually made sense relative to work flow. The majority of it could probably just be done by putting resource controls in place. A government official who can't make a 3% budget reduction vs LY work in his organization is in the wrong job, period. It's not that hard. In fact, it's not hard at all.

    March 1, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  25. GW99

    Hopefully, this will stick and improve and go down in history!!!

    March 1, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
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