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. Jason Replogle

    Why do we keep giving countries millions and millions if not billions of dollars but can't afford to pay teachers, police officers, fire fighters.... Makes Zero Sence. I just wish someone could HONESTLY answer this one question. America is heading down the toilet. It's sad to think about how nice it used to be.

    March 1, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  2. Bob

    At 11:59:59 I Will on My way home from a job, Which allows me to Pay for a bunch of politicians, who really need to be fired for Bad Job Performance.

    March 1, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  3. Soundchaser2013

    Let's do away with both parties...good for absolutely nothing but a WASTE of space. We need honest people to do whats right for the people and not themselves

    March 1, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  4. Hunter

    Good. Hopefully this is just the start.

    March 1, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  5. Harry 101

    Well when you think about it this is great for both party's. Those who support the President and his party will continue to claim it's the GOP that is the problem. Those that support the GOP will continue to claim it's the Presideent and his party that are the problem. Each of these groups will be correct and depending on the news source you read or watch you will find support for your view point. Those that don't support you option will for most they will choose the easy way discredit by name calling and negitive labeling. What I see is the being of cuts that or needed maybe not the ones I prefer but a start. Once the public learns to except them there will be more. The door has been opened on something both sides were to afraid to touch. This could be turning point for america. With these cuts both sides will find it easier to start looking at reducing the tax loop holes.

    March 1, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  6. Gazoo

    Increase the cuts 5 fold!
    It's time the govt lives like it's minions.

    March 1, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  7. Darkseider

    Hmmm... Sequester happens and the market responds positively. Go figure? Now let's really make some cuts to the tune of $300 – $400 billion.

    March 1, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  8. Fields

    End the federal government NOW!

    March 1, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  9. Bob

    The administration is knowingly making it worse. The cuts are only 2 percent, but they willingly are cutting more to make people feel the pain. It's disgusting. It's all theatrics to blame Republicans for sequestration. The cut is so tiny over 10 years (not a cut, a cut in an increase of spending) that Obama needs to really stop making it wore than it is.

    March 1, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  10. Dolores Lois

    Tax increases for the wealthy vs spending cuts for needed government services? Is that what it comes down to? I guess the top 1% calls the shots... Shame on these public servants for not serving the public. What job let's you walk out instead of doing what has to be done? Most of us would be fired on the spot. We the people should be furious and throw them out of office for their incompetency. How many millions of dollars would we save by slashing the House of Representatives in half?

    March 1, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  11. Common sense

    If any employee orked this way : missung deadlines, blaming others for their own inabilities, leaving early while leaving important projects unfinished, they would lose their job. I say we bring in some temps.

    March 1, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  12. Angel

    I do support the cuts if at end of the road will really help alliviate the deficit. I am an Active Duty military Service Member and I can tell you all that have no idea in what kind and crazy and unnecesary things the military spends tax payers' money. I am a logistician and I can tell of many and a Government Credit Card account holder (GPC), and I can tell that although it is legal but so many, many times that I have to go and buy(pay with the card) for items, services, events, and/or supplies that are not necesary to accomplish a mission. Many times you go a buy something just because that is what your Commander wants or likes. That should not be right. They want to play Baseball, (oh we need uniforms) yeah they want you to go pay for and order uniforms for an entire softball team, fortunately it is ilegal and this cannot happen. Another, Military Coin traditions, which allows certain Ranks and/or possition to have allocated budget money for this, spending Millions of $$$$ on things that are not necesary. (3) There has to be a better control of the Supply ordering system. Many SMs take advantage of this and knowing and/or not commit fraud, waste and abuse by ordering many, many items and equipment (goodies) that are unncesary. This is just an example of couple of the many things that we spend our own (taxpayers') money in. But it is real .....

    March 1, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  13. Matthew

    Disgusting. We are doomed. We are hastening our own demise with these artificially manufactured crises. Instead of working against ourselves, we should be implementing solutions to the real problems facing this country. Too many air-traffic controllers isn't one of them.

    For absolute, lasting, and bitter shame. Our leadership is appalling.

    March 1, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  14. Dave

    The Republican party will never recover from this day.

    March 1, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  15. Bob

    2.4 percent cut leads to cutting 10 percent from non-defense spending? That makes no sense.

    March 1, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  16. Sigh

    And yet, I'm still alive.

    March 1, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  17. vester

    Thank you GOP. May I have another!!

    March 1, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  18. Jeff

    Finally! This is the first time we get some spending cuts (AKA a slow down in the growth of spending) in this administration.

    March 1, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  19. jack fitzgerald

    Even with these small cuts, the morons in DC are still spending 30% more this year than what we taxpayers are giving them to spend so they are taking out more credit card debt with China in OUR names (most likely our children and grandchildren will pay for nice). What moron would take out a loan to pay people in government jobs? Seriously, we need to cut spending by 30% NOW or raise taxes by 30% NOW. No more debt!!! Live within your means. We working Americans have pay the debt back.....what are you not getting?

    I wish the news would stop with the lies. Spending is still increasing this year despite these piddly cuts.

    March 1, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  20. Cathy

    A 10% cut in unemployment benefits, perfect, let's take from those who WERE working, lost there jobs and still want to work! How about a 10% cut in every politicians salary? Imagine the dent that would make. This entire admin. makes me sick.

    March 1, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  21. @Kris

    "A flat tax would have solved these problems long ago before he started. "

    LMFAO – Dems proposed a flat tax over 30 years ago.

    The GOP has balked at it ever since.

    March 1, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  22. Joe B. Pa.

    WHY are we giving AID to SYRIA and --– -- --- When we are down and OUT.

    March 1, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  23. Archibald Meade

    I believe President Obama is here to lead United States and the free world.

    March 1, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  24. Jazz

    You can bet that the conservatives will be the first ones to scream when their social security or disability checks are late, when horse meat enters our food chain as it has in Europe and when the unemployment rate skyrockets because of lay offs in small businesses dependent on the federal government for their income. Shame on Congress!! I would love to see Obama take a bold step and stop all of this nonsense as Lincoln did-what does he have to lose? The conservatives conveniently forget that it was Bush that got us into this economic mess and no one, Democrat or Replican, would be able to turn this around in 4 years. Obama was doomed to fail from the start because he is black and conservatives don't want a black man to succeed in this country-might give others ideas. I am ashamed of our country.

    March 1, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |

    The GOP party ran on JOBS, JOBS, JOBS, turned around and manufactur­­­­ed a debt crises and got USA downgraded­­­­. Mitch McConnell was quoted as saying "My first priority is to defeat Barack Obama". Hence the GOP party would rather [not vote to improve the economy] then allow any chance of the current president for re-ellecti­­on. There are Millions unemployed.

    You read posts and see the emotional reactions, and it leaves no doubt in recognizin­­­g how some are controlled and used. The GOP & Tea Party aggressive­­­ly and stubbornly block and fault all efforts, without concern for the costs to the people, concentrat­­­ing only on their political ambitions. The Republican­s & Tea Partyer's uses every effort without conscience to con the people and manipulate public opinion. Republican­­­­s used to stand for something, and there were actually sane discussion­­­­s between parties. I used to respect Republican­­­­s at one time – now they are all disappoint­­­­ing hypocrites­­­.

    March 1, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
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