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. Mike

    Project Federa deficit for year 2013 is $901 Billion dollars and these baffoons are making a fuss about $85 Billion cut.
    That's merely less than 10% of what it should be.

    March 1, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  2. Kate

    Thursday starts the weekend!! Mine starts on Friday. Friday is when real jobs that real people work start. It is time to stop paying these people in the Senate and Congress. It is a privilege to do that, not a job. Why are we paying these people so much money for them to be filling their own pockets. They aren't there for the people of America, they are there for themselves. Their seat was bought not earned. I wish the real people of America could have a say in what these people make. They should have to live like some of us do. Then let's see how quick some of these laws would change.

    March 1, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  3. vester

    Great job gop! Flush whats left of america down the toilet like your useless party.

    March 1, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  4. Hank C

    Why can't our government stop giving away money that we don't have? For instance, money given to countries for various agenda's and/ or interests could be a huge gain in our deficit. This is misappropriation of funds that we don't have. Giving away money to these countries that already hates us is just crazy! AND IT NEEDS TO STOP!!!

    March 1, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  5. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer


    If you're trying to go down the GOPT's road of stressing fiscal responsibility and accusing the President of reckless spending, please see my previous post. Secondly, when the President took office in 2009, the economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month and our country faced the likelihood of a depression. As a result,,the two stimulus packages passed by the Obama administration in 2009 and 2010 were done so out of NECESSITY to stabilize and regrow the economy and put Americans back to work. Let's face it, it is the GOP who has been recklessly and fiscally irresponsible.

    March 1, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  6. God

    United States should have that military budgets on the destroying all Drug sources in South America.

    March 1, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  7. JohnParryJones

    Given how much we really need to cut, this $85B is a small amount and if our current administration gets it way will be offset by new spending. The cycle needs to be broken. We really need to cut. A lot more.

    March 1, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  8. Dude Love

    Obama pays hundreds of billions in bank recovery stimulus to go into the pockets of a few dozen people, yet a sub 100 billion dollar cut is somehow endangering 10s of thousands of jobs and who knows what all else. "SURE".

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

    Today is the day that the federal government does not get to INCREASE spending as much as it wants.


    It's the same as you believing you would get a 5% pay raise, but found out it was only a 2.5% pay raise.

    We, American citizens, are being lied to every day.

    March 1, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  10. n222s

    ProudAmerican said: "Is Washington going to send financial and humanitarian aid to our states'.

    That, my friend, is the problem. We send money to the federal government so they can send it back to us. I realize I am taking the post slightly out of context but my point is still valid. It isn't that Obama is bad or the government is bad. It is that there is too much power vested in the federal government. Why did Jersey and NY have to go begging to the feds for money (60 billion...hmmm, we can't do without 85 billion?) and THEN we find out that, of course, there was pork built into the bill. Surprise, surprise, surprise.

    I don't want to do away with the federal government. NOT AT ALL. I just want to reduce their impact on the country a little, force them to live a little closer to their means and invest more power in state and local governments. Because that way, my vote and voice will have a little more say in how they run things.

    Again, NOT because Obama is bad (not saying he is) or the federal government is bad. I just want to invest more power into people a little closer to me. So I can watch them a little easier.

    Perhaps tightening their purse strings just a little is a good start.

    March 1, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  11. Prior Active Duty now Civilian Employee

    Those of you who keep screaming for the cuts to happen and that it's only 2%, and will not have devestating impacts, are ignorant! These cuts are straight across the board! Meaning the agencies who support our Military and War Readiness along with MANY other great gov't agencies are getting a big pay reduction and/or losing our jobs. The cuts are not being aimed where they are really needed. There is plenty of fat and gov't waste that needs to be cut before the good gov't programs and civilian workers are targeted. You can not lump it all together for crying out loud! We are all Americans, right? So just because I served my time on Active Duty and landed a civilian job continuing to serve my Country, I should be penalized and talked horrible about by other Americans? I wouldn't wish any one to suffer through job loss or pay cuts....but you guys do! This will have a HUGE impact on our economy. People will lose their jobs, lose their houses, single parents will struggle to find out how to cover daycare expenses, etc, etc, etc. WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!!

    March 1, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  12. brian

    Why are we so surprise by this! it happens every time they do not try to make it better, they just make it better for them to get more money for them self They all should be fired from there jobs.
    they should have worked on this in years pass but we let them get away with it by keep voting the same people in to office. Look at the congress they been there for years and years and we the people let them do it .

    March 1, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  13. jaana

    the "sequester" and resulting "doom"that will occur by not giving the adminstration a 10% increase but only 8% is load of crap.. obama is constantly crying wolf and running around like chicken little with "the sky is falling" bull... if the stupid republicans had stood up to him when they should have 3 years ago we'd have a different president right now and would not be dealing with this crap again and again and again..

    March 1, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  14. robrickmon

    What cuts?
    We reduced the increase in growth. There are no cuts. We will spend more this year than next, and more next than this.

    March 1, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  15. MRX

    "He who learns must suffer, and even in our deep pain that cannot forget
    falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will,
    comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God" – Escalus

    March 1, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  16. angel

    I hope the cuts include Congress' salaries and benefits.

    March 1, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  17. Tim

    what? no more lavish governor dinners? Highly unlikely.

    March 1, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  18. TexasVoter

    Bohner is a worthless piece of trash. A gutter drunk who has no business as the Speaker. Anyone that suffers should blame him. As Speaker of the House, he made the work schedule for the House to where they only work on Tuesday and Wednesday. He then blames others for nothing being done. He should be replaced

    March 1, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  19. James Dean

    WOW! Never thought I would feel so embarrassed and ashamed of our worthless government! But YEP.. it has happened. We are paying a bunch of morons to run our country with OUR MONEY! We the people, PUT them into the positions that they are in.. It IS now OUR responsibility to get rid of EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM and start over. When your computer's have really bad viruses.. we format and re-install. Guess what... TIME to do that with our government before the sink the whole country into the dark grave for good.

    March 1, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  20. Merica

    Let congress pay checks be the first to be cut!

    March 1, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  21. TexasVoter

    lol, People call the President a jerk cause nothing gets done, but Bohner a saint. can tell the fox trolls are at work

    March 1, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  22. Alex Povolotski

    So when the US is going to default on its payments? I can't wait to see the collapse of a great empire. Overstretched, powerless... but still thinking it can take on the world. Reminds me of Rome back in the days.

    March 1, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  23. Name

    The world is doomed

    March 1, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  24. merlin215

    Ask NOPT what your country can do for you , Ask what YOU can do for your country !!!! Anyone remember this ? If we didn't have so much waste then these would never have occurred in the first place ...

    March 1, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  25. Dave Mitchell

    Blame Obama. 3 months ago Obama asked and Republicans agreed to take spending off the table and deal with tax cuts at the fiscal cliff. The discussion on spending would be delayed and dealt with separately. Since the tax compromise all of Obama's proposals have sought to bring more taxation to the table in a discussion that is supposed to focus on reigning in spending. Republican's are correct to hold their ground, Obama is moving the goal posts and you just can't play that game.

    March 1, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
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