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. PeteH

    As far as I'm concerned, our federal, and in the case of California, our state governments "left for the weekend" a long time ago. If we are to survive as a country, we need to push back as "We, the People."

    March 1, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  2. Peter

    Today is a sad day for all the American people!! This is the day those good for nothing politicians handed over the American global supremacy to the Chinese people with a silver platter and a thank you note thanks to you Republicans and democrats.

    March 1, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  3. Jackie

    If you think things will change, sadly they don't care. They have their pensions and paychecks no matter what they do. And that includes unlimited taxpaid vacations.

    March 1, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  4. Terry

    well, the ways America goes, don't be surprise, anything could happen in the future, but it is going to be one direction - downhill, what those politicians in Washington are doing is not for the country, they are doing for their own interests-how to get the votes for themselves.

    March 1, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  5. Nick Milkovich

    for all of you claiming this is the presidents fault you are idiots. seriously. last i checked this was the job of congress. take a 100 or even a highschool government class.

    March 1, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  6. Mike

    Our President is not a strong leader. You would think since he doesn't need to be re elected he would lead.....nope.

    March 1, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  7. joe

    nobody cares what happens,it's all a bad joke on this country.

    March 1, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  8. The Fladaboscan

    Mark my words – unless those idiots fix this it's 1937 all over again.

    March 1, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  9. wonderful1

    We'll be finding out what sinks and what floats. Our Congress must be VERY proud of themselves. Too bad the cuts don't affect them.

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

    how do you sleep, Republicans? oh yeah, rampant self-delusional obliviousness… don't worry there's a place for you in the history books, right next to Warren G Harding.

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

    This scares the dems because now they cannot spend billion on private jets like Holder does and or travel so much on the tax payer's dime or buy more votes with tax payer dollars. Obama failed America with this sequester and now he has even failed his fellow spend like crazy dems.

    March 1, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  12. sally-ann

    The pork tax break pigs are needlessly driving more of the middle class into poverty

    March 1, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  13. John

    Massive spending cuts? It is $85 billion of future spending out of a trillion dollars. It is not massive.

    March 1, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  14. people don't kill people, religion does

    Happy Sequestration Day Everyone!!!!!

    Proudly brought to you by: the GOP. "When something needs fixin', don't come to us!" -GOP

    March 1, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  15. Steve

    ‎"Nero Fiddled While Rome Burned" or in this case played golf.

    March 1, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  16. Frank

    If they government needs money, raise taxes on the oil companies, they have been making billions over the last month and prices are not going down. One of Obama's first term promises was to cut gas prices, failed to do that so he decides to cut billions elsewhere.

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

    CUT MORE! We will still be spending more money in 2013 than we did in 2012. Get a clue libtards – you can't afford the out of control spending and we need to take responsibility for the sake of the children. Oh yea, the libs hate children and old people – that's why they are killing them off. Nobody is buying the scare tactics anymore.

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

    Happy Sequestration Day Everyone!!!!!

    Proudly brought to you by: the GOP. "When something needs fixin', don't come to us!" -GOP

    March 1, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  19. VStarguy

    Agreement will be reached before tomorrow....March 2nd, 2013 this whole thing is for "entertainment" for the sick of mind!
    "They" play with our minds because...we let them!

    March 1, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  20. UDidntBuildThat

    Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer-Sequester??? Can the American people please wake up???
    The Clinton Surplus the GOP squandered – $230 Billion
    For low information voters such as yourself here is the truth about Pres. Clinton so called "surplus" proganda perpetrated and spread in the media because well there are millions of low information voters.
    So how can Clinton clain a surplus?
    While the general operating budgets ran deficits but Clinton borrowed from numerous off budget funds to make the on budget fund a surplus.

    For example, in 2000, Clinton claimed a $230B surplus, but Clinton borrowed
    $152.3B from Social Security-then there was surplus as costs was lower than amt taken in.
    $30.9B from Civil Service Retirement Fund
    $18.5B from Federal Supplementary Medical insurance Trust Fund
    $15.0B from Federal Hospital Insurance Trust Fund
    $9.0B from the Federal Unemployment Trust Fund
    $8.2B from Military Retirement Fund
    $3.8B from Transportation Trust Funds
    $1.8B from Employee Life Insurance & Retirement fund
    $7.0B from others
    Total borrowed from off budget funds $246.5B, meaning that his $230B surplus is actually a $16.5B deficit.
    ($246.5B borrowed – $230B claimed surplus = $16.5B actual deficit).
    If there is ever a true surplus, then the national debt will go down. The national debt did not go down one year during the Clinton administration. When Clinton left office the national debt was $5.5 Trillion. Not so rosy when u actual do some reseach rather than drink the kool aid. I love Clinton and voted for him but truth is the truth.

    March 1, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  21. LetsBeReal

    Let's be real. These 'huge' 'draconian' cuts are, in reality, small and insignificant. Even after these cuts are implemented our government will spend more money this year than last, borrowing about 40% of what they spend as they have for several years even though tax revenues will set a new record high this year. The tragedy is that our news media simply repeat the BS propoganda of our politicians Are you listening CNN? Yeah, I'm talking to you.

    March 1, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  22. cgs

    Are babies starving yet? Sheeesh!!!

    March 1, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  23. merlin215

    Thadeus Anderson

    I said the exact same thing about the Democrats prior to them becoming more Liberal ... This particular instance , due to NOT being able to deal with the white house as all they had to do was give up raising taxes and move on to fight the next crisis on March 27th and they COULD deal !!! Obama is NOT the Guy people think He is . You MUST read articles in the Washington Post and other major economic papers and NOT just believe the first thing that comes to site .. Why is He always fighting his battles on the steps of the white house and in our back yards ? He should be dealing with Boehner and Reid , period .. THAT is how you get a deal !! They had a LONG time to make a deal , too bad as they now have to live with their stubbornness ( BOTH Parties ) and let the chips fall !!!

    March 1, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  24. Steve

    I'd be walking on glass if I were any politician – people are mad & about to get even worse – they want to take it out on someone – guess who's the prime candidates, LOL

    March 1, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |

    The US has a $900 billion dollar defect this year. Cutting $85 is a very small step in the right direction. Democrats are quick to remind us that we had a surplus under Clinton. Obama's latest budget is $3.8 trillion or exactly twice the size of Clinton's largest budget. If you think that raising taxes on the rich is the solution to the problem, you aren't paying attention.

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