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. Rich

    People, these are not cuts! They are a reduction in spending increases. The President is the one setting the negative tone here. Bill Clinton had a more difficult situation with Republicans than obama and he made it work by talking and negotiating with them. obama doesn't even talk to them.

    March 1, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  2. William

    @Sally-Ann: Please define "fair share"?

    March 1, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  3. Yo!

    When there is no fairness, and when only the poor and working class bear the burden (last tax increase affects only wage earners and cuts affects government wage earners), it's everyone for themselves except that the government is in the pockets of the ultra-rich.

    March 1, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  4. anonymous

    This is gonna effect many people's life! Specially people whose daily life depends on funds coming from government agencies. These agencies would never cut their highly paid manager's salaries, they will just cut the funding small businesses and universities or fire their lower paid labors!

    March 1, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  5. Matthew Kilburn

    The United States is Bankrupt. For 60 years, the liberals have built up a welfare state that now absorbs nearly 2/3 of our budget, and results in half the population paying no income tax. Yes, I hate to see the cuts to our military. But its far past time the government ATM machine was shut off, or at least toned down.

    Come back to me when we have a flat tax, when supporting a policy means paying for it, and when our tax structure doesn't have the same aims as a marxist revolution, and we can talk about how much welfare we should be throwing around.

    March 1, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  6. David

    Could this have been avoided if Obama had passed a budget since his first year in office?

    March 1, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  7. Rich

    Hey Look! We managed to scrape together 60 million for Syria. I guess things aren't that bad after all. Whew!!!

    March 1, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  8. David B

    They all left to begin their weekend on Thursday!!! Try that in the Private Sector when important decisions have to be made and see what happens to your job. This is nothing new with these people – it happens all the time – This is why we are having problems – None of them on both sides of the fence really care about anything but their lifetime pensions, lifetime health care and play time. It is really sad. We need to make a lot of changes in our Political system. It is obviously broken.

    March 1, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  9. Anonymous

    Is the sky falling yet? 'Cause I don't feel sequestered.

    March 1, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  10. William

    @Thaddeus Anderson: No 1 party "manufactured" the crisis. That fact that we unpegged the dollar to gold in 1972 (by Nixon, but please don't use that against Republicans because he is a very bad example of one). the fact that by definition our money is printed and backed up by nothing is the cause of most monetary problems today. The spending is just a symptom of that decision which helps to exasterbate the problem.

    March 1, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  11. Matthew Kilburn

    "Tax increases for the wealthy vs spending cuts for needed government services?"

    "needed government services" for the woman with three kids and no husband, who still lines up outside of Walmart on Black Friday for a new TV? The "wealthy" you talk about already pay up to 1/3 of their income to the federal government in income tax, and up to half their income to overall taxes. Half the country pays no income tax. 40% pay a negative tax rate.

    When are those people going to have to participate in the "shared sacrifice"?

    March 1, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  12. Life is a roller coaster

    As another poster said, everyone keeps getting duped into drinking the Kool-Aide ...bottom line is their always in it for themselves

    March 1, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  13. Suzy5555

    This is such a scam by our Government! First of all, these are cuts in the INCREASED spending! There are plenty of places to cut a lot of money out of the budget that WILL NOT affect the people, huge amounts of waste, pork projects, alphabet agencies, perks and congressional pay, and the list goes on and on. But the prez will never let a crisis go to waste, nor a chance to divide this country (class warfare, republicans and democrats, race warfare). The politicians are a JOKE and the joke is on WE THE PEOPLE. And they adjourn and go home and take another break.

    March 1, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  14. Kristoffer

    I don't see congress in session, isn't it more likely that they may have dropped you on your butts? The I mean the conservative party wanted the sequester in the first place. Kinda funny how the stock market did so well yesterday. I swear this country is going to end up ruled by a monarchy of corporation and Washington is going to be it's wealthy barons. We will allow them to get there if we keep pointing fingers and acting like a bunch school children and they know it. I see this country becoming more moderate and to some special interest groups, that makes you a liberal these days. I swear, this is all playing perfectly for our new Kings and Queens.

    March 1, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  15. Kathryn

    You know what happens when a regular person in the workforce can't do their job to the best of their abilities? That's right, they get fired. Perhaps that is what should happen with our greedy, unagreeable Congress. If they can't appropriately and responsibly do the job, then they should lose their office.

    March 1, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  16. kpjenk21

    i brought sequester cake to my federal facility today!! happy sequester everyone!!

    March 1, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  17. jmarch9222

    I'm so happy this day has finally come!

    March 1, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  18. BD70

    When services impact civilians then you will see some screaming.

    March 1, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  19. JS

    Congress should stop pretending like there doing something and start actually doing it. (That will never happen) If sequestration isn't going to happen now, it's going to happen anyway later. Where do you think all are tax dollars go to, and the fines that all these big companies pay. They sure aren't going back to the country! We've already seen our paycheck's get smaller and smaller, while the economy gets worse. Domocrats are as much to blame as the Republicans, and Republicans are as much to blame as the democrats. This is an endless circle, that will never end. Clean up Congress and clean up the Senate, and a year, or 2, or 3, or 12. We will still be in the same situation. The Congressmen and the Senators have no common sense, even though they have all these fancy degrees and come from affluent families (most of them anyway). In the End, Everybody loses, and no one wins.

    March 1, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  20. Mac

    How about salary cuts for these officials? Yachts, summer homes and meetings adjourned in the AM to spend time with the family? I have a college education and I have to work two jobs to make ends meet. Must be nice to start and end Friday like that. I can see where all of my money is going.

    March 1, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  21. Ray

    what will it take to remove each member of congress, with exception of house leaders, and re-elect new members who have not held office within the past 4 years? Thats where we need to look, when we get serious about removing those who refuse to work for the people, maybe everyone will get serious.

    March 1, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  22. mike Lake Orion Michigan

    I don't depend on Government like many leaches do so I really don't care!

    March 1, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  23. Concerned

    What, did I read that they all left Washington on Thursday to start their weekend?

    March 1, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  24. Reginald Moreland

    So it is official. Today is March 1st 2013. This is the day that Americans will remember as the day our Government said collectively “We don't have to answer to you”! In the coming weeks hundreds of thousands of people will lose their livelihood; all because of a lack of Leadership from our President, and a lack of followership, commitment, and compromise from Congress (House and Senate).
    I am hurt to my core because I think about how I was willing to give my life for this country while those in office aren’t even willing to give their time to come up with a solution. Better yet, I am deeply saddened and shocked how many of our service members, some who gave all, a limb, or their sanity, are rewarded for their sacrifice by cuts in the defense budget. A budget that provides much needed medical and mental healthcare service for them and their families.
    How absent of character must one be to command someone’s father, mother, son or daughter into combat, yet not have the courage to sit down and talk with your political adversaries and proponents to find common ground? How absent of conviction to your oath of office must one be to relinquish all responsibility for actions you caused upon this nation (President and Congress)? The cowardice displayed by our President and legislators brings shame upon this nation and emboldens our enemies to do harm upon us.
    I realize the issues that confront our nation are complex and won’t be solved over night or through some ‘grand bargain’. But no issue has ever been solved by ignoring or delaying action. Surely a nation of more than 300 million has more than two positions or two solutions to confront our nation’s financial challenges.
    In school I learned a valuable lesson regarding negotiation. There are positions and there are interests. Those who seek to strengthen their position lose sight of the interests that are at the heart of the negotiation! The United States of America is that interest! Now is not the time for lemmings it is a time for leadership!
    To my President, you won the election! I voted for you! Congratulations! Now get over it! Stop gloating and get in the fight! Be the leader you claim to be! Uphold the office and meet with Congress continually until a solution is crafted!!!
    To my Congress, You are not children! Stop acting like children! Recess is for kindergartners! Get your asses back to work! Find the courage to listen to our President and your fellow legislators to craft a solution!
    See it done or see this country fall to obscurity and your names forever remembered for all posterity as the implements to the demise of this great nation!

    March 1, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  25. scottclark52

    Finally. Thank god the day is here. There is this thing called free enterprise. It is the one thing that Liberals hate the don't understand the most. If there is merit and a true need for something free enterprise is there and ready to provide. If not then it's not needed. The federal government should be half the size that it is. It would be far more effective if it stuck with simple easy to understand policy.

    Our tax code should be less than 50 pages. I shouldn't have to have a M.B.A and law degree to understand it. If you live purely on interest from investments then that should be considered income, period. You have the option not earn income that way. And I shouldn't have to spend my entire year collecting paper work so that I can torture myself with it every February and March.

    Welfare and social programs should have a federal cost cap be placed upon the solders of the states and delegated to there own needs. Who better understands the needs of communities than the communities themselves. I see no reason why ministers of churches need to live in mansions and drive a luxury car. Social programs should have a tiered system those in the most need get it first. Like elderly that have no support system and are on the brink of living under the poverty line, mentally and physically handicapped, veterans that need help to recover from mental and or physical trauma and then anyone else. Sorry if your physically capable of holding down a job no matter what it is you have options and should be at the top of the handout list.

    And above all, we should not allow our governments to be the solutions for everything. We are an intelligent (for the most part) self sufficient country capable of making logical decisions if the colossally inept elected officials would just get out of our way.

    March 1, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
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