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. Russell

    Why is the representitives from congress's pay not being impacted? This seems like it would be a great modivator to have all of congress to resolve this budget issue. If the military and the all goverment workers pay will be effective, why are they excempt from this? What they need to do is cut sit down and require them to fix this. I am in the military. If I need to get something done, we dont go home until it is done. We are there for days sometimes on a mission until it is done. Suspend all their pay as well. IF they are not doing their job, Dont Pay Them.

    March 1, 2013 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  2. Darkseider

    Obama signed it, Obama backed it and touted it and he defended it. Then he wanted to avoid it. Now it is here. The law of unintended consequences at work, WOOHOO!!!

    March 1, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  3. Aaron

    Hey Rudy, your beloved Democrats havent passed a budget in 4 years. These cuts need to happen. It is the only way to reign in the dictator.

    March 1, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  4. jim

    i dont know what to believe anymore. the people posting here reflect the same paralysis we see in congress. everyone blaming everyone else. i vote Democrat but at this point i don't believe any one of you, just as i don't believe anything coming out of Washington, GOP or Democrat.

    March 1, 2013 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  5. Newport Pagnell

    Where's the line in the "budget" that cuts all foreign aid,especially to our enemies? Not seeing it. Wake up DC!!

    March 1, 2013 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  6. bxgrrl

    Ya know that sinkhole that swallowed up a guy in Florida? If the same thing happened to Congress it'd be a boon to humanity.

    March 1, 2013 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  7. Kristina C

    I thought Obama was trying to lower the amount of people on Unemployment, not raise it. Looks like he's doing his job alright! Thanks a my family needs this bs to deal with now.

    March 1, 2013 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  8. Aaron

    Guess what...we ALL just had to take a 2% cut in our income due to Obama and his lie about raising taxes on the middle class...and I am still doing just fine. If the Government cant trim 2% and still function, then they have some serious issues. This is ALL hype by the Liar in Chief. I mean, it was HIS IDEA in the first place.

    March 1, 2013 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  9. Martin Angell

    Relax CNN ...It's called fiscal restraint...something Congress and the President have not practiced much.

    $16.5 trillion in debt and growing requires restraint.

    March 1, 2013 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  10. Steve Thomas

    Let's face it, the average working American family just took a 2% pay cut and the media didn't care one bit. But, the government takes a less than 1% cut and the media is screaming like a bunch of wet girls. Our media is pathetic.

    March 1, 2013 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  11. midwest3

    If a business knew about something this significant 18 months before an event, and failed to act upon it in a timely manner, heads would roll. How do our idiot lawmakers continue to get away with such incompetence? Is it us, the voters who are to blame? They know that their approval rating is in the toilet, yet they continue business as usual. Where is the accounting for their behavior?

    March 1, 2013 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  12. Bill

    The Congress and the President need to be locked in large room and not be paid or let out until they come to a agreement on this fiscal mess they got this country in.

    March 1, 2013 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  13. Randy

    I love how Congress gets away with 3 day weekends, and gets to take long paid vacation trips by our taxes. Why should they care what happens, they are not losing any money or their jobs, their jobs are secure for a few more years, so they can afford to sit at home on their butts and do nothing. I am not an obama fan, but right now I am not a fan of either party. If these guys had to work as hard as the common folks, maybe then they would realize what they are doing, but as long as we let them get away with everything, we will never have a budget again. Thanks congress for doing nothing for us

    March 1, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  14. E L

    They will wake up if part of the spending cuts involved them, for example Vice President of the United States job elimated, congress takes a 10% pay cut across the board including the president. Reduce staff down in the supreme court judges by 2, reduce staff in congress staff, etc. Now if that happens I bet you they will fix this mess.

    March 1, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  15. Don't blame me, I'm Obama!

    Good thing the Pres and Dem Senate have a federal budget in place so none of this needed to take place. Oh wait, no budget since Obama began his systematic destruction. I know, I know it must be Bush's fault...

    March 1, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  16. Craig

    "Massive"...CNN is a joke and using scare tactics. These massive cuts are 2% of future spending. The government can go on operating as always and there is no real impact.

    March 1, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  17. Justin Icart

    Wait hold up, the same people saying that Obama is the worst President because he spends too much is upset because 3% spending cuts kick in and he's not even a lawmaker? First, some of you need to take American Government classes so you know who's "responsible" for certain measures. All government agencies get paid waaay more than private industry market level. Then ask yourself if 3 pennies out of a dollar effects how u live. Smh, i hate being American sometimes, my peers clearly have no education.

    March 1, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  18. Craig

    Both parties voted for it. We elected those that represent us. We truly do get the government we deserve.

    March 1, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  19. Hadenuffyet

    Hey Aaron , sooner or later you gotta pat the piper. Unless of course you have a better idea. Let's hear it.

    March 1, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  20. Hadenuffyet


    March 1, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  21. AverageJoe

    I personally think 85 billion is not any where near what we should be cutting. History has shown, we as Americans are capable of falling on our rears and getting right back up and becoming a great nation once again. I think its time for a huge collapse to give EVERY American a realization that the Gov't shouldn't take care of us, WE THE PEOPLE should take care of ourselves.

    March 1, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  22. Eric

    Is this a serious article? How is this in any way a bad thing? These aren't spending cuts at all and they certainly aren't "draconian". Try actually researching before you spout off about this stuff

    March 1, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  23. J Joe

    I hope these cuts are permanent. Many agencies will find they can operate just fine within the confines of their new budget restrictions. The next point of stress will be the government unions suing the government (i.e. themselves) when some of the cuts involve layoffs.

    March 1, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  24. freedom

    This is all because the president refuses to govern. Punk journalists spent all day yesterday attacking a veteran journalist, Bob Woodward, who has actually accomplished something HUGE in his career (and it was to expose illegal dealings of a Republican – which they cheered on at the thime) – and people don't realize this president has a corrupt and destuctive agenda for our country? These punks aren't even thinking for themselsves – it's all talking points to protect their "master." Just because the journalists have stopped thinking on their own, doesn't mean the American people need to do the same. It's OUR country – start wising up and discern the truth for yourself!

    March 1, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  25. jakinak

    So our bloated Federal Government has to cut 2 % of the budget, every working American just had to do the same thing when the Social Security tax cut was eliminated.

    March 1, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
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