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. Nicole

    I personally want to thank every elected official for not doing their job. Now do right thing and step down. We elected you to do a job, we counted on you and you FAILED every US citizen. You need to resign immediately, let someone in there who wants to help this country out. In the real world, if you are not doing your job right or at all, you'd be fired. I have not received a raise in 4 years (in education), I pay more for gas, utilities, food, clothes, basic survival necessities. The only way to survive to become government dependent who seem to be making it out alright. Congratulations for sticking it to the US guys. Take a bow!

    March 1, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |

    POLITICIANS are BAD because we have allowed them to be....we the people are accountable for who? what? and when? things happen....specially in our great country .....many have died, given their lives to give us this great nation....we have disrespected them by voting INCOMPETENTS that have sound good....communicate well and promise the world.......but have NO CLUE on what to do....have NO REAL EXPERIENCE for the JOB.....would you like a rookie to perform HEART SURGERY on you?????

    March 1, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  3. aCriticalEye

    This is going to hurt ! And it's just the beginning of the end.
    The war will start soon, and its all the republican s plan to make Mr Obama look bad.

    The party of No, has got to Go!

    March 1, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  4. Don

    2014 is a great year to start to clean the House and the Senate. Vote out everybody and make the lobbyist have to pony up bribes to a new whole bunch of politicians.

    March 1, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  5. Yogi

    Am an Obama supporter but very disappointed with him. Understand that the GOP is so fixated against him that they will not cut any deal. But that's the hallmark of a good leader. To negotiate with your toughest opponents. Give and take. And I don't see Obama doing that. Passing no budget since taking office is inexcusable. Offering tax increases as the only option is not a solution. Obama has to have a plan for balancing the books and he does not seem to have one or even interested. The GOP is right. He always seems to be campaigning. The election is over. This is your last term.. Please get down to work. And GOP please take your head out of the stand. Don't do unto US just because you want to do unto Obama!

    March 1, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  6. Rlg

    What do you expect when the only thing Congress does well is collect their paychecks and mouth off about what everyone other them themselves does wrong?

    March 1, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  7. Ernie B

    I enjoy listening to the arguments that liberals doomed us by making us a welfare state, when total spending and mismanagement of government budgets have occurred under republicans. Or that the president can't "pass a budget" since the House of Representatives has sole control over establishing the federal budget.

    Oh well, let's just blame Democrats for everything!

    March 1, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  8. Grandpa RD

    It's time to revive the old WHIG party again from the ground up.

    March 1, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  9. hugin

    I am! I am very surprised! The incompetence of those who serve in our government is unbelievable. Their damage and lack of concern in overwhelming! I am very surprised!

    March 1, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  10. JenC

    Good. I am glad this is happening. It is time for the USA to cut up all of its credit cards, get down in the mud and pay the piper. We have been spending money that isnt there for far too long. The longer we wait, the more it will hurt. I'd rather take the hit now than make my children do it later.

    March 1, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  11. Golden Jaw

    President Obama, If God be for you, who can be against you.....and win! Remember what God has done for you on behalf of our country! God Bless America!

    March 1, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  12. LR

    I have "sequestered" my own personal budget and lifestyle for the past four years, since I've received little to no raises due to the stagnant economy, and prices for gas, electricity, food, insurance have steadily gone up. I stay within my budget, so can Washington!

    March 1, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  13. Chuck

    You have to read between the lines. Even the GOP knows we spend too much money on Defense but rather than offer a plan they want it to appear like the president is screwing the DOD. It's a political chess match for them but real life for most that will be affected.

    Hagel's first days on the job should be to kill unnecessary spending on weapon systems that don't make sense. Then I bet you'll see the GOP hurry to the table with ideas because true corporate welfare and the backroom payments made by the lobbyist will be in jeopardy .

    March 1, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  14. EBrock

    Obama got the spending cuts and the tax increases yet the GOP got the blame....... He is the smartest President ever!

    March 1, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  15. Brad

    @David: You know the president can't pass a budget, right? We have something called a legislature.... They decide. They are not doing their jobs. The president has proposed a budget each time. He's doing his job.

    March 1, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  16. thelthyg

    the lord giveth, the GOP taketh away...

    March 1, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  17. BSH

    A lobbyist was quoted as saying the "worst case scenario" is if the sequester happens, and there's no real issue with it. They don't want the gravy train shut off.

    March 1, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  18. zandhcats

    Not only poor in welfare also are the rich as well. Merely blame one side and don't look at the whole picture cannot solve the problems. Go to read Untouchable tax breaks to the big corps which make hundred of revenues loss every year. Why don't we have simple tax system and make everyone pays his/her share?

    Feel pain to cut military? I've more pains to see the budget cut in schools.

    March 1, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  19. Brian

    Actually Matthew Kilburn, a flat tax would be more Marxist...

    March 1, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  20. Monomachos

    During one of the debates Romney brought up the issue of sequestration; the president interrupted him to say that "it (sequestration) was not going to happen." Did the president flip flop on this issue, or was it that his thinking has 'evolved' since then?

    March 1, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  21. Peach

    CNN stop using the same tactics as Obama--scare tactics. This ALL could have been avoided by OBAMA if he had passed a budget. He's had 4 years....... you cannot expect good things to happen when we have bad leadership.

    March 1, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  22. jurby

    this doesn't surprise me one iota. the government has known about the sequester since 2011 and the Republicans spent more time and effort to derail this country in their effort to get Obama out of office with the last election that they failed to do what they were paid to do: fix this country. and it looks like that since they failed to get Obama out of office that they've turned their goal into making Obama look as bad as possible so that the next president isn't a Democrat by continuing to not do what they are paid to do: fix this country. they have been catering to their wealthy buddies for way too long that – despite their claims otherwise – they've turned their backs on this country and are not doing what they are paid to do: fix this country. at some point the Republicans are going to wake up and realize that it's not Obama nor other Democrats that have been screwing up the country but the Republicans themselves. Republicans are so hel*-bent on getting their way and catering to their rich buddies that they've lost all sense of why they were elected to their offices: to fix this country. as far as budget cuts are concerned, every Republican elected should not only have their salaries slashed to that of the rest of us so that they can feel first-hand what it's like to live paycheck to paycheck and in fear of being laid off because of governmental budget cuts, but they should also be just outright fired for not doing what they were elected to do – fix this country – and have people who will actually do the job instead of sitting on their ass*s criticizing the president and catering to their wealthy buddies. i'm so sick of the whole thing and it disgusts me how so many people put their personal agendas and agendas of their rich corporate buddies ahead of the good the country.

    March 1, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  23. zandhcats

    Typo: should be hundreds of billion revenues loss.

    March 1, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  24. Andrew

    Can we all just agree that this, and many of the other shenanigans that happen in Washington, wouldn't happen if we had normal citizens occupying these positions as the founding fathers intended?

    March 1, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  25. Owen McElroy

    I hear only that the cuts will affect " everyone IN THE COUNTRY. " What about the billions in foreign aid. Is anyone outside our country, you know, like NON TAXPAPERS, being asked to tighen their belt in this crisis?

    March 1, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
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