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. john

    THERE ARE NO MASSIVE SPENDING CUTS!!!!! They are simply RAISING the level of spending at a slower rate. I really wish the media would stop lying to people. And if our leaders cannot deal with a smaller than expected raise with solutions other than hurting the public and turning criminals loose on the streets, we need new leaders.

    March 1, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  2. Barry

    Typical politicians. They create this overspending, then have the nerve to use the media to tell a story of how hard this is going to be for Americans. Guess what Mr. Obama and the US Congress – YOU created this problem! It's equivalent of a teenager using his parents' credit card without any accountability, then cries to his friends when he can't afford to pay for his school books or his loans.

    Policitians create the problems, then campaign on how to fix them, then cry when they have to acutally do what they promised. How messed up is that? Petulant and without any guts -that's our US Government.

    March 1, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  3. Name. S. Sarfine

    What's wrong with congress save the rich again and let 700,000 laid off

    March 1, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  4. Denise10

    Majority of these comments bashing the President are so hypocritical its unbelievable to me what some people choose to believe. Those who are against Obama are obviously so because they feel hes running the country into the ground with government spending, but you are still complaining and saying hes the worst President ever for not doing enough to prevent the spending cuts and it was his idea!!! Do you see how one statement contradicts the other?!! Do you want the cuts or not!!! If its his fault the cuts are taking place and thats what you wanted than you should be happy, but of course you are going to find something to complain about regardless.

    March 1, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  5. Joey

    When is Obama going to compromise rather than my way or the highway. His way to compromise is to do it his way. But when you look at the idiots he has in Reid and Pelosi, no wonder he is narsistic.

    March 1, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  6. GJoseph

    Why not put a hold on salaries to congressmen/women.

    March 1, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  7. Tom E

    You can't blame Bush for this one. Your lack of leadership as a President led to this day. This happened on your watch Mr. President. What are you going to do about it?

    March 1, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  8. Regularguy22

    At today's press conference, President Obama was asked if he admitted to any responsibility in this situation. His response was a long winded recap of his blame game. What a poor excuse for a "leader"

    March 1, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  9. Charlotte Trainor

    I vote for pay and benefit cuts for congress! And we need to change congress to one longer term (maybe 10 years). Then they might do their jobs instead of worrying about re-election.

    March 1, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  10. goldentime2014

    Pathetic than a third world country

    March 1, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  11. enraged wolverine

    They left foe the weekend? I wish I could walk of my job and start the weekend before noon on Friday! Why are we paying these clowns. I know I'd be fired for not doing my job. Why should these elected officials get away with things we would all be fired over.

    March 1, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  12. Sean

    We need the cuts to kick in! Our government spends way to much and their answer is always just raise taxes. I'm 37 years old and my generation was raised to live within your means, work hard and don't depend on the government. I remember my Mom telling my siblings and I that she would scrub toilets before going on government assistance, i.e. food stamps, medicaid and rental assistance!! She was a single mother raising three kids and only received $225.00 a month in child support for us three kids! Yes, she worked three jobs and we didn't have a lot but she had her pride and conviction something that has been lost in the last 2 decades among us Americans! Life was given to you therefore it OWES you nothing!!!

    March 1, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  13. bear

    A bill was introduced in the Senate by the GOP that would have allowed the President and his Cabinet to move the money around to minimize the problems. The Senate DEMS voted it down. It appears the DEMS want the pain to be felt so they can push for more taxes.

    If the President and Senate DEMS when offered flexibility to move the money around are unwilling to cut 2% out of the budget, then they are unwilling to cut the budget. Period.

    March 1, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  14. Garry Crist

    People in the house and all republicans for that matter need to grow up. We have a democrat for president and no matter what anyone does will not change that. He is the greatest president since Clinton and is trying to do good but the house want things their way. Grow up and realize its not what you want it's want this country wants and needs. Stop this chaos and stop acting like babies and get something done. Us taxpayers pay your salary and if it weren't for us you all wouldn't have jobs. So please I beg you grow up and do what is right for this country.

    March 1, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  15. bobo

    This is a Joke... nothing bad is going to happen. How much waste is still out there? Why can't our elected offices not find some?

    March 1, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  16. drowlord

    Just as was always intended (and good for them). Political theater in an always-connected social media world. Our government compromised on budget cuts in the only way they could - through mass deception.

    March 1, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  17. BlueDem1

    The United States is bankrupt. For 30+ years, the right-wingers have slashed taxes on the wealthiest Americans while slashing virtually nothing on middle- and lower-income earners (esp. once adjusted for inflation). The top tax rate during the 1960's and 1970's was 70%, Reagan reduced it to 28%. Clinton pushed it back up to 39.6%, and then Bush baby came in and cut it back to 35%. In the meantime, spending was increased on defense, and Social Security & Medicare rolls swelled as people were living longer on average and now the baby-boomers are retiring which is going to place a heavy burden on both of these two vital programs. Even more troubling is that the wealthiest Americans are exempt from paying into the Social Security trust fund. All the while, companies are outsourcing jobs right and left to take advantage of cheap labor in 3rd world countries which has hamstrung the economic recovery as jobs have become more and more scarce here in America.

    I'm all for individual freedom and allowing the free market to work, but if our country is to remain strong, we need to be thinking about our country as a whole, and not just our own pockets.

    Come back and talk to me when our tax rates are where they were between the end of WWII and the start of Nixon's presidency...when America was strong, jobs were plentiful, inflation was virtually non-existent, and people actually looked out for their neighbor as well as themselves, and when COMPROMISE wasn't considered a "dirty word."

    March 1, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  18. memo2

    We need stronger government cuts.

    March 1, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  19. AM

    I'm willing to accept that spending must be cut, but enough with all the hand outs! And further more, lets stop all this bickering back and forth about taxes. Some how, some way, we need a flat tax.

    March 1, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  20. Kevin

    We wouldn't be here if washington was filled with adults instead of self-indulgent cry babies

    March 1, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  21. Name. S. Sarfine

    Who is our CHIEF IN COMMAND? President Obama or Congress? I cannot understand why do we vote for a President when Truely Congress has the say so. Our President should have the last say!!

    March 1, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |

    This President is such a liar... He didn't want to close the Tax Loopholes a few months ago, and got the tax increases he wanted.. Now he wants these loopholes closed rather than spending cuts... WOW...

    March 1, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  23. Snidely DooRight

    Have you ever seen a couple when one of them maxes out their credit card? It's never a pretty sight!

    March 1, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  24. Rudy NYC

    Mike D

    You all are being hoodwinked, 85 billion is a drop in the bucket, we burn through that in a matter of days running this country.
    Considering that we have already made more than $1.5 trillion in spending reductions since 2010, another 2% is far more significant than it sounds. Even Republicans banged the doomday drum for months on end, even as recently as last month. Remember how they blamed the zero GDP in the 4th quarter of 2012 on defense spending cuts? It was very ironic to hear conservatives blow horns about how deep spending cuts hurt the economy.

    March 1, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  25. Aerin

    Sequestor is a sign of the GOP death spiral.

    March 1, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
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