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. jerry

    If we all agree that we cant spend as much as we are and we have spending cuts coming why dont we look at whats bloated (defense) and whats in need (education) and make the necessary adjustments while keeping the same overall number

    March 1, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  2. Discount Saint

    Hey, here's a thought. START TAXING RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS. Tax exemptions for churches account for over $70 Billion a year in lost tax revenue! This is enough to feed every and clothe every person in the world for a year. Or stabilize the US economy.

    March 1, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  3. marc

    Furloughs are BS. Do across the board pay cuts, e.g. 20%, and those who don't like it can leave like they would in the private sector and compete against other supposedly better jobs. (Of course most won't leave because with benefits many of them are overpaid.) This way the government at least stays functioning.

    March 1, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  4. Candice

    If I handle my family's money and run us into a black hole of debt; I would be responable for this and would have to live a

    life to change and fix what i have done. Now the people who gave the ok and signed the checks for all this debt to build

    up should have to live a life to fix this. Yes, we the people as a whole should stand for our country however I am living

    my life in a way to save money and pay off my debt. So i do not understand why congress does not take a buy cut for

    about 6 months to fix most of this. If they would do so just a little pay cut then this snowball effect would not hurt the

    economy as bad as the President states that is going to be.

    March 1, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  5. Russell

    Retract the Syria support until we are out of this. Saves us 65 Billion that we can use for our own country.

    March 1, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  6. justTRY

    our taxes must equal the previous years spending. no more adding to the debt. i dont care if you increase taxes or lower spending but make them equal. adding to the debt is just irresponsible. both sides do it.

    March 1, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  7. jerri

    No worries, there is still plenty of money for wars, weapons for rebels, vacations and lavish state parties. So whats the problem?

    March 1, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  8. Dave

    As is so typically Obama, he comes back from either campaigning, vacationing or playing golf to try and sit down to resolve an issue thats a day late. For a President whose family has spent more money on personal travel and vacations then any other sitting president, its hard to take him seriously. If he's fighting for the masses then stop spending like the wealthy and get to work.

    March 1, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  9. Patrick

    Massive spending cuts?????? Hopefully the President will accept the power to direct the cuts and spread the cuts over the entire budget

    March 1, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  10. bee13

    • This is only the beginning.
    • Historic cutbacks MUST & WILL HAPPEN.
    • Austerity is imminent.
    • Taxes will rise, like it or not.
    • Don't be deluded into thinking / wishing otherwise.
    • Get your houses in order to the best of your ability. Do it NOW!
    • After the dust settles, perhaps years into the future, we can begin rebuilding our nation.
    • Faith, grit, determination, and working together will see us through.
    • We must not let this great country falter.
    • It's up to YOU, ME, ALL OF US...

    March 1, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  11. mhub

    Politicians are BAD because no one else takes the job – we have to vote for whoever the party supports.

    The GOP and Tea Party are BAD because, through their greed, they want to just start hacking without any thought, if they don't get their way.

    March 1, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  12. liberal disease

    i think Obama should go on vacation and stay on any one!

    March 1, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  13. Michelle

    Congress and the President should not be paid a dime for thier work – shame on our politicians – they dig huge debt holes and refuse to take responsibility and accountability – they instead just fight – TIME FOR MORE THAN THIS BROKEN 2 PARTY SYSTEM – lets get these goofs out and get compotent people to govern our nation.

    March 1, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  14. laeinstein

    please explain to me Obamas credentials of why he should have been elelcted?

    March 1, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  15. yurlipsrmuvn

    The man who exposed Richard Nixon White House is now threatened by Obama White House.
    The man who defended Bill Clinton during impeachment is now being threatened by the Obama White House.
    Libs are eating their own. LOL

    March 1, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  16. Chris

    Doom is destiny and we all deserve what we're getting.

    March 1, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  17. UDidntBuildThat

    President Obama says "dumb, arbitrary" forced spending cuts that take effect today are unnecessary and inexcusable.
    And they were his IDEA!!!!

    March 1, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  18. Dee Hayward

    Why does congress have a 4-day work week? Or less? No wonder they don't get anything done!

    March 1, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  19. ubdumb

    If this is the only way to get spending under control the so be it. It didnt become law by accident. Both sides ageed. The sky is not falling. Do the math

    March 1, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  20. Bill

    I think it's a shame that the feds are going to start furloughing everyone instead of just laying off the bottom 10% of performers. Every organization has under-performers. Laying them off would make the government more efficient relatively. Furloughing everyone, though it might seem "fair" to the bleeding hearts, won't.

    March 1, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  21. Joe WHiz

    The Government is faced with more bills than money. Welcome to the lives of EVERYDAY AMERICANS. Everyone has to make cuts even to important things but that's what you do when you don't have enough money. Start slashing and quit whining that someone may have to do without. We all have to do without things we cant pay for. Why does this government think its to borrow money when everyday Americans cant even pay their bills?

    March 1, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  22. ESV

    Obama doesn't need anyone to make him look bad. I don't run our household on a credit card!

    March 1, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  23. Dennis

    These would be the "dumb, arbitrary" cuts that Comrade Obama insisted he had to have to avoid him vetoing the spending compromise, right?

    March 1, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  24. Peter Gunn

    Poor obama. He agreed to the cuts to get his way and thought he would reNig.
    The American people won't pull his chestnuts from the fire.
    Live up to your promises barryo

    March 1, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  25. John H

    Great idea Don, CLEAN house. While we are at it it's time maybe (have no idea how this would be done) for the lobbyist to go away too. It seems in all my years I've not seen much good coming from then, they have an agenda that at least feels like something monetary is used in background to accomplish this. It's time for Americans to take this great country of ours back before it's to late.

    March 1, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
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