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. sarcasm0


    Of like .0003% of our deficit.

    March 1, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  2. jay

    I think we need more forced cuts on that over bloated city.

    March 1, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  3. amiehol

    Mr. President, I think there is a lot of places you can cut without hurting people's salaries. You could start at the top with your salary. Then go to the congress and cut THEIR pay before you even THINK of reducing the people that clean the floor at the capitol.

    March 1, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  4. Ted

    Ask President to release "Balanced Budget Approach" which has been given to Congress to release to American people so we can see details and support or not his plan. Do not accept "it will take time", should be readily available given today's technology to post immediately.

    I would guess it DOSENT EXIST.

    March 1, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  5. Pam from Iowa

    John Boehner couldn't cut his way throught a stick of butter with a blow torch!
    That man is the most worthless person in Washington!

    March 1, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  6. Jason

    Our spending on defense is important. I guess the Obama admistration shouldn't have given 60 Million dollars to Syrian rebels yesterday.

    March 1, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  7. Dolores Lois

    It's noon on Friday. Who gave Congress the authorization to take the rest of the day off?

    March 1, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  8. teressa

    Why do we even have a president? Voting is a waste of time. Congress is out ruler now – and I mean RULER. Worse than Russia they are...

    March 1, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  9. Mike

    The GOP has totally lost the art of "fighting the good fight". They fight everything, and end up looking silly as a result.

    March 1, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  10. theINDEPENDENTone

    Another OBAMA Failure !

    The Buck stops with OBAMA.
    Obama came up with the idea.
    Obama signed it into law.

    Obama is a miserable failure. Whats most annoying is his belly aching to cover for his failures.

    March 1, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  11. teressa

    correction: Congress is our ruler now

    March 1, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  12. Larry

    It is funny to me that the President is criticizing the very cuts and comittee he formed and agreed with every finding when it was completed. He stated that they did a great job. Now everything is stupid. Only thing stupid is our government in Washington.

    March 1, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  13. amiehol

    well we truly have censorship in this country, my comment is awaiting moderation to see if it can be posted here, it is a good comment, not mean toward anyone, but I bet it won't be printed. There goes our freedom of speech. It is truly a sad time in this world.

    March 1, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  14. NKBL

    Why isn't Congress taking a pay cut?

    March 1, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  15. Michael Wiggins

    Changing our government to a parliamentary style system is starting to sound rather good about now. Imagine being able at any point to say: "OK!! EVERYBODY!! OUT OF THE POOL!!" and replacing all our politicians for a fresh batch.

    March 1, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  16. nchurricane

    The house has passed two budgets and the senate deems won't do anythings with them. The branches are not working together at all. But the house republicans are not going to just bend to whatever the admin wants to do without some give by the admin. Obama has not kept any of his pledges to be compromising and transparent. He would rather go around the country and stir fear and demonize those he should be trying to work with. Why is he not held to his words which he contradicts time and time again.

    March 1, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  17. Robert

    What is the problem? The libs freak out because their welfare state is being threatened by 86 billion in cuts? When need to cut a trillion from the welfare programs alone. Obama doesn't like this because its going to make it harder for to keep spending this country into government dependence. The government needs to be less than half the size it is now. These cuts are just the beginning, of a good path.

    March 1, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  18. robert ellis

    well congress must not care about people dont forget this at election time they should cut their jobs

    March 1, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  19. MrCub96

    These cuts may be dumb and arbitrary but they are not enough to counteract the collective history of dumb and arbitrary spending decisions made by OUR government.

    March 1, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  20. Kmoss

    People, why do you think that these politicians care anything about us other than our votes. They don't live by the same rules. We can point the finger at the left and right but it really doesn't matter becuase in the end it is always the politician not having to deal with the everyday consequences that we the american people have to deal with. The biggest scam in washington is thinking one side is better than the other. PEOPLE it is us against Politicians not the right vs the left. Both of them will lead us down the road that helps their agenda the most not what is best for the American people and why should they, they are living the dream while we try to read through the smoking mirrors that this economy is running on.

    March 1, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  21. cnnmembuh

    Incredible and ironic that BO would denounce his own sequester plan as "dumb" and "unnecessary".

    March 1, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  22. Dude77

    Draconian? These cuts don't even begin to address what really needs to be done.

    March 1, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  23. dd

    The US no longer has a leader. Obama played golf with Tiger while Washington burned! Someone should ask Obama to resign and seek asylum in Egypt where he can join Mubarak, the other dictator who fouled up his country.

    March 1, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  24. are122

    I went to Burger King this morning and there were only two people working the whole place. Sequestration has hit.

    March 1, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  25. bjd1020

    This is exactly what the Dems want. They will now make the cuts in the areas that will hurt the most so they can say" I told you so". Why are hard working civilian and contractors gonna get hit, why not welfare recipients and food stamp junkies......It’s all a ploy to get political power so Obama can tax more and redistribute wealth.

    March 1, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
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