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. UDidntBuildThat

    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.
    Ermie, u do realize that the HOUSE has passed several budget that the Senate and Obama refused to take up. So what next? Secondly the Senate has not passed a budget in 5 yrs! Lastly, nothing can be done unless the President signs it into law. But I doubt u will get that tid bit of info. Dems need more low information voters such as yourself to keep voting for them.

    March 1, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  2. laugh1234

    We cannot cut less than 3% of the budget while borrowing 36%?

    March 1, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  3. Beth

    And why is it that $60M can still be sent to Syria...and other millions going to other 3rd world countries. If I am about to lose my house, and give my mortgage payments to poor people, that doesn't make me magnanimous, it makes me stupid.

    March 1, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  4. Robb`

    Interesting. So many people will be getting pay cuts EXCEPT those responsible for this mess. I think the cuts should BEGIN with our so called leaders. If they can't do their jobs properly, then they should be penalized, not us.

    March 1, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  5. chad

    It's easy to fix money just a piece of paper just print the money out to pay everything off chinia make the det zero make the whole American a new one print money out to fix all roads and new builtings cap gas at $2.00 a gallon food go down everything will go down. If people ask how we got out of det just tell them it a cover up secret, fix free tread agreement make every country cost the same like mexco and chinia cost the same

    March 1, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  6. Mistylynn

    They should all be fired, but we know this will not happen

    March 1, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  7. Hank

    Both parties and the president had agreed to this in 2011. Why cry wolf now?

    March 1, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  8. Bob

    I'm tired of both sides!!! Novel idea lets make salary cut and force furloughs in the House and Congress. I personal would love making $174k and do absolutely nothing for it! Bipartisan that!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 1, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  9. mowey

    The Republicans just trashed any chances of being elected next term.

    March 1, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  10. Reps vs Dems

    Reps might havve won the sequester. But it only hurts America, and the great winner is China. So much for the American pride and will go down in flames by 2020. So shortsighted by the GOP, that it's disgusting. Before you reps jump me, I have no affiliation to any party as I am a foreign observant. The markets are already taking a tumble, do not kid yourselves Americans you've lost, and GOP bet against you.

    March 1, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  11. jason

    Jen C – "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."
    You do, of course, realize that the constriction of the economy due to these cuts will inevitably raise the deficit, right? You cannot expect the economy, still fragile and just starting to gain momentum (employment numbers, etc.), to do anything but head back from whence it came.

    March 1, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  12. Tim

    I don't get it. Please allow me to use the following analogy. If I go out and purchase an expesnive house, nice cars, take vacations, etc, I do not have the luxury of going to my boss and asking for more money in order to help pay for my expenditures. Why are we blaming the Republicans for demaning fiscal responsibility? And by the way, they did give Obama some of the tax increases he asked for back in January and if I remember correctly, it was all about helping the middle class. Well, I am middle class and my pay dropped by $2600 dollars a year. So he got his tax increase, wants another, but doesn't want to cut any spending.

    March 1, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  13. cygh

    It seems most of you aren't aware who these cuts will effect. It's those that also had a 2% tax increase added to their pay checks. They now lose 1 out of every 10 days pay (along with the corresponding annual/sick leave). These are people who keep us safe every day not those awful politicians who are to blame for this mess.

    March 1, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  14. Dan Finnegan

    Sick and tired about hearing about sequestration cuts! Even after this "unimaginable" cut we will be spending more money this year than we did last year. The members of both parties and their friends in the media love to make doomsday predictions so we will continue to follow the line. It is about time every American tells their "leaders" to get their own houses in order!

    March 1, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  15. Harry

    Republicans prepare to spend your last term in office. All of you are about to be booted out in 2014 for this outrage!

    March 1, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  16. Mistylynn

    Chuck your words are very true

    March 1, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  17. Just Me

    Cut spedning in every GOP State and watch them scream that you can't do that and it's unfair!

    March 1, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  18. herb

    It's about time spending was cut.

    March 1, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  19. Elle80

    They hate Obama so much that their willing to make the full country suffer!!! We will see in 2014!

    March 1, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  20. amercon

    Obama got tax increases in the cliff deal, now it is time for spending cuts. The sequestration cuts are small compared to the deficit and are not real cuts because they only slow the rate of increase in spending. The Republicans should not cave to Obama's demands to ignore his sequestration.

    March 1, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  21. Janet

    This is the beginning of the end. It's called survivor of the wealthiest. The poor will only get more poor while the wealthy will stay wealthy. We are going down as a nation and we need to take action NOW!

    March 1, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  22. Kevin

    I only geel bad for people affected by these cuts who would be nice to me

    March 1, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  23. johanjj

    "It's hard to recall a time when we were so leaderless" (David Gergen).

    March 1, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  24. Dan

    We all knew this day would come. Congress is unwilling to do anything that would hurt their election chances. Regardless of the party, they could care less about the American people

    March 1, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  25. thelthyg

    the money that special interests are propping up the GOP with far exceeds the budget gap here. and the donations paid (squandered) in the last election to avoid tax increases on the wealthy far exceed the actual increases they'd have to pay. but that's the GOP for you: a rigidly ideological JOKE.

    March 1, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
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