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. chas_db

    IIt is very interesting to hear a democrat talking about that GOP will blame them for this when this is the cnn message I just received.

    President Obama says "dumb, arbitrary" forced spending cuts that take effect today are unnecessary and inexcusable. “Let’s be clear. None of this is necessary. It’s happening because of a choice that Republicans in Congress have made,” he said.

    If that is not the pot calling the kettle black, please tell me what is.

    March 1, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  2. JDinHouston

    So here's a strange outcome – the sequester actually won't hurt, will have a momentary blip in a couple areas but otherwise reduce spending overall, and the "Obama Sequester," as the Republicans so desperately try to portray it, will suddenly become Obama's victory at cost cutting since, supposedly, it was all Obama's doing in the first place. Or, it will have devastating effect and the Republicans will still do nothing.

    March 1, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  3. buffaloyetti

    Much to do about politics, not much else. Lets do nothing, vote on nothing. Lets see what happens. I bet not much.
    It's all about politics and frankly scarlet I don't give a damn.

    March 1, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  4. bjd1020

    I wonder if cutting welfare checks, food stamps and, free cell phones will be affected by the sequestration?

    March 1, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  5. Slowpoke

    Neither party is interested in solving the problem because they both want to use it as a political tool. When the revolution comes, Congress will definitely be the first against the wall.

    March 1, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  6. Kevin

    Dems are so clueless. This IS all Obama's fault. He had a deal with Boehner, they shook hands on a reasonable tax increase, and the next day Obama went back on it after the debt ceiling was raised. THAT is what Woodward was talking about when he mentioned him 'moving the goal posts'. The president is a liar, plain and simple. Had he been honest with congress the entire time, none of this would be happening. Instead, congress is calling his bluff, and now Obama is scrambling because of the danger this represents. If he is right and the economy does tank (unlikely), then there is a good chance the public blames him. If he's wrong and nothing catastropic occurs then he cried wolf. Had he tken the deal he and Boehner originally worked out he could be swimming with Michael Phelps or shooting hops with Lebron right now, or whatever else it is he does besides his job. But congrats, folks, you voted for the celebrity – now live with it!

    March 1, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  7. DB

    Come on, people in the DC should be fired after this they have had over a year to figure it out and no one can come up with a compromise. Obama needs to get to work and stop campaigning figure out how to make all sides come up with an agreement. I DON'T BARROW TO PAY MY BILLS I STOP SPENDING WHICH GIVES ME MONEY TO PAY MY BILLS. WAKE UP DC THE AVERAGE AMERICAN IS SICK AND TIRED OF HIRING YOUR CHATS GOING BACK AND FORTH. MY SIX YEAR OLD KNOWS HOW TO HANDLE MONEY BETTER THAN YOU.

    March 1, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  8. Andrew

    First it was the debit ceiling, then it was the fiscal clif and now it's the sequester. I wonder what the next "crises" will be.

    March 1, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC

    nchurricane wrote:

    The house has passed two budgets and the senate deems won't do anythings with them.
    You have been purposely misled. The 112th House passed two "budgets", which they knew would be completely ignored until after the 2012 election. The House took no action after the elections. In fact, they went on vacation. Furthermore, any pending legislation passed by the 112th House is null and void once the 113th House has been sworn in. Once again, the House has taken no action and took a 12 day break, which means 4 weeks because the only work Tue thru Thu.

    March 1, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  10. m68123

    Sorry, but no spending is being cut.
    The 2.5% decrease is in additional spending from last year to this year.
    If you think the Feds can't cut 2.5% of waste from their budget(which has never been approved), you are too naive for serious talk about the deficit.
    So much for the Tea Partiers, Obama's promise to cut the deficit in half, and all the lies told by BOTH PARTIES.
    I had a lot of hope for Obama, but you can't dance by yourself, and sometimes you have to dance with the ugly girl.

    March 1, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  11. Mistylynn

    Kmoss, you said what I wish I could say. Agree

    March 1, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  12. 0bjective1

    Fire every single one of them that refused to compromise, on either side of the fence. Hold elections immediately.

    If you failed this badly at your job, you would be fired too.

    March 1, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  13. erick

    President Obama needs to be more demanding of Congress. These congressmen are not taking responsibility for their work representing people of USA. American people need to put the senators and congressmen and paid minimum wage for hours.

    March 1, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  14. Nanners

    Vote them all out people, it's the only option we have.

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

    The Republicans will stay entrenched until Obama becomes so unpopular he will be unable to run for President in 2012. Or aleast 2016. There is also the talk that Ted Cruz will filabuster the 20th Amendment this week.

    March 1, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  16. Terrance Kozak

    Ladies and gentlemen, I am a Canadian business owner, so don't accuse me of being biased. I just watched President Obama's press conference and, having been a supporter of your leaders since the Reagan era, at this moment in time, I am befuddled. How is it that you call your president a "leader," when he holds a press conference where he blames the other political party. I haven't seen this kind of childish behavior since watching my grandson saying the words "it's not my fault." This is your idea of "leadership"? What has happened to the once great United States of America? As a business owner, I am proud of the fact that everything starts and stops with me. My success is dependent on me and my decisions. I don't blame anyone for any shortcomings, nor should I, or your president.

    March 1, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  17. lmc3

    The Congress and the Obama administration has ignored the need to get a budget passed for several years and now it's blowing up in their faces. If I ruled the world, I would stop the pay and goodies for all of them and apply the savings where needed and they wouldn't get a cent or any benefits until they cooperated on a sensible budget. Too bad I don't rule the world.

    March 1, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  18. Aubrey Kinsey

    I feel a lot of distance between the Republicans and the Democrats are from our President, Barack Obama, won the election. I have never seen or heard of anyone being so disrepectful to our President in my life. It seems they don't want him to achieve anything so they go against everything he produces then bad mouth him for failing. Our President deserves all the respect due him also because of his position in the government instead of being called stupid or told to get off his ass. I'm a Vietnam vet with 24 years in the military and I am ashamed of our lawmakers. If it had anything to do with pay hikes or lifetime retirement for themselves, I guarantee they would pass that immediately rather than bickering. Making the amount of money they make, I think everyone would agree, they should pay more only makes sense if we have to pay more if we make more. I salute our President and our Commander-in-Chief.

    March 1, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  19. Mel Roy

    I I am an outsider looking in. It would seem that there is so much talking back and forth which I think is so useless and self serving. The solution is simple.....just cut the Congress, the Senators and Governors salary by 20% and I guaranty you will see an immediate reaction and I am sure they would very quickly come to an agreement. Secondly regarding the Gun Control....again the solution is relatively simple....just increase the taxes on the sale of gun by a minimum of 50% to 75% and and just ban the sale of any automatic weapons and any weapon having more than 3 rounds in the clip. If the American people are so adamant about the 2 nd amendment then they should armed themselves with a musket which was the gun of choice when this amendment was implemented.

    March 1, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  20. PA Mom

    The GOP is refusing to budge on their stance. They are saying completely my way or no way at all. That is not negotiation. Find a middle ground, work it out, do NOT act like spoiled children and go home. Boehner is the leader of the House and he is NOT leading. He is acting like a spoiled child. Those of you blaming Obama for the spoiled temper tantrums of the GOP need to wake up. You can't negotiate with a spoiled child and you can't negotiate with the GOP. Boehner claimed that he got 98% of what he wanted in the Sequester. I guess he never heard the old adage, be careful what you wish for, you just might get it! He's going to get it alright! The blame will land squarely on HIS shoulders.

    March 1, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  21. General Electric's BIG DOG

    The sequester was Obama's idea. He wanted this to happen. Don't blame the Republicans.

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

    BO will rectify this injustice by simply enacting another executive order to spend, spend spend! Just as he did with the $21 Billion executive spending order authorizing pay raises for congress and other bureaucrats on the eve of the fiscal cliff debacle.

    March 1, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  23. Deac

    These are minimal cuts. Of course people will suffer, but this is what happens when the government has so many dependents. Its time to live within our means

    March 1, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  24. Taylor

    Way too many of you sound like extreme revolutionists and anarchists. America has a leader, whether, you think he is good or not is your own opinion that can be shared through all channels. Enough with the people vs government. I see another repeat of the 1917 fiasco from Russia if we are not careful.

    March 1, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  25. AMMEEE

    Time is 12:14 est, the sky has not fallen. While I am an outsider looking in, seems to me that there is far too much BS by everyone involved. Politicians, bureaucrats, lobbyists, and the poor lemmings that follow their side over the cliff. USA stood for freedom, and admired by may countries, seems to me that your freedom has been hi-jacked by politicians and lobbyists, all stripes all colors.

    March 1, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
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