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. rbnlegend

    Take a look at the constitution, when you assign blame. The president does not authorize spending. Congress spends the money. Within congress, the House has to initiate legislation that relates to spending. The senate can then modify that though the usual means, and if approved, it goes to the president to sign and do his part. But first, congress has to control it's own spending. The president can't change what congress sets into law. This is a congress problem, and the president is just doing his legally required duties. Don't like it? Complain to congress.

    As for compromise, the house keeps coming back with their original concepts. That's not compromise. They have to agree to some things they don't like, to get agreement on some things they do like. "The other side isn't compromising" is not the same as "the other side hasn't agreed to every thing we want", and the republicans don't seem clear on the difference.

    I am starting to like the idea that this is a way for republicans to agree to defense spending cuts, without having to own that agreement. They can let it happen, and point the finger of blame. They get spending cuts, and something to cry about, which is ideal in their political situation. They can't get rid of the deficiet without touching defense, but they are comitted to never ever touching defense, so, they need a scapegoat. This is their idea of a good answer.

    March 1, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  2. Sara Hoyle

    All government officials from the president on down should take a 15% pay cut instead of facing these forced budget cuts. We are facing a government shut down. If I were in government making so much money, I would gladly take the pay cut to keep my job and help my country.

    March 1, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  3. Karl

    If any bureaucrat can't handle a 2.5% – 5% trim in their budget, then they are unfit for office.

    March 1, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  4. Furloughed_DoD

    All of you who can't wait to se ethis happen, have you considered what it actually means? How about you donate 20% of your anual income this year to the IRS... Thats what we have to do! We – Federal workers and our families have to deal with the same food costs, insurance premiums, gasoline rates... and yet – we must now do it with 20% less income. There are people and families at the otherside of this sequester – its not the Government, its your neighbor, your friend, your childs classmates... Heck it's your own child that is going to receive less education benefits. the "Government" is an organization, its not a living entity. The only harm that will be done is to the American's who are employed by the Government or rely on those who can no longer afford anything that does not feed, cloth, or shelter us. We earn no more than a private sector person doing our same job, have not received a raise in 3 years, and yet still are being forced to give up even more. I dare any of you who want this or think its not going to be that bad – do the same. Want Government to spend within its means, lets all live with a 20% tax rate with no exceptions or deductions.

    March 1, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  5. MadDog

    Cowards, all of them, from the top down. IMHO, so much of this could have been avoided if (1) there would have been any compromise at all, from BOTH sides, on what really needs to be done; (2) had the jobs and infrastructure programs been passed instead of filibustered, jobs would have been created which would have increased the tax revenue stream, cut into unemployment, food stamps and other welfare-type programs; (3) close loopholes that allow those that can afford it to pay far less in taxes; (4) end Corporate Welfare. The first two would be a win-win for the country; the last two are only fair to those of us in the middle class that essentially support those individuals, families and corporations that feed off of the loopholes and whatnot. Here's another radical thought: Congress doesn't get paid until this mess is cleaned up, once and for all.

    March 1, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  6. Kyle

    I am glad this is happening, for no other reason than I want to find out if the fear mongers are right or if the budget hawks are right. I really don't know what is going to happen, but if the cuts happen and the sky doesn't fall, maybe we should do some more. Just saying.

    March 1, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  7. bergerfry

    Our government has been ruining our economy and education system for quite a while now. They only care about their bonuses and media coverage.

    March 1, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  8. Matt

    In the private sector, when an employee does not perform to the expectations of the employer, they are fired. Congress is not performing to the expectations of the American people. They are not working to solve the problems at hand, they are in fact creating them.

    I, as one of their employers, would like to see them all fired if they do not resolve the sequester issue before the midnight deadline. They have a job to do, they are taking pay to do it and at the very least they should be at their desks working towards solutions to the current issues facing our nation.

    If the present Congress can't do the job, fire them and elect a new Congress who will!

    March 1, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  9. Tina M

    @dd, really? there is plenty of blame on both sides here. The repubs have never ever helped this president with anything from the time he was sworn in the first time.

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

    This incompetent government has ruined America. The audacity to even put me through federal stress of these ongoing disputes lthat resolve so catastrophically against the hard working 98% is unconscionable. Republicans are to blame for dumb unnecessary inhumane behavior. Wait till the American backlash begins on the level commensurate with their "austerity".

    March 1, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  11. arkmark

    remember His Inaugural address. the economy and deficits came AFTER gay rights and Global climate change. Yep hes got his priorities right. He only had 2 years to become a leader and figure this out obama failed on both

    March 1, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  12. Ulysses-AZ

    If cutting two cents out of every dollar is considered draconian then we have fallen a long way from the "Greatest Generation"... Imagine what a fuss we would kick up today if asked to sacrifice, not just our military personnel, but all of us at home too, like during WWII. Sadly, it looks more and more that we have become so spoiled, lazy and discontented that we can't even function. Our President AND Congress is a reflection of US... and that reflection is shameful.

    March 1, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  13. Why2

    Do I hate this? Is this going to hurt the economy? Yes to both, but what I don't understand is how no one can seem to understand that the reason government spending on social programs have expanded is because wages have flatlined while the cost of living has increased. People can not afford to buy houses, have children, go to school,... with these low wages, so they have turned to the government to help them with child care, loans for education, food stamps, healthcare... Of course, there is the working poor, those who make too much for help but not enough to really survive, so they live paycheck to paycheck and will eventually be a burden later on because they cannot afford to put money aside for retirement. We could stop doing that, right? Let everyone who can't pay for care die? All those who say that they live within their budgets say this because they have a job, but the problem will become if the government is cutting programs, how long will you have a job and when will you look to the government to help feed your family?

    March 1, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  14. rusty10313

    What is all of the excitement about? There is absolutly no reason to make any cuts at all. Haven't you heard.........O-worst-president-in-history, and his little minions, say that "the economy is on the right track, that everything is coming up roses and dafodills. We don't have a spending problem, those pesky republicans are the root of all of our ill's" Why wory? Our savior, O-biggest-slime-ball-in-the-bunch, will protect us. Take heart, there are no problems with our economy. We "little people" just need to sit down and shut up. Let the "big boys" tell us what we need. All is well.

    March 1, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  15. Andres

    I love (sarcasm) how the article says, "as lawmakers left Washington on Thursday to begin their weekend". I guess they have better things to do than to help solve this situation and avoid people from losing their jobs. Lame.

    March 1, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  16. arkmark

    remember His Inaugural address. the economy and deficits came AFTER alternative lifestyle ( cause the sensor wont let me say the g word) rights and Global climate change. Yep hes got his priorities right. He only had 2 years to become a leader and figure this out obama failed on both

    March 1, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  17. Jesse

    My company just informed me that I'm losing my job come April 30th. Their reason: "for convenience". My son, my first with my wife, is due May 21st. Our so-called nation's "leaders" should be flogged. All of them.

    March 1, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  18. Don

    There's a lot of dead wood in Federal government and its time we reduce the manpower to save big bucks.
    What a shame that Federal works get laid off after millions have felt the same humiliation.
    Someone suggest that the whole Congress get a pay cut and that is a great idea. They don't deserve our taxes we spend on them.

    PLEASE, PLEASE vote our your Congressman in your next election, especially Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
    Obama should not been reelected either.

    March 1, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  19. arkmark

    remember His Inaugural address. the economy and deficits came AFTER glbt ( cause the sensor wont let me say the g word) rights and Global climate change. Yep hes got his priorities right. He only had 2 years to become a leader and figure this out obama failed on both

    March 1, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  20. stoptheinsanity

    Folks. Look at the hard numbers. The actual cuts are miniscule in the grand scheme of things. There is actually a projected continual spending increase!

    There is a lot of FAT that needs to be cut. This administration's spending is criminally insane....even with these cuts.

    All this whining about how little Johnny can't go to head start because of these cuts is silly. There are boatloads of us working stiff's who never even went to pre-school.

    And all this speculation about military spending cuts is nuts. It's just not as deep as what the spin would have you believe. There are a lot of chicken littles running around yelling the sky is falling on the defense industry. And really, there are a lot of cuts that could be made and nobody would even notice a difference....because of ALL THE FAT. Talk to anyone who's ever worked in defense (public or private sector) and they will tell you there is an incredible amount of wasted spending.

    Just let this pass and move on with your lives.

    March 1, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  21. semper fi

    Just create new programs .....thats the only thing the Government does anyway.

    March 1, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  22. Michael Reynolds

    I wish I could walk out of my job and leave the work till some other time I'm sorry but if we want reforms this is the place to start the American people are tired of dysfunction no work no pay!

    March 1, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  23. abbydelabbey

    America is becoming the laughing stock of the world. And I do mostly blame the GOP and esp. the Tea Party for refusing to compromise or cooperate - ALL they want to do is stop Obama and they don't care if they hurt the American people. After all, they won't be going without a paycheck, etc. Sick and tired of it all.

    March 1, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  24. rs


    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...
    Yeah! Giving the rich MORE tax cuts has worked so well. NOT!

    March 1, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  25. ME

    I like the way the media acted like the world was going to stop spinning if this happens. what was even better was the way the president jumped off that bandwagon saying this would hurt that bad. many of the jobs he is worried about being lost were the same jobs created only to help boost the economy. problem is we cannot sustain those positions created so the government can tax and businesses can claim exemptions on. look people we are right back where we were before the washington elite decided they wanted to stimulate us. hmmmm sounds like a leader made a wrong choice now doesn't it. look who he has around him, no wonder things are going to crap. this administration is like the person that goes to church, but never reads the bible. everything they know is second hand, from another persons point of view. well our comander and chief is the same way. c student. why can't we get A students in politics. oh, they are the type that read the bible for themselves and won't fit in. just saying

    March 1, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
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