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. How Quickly We Forget

    I am surprised at many of these comments. Regardless if you are Democrat or Republican, facts are facts. This was introduced and signed into law in Aug 12 by Obama to get both sides to work together. These cuts were supposed to take place in Jan but were postponed by both sides – Republicans would allow taxes to be raised, Obama/Democrats would do selective cuts to the budget. Taxes were raised but no cuts came. Now the deadline is here and neither side is willing to play ball. Too bad we are discussing our lives and living standards instead of some ballgame.

    March 1, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  2. CNN

    86 Billion....hmm, that means roughly 57.62 billion out of defense and the remainder out of what? Air traffic controllers? Schools? Obamacare? Why do we listen to these hacks, the "sky is falling" doesn't work as a tactic on voters anymore.

    March 1, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  3. rv

    These cuts are not as bad as the President and the media portrays. With wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, we can and should reduce defense funding even further.

    March 1, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  4. ChattyCathy

    I do not see how all you people can sit there and say everything is President Obama's fault. Do you not understand that he presented his proposed budget to Congress and it is their responsibility to pass a budget. All the Republicans decided in 2009 to DENY, DENY, DENY, DENY, to try to make sure that President Obama was a one term president. Imagine their surprise that he was elected for a second term. So I guess they decided that what they could do now, was do anything and everything to hurt as many citizens as they can, and that he cannot do anything about it. When they would not pass a budget, he told them if they couldn't, they would have to do a sequestration. They decided "well, okay, we can do that. That way the milionnaires won't have to pay anymore than their 10 percent in taxes, and the millionaires can keep their tax loopholes, keep their deductions, and some how it will get blamed on the president because he is black.

    March 1, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  5. ratman

    What ever happened to "The Buck Stops Here?" This guy is always blaming someone else and I'm not saying the Republicans are any better.

    March 1, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  6. Chris

    As a Republican I applaud the President for implementing these automatic cuts. Short term effects will hurt, the long term it will help. Now we need an audit of the Pentagon and we will be in business for real cuts.

    March 1, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  7. Namecjdags

    Yay!!! Shut it down! I hope our goverment does shut down in may then we can actually have peace from the blowholes!

    March 1, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  8. Dave


    We finally took one step in cutting into the beast's diet.

    March 1, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  9. yep

    All these insults towards Obama and The GOP. Ridiculous. Everyone knows we need to have some cuts. NO ONE in congress wants to be responsible for it. This is the only way it's going to happen. Congress can't work together to get it done responsibly so now it has to be done with an axe instead of a scalpel. That's congresses fault. Let the cuts happen and let's see if we can get some more in the works as well! Our kids should have to suffer for our debt.

    March 1, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  10. tibs

    Why is the penalty for Congress not doing their job that other people lose theirs? The rule should have been for Congress to fix this or they lose THEIR jobs!

    March 1, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  11. rd

    A big thanks to the blow-hard fools in washington. I am not going to be unemployed in a few weeks. So much for the great american dream.

    March 1, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  12. SBeauchamp

    Who do I blame for this? I blame the President for waiting to lead when it was already too late, maybe he should buy a calendar. I blame Speaker Boehner for not passing another Budget Bill with the CURRENT Congress. I blame the Senate Majority & Minority Leader (Reid & McConnell) for not reaching a compromise. I blame the media for not blaming ALL of the above and just trying to place the blame on the GOP (who is responsible but no more so then the Democrats). Finally I blame myself for not raising hell with our elected representatives and allowed them to do nothing. We all share in the blame. But now Congress and the President need to do what we PAY them for and fix this problem. If they do not choose to lead then it is time to replace them all (or in Obama's case not elect his preferred Democrat in the next election).

    March 1, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  13. CARLOS

    Unbelievable!!!! Why are these bozos in power? when is the national march in washington taking place to demand action? Republicans scream that there is no leadership from Obama – but they aren't willing to be lead. Such an absurd way to run the largest economy in the world. What a bunch of yahoos. And I'm not talking about the TParty – they are in a class of their own.

    March 1, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  14. Michaela Ratcliff

    So let me see if I understand this correctly. We, as a country, are financially able to spend 60 million dollars on aiding the opposition in Syria, but at the same time we are unable to continue education as it was planned for e.g. children of our Armed Forces personnel overseas? The scheduled furlough will cut many valuable days of education from these children and the way we explain it to the children is that America needs to save that money.
    So here it goes – I will sit down with my three children, while we are stationed overseas, and say : “Dear children, America can’t afford your education” … “However, the opposition in Syria will receive 60 million dollars”. I think even a child in 1st grade will immediately realize that there is some failing logic there …
    All involved politicians who simply did not do their assigned job (which by the way includes communication and cooperation with people who are not in your party and may have opposing opinions), especially the politicians who spent their time playing golf or leaving their assigned duty station for a long weekend early, need to seriously think about their personal ethics and integrity!!!
    You have let down your country!!!

    March 1, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  15. md11456

    This is what happens when a "Chief Executive" doesn't do his job to negotiate a deal with Congress. He is absolutely intransigent over the issue of raising taxes, and that stance has created the stalemate. He already has his tax increase.....and now wants another one......what is "balanced" about that? Now he gets cuts.....and Obama is the only one to blame. Well-deserved given his dismal performance as President.

    March 1, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  16. JJ

    Water is still turned on, aircraft are still in the air, TSA still irritating all travelers, politicians still lying.....nothing any different yet.

    March 1, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    why don't they start with giving themselves unpaid leave?? oh, wait, why would they do that? they don't need to ask us to do something they wouldn't do themselves!!

    March 1, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  18. Treezie

    Cuts to the NIH will make getting grants for cancer research immensely more difficult- if it wasn't already. As a researcher, this is incredibly disappointing. I must consider leaving the US to Europe or Asia where funding for science is more highly valued. I am sure others will consider the same. To think that these cuts are a good thing for the US is a terrible mistake.

    March 1, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  19. akita96th

    Good about time they trim the fat and see where the chips fall..

    March 1, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  20. clem kadiddle

    I'm just a simple man, but I know one thing. The Federal Reserve is STEALING peoples nest egg. Pure and simple. You know it's bad when that money is not enough to pay our National Debt and they have to start making cuts to everything else. We are on the road to ruin and there is no difference between the Dems and the Repubs. They are going to steal from us anyway they can. Take what ever savings you have and pay off as much debt as you can. GOD HELP US!

    March 1, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  21. thinkingnow

    looks like jobs trimmed will be in DC mostly. that too to lower level workers. highly paid workers will be able to save their desks i m sure.

    March 1, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  22. Rudy NYC

    MrCub96 observed:

    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.
    The annual budget doubled between 2001 and 2009, while we cut taxes the entire time..

    The Tea Party started as "Taxed Enough Already", and quickly spread itself out into guns, gays, health care and abortion. Oh yeah, they finally just happened to notice the out of control deficit spending.

    March 1, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  23. Dale

    Sequester and Taxes starting tomorrow.
    Lobbyists and tax lawyers are Just moving the goal posts !
    11 key United States Defense contractors. Lockheed Martin , Northrop Grumman , Boeing , Raytheon , General Dynamics , General Electric , L-3 Communications , Computer Sciences , Hewlett-Packard , Dell computers , Rockwell. “ All fuel Contractors ”.

    All of them “ Price Gouging ” the U.S. taxpayer.

    Is “Sequester” going to affect Defense Contractors; NO their Lobbyists are hard at work getting them around this sequester.
    Are Insider contractors going to “”Pay their fair taxes”” to help with the National Debt, NO they are not their “lobbyists and tax lawyers” are “”Working Hard on Tax Loopholes””.

    March 1, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  24. Jimh77

    The difference of our "lawmakers" being in Washington or away = Exactly the same. Nothing different. They should all take a long walk off a short pier and go away so we can put some real people in there with real solutions to get America back to where it once was. Looking more and more like becoming a police state with a dictator vs elected officials.

    March 1, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  25. Bookldy209

    "They" get a regular paycheck no matter what. Why should we expect otherwise? Besides, the stock market has been behaving quite admirably so there is no added incentive to take action.

    March 1, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
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