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. bradley

    heads will roll

    March 1, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  2. Owl

    No more incumbents! Red vs. Blue, Dems vs. Reps. I’m red with anger and blue in the face saying this. They all need to go. Do not vote for any incumbents and continue to do so until we get some fresh blood in there. Pelosi OUT! Boehner OUT!

    So, many others have said it here, they are taking pay for doing a job that they are not doing. If you were an employee of any company, a plumber, cook, doctor, a sports athlete… if they didn’t do what you paid them to do, then replace them. I do NOT want to hear about them raising their own pay or taking vacations or breaks. Your work is not done, get to it.

    March 1, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  3. Sigh

    1) The people whose pay is being cut are not Congresspeople are making six-figure salaries. They're regular people, trying to make a living like everyone else.
    2) You force the people currently working the scut jobs in government to leave for the private sector, and you get the next tier down of qualified workers. Is that what you want?
    3) We should tax churches. They're businesses now, and should be asked to contribute some of their megapreacher megachurch megabucks.
    4) You people who have nothing to do with the federal government and are not paid by them have no idea what long-term furloughs will wreak in the long-term. In advance, we tried to warn you.

    March 1, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  4. Bob

    They aren't massive. They aren't even cuts. This is typical "Chicken Little" lies from the left being trumpted by a gutless media on behalf of their messiah, Obama the Fool.

    March 1, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  5. Jerry

    The Congressmen/Congresswomen are taking a long weekend for what??????

    March 1, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  6. KJ

    If they don't resolve this, vote the incumbent out in your state in the next election, whether you're a repub or dem, vote'em out, only way to send a message...

    March 1, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  7. eric

    Look at the 4 eye balls in the picture....Wont work..

    March 1, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  8. bereasonable2

    I have little patience with the whiners in this discussion from both sides that are still repeating their party's canned talking points. Do you have any ideas for solutions or do you prefer to remain impotent victims? The simple fact is that our government is dysfunctional.

    March 1, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  9. J

    I love how everybody in congress seems to disappear when stuff like this happens.And the effects of it started weeks ago.I have family working for the military and they started by cutting them down to 3 days a week from 6 and now are being told they will only be working 2 weeks a month or losing their job all together.

    March 1, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  10. RobX

    Our debt is too high, and government spending must go down. The divided congress / house cannot agree on anything, so at least this is now getting us some reduction. Taking defense spend down 13% now that the wars are ending, and after the massive increases in the past, seems only appropriate. Do we really need TEN nuclear aircraft carriers at this time? And 11% off the non-defense items seems totally do-able also. Just requires some prioritization about which activities are most critical. In business departments, a budget cut of 10% is considered pretty mild these days. You just rank your 10 initiatives and you drop the one at the bottom. Its totally possible.

    March 1, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  11. Thomas

    Our elected officials sure know how to put the diss in disfunctional.

    March 1, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  12. Jo

    Really? Leaving for the weekend on Thursday? With what seems like a crisis in the works. The weekend starts Friday evening for most businesses. But hey, I think you all deserve a raise, and please take an extra day off during the week because you have done diddly squat all week, and I think you need a break from all the stress of doing NOTHING for the people that elected you to office. Just sayin.

    March 1, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  13. Just because

    Give the republicans what they have been asking for.
    Red states first, they tend to be the poorest, they know economics, they can be canaries.

    March 1, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  14. Independent1

    Maybe this will start a wake up call and more of you will start voting independent. Time to vote out selfish Republicans and Democrats who clearly get nothing done year after year. And yes one vote does matter, it starts a process....

    March 1, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  15. bereasonable2

    Pathetic. I plan to support candidates who want to actually accomplish something. Compromise is not a 4 letter word......

    March 1, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  16. chrissigfrids

    Families,college students, single moms, retirees, small business owners...we've all been forced to make draconian cuts to our own personal budget because of the spending spree Washington has been on for years. A little draconian spending cuts for the government? It's about freaking time.

    March 1, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    I am blaming the President on this one. He is the leader of the whole country and he needs to put the country first.

    March 1, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  18. mona19595

    Republicans, Democrats are both to blame, they are ruining this country!!!! The economy sucks, gas prices are high, grocery prices are high and on top of all that there are no jobs. WE ARE ALL POOR is this what we really want for this country? I sure in hell don't but I don't know how we can fix it. Seems whenever there is an election we don't select the best person for the job we select the one who is the most convincing. We got what we thought we wanted and POOF he is no better than the REST!! What is it going to take.........How does the economy and helping the middle class that is non-existent come last? Let's let all of the illegal immigrants stay to get better benefit's than the ones we have and for not earning a dime towards them. We are going to have to change the thinking in Washington. Only a really intelligent person with great idea's can achieve this! Running this country is not about who can sell their idea's but also a man/woman who has the best track record....

    March 1, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    How do you force lawmakers hands when its not touching their checkbooks? Such a joke...your welcome congress for providing the protection that you so desire so that you can stab all the hardworking Americans in the back. I have a great idea how about you take a 50% pay cut and give that money to the hard working Americans protecting you!

    March 1, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  20. Help

    I am reading this, sitting at my computer, trying to find ways to cut my household expenses by 20%. I need to do this because, thanks to Washington, I will be getting a 20% pay cut. They aren't being made to take a 20% cut in there pay. They here awhile back vote themselves a pay raise. I work for the Federal government, and we haven't even had a cost of living raise, Thanks to our boss (The President) for 3 years and this year isn't looking any better. No us no pay raises for 3 years, and now 20% pay cut, them pay raise and no pay cut. No one in Washington cares, as long as it doesn’t affect them. In the words of John Paul Jones, “Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead". Isn't the Captain supposed to go down with the ship, not abandon it?

    March 1, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  21. kmkirb

    As is typical, I see many comments coming from people who either refuse to admit the plain in your face facts, or they just want to keep on blaming our President, & saying ignorant hateful remarks remarks like "Dems are clueless." That's a joke in & of itself. Remember the Grand Bargain? It was all set and ready to go, and Boehner was even on board with it, he agreed to it. He was ready to sit down, make the deal, & shake hands with President Obama on the Grand Bargain in 2011.

    And then along came Eric Cantor (R-VA), & Paul Ryan (R-WI), notice the dang R's after those 2 names, whom the Sequester Plan came from, & those two talked Boehner out of the Grand Bargain. Now tell me again that Dems are clueless. You cannot!

    Cantor & Ryan wanted the sequester. Cantor came out & admitted it yesterday that it was his & Ryan's plan & that they talked Boehner, who is by no means any sort of a leader, out of making the deal. You don't have to take my word for it. You're sitting right here reading my comments, so Google it. Ryan went on TV & lied to our faces yesterday about who to put the blame on, which naturally he's blaming our President, instead of telling the truth like Cantor did. Get your heads out of the clouds people, & pay attention. Cantor & Ryan are directly responsible for the Sequester plan, & Boehner went along with it as the spineless creatures they all are!

    March 1, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  22. Sarah DeWitt

    If we're talking about cuts, why don't we stop giving congress, the vice president, and other government officials raises? Why, when faced with budget cuts, is it our education system, military families, soldiers over seas, programs to help the hungry and homeless, and MANY more other programs in need of help the first to be hit. Why isn't it the multi billion dollar corporations receiving tax breaks, congress getting "released for the weekends" or MANY PAID vacations, and government officials getting paid much more than $100,000 salaries that are hit at all? It angers me as an american citizen that more people question what programs to be cut that help this and aren't questioning how much of our money goes into their bank accounts, their companies, and their expenses. As a major news network, wouldn't it be a great story to cover that, CNN? Why do the people responsible for taking care of our country and WE THE PEOPLE take care of themselves (over abundantly) and their interests and priorities first? Why doesn't this make more americans angry or question them blindly?

    March 1, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  23. Disanitnodicos

    Obama is so eloquent: "Y'all dumb."

    March 1, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  24. gtsmoker

    The sun came up and everything is fine here.
    Whack another $85 billion and I bet everything will be okie dokie too.

    March 1, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  25. Justin

    I think the cut's should encompass a 50% pay cut for all of our politicians we are clearly paying them way to much.

    March 1, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
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