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. Paul

    When you daughter wont stop spending money, what do you do? You take away the credit card. If two kids are fighting over a ball, what do you do? You take away the ball.

    We need politicians that work together for the good of the people, do your job. Both parties are responsible, lets not throw mud, lets not blame one or the other. Just take the ball away. When you are an adult and one of your children says it was his fault, and they start fighting, what do you say as an adult. You dont try to find out who started it, you make them both sit in their rooms and take a time out. I dont care whos fault it was I am going to punish both of you, go to your rooms. Stop the blame game guys. Stop trying to push one agenda or the other, stop trying to enhance you own party, and start working for the people. And guys stop all this mud slinging, both kids are to blame. You punish both by taking the ball away, and give them a time out. Treat our congressmen and women like kids. I support this action. As a father as an adult as an american. The only way to punish a conressperson is to take away his purse strings. Stop spending the American peoples money irresponsibly.

    March 1, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  2. Bob

    Never supposed to happen? That's like going to the casino and putting your money in the slot machine and saying "I was never supposed to lose". This is what happens when you gamble.

    March 1, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  3. Bill

    Simple suggestion! Since the Executive and Legislative Branches have demonstrated that they cannot do what they are in office to do! THEY ALL NEED TO RESIGN! All of them need to return their pay and relinquish ALL of their benefits, past, present, and future.

    March 1, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  4. hih

    thank goodness it did and it was suppose to happen this congress cant do anything unless it is designed that they do nothing

    March 1, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  5. The 48%

    It's not the Obama administration's fault, he was voted into a job that he is incapable and unqualified to handle or even understand. It is the fault of the American people and the ignorance in voting for him in the first place. I do not feel bad for those who voted for him and are now losing jobs, YOU DESERVE THE GOVERNMENT YOU VOTE FOR...and here it is!!! Democrats and other leftists with their political agendas use irrational fear and misdirection to foster hidden agendas by substituting lies in place of reality. In which case, lies and hidden agendas become reality for that portion of the population who are too lazy to think for themselves.

    March 1, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  6. UDidntBuildThat

    Since Jan 1st 2013, the majority of us taxpayers (77%) got a 2.5% pay cut in our taxes and had to live with that decrease in our budget. Over the past 5yrs, gas prices have doubled under this president and our median household income have decreased by over $4000. And we the American taxpayers have had to deal with a constant and drastic decline in our household budgets.

    Now you look at the number in the sequester. $85 Billion. That is 2.5% of a $3.7 TRILLION federal govt budget. So you LIBERALS and Obama are saying the sky is going to fall b/c you fools cannot cut 2.5% of your bloated budget when for the past 5 years the American taxpayers have had to deal with significant cuts fr their household budgets?! And the kicker is that it is half of the $85B (ie $42.5 Billion) that will have to be cut this year. That 1+%. The other half will be spread out next year.
    Democrats think the American people are stupid. Listen to Obama blast his own plan (ie the sequester) and blaming the Republicans. Jay Carney finally came out yesterday and admittied to lying to the American people that Sequestration was the Republicans fault. Anyone who thinks that cutting 1+% of a $3.7 Trillion budget will result in economic armageddon IS STUPID!

    March 1, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  7. texasjimbob

    There are no painless solutions for our overspending problem. If we cut ANY federal spending someone is not going to get something they are currently getting, but if we keep spending way more than we take in we are simply "kicking the can down the road" for our children to deal with. Obviously Congress is never going to be able to agree on fair, sensible spending cuts, so if these minor across-the-board cuts are all we can get I say bring them on!

    March 1, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  8. LL

    Very telling how southern conservatives blame those on welfare as being the 'takers' in the system when most southern RED STATES themselves have been welfare states on the take for many decades.

    March 1, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  9. Dom

    I am glad this is going through.... Now we need to plan another cut in spending one year from now followed by another one in 2015. Most people just don't get it – you can't keep spending money you don't have and raising taxes on the rich isn't going to cover it. Either they cut spending back down to the Clinton years or they raise taxes on EVERYBODY!

    March 1, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  10. Hannah Diaz

    Just wished the sequester would cute Medicaid as well.

    March 1, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  11. JJ

    This is BOTH sides ; however Obama is at the helm.

    March 1, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  12. whatever

    This sequester came directly from the white house at the behest of the president. He got what he wanted, if he didn't want a sequester then perhaps he should have thought it through before signing it into law or actually worked across the isle instead of pretending to.

    March 1, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  13. roger

    Did Nancy Pelosi really say that we should be prepared to lose our jobs? What kind of moron is she to say that? Obama and the Democratic party are going to lose all credibility when all their doom and gloom predictions don't come to pass. They were using scare tactics as usual and I hope it comes back to bite them in the butt.

    March 1, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  14. Mark Burton

    It is easy to see what he is doing. He is cutting essentials like air traffic control instead of non-essentials like the NEA (national arts or education). He is punishing America for his bad judgment in over spending. Get ready for riots like Greece.

    March 1, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  15. erica hill

    OBAMA= The worst president ever!!

    March 1, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  16. Obama

    Obama requested the sequestration and hoped it would never see the light of day.

    March 1, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  17. Paul

    I knew that Bush would destroy this country one way or another. Oh wait, Bush isn't president anymore? It's been 4 years since he was there? Oh well It's still got to be his fault. No way Obama would let this happen.

    March 1, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  18. Steve T

    such drama...!

    March 1, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  19. reality

    Hopefully these cuts stick and this portends the end of the nanny state. Tired of supporting the 47% and also the bureaucrat class who participate in, and profit from the Robin Hood exercise.

    March 1, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  20. Marginalized

    This article says all $85B will go into effect this year. According to the CBO report I saw (can't remember the site) it was $44B. Why the huge difference?

    March 1, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  21. Bruce in VA

    Since when is 2% considered massive? We would need about 10 times this amount of reduction just to have a balanced budget, nevermind paying down the debt. We borrow about 3 billion dollars a day. So now we borrow 2.7 billion dollars a day.

    March 1, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  22. jason d morris

    It's time to start calling the Republicans what they really are: TRAITORS.

    March 1, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  23. The people

    Doesn't the government works for the people??

    then government you are fired!!!!
    you better start packing before people lose its patience.

    March 1, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  24. Charlie

    According to the pie chart in the back of the 1040 instructions 23% of federal outlays went to social spending (welfare programs). Another 8% went for physical, human and community development. About half of that was more welfare. 46% of US residents pay no federal income taxes. 20% went to outlays for to equip, modernize and pay for our armed forces.The Constitution provides for a national defense, no where does the Constitution provide for paying for those too lazy to work. I have no problem with those who are physically or mentally handicapped from receiving funds, but we have far too many people in the US who think government handouts are a career field. The first place the government should look to cutting the budget is to stop all entitlements to able bodied people who should be responsible for themselves.

    March 1, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  25. manhantiam

    Memo to Obama; Might I suggest that we cut free cell phones for the homeless before we cut air traffic controllers. Just a thought.

    March 1, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
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