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. Roy Carter, Jr

    Every Congressperson should have his or her salary cut in half! When as a society did we start rewarding mediocrity? Until the People take back control of government we will forever be less than what we can be as a nation and a society.

    The irony of this series of unfortunate events is that it was the race issue that made America its wealth, will the race issue be the reason she looses all that wealth? Until I see otherwise, I will always believe that this mess is the conservative response to having a Black man in the high office; one truism in life is that ignorance and hate clouds ones judgement...

    March 1, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  2. Obama Voter

    Unemployed people have a lower carbon footprint , it reduces green house gasses , and decreases global warming . Obama has done a couragous thing with this sequester , we are proud of him . Jack Lew was a genious for creating this world saving event , thank you Jack Lew . Saving the Earth and lowering greenhouse gas emissions , Obama is a hero .

    March 1, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  3. jetfuel4

    fan the flames CNN and the rest of the the flames. LIES LIES LIES...all of it.....they have reduced the rate of increase NOT CUT ANYTHING.....this is all smoke and leeway....can't adjust....BS!!!

    March 1, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  4. Rick

    So Republicans were called the party of gloom and doom during Obama's first term. Now Obama is spreading gloom and doom over these spending cuts. Boo-hoo, Mr. President, you had 18 MONTHS to do something about this, and all you did was fight over a tax increase, that EVERYONE knew would not dent the deficit.

    Of course, 4 years from now, if these automatic spending cuts are successful, Obama will be viewed as a hero by the media, despite his negativity over them now. The media's love for Obama is priceless.

    A government with $1T+ annual deficit and $16T+ debt deserves to make cuts. Households have to do it. For those dependent on the government to provide your life, well, you've learned your lesson. The world isn't going to come to an end.

    March 1, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  5. Mrs. gg

    Its all BS!!! We need to take away the words "Democrat" and "Repulican"!! They will NEVER agree on anything because one side thinks its ideas are better then the other side!!! What do they have to worry about with their big houses and their big bank accounts!!!! Its not going to effect them at all!!! Wish we could impeach them all!! Period!!!

    March 1, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  6. Herman Vergara

    How about HSBC Bank "Money Laundering Operations" around the world?.

    March 1, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  7. 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 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  8. Dan

    Sunny This clown gives money away like water to all his friends 200 Billions to Govt Motors like it was nothing. But 85 Billion is supposed to destroy everything. GIVE US A BREAK. This president is like a litle kid with a ball. "DO what I want or I'm going home." Good move to re-elect this clown. I'm sure glad we have a budget OH wait we don't. Right
    Sure we will still have trillions added to our deficet

    March 1, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  9. jimbob

    Fire all of them

    March 1, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  10. Dan

    Let's see...the health and welfare of the country is at stake and congress all takes off out town for their weekend the day before it all comes down. When they return people will be out of jobs, our military will be crippled and our slow climb out of the economic cellar will turn into a slide back into the abyss. Do they care? Of course not. They will still get paid, get their vacations, smoke their cigars and drink their brandy. It doesn't matter what side of the aisle they're on...every last one of them is a crook and we allow it to happen.

    March 1, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  11. Blake

    Did the majority of representatives really leave for a 3 day weekend? Does this happen every weekend?

    In what screwed up world do the country's most important people, at the most important time, takes a 3 day weekend? Didn't that happen before on Jan 1st?

    If my company was going under, and I told my boss, sorry, I'm taking a 3 day weekend, I'd be fired in a heartbeat. Unbelievable.

    March 1, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  12. lyn

    Congress is doing nothing for the people, why are we paying these useless people for doing nothing? the house leader and his GOP's is the ones that is sitting in their backside getting payed for doing nothing, watch out GOP's for 2014 the hold lot of you will be gone.

    March 1, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  13. Are you Serious?

    "But they haven’t, and as lawmakers left Washington to begin their weekend on Thursday"

    WHO IN THE HECK starts their weekend on Thursday?

    March 1, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  14. joeaverager

    Back when I was in the military we didn't go home until the job was done. Didn't matter if we just arrived back in port and wives and children were waiting on the pier – if something had to get done – we stayed until it did. And we made a heck of alot less money that the DC bozos. In my job today I'm a salary employee. STILL if I have to complete something then I stay at least until late in the evening and I work weekends to get it all done.

    Congress left on Thursday to begin their weekend? Seriously? Fire everyone of them not actively working on these problems. They apparently don't take their paychecks nor their responsibilities seriously. Lock them out of their building.

    March 1, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  15. John

    This is actually the best thing that could have happened... it's showing the American people that the U.S. Congress, U.S. Senate and the Executive branch are truly irrelevent, they have lost their moral authority as supposed representatives of the American people and a constitutional crisis could be triggered here.

    March 1, 2013 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  16. jim

    excellent – now include white house executive and congressional pay and all the other waistfull gov spending and we are finally getting somewhere

    March 1, 2013 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  17. Ian

    Well, well... People vote for him, lol. Keep your mouth shut and start over again........ Lol.

    March 1, 2013 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  18. Victor Marino Jr

    Looks to me like a big game of "chicken" and the whole country lost!!!

    March 1, 2013 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  19. apoc3

    For those of you saying 2-3% cuts aren't much, I don't think you realize how many people are directly or indirectly employed by the government. Try living in DC/VA/MD and see if you don't feel the effects. Lots of people will be losing their jobs over this and not just federal employees.

    I'm not saying that cuts aren't needed, but these blinds cuts are ridiculous. The sequester was designed to be motivation for Congress to work together but, as always, they disappoint us again.

    Watch next week... Congress will kick the decision down the road again and it'll become yet another yearly renewall that Congress needs to walk through for no reason. What a bunch of babies.

    March 1, 2013 09:46 am at 9:46 am |

    CNN...drama...drama.....stop hurting AMERICA and start building AMERICA.....stop taking from those that produce ......and start producing!!!!....enough the media are pushing out country closer to a revolution...we will be the next EGYPT if you don't wake states like TEXAS take all the business away from once producing states like CALIFORNIA....guess why...why not a bit of honesty ...have reporters do their job and report the TRUTH...heck I will do it for FREE

    March 1, 2013 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  21. lancesackless

    Term limits for Congress NOW!

    March 1, 2013 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  22. dsangiovanni

    GOP is doing it on purpose to penalize those who voted for Obama. Way to go, this country is really in big trouble with politicians like these...Wait for next election...They need really a big lesson on not to behave like children or think that people is plain stupids...

    March 1, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  23. carlos

    Obama the drama queen! The stupid American voters get what they asked for, 4 more years of bufoonery from our so called leaders.

    March 1, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  24. bucdale

    Massive Spending Cuts????? Really.... $85 billion out $3.3 Trillion. Do you guys at CNN have stuff to remove the shoe polish off your lips from kissing Dear Leaders feet?

    March 1, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  25. Frustrated

    Can we admit yet that the politicians of the United States don't care at all about the people? The reason they haven't passed anything is because it doesn't effect them directly. We need to stop the gerrymandering and then fire all of Congress and start over.

    March 1, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
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