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. Nikore

    If Washington can't do its job, then do I still have to pay my taxes?

    March 1, 2013 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  2. yolanda

    @Rudy NYC
    Are you a paid apologist for the Democratic Party, or just fond of the cool aid? It would be refreshing if you ocassionally posted something that showed a bit of free thought. There is plenty of blame on both sides of the aisle. Partisan blathering does noithing to improve the sorry situation we find ourselves in. Yes, the Republicans are at fault, but (shock and horror) so are the Democrats. Until there is a legitimate effort on the part of both parties to compromise, we ALL will suffer. Your sanctimonious rebukes of any views other than your own speak volumes about your willingness to seek common ground.

    March 1, 2013 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  3. temp

    Fact: Obama ordered the sequester.
    Fact: Obama moved the goal posts.
    Fact: Obama decides where the cuts are made.
    This describes this guys entire presidency and way of life. Nothing else need be said until the American People realize these facts. Only then can we move forward. Learn how the system works before you vote again.

    March 1, 2013 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  4. Common Sense

    How is this a bad thing? When you are in debt, you must cut down on your spending.

    March 1, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  5. It's Time to Take Responsibility

    I for one am glad to see the sequestration begin. This Do Nothing President and Do Nothing Congress are equally to blame since no one can seem to agree to work for the PEOPLE. It will take a lot of sacrifices for all to get our ever increasing debt under control. I do not know any family that uses the concept of spend, spend, spend to control their family budget and neither can the Administration use this concept to get our US budget and debt in alignment. Obama is the most polarizing president in many years and Dems and Repubs are ever more far apart in beliefs and concepts, and this President can’t stop politicking which simply makes the situation worse. Little wonder we are where we are today…look no further than ALL the politicians, and that includes Obama, Dems and Repubs. Maybe the sequestration will cause the people to really take notice of our elected leaders and think twice about electing someone based on popularity.

    March 1, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  6. Frank

    Why don't the Obama admin. and the 535 senators and reps. take a pay cut. They are cutting military and homeland security, these are the last two departments that should be cut. I joined the military after high school because I did not have enough money for college, I served in the gulf war and the Iraq war. There are thousands of high school graduates every year who cannot afford college, how is this going to affect them. I say raise the taxes on the big banks and corporations that outsource their work, make them pay for the lack of jobs in the U.S. in '08 a depression was avoided, the White House and Capitol Hill have us going downhill with no brakes.

    March 1, 2013 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  7. Peter

    "Massive" spending cuts. This bias is part of the problem, CNN!

    March 1, 2013 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  8. Unqualified Obama

    About time... this is going to be a great thing! Obama is unqualified to be where he is at.. we all know that! He has been a waste of time to USA, and i hope you all that voted for him are starting to see that. Good job! You all did this...

    March 1, 2013 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  9. n222s

    Janet N. regrets the release of illegals (claims, however, she had nothing to do with it). Arne Duncan claims teachers laid off because of sequesters then Jay Carney backs that down as something that can't be proven. Eric Holder claims that this will put Americans in danger. That same day, we find out Justice Dept. folks have been using government Gulfstreams for person travel to the tune of 11 million. Remember the GSO (I think they were responsible) and their lavish conferences and bonuses and gifts to employees? Did you hear about the diversity training in one govt. department where the highly paid consultant told the group to chant that the Pilgrims were illegal.

    YOU and I had to do with 2% less because the payroll taxes increased (and I understand why). But government agencies can't cut that same approximate amount? Actually 44 billion for FY 2013, NOT 85 billion. I know the cuts hit some places harder than others but they truly can't find ANY fat to cut?

    As one lobbyist put it, the biggest danger from the sequester is that people may not notice. And have YOU noticed that news sources and government sources have backed down on their dire predictions? I wonder why.

    March 1, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  10. Mike

    Message to GOP which is Get Out Pronto 2014 E-Day

    March 1, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  11. Donis22

    The new Ides of March, thanx to the GOP.

    March 1, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  12. Ian

    That for real reason, all the america business still working for china get big pay over trillion dollar so many years. Now, all learn lesson stop stop spend money over seas and borrow too much mess. It not GOP fault, it all America cheap labor , for think tank .... Anyway, everyone must doing something for better own U.S. Business . Must count the math of making more money, no more china as cheater fool. Good day, America and have a fun for your life .

    March 1, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  13. Bobby

    I think these cuts are awesome personally. It just really chaps me though about airport security. TSA says that since it won't be able to pay as many burger flippers to harass you at the airport and conduct meaningless "security" checks, you're going to have to wait in line longer for your harassment and meaningless security check. God forbid we should adopt common sense and use profiling to only check the people who have more than a .000001 percent chance of being terrorists. RIP Common Sense.

    March 1, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  14. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    It would have been nice if all the armed federal officers guarding the capitol building faced sequester cuts and were sent home too. Then the GOPT could meet face to face and greet the masses of those they put on the unemployment line.

    March 1, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  15. CNeder

    This is awesome news! Keep the cuts. Let the federal workers take some vacation days because we all know that they are going to get back pay.

    March 1, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  16. John

    Its about time somebody took away Obama's ink so he quits excessive spending. Cant wait untill this bafoon is out of office.

    March 1, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  17. fred

    Amusing to see so many people blaming Obama. Your beloved GOP Congressmen voted for the Sequester too. And nothing can be done until the GOP-controlled House introduces a bill. Instead, they went on vacation. Good work.

    March 1, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  18. Anonymous


    Its like Christmas! Even though these "cuts" are just on proposed increases, i love watching politicians squirm like the slimy larva they are.

    Sucks for the people involved, but they willingly decided to join the cancerous sore that is our federal government and stuck around despite the OBVIOUS financial disaster thats been called out a decade ago. Oh they didnt know? sucks for being stupid i guess

    March 1, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  19. Smacky Smooth

    Well, all facades are down now. Now hopefully the American public will realize that the government is not for the people or by the people. These cretins have the audacity to skip town and leave us out to dry. Why are the cuts to TSA and disability? Why not cuts to their salaries and amneties? They CAN pass legistlation, the VAWA is proof of that. So they dont give a collective "poo" about the little folk. I truly hope this gets people to the polls in 2014, that is , if our votes will still count. Since they went home, let them STAY home. Not like they make any difference anymore. Oh yes, our goverment managed to give $60MILLION TO the Syrian rebels who may later down line burn our flag and spit on us. Why are they more important than us, Mr. President and "Congress". The USA no longer has a government but a coporation run by ivory tower dwellers. I now have lost absolute and complete faith in the whole process. Lets face it, they WANTED it to happen.

    March 1, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  20. Randy, San Francisco

    Speaker Boehner is showing his true colors. He lacks the courage or character to stand up to Tea Partiers in his caucus for the good of the country.

    March 1, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  21. dwight

    The Sequester is going to hurt us as a whole? We who pay the money that the is being cut from being spent. It will hurt some people, but those people can find jobs elsewhere, I know I have had to. The economy will not get better by spending the collective money to employ certain people all it will do is inflate the job numbers. This is called government subsidy.

    March 1, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  22. n222s

    Wallster is correct. The sequester is not perfectly analogous to a cut in a personal budget. Which is why Republicans voted yesterday to give the President full discretion to make the cuts as he sees fit. Wallster, why do you think the Dems voted that down? THAT would have made it analogous to a personal budget. Hmmmm. You don't suppose that he doesn't care as much about what the cuts affect as we might think?

    March 1, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  23. The REAL Truth...

    @myway – In reality it's the GOP that made the huge mistake, not the POTUS. Neither side wants them, but John "I got 98% of what I wanted" Boehner figured that they would never happen. The RNC would win out, replace Obama with their own clown, take control of the Senate and kill the bill.
    Look how well that worked out !!
    In strict terms the $85B out a $3T budget looks small, but the impact to many MIDDLE CLASS families could be devastating. That's the true impact of the cuts.. the trickle-down effect. A 20% pay cut is better than losing your job, but that's 20% LESS going into the local economy. This could hurt many...

    March 1, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  24. Fred


    Its like Christmas! Even though these "cuts" are just on proposed increases, i love watching politicians squirm like the slimy larva they are.

    Sucks for the people involved, but they willingly decided to join the cancerous sore that is our federal government and stuck around despite the OBVIOUS financial disaster thats been called out a decade ago. Oh they didnt know? sucks for being stupid i guess

    March 1, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  25. Kat

    I highly recommend withholding the paychecks of everyone in the Congress, which means all Senators and Representatives, as well as the President of the United States, until they do the job they were hired to accomplish. No paycheck until they do their job!! If we as employees acted like this and REFUSED to do our jobs, we would be considered insubordinate and FIRED. They are acting like spoiled middle school children. We cannot wait until next election to let them know how dis-satisfied we are with their performance.

    March 1, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
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