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. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer


    The Clinton surplus the GOP squandered – $230 Billion

    The GOP's Iraq and Afghan wars – $5.5 Trillion

    Bush's Prescription Drug Program – $1 Trillion

    Bush's TARP Bailout that failing Wall Street banks gave to their partying CEOs – $700 Billion

    Can anyone spare $85 Billion for the American people please???

    March 1, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  2. Mark

    Even with the sequester, though, we expect to spend more on the federal government than last year.

    March 1, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  3. Jason Hoppe

    Those cuts should start with the salaries of every crook in Washington D.C. President, Senators, and House Reps all together! They deserve no pay for the jobs they all have done.

    March 1, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  4. Smacky Smooth

    One more thing, is these cuts are to save us taxpayers money, when may I expect my rebate check?

    March 1, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  5. firewalker25b

    America has become the land of the Fruits and Nuts.........the FAKE President is leading us down the path of RUIN.

    A TRUE President is to LEAD not to Divide the Country. A true Leader is the Slave to the People not a Ruler over the People.

    Mark 10:42-45

    March 1, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  6. Name

    This is horrible! This government has failed the people. please do the job that we voted you in to do.

    March 1, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  7. Jerry

    Thank "Chicken Little Obama." The $ should and must stop at his desk. I am hopeful that this will make him start governing and realize that the campaign season for him is over.

    I am also hopeful, but NOT optimistic. that he will REALLY, REALLY start working across the aisle and stop his blame/lying game. Don't hold your breath, though!

    Stay tuned...

    March 1, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  8. Mike

    Does nothing to address th deficit or government waste, but it does force those thousands of workers affected to buy more on credit for most of the coming year. We're a credit-based economy now, and this boosts the profit of the banks and corporations that own our government. Anyone wonder why Wall St is at record levels today?

    March 1, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  9. deb0155

    When a person receiving government assistance makes on the average of $67,000 per year and a "working stiff" makes on the average of $48,000 per year – YES there should be government cuts. There should be cuts in the "conventions", vacations, health care premiums, pensions, etc. that goverment employees receive – and there should be cuts with all the budget-busting waste in Washington on idiotic programs. I am quite sure that if you add all of these line items up – they would amount to much more than $85 billion – we probably would even be able to balance the budget. But, no – for political reasons Odumbo is going for the jugular and cut costs that matter instead of costs that do not matter. And why – so that he can blame the Republicans and anyone else he thinks of as to why he could not push to get a budget passed! I would say that maybe our "Vacationer in Chief" has really not been working too hard at all.

    March 1, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  10. NN

    As usual the government portrayal of the cuts to the American people is nothing less than an abject fraud, making it look like all kinds of absolutely vital services have to go, when the truth is behind the scenes 10x the amount of this skimpy cut is being squandered on useless boondoggles and mismanagement. The only way to fix the government is to starve them of funding until they get serious about cleaning up their massive waste, this has to be done before the government ruins the country beyon repair.

    March 1, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  11. firewalker25b

    Last year Eric Holder Plane trips cost the AMERICAN TAX-PAYERS 11.5 MILLION DOLLARS....what a WASTE.

    March 1, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  12. PJ

    I just don't understand why the GOP is doing this to us!! We have enough to worry about in this economy without their nonsense. They have tried to obstruct every move Obama makes since day 1. The two party system is a good one; however, the GOP has been taken over by the extreme right on every issue social and financial. Unless you are extremely wealthy there is no point to ever supporting this Party until it changes.

    March 1, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  13. Wallster

    The budget concious right has forgotten that under their leadership they turned a surplus into a deficit by engaging in two wars (and leaving them off the budget), they passed a non-negotiate law for medicare prescriptions, they lost millions of American jobs, and they gave billions in tax cuts for the top 1%'ers. Cheney even openly stated that "budgets don't matter" but now that they've almost bankrupted the economy, they suddenly need to have a balanced budget. Their solution is to cut social spending while maintaining tax loopholes and big oil subsidies. These guys don't even try to hide their alliance to the rich or their disdain towards the poor.

    March 1, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  14. vosey

    All businesses and families have been dealing with economic realities for the past six years. It is about time the bloated federal government did the same.

    March 1, 2013 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  15. John

    The GOP would rather destroy the country than close loopholes for the Millionaires and Billionaires. When raising taxes on corporate jets and Yachts are are too much to ask by the GOP is it no wonder Washington is so dysfunctional.
    GOP only cares about the 1%. No one else matters and it shows.

    March 1, 2013 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  16. Fnordz

    And the Tea Party rejoices.

    March 1, 2013 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  17. Al

    I thought the republicans were supposed to be the fear mongers?! Lol, this is pathetic, it's a 2% cut! We spent more on Sandy relief! $85 billion is barely a drop in the bucket, and you'd think the world was coming to an end. Not to mention, sequestration was Obama's idea in the first place. Good grief.

    March 1, 2013 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  18. tuscany590

    The President establishes a bipartisan Debt committee, who provide specific recommendations, and he ignores it.
    The President establishes a Jobs Council, headed up by a guy, whose company, GE, outsources a majority of their jobs overseas & pays no taxes. Committee doesn't meet once during the course of the year, and said head guy goes on TV with POTUS and laughs about those shovel ready jobs, that were not so shovel ready.
    President and his administration geniuses make up this sequester move and release illegal immigrants, without authority to make a sad point.
    Yet, he, his incompetent staff of sheep & the main stream media blame the GOP..

    March 1, 2013 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  19. Ne

    How can you teach your kids to act like adults and love one another when you can't do just that. Rush limbaugh must be the head of the GOP!

    March 1, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  20. vosey

    Businesses and families have been dealing with economic realities for the past six years. It's about time the bloated federal government did the same.

    March 1, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  21. snap back

    I know there are a lot of mis-used gov't funds, ESPECIALLY in the third party contracts–a lot! So in a way, the sequester would shake some heads. Let it happen; people need to get off their rump and start pushing back–DEMAND responsible governance with Congress people focused in working for the United States instead of special interests. These cuts will go across the board, everyone will feel it, and hopefully everyone on all levels would wake up to reality–our House of Congress are a bunch of idiots and we need to vote them all out so they fear and respect the people instead of spitting on us.

    March 1, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  22. Mark

    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."

    If CNN had a "Like" or "Love" or "This is Totally Wicked!!" button I'd be hitting it right now.

    March 1, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  23. RandyIA

    Just a quick question for everybody arguing about if spending cuts are right or not. When the 2% payroll tax came back the beginning of the year, did you A. Find new employment to raise your income. B. Start using more credit knowing that you can never pay it back. or C. Spend a little less.

    That's really all that needs to be said.

    March 1, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  24. Steve S

    We elected these morons, so we only have ourselves to blame.

    March 1, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  25. d50

    The Sky Is Falling........................ not

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