Specter of Government Shutdown Looms as Sequester Arrives

President Barack Obama speaks to reporters following a meeting with congressional leaders regarding the automatic spending cuts. President Barack Obama speaks to reporters following a meeting with congressional leaders regarding the automatic spending cuts. Carolyn Kaster/AP

President Obama and congressional leaders on Friday appeared to make no progress on avoiding the launch of the sequester, as attention now turns toward preventing a government shutdown later this month.

The White House hosted a meeting Friday morning with House and Senate leaders to discuss the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts—on the day those cuts kick in. Obama has until 11:59 p.m. on March 1 to sign the order triggering sequestration. Some agencies, including the Justice Department, already have sent individual furlough notices to employees.

“This is not going to be an apocalypse, I think as some people have said,” Obama said during a briefing with reporters after the meeting. “It's just dumb. And it's going to hurt. It's going to hurt individual people and it's going to hurt the economy overall.” While the pain of the cuts might not be felt right away, the president said it will be “real.” He added that many federal employees including FBI agents, Border Patrol agents and Defense Department civilian workers will “suffer significant pay cuts and furloughs.”

Reporters asked about criticism from some that the White House has overdramatized the effects of the sequester -- criticism Obama dismissed. “The Border Patrol agents who are out there in the hot sun, doing what Congress said they're supposed to be doing, finding out suddenly that they're getting a 10-percent pay cut and having to go home and explain that to their families, I don't think they feel like this is an exaggerated impact,” the president said. “So I guess it depends on where you sit.”

The president reiterated his support for a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction, which includes a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in remarks after the White House meeting, repeated the GOP leadership’s stance that tax increases should not be part of any fiscal deal. While the two sides still were singing from their respective song books on the sequester and overall deficit reduction, both expressed optimism over avoiding a government shutdown at the end of the month.

Boehner said the House next week will move on legislation to keep the government open past March 27. “I’m hopeful that we won’t have to deal with the threat of a government shutdown while we’re dealing with the sequester at the same time,” the speaker said.

Obama said a government shutdown is “preventable,” if policymakers hew to the spending levels outlined in the 2011 Budget Control Act, adding he would sign a bill funding agencies that reflected that law. “I think it’s fair to say that I made a deal for a certain budget, certain numbers. There’s no reason why that deal needs to be reopened,” Obama said. “It was a deal that Speaker Boehner made as well, and all the leadership made.”

Federal employee groups, however, are bracing themselves for a possible impasse over keeping the government open. “Sequestration and furloughs are only the beginning of a flood of uncertainty looming before our nation's federal workers,” said Bruce Moyer, chairman of the Federal-Postal Coalition, an alliance of 30 management, professional and union organizations. “In less than four weeks, Congress and the president will face another deadline for funding the entire government. If our politicians fail to work together to arrive at sensible solutions, we risk a total government shutdown.”

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.