Story Summary

Sequestration budget cuts in effect

Across-the-Board budget cuts known as sequestration have begun.

President Obama signed the order to begin $85 billion in cuts Friday night, after he and Congressional Republicans failed to reach a deal to avert automatic reductions.

Government agencies will now begin to hack their budgets through September 30th, which is the end of the federal fiscal year.

The cuts are expected to be phased in over the next few months.

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The Federal Aviation Administration got some help from Congress on the sequestration budget cuts, but what about all the other programs?

Aviation got a lot of attention but there are others that are still trying to figure out how they’ll pull through the sequester. Here’s the list: national parks, the FBI, the EPA, housing assistance, medical research, defense and a program for children that’s been highlighted as one that makes a difference.

“Everybody is kind of in the same boat right now,” said Ann Schreiner with Pillars Community Services.

The program Head Start, meant to help low-income children, is really feeling the effects of the sequester.

“I think it is likely we will be serving less kids, what we know we don’t want to do is provide less services,” Schreiner said.

But who knows what it’ll come to. Right now, Pillars, a not for profit running a Head Start program in the Chicago area, was told to make 5 percent cuts across the board.  Remember: they’ve cut about 30 percent of their budget in the last few years because of Illinois financial mess.  Another 5 percent makes a difference.

“That’s about $50,000 to us. We don’t have a lot of cushion, it’s a fairly shoestring operation as it is,” Schreiner said.

Heat on lawmakers seemed to make a difference when it came to air travel.

“In this case it was coming from all sides, airline executives and even congressmen who felt those delays,” said DePaul University Professor Joe Schweiter.

So will Head Start be able to generate some action? The group at Pillars fears it’s unlikely. Already an estimated 70,000 kids across the country are at risk of being pushed out by the sequester.

“My concern is that often times the people that we serve don’t really have a voice the same way that the travelers impacted by the FAA did,” Schreiner said.

It’s not clear if Congress will do anything about Head Start programs. Right now, they are off for the next week. Lawmakers are starting to get some pressure from these different agencies that have seen how quick help is possible.

On Friday, the House voted 361-to-41 to give the Federal Aviation Administration more power to move $253 million around to stop furloughs of some 15,000 air traffic controllers, as well as other FAA staffers.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill, which sailed through the Senate Thursday night. But White House spokesman Jay Carney called it a “band aid covering a massive wound to the economy.”

“Congress should do the responsible thing and stop dealing with these issues from crisis to crisis. . .and eliminate the sequester through balanced deficit reduction,” Carney said.

It’s a lightning-fast response for Congress. Since Sunday, furloughs of air traffic controllers have delayed more than 3,000 flights, thanks to spending cuts Congress imposed.

The FAA expects to tell controllers to go back to work as soon as this weekend, although details had yet to be worked out as of Friday morning, according to a source who wasn’t authorized to talk about plans.

While Friday is normally one of the busiest travel days, the air space in the New York area was especially clogged, in part because fewer controllers reported for duty.

Flights leaving Newark Liberty International Airport were delayed up to 90 minutes. Tampa-bound passengers stuck on LaGuardia Airport’s tarmac were told that controller staffing shortages had delayed their flight by 50 minutes.

Paulo Pacheco, a New York gastroenterologist on that flight with his husband and kids, said he hoped Congress would be able to get controllers back on the job in time for his return to New York on Sunday.

“I have to get back. I have patients scheduled at 7 a.m. on Monday,” said Pacheco, who had prepared for the Friday airport delays with books, fruit and iPads for son Niko, 2, and daughter, Isabel, 7. “We’re becoming numb to delays.”

Forced spending cuts have led the Federal Aviation Administration to bench about 1,500 controllers from the job each day. Starting last Sunday, several busy airport towers in the New York area, Los Angeles and Chicago have had to space out flight landings, causing delays that ranged between 15 minutes and two hours.

The FAA has said it had no choice. The agency had to cut $600 million from its spending by September, and was planning to achieve that goal by forcing all 47,000 FAA workers to take 11 furlough days, or one day per pay period, through Sept. 30.

Its part of the $85 billion in automatic, across-the-board forced spending cuts that went into effect on March 1.

Air traffic controllers weren’t the only workers being forced to take unpaid time off. Furloughs also kicked in Sunday for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Management and Budget, joining federal public defenders and Department of Labor employees.

If the bill sparing controllers becomes law, FAA employees would join an elite group of federal workers that includes federal meat and poultry inspectors, who were kept on the job thanks in part to lobbying by industries that depend on them.

“Airlines for America commends the Senate for passing the measure to end air traffic controller furloughs,” said Victoria Day, a spokeswoman for the trade group for airlines, which had also filed a lawsuit trying to block the furloughs last week.

The bill allows the FAA to dip into a pot of money for airport improvements to stop furloughs.

One area still unclear is whether the FAA will use some of its new powers to restore funding to control towers for regional airports now scheduled to close June 15.

The FAA earlier this year announced it would close 149 contract towers, which operate at small- to medium-size airports, to meet its sequester-related cuts.

J. Spencer Dickerson, head of an association that represents the towers, said his group hopes the FAA will reverse its decision on the closures.

The original bill, by Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, had directed $220 million to end the controller furloughs as well as $25 million to keep contract towers open.

But the bill approved by Congress removed references to the furlough or contract towers, leaving it up to the FAA to decide how to apply funds, he said.

– CNNMoney’s Tami Luhby contributed to this report.

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Long flight delays are expected at airports across the country today due to the sequester-mandated furloughs of air traffic controllers.

Delays more than two hours are expected at busy airports like O’Hare.

One air travel groups says travelers can expect to see up to 6,000 flight delays every day.

faaThe reason for the slowdown nationwide is that the FAA on Sunday started furloughing some of its almost 15,000 air traffic controllers.

The move is in compliance with the 10 percent automatic sequestration cuts that the government put in place for all federal agencies if a budget deal were not reached between Congress and the Obama administration.

FAA staffing is being reduced this week at airport control towers and other air traffic facilities that direct aircraft. Controllers must take at least on paid day off during each two-week period.

Officials with the pilots union and the air traffic controllers union say safety will not be compromised.

Senator Charles Schumer, (D) NY, says the cuts must stop and he is calling on his colleagues in Congress to come together and put an end to the sequester.

The battle continues to keep Midway Airport’s control tower operating around the clock.

The FAA plans to shut down Midway’s tower at night due to the sequester budget cuts.

Congressman Dan Lipinksi strongly opposes the decision in a letter to the FAA chief.  He demands to know how the nation’s 25th busiest airport got on the list.

149 towers at mostly small airports were supposed to close at night starting Sunday.

The FAA has postponed the closures until June 15th.

The FAA is pushing back the closing date of 149 air control towers across the country.

Five of the towers are right here in Illinois.  The closings were scheduled for Sunday, but the date has been rescheduled to June 15.

The FAA says this delay will give Congress more time to figure out a long-term solution.

The towers are being shut down in response to the $637 million budget cut to the FAA from the federal sequester.

President Barack Obama’s upcoming budget will include proposed changes to Social Security and Medicare plus some new tax increases, changes that are an effort for the president to reach a deficit deal with Republicans, according to senior administration officials.

The budget will include an offer Obama made to House Speaker John Boehner in December, officials said. That proposal included $400 billion in savings to Medicare over 10 years.

“The President’s budget to be presented on Wednesday will show how we can invest in the things we need to grow our economy, create jobs and strengthen the middle class while further reducing the deficit in a balanced way,” a senior administration official said.

For Social Security, Obama plans to propose a switch to a key Republican request called “chained CPI,” which is an inflation formula.

Proponents say chained CPI is a more accurate way to measure inflation than the way it’s done now, which they say overstates growth in consumer prices.

Some critics have said chained CPI is not a better way to measure inflation for Social Security recipients, because they spend so much on health care, which rises faster than inflation.

Other highlights:

- The new budget would lead to $1.8 trillion in savings in 10 years and replace the forced budget cuts that took effect on March 1, also known as the sequester.

- The budget includes funding for initiatives that Obama outlined in his State of the Union address, including universal access to prekindergarten education. That move would be paid for by increases to cigarette taxes.

-The plan would also close a current loophole that allows people to collect disability and unemployment benefits at the same time, a move that could create savings for the government, officials said.

Obama’s budget was due in February. Previously White House officials would only say the budget was coming the week of April 8, without revealing a specific date. Republicans were sharply critical of the delay, which came after protracted negotiations over spending cuts and tax rates.

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President Barack Obama will put 5% of his paycheck back into the federal government’s coffers in a show of unity with furloughed federal workers, a senior administration official said Wednesday.

Obama, whose $400,000 annual salary is set in law and can’t officially be changed, will write a check made out to the U.S. treasury every month beginning in April. Since the mandatory across-the-board spending cuts went into effect March 1, his payment for last month will be paid retroactively.

“The president has decided that to share in the sacrifice being made by public servants across the federal government that are affected by the sequester, he will contribute a portion of his salary back to the Treasury,” the official said.

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced he was giving up the portion of his salary that would have been cut if he had been subject to the same work furlough as thousands of department personnel under the mandatory federal budget cuts. Hagel, who earns $199,700 annually, will write a check to the Treasury for up to 14 days of salary, according to Pentagon press secretary George Little.

As a Cabinet official confirmed by the Senate, Hagel is not subject to the furlough. But Little said Hagel decided to give the equivalent of his furloughed pay to show his support for his workforce. Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter had already announced he was doing the same thing in the weeks before Hagel was confirmed.

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced that nearly 500 furlough notices have gone out to administration employees in reaction to the forced government spending cuts known as sequestration.

“The White House is one of eleven components of the Executive Office of the President which is indeed, as we have said, subject to the sequester,” Carney said. “Within the Executive Office of the President, several offices have sent furlough notices to their staff, including to 480 employees of the Office of Management and Budget.”

According to estimates released when the budget cuts went into effect on March 1, OMB must cut $7 million from the $89 million remaining in its annual budget. Other departments within the EOP have thus far been successful in reducing spending in ways that have avoided the need for furloughs, Carney said, but “additional furloughs as well as pay cuts remain possibilities for additional White House employees.”

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President Obama joked during a press conference Friday that an impact from the sequester was that Argonne National Laboratory had to downsize the number of chairs. (CNN)

Across-the-Board budget cuts known as sequestration have begun.

President Obama signed the order to begin $85 billion in cuts Friday night, after he and Congressional Republicans failed to reach a deal to avert automatic reductions.sequester begins

Government agencies will now begin to hack their budgets through September 30th, which is the end of the federal fiscal year.

The cuts are expected to be phased in over the next few months.

Furloughs of government workers will begin several weeks from now.

Congress and President Obama could still stop the cuts in the weeks to come, but neither side has expressed any confidence they will be able to do so.

$85 billion worth in spending cuts will automatically kick into effect sometime before midnight on Friday.

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