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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While doctors and nurses are hard at work in her ER, the chief operating officer at Norwegian American Hospital reflects the “How does it help the patient?” sign on her desk– and knows what’s happening in Washington is putting health care at hospitals like this one at grave risk.

Cong. Bill Foster (D) 11th said “There’s a large number of things including a lot of the safety net programs that we’re going to be talking about today that simply shouldn’t be attacked. They’re already under stress because of the economic downtown, and now is not the time to cut them.”

Likewise federal workers, air traffic controllers and travelers at O’Hare worry about long lines getting much longer.

“Because the lines are long enough and the guys have got to do their job properly– so why are they being cut back?”

In large part because of partisan bickering—republicans took a beating here in Illinois Friday, accused of holding this whole thing up.

Cong. Jan Schakowsky (D) 9th said “It’s hard to see the way out– they have got to give up on this protection of every penny of wealth for individuals and wealthy corporations.”

Who’s to blame doesn’t matter much around here. At hospitals like Norwegian American, administrators are too busy worrying about the impact on their patients, and warn that medical treatment lost to the sequester, only gets more expensive down the road.

Local News

Local lawmakers weigh in on sequester

With deep, federal spending cuts looming, members of Illinois’ Congressional delegation are weighing in on the budget battle that’s polarizing Capitol Hill.

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

Democrats Tammy Duckworth, Bill Foster, and Jan Schakowsky attended an event for seniors at the Frisbie Center in Des Plaines on Friday morning.

The so-called “sequester” may have a bad impact on the Center, since it receives funding for its food and nutritional programs.

Congresswoman Schakowsky blames the Republican-controlled House for refusing to raise taxes as part of a budget deal.

“It’s hard to see the way out. They have got to give up this protection of every penny of wealth for individual and wealthy corporations,” said Schakowsky.

But, Republican Peter Roskam is laying the blame on President Obama.

“The president proposed the sequester, he made commitments to veto any attempts to undo the sequester, and now he thinks sequester is a bad idea,” said Roskam.

WGN News Writer C. Hayes published this report.

President Barack Obama blamed Congress for failing to prevent $85 billion in forced government spending cuts that take effect on Friday, saying that the sharp reduction will harm economic recovery.

The president met with with congressional leaders at the White House prior to briefing reporters, but no agreement emerged to avert the automatic austerity that both sides oppose.

He called them “dumb, arbitrary cuts” that are “unnecessary and inexcusable.”

“I genuinely believe there’s an opportunity for us to cooperate,” Obama said, adding that “what doesn’t make sense is to replace this set of arbitrary cuts with an even worse set of arbitrary cuts.”

After the meeting, which lasted about 45 minutes, House Speaker John Boehner told reporters that the House will take up a measure next week to authorize federal funding beyond a March 27 deadline to prevent a potential partial government shutdown.

The funding measure is unconnected to the spending cuts, known in Washington jargon as sequestration, and Boehner reiterated his opposition to Obama’s call for more tax revenue to be part of any solution.

“I am hopeful we wont have to deal with the threat of a government shutdown while we are dealing with the sequester at the same time,” Boehner said.

The White House meeting also involved Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

The cuts involve roughly 9% for a broad range of non-defense programs and 13% for the Pentagon over the rest of the current fiscal year. They officially take effect just before midnight on Friday.

They are the result of a deep political impasse over federal spending.

The cuts were placed into law in 2011 as leverage in negotiations on deficit reduction — something so draconian that no one would ever want them to take effect. However, no deal has emerged since to stem the red ink.

TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

One study says that Illinois could be the second most affected state by the sequester.

The federal budget cuts may happen at midnight, but state agencies don’t know exactly how or when they’ll feel them.

Illinois public schools could lose $36-million for low income students, and another $24-million for special education.

Civilian military employees in the state can lose $83-million in pay.

And O’Hare airport can see delays of 90 minutes if a control tower and a runway have to be closed.

DePaul University Associate Professor of Economics Michael Miller discusses spending cuts.

Republican Strategist Chris Robling and Democratic Strategist Marj Halperin join WGN Morning News with details on the sequester.

Republican Strategist Chris Robling and Democratic Strategist Marj Halperin join WGN Morning News with details on sequester

WASHINGTON – With no deal in place in Congress, $85 billion in sweeping federal spending cuts will take effect Friday, targeting everything, from defense to education.

There is little hope of a last-minute deal to stave off the automatic cuts after the Senate failed to strike a deal and a large number of the members of the House left Washington on Thursday for the weekend.

The pending budget cuts are the result of impasse along primarily party lines, whose origins stem from an August 2011 deal to increase the debt ceiling.

Expectations are low that a meeting Friday morning between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders will yield a solution.

Most observers believe both sides will use the meeting at the White house to underline their positions heading into the next round of the budget wars — a possible government shutdown on March 27, when current federal funding authority expires.

Under the law, Obama is required to sign an order sometime Friday that will force federal spending to shrink.

If that happens, Obama will formally notify government agencies that an obscure process known as sequestration is in effect.

It’s unknown what immediate effect the cuts will have on Americans. Obama has warned it could devastate a fragile economy, while Republicans have challenged the dire warnings.

Leaving town

“I think the sequester is crazy, I think the president had to show more leadership, Congress should do more,” said Rep. Peter King, a Republican heading back to New York. “But just to sit here by myself serves no purpose.”

King was one of many congressmen who, before noon Thursday, walked down the Capitol steps and into awaiting cars to leave Washington. Democrats criticized Republicans for not sticking around when the cuts start coming; Republicans, in turn, blasted Democrats for not stepping up to do more to rein in spending.

There was plenty of blame to go around — but not a lot of action.

The Republican-controlled House held one vote Thursday on the Violence Against Women Act. The chamber had no votes scheduled Friday. Neither did the Senate.

“I mean, we could stay here … and not pass … a bill,” said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Washington, as he left the Capitol. “That’s not any better.”

Democratic, GOP alternatives

As expected, a sharply divided Senate voted Thursday afternoon to reject alternative plans put forward by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.

Reid had proposed replacing the current spending cut package with a $110 billion blueprint that included placing new taxes on millionaires while cutting agriculture subsidies and defense spending. Most Republicans object to new defense cuts and have called any new taxes unacceptable.

In the House, Speaker John Boehner referred to two GOP-authored bills the chamber passed last Congress on partisan lines to replace the now-imminent spending cuts.

Democrats dismissed the bills, which had no chance of clearing the Senate or surviving a presidential veto, as ideological showboating. Furthermore, the bills are null for the moment since they didn’t pass the House as presently constituted.

But that didn’t stop Boehner, an Ohio Republican, from trying to put the onus on the Democratic-led Senate.

“We’ve done our work,” he said Thursday morning. Senators have “not done theirs. The House shouldn’t have to pass a third bill to replace the (looming cuts) before the Senate passes one.”

CNN’s Jim Acosta, Ted Barrett, Tom Cohen and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.

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Automatic spending cuts are about to take $85 billion out of the federal government’s budget.

But the effects of that will be felt in communities that may have some local services downsized or shut down.

The effect of those budget cuts would be widespread.

The head of Illinois’ Head Start program says it could mean the beginning of the end to services for 2,700 children from low income families throughout the state.

“It would affect our jobs as teachers.  It would affect parents and the children.  It’s not going to be convenient,” said Head Start teacher Maria Burgos.

“I love this daycare.  (My daughter) has been going here since she was six months, and my other two started here too.  If I didn’t have daycare, child care, I wouldn’t be able to go to work or school,” said parent Kelly Hill.

The FAA is looking at $60 million in cuts.

That would mean changes at both of Chicago’s airports.

O’Hare International Airport might have to do without one of its control towers and runways.

That could lead to hour long flight delays.

Many flights would have to be cut from the schedule at Midway Airport.

Smaller airports in Illinois may have to close down altogether.

Hospitals could see an across the board cut of 2% in payments for Medicare patients, which could affect treatment for those in need.

Military cuts could hurt recruiting.

That’s because all military airshow teams, like the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels, will be grounded, and that would keep them away from performing at any airshows.

“If there’s no money for them to be in the air, they can’t practice, therefore they can’t fly.  So, it becomes a long list of cascading problems,” said South Shore Convention President Speros Batistatos.

The South Shore Airshow, in northwest Indiana, may get cancelled.

Officials say commitments for the main performers need to be secured well in advance for the show to go on.

Sequestration cuts are threatening more than just critical programs.

Cuts to the military will take money away from public relations activates before combat operations.

Now in it’s 14th year, the South Shore Air Show in Gary, Ind draws a massive crowd of more than 600,000 people and pumps millions of dollars into the local economy.  Unless congress reaches a deal by Friday, the airshow, along with others around the country, might have to be cancelled.  That’s because if the sequester kicks in, all U.S. Military air show teams will be grounded until further notice.

“If there’s no money for them to be in the air, they can’t practice, therefore they can’t fly and it becomes a long list of cascading problems.  If we don’t have military acts, we can’t have a show,” said Speros Batistatos, President of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority.

Batistatos says planning a show of this magnitude requires certainty.  Commitment from headlining acts must be secured well in advance.  Every year the South Shore Airshow pumps 7 to 8 million dollars into communities throughout northwest Indiana.

Air and water shows are also the best recruiting tools for the volunteer U.S. military.

“There a lot of very important investments by feds in air shows and military aircraft,” said Batistatos .  “We’d like to see it resolved.”