WASHINGTON - Despite a last minute White House meeting, "sequestration" has become a reality.
President Obama officially signed the order Friday after he and Congressional leaders failed to come up with a last minute deal designed to avert $85 billion in across-the-board federal spending cuts.
Sequestration is a fiscal policy term that first appeared in the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Deficit Reduction Act of 1985.
If no deal is signed, the law triggers automatic spending cutbacks.
The threat of sequestration once again became a reality when the Budget Control Act of 2011 established a 12-member "super committee" to come up with a bi-partisan compromise plan. The committee, however, failed to reach an agreement. Under the Budget Control Act of 2011, sequestration could only be avoided if Congress signed legislation before January 2, 2013. The last minute signing of the "American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012" bought the president and lawmakers more time. But the next deadline to avoid sequestration, March 1, 2013, has passed.
As a result, the Defense Department, other national security agencies, national parks, federal courts, the FBI, food inspections, and housing aid will face spending cuts.
While the cuts add up to $85 billion, it is important to note the figure refers to "budget authority," or how much the government can allocate this year but actually spend over several years.
Even though the $85 billion figure may seem draconian in nature, conservatives are quick to point out the cuts amount to two percent of the federal budget.
Meantime, the political posturing continues.
The president and republicans are pointing the blame squarely on each other.
"Let's make it clear the president got his tax hikes on January 1. The discussion about revenue, in my view, is over. It's about taking on the spending problem here in Washington," said House Speaker John Boehner.
President Obama called the cuts "dumb, inexcusable, and unnecessary."
The first furloughs are likely to hit in April.
Both the president and republicans have vowed to avoid a government shutdown March 27 for Congress to authorize funding to keep the government running for the rest of the fiscal year.
"In the coming days and coming weeks, I'm going to keep on reaching out to them," President Obama said. "Let's fix this, not just for a month or two, but for years to come."
"The House will act next week and I'm hopeful the Senate will follow suit," said House Speaker John Boehner.