Story Summary

Sequester Deadline

congress-picWith no deal in place in Congress, $85 billion in sweeping federal spending cuts will take effect Friday, March 1, targeting everything, from defense to education.

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HAWTHORNE, Calif. (KTLA) — The 149 air-traffic control towers scheduled to be shut down Sunday due to federal budget cuts will be kept open for two more months, the Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday.

Last month, the FAA announced that 7 control towers in Southern California would be among those slated for closure as a result of forced federal budget cuts.

The FAA must cut $637 million by Sept. 30 as part of $85 billion in cuts across the federal government.

Control towers in Fullerton, Oxnard, Riverside, San Diego, Victorville, Whiteman Airport in Pacoima and Fox Airfield in Lancaster will now remain open until at least June 15.

The FAA says the 2 month extension will give the agency more time to deal with lawsuits regarding the closure as well as review “appropriate risk mitigations” and consult with airports and operators.

All the towers targeted for closure are contract towers, which are certified by the FAA, but not run by the government.

Contract towers make up nearly half of the nation’s towers and handle about 30% of the air traffic.

Two Southern California contract towers were spared from the first round of proposed cuts: Hawthorne Municipal Airport and a joint facility in Palmdale that houses the regional airport and USAF Plant 42.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Politics trumped progress on Friday as President Barack Obama and Republican leaders traded blame for $85 billion in forced spending cuts after they failed to come up with a compromise to avert the harshest impacts.

The president signed an order required by law that set in motion the automatic, government-wide cuts.

Obama and congressional leaders from both parties met for about 45 minutes at the White House, but no agreement emerged to avert the cuts that both sides oppose.

After weeks of campaign-style events intended to inspire public outrage over the cuts, Obama sought to temper his description of their impact while making clear he thinks Republican intransigence prevented a deal to avoid the economic harm they’ll cause.

How to define a devastating budget cut “We will get through this,” he told reporters. “This is not going to be an apocalypse as some people have said. It’s just dumb and it’s going to hurt.”

Still, a White House budget office report sent to Congress and released with Obama’s order said the cuts would be “deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments, and core government functions.”

The action was described in the report as “a blunt and indiscriminate instrument” that was “never intended to be implemented and does not represent a responsible way” for the country to realize deficit reduction.

In a sign of the potential impact, the Department of Justice sent furlough notices to employees that warned they may be forced to take days off without pay in coming months.

Similar furloughs, as well as reduced services, were expected at other agencies if the cuts don’t get replaced or eliminated. Military leaders have warned of impaired readiness of U.S. forces.

However, the full impact of the cuts weren’t expected until April at the earliest.

The cuts amount to roughly 9% for a broad range of non-defense programs and 13% for the Pentagon over the rest of the current fiscal year, which ends on September 30.

They were included in a 2011 deal to raise the federal borrowing limit as an unacceptable outcome if Congress failed to agree on a comprehensive deficit reduction plan.

However, election-year politics stymied progress on such a deal, leading to the situation Friday in which both sides acknowledged being unable to prevent something neither wanted.

“There are smarter ways to cut spending,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, after the meeting with Obama.

Boehner repeated his past assertion that the GOP-led House has offered proposals to replace the forced spending cuts while the Democratic-led Senate has not, as well as his party’s opposition to any increased tax revenue to offset the forced spending cuts.

Others who also took part in the White House gathering were Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

In the White House briefing room, Obama told reporters that Republicans in Congress “allowed these cuts to happen because they refuse to budge on closing a single wasteful (tax) loophole to help reduce the deficit.”

“As recently as yesterday, they decided to protect special interest tax breaks for the well off and the well connected and they think that that’s apparently more important than protecting our military or middle class families from the pain of these cuts,” Obama said.

He was referring to a procedural vote on Thursday in which Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic proposal that called for eliminating some tax loopholes as part of a package with spending cuts.

Boehner and Republicans say the president and Democrats have yet to propose a serious plan to reduce spending, including costly entitlement programs, on a scale necessary to bring chronic federal deficits and debt under control.

Both Obama and Boehner foreshadowed the next major spending showdown – a March 27 deadline for Congress to authorize funding to keep the government running for the rest of the fiscal year.

Boehner told reporters that the House will take up a measure next week to authorize federal funding beyond that deadline.

“The president and leaders agreed legislation should be enacted this month to prevent a government shutdown while we continue to work on a solution to replace the” forced spending cuts, said a statement by Boehner’s office.

Although the funding measure is unconnected to the spending cuts, Obama indicated he was open to a broader agreement that would resolve both issues.

“I do know that there are Republicans in Congress who privately, at least, say that they would rather close tax loopholes then let these cuts go through,” said Obama in response to questions from reporters.

“… In the coming days and the coming weeks, I’m going to keeping on reaching out to them — both individually and as groups of senators or members of the House — and say to them, ‘Let’s fix this, not just for a month or two, but for years to come,’ because the greatest nation on Earth does not conduct its business in month-to-month increments or by careening from crisis to crisis,” Obama said.

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (KTLA) –Lawmakers continue to work to avert mandatory federal spending cuts that are set to begin Friday.

If the so-called sequester does kick in though, the nation’s airports would be among those feeling the impact.

The Federal Aviation Administration says the looming federal sequester could cause a slow-down in the nation’s air traffic.

The FAA is planning to possibly shut down control towers at many L.A. area airports if the sequester goes through as expected.

Closing the towers would be the result of furloughing thousands of air traffic controllers.

The FAA shows 23 California airports that could have their control towers closed because of the sequester, 11 of them around Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles area airports in danger of closing are Hawthorne, El Monte, Fullerton, Oxnard, Palmdale Regional/USAF Plant 42 in Palmdale, La Verne, Riverside, Santa Monica, Victorville, Whiteman in Pacoima and Fox Airfield in Lancaster.

Severe cuts in federal and state spending are set to take effect on Friday if congress does not act.

Funding for numerous federal agencies and programs will be cut — half from defense and half from non-defense spending.

But disagreement exists over just how much of an effect the cuts would have on average households.

Democrats in the House are painting a doomsday picture, while some Republicans argue that the cuts will not be that bad.

KTLA’s Eric Spillman has the latest.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Chances are slim that Congress will avert the automatic spending cuts before they take effect on Friday.

It’s more likely lawmakers will reach a deal to replace the cuts after they begin. But there’s no telling when.

Funding for numerous federal agencies and programs will be slashed, half from defense and half from nondefense spending.

Generally speaking, both parties say they don’t want the cuts to kick in as planned. Just how the cuts would be replaced — if they are — remains unclear, however.

Scenario 1 – Shutdown threat pushes Congress to act: The current measure funding the government expires on March 27.

Known as a continuing resolution, that law is separate from the one that mandates the automatic cuts. It sets spending levels and authorizes the government to continue operating.

If lawmakers don’t agree to new funding levels soon, the government will shut down on March 28 and remain closed until Congress reaches a deal.

A shutdown wouldn’t bode well for either party. Most government offices and services would be shuttered.

The only exception: services deemed “essential” — those related to the safety of human life and protection of property.

Taxpayer money would be wasted in the process because it costs money to close the government and to ramp it back up when Congress reaches a deal.

The urgency to avert a shutdown might spur lawmakers to agree on a replacement of the automatic spending cuts as part of a final deal.

Scenario 2 – Lawmakers keep fighting over the cuts: The pressure to avoid a shutdown may be so great that Congress takes the threat off the table before it even addresses the spending cuts.

One possibility is that House Republicans quickly pass a continuing resolution for six months until Sept. 30 at current funding levels, which would fall once the so-called sequester kicks in.

Senate Democrats, not wanting to be seen as the ones risking a government shutdown, sign on and decide to fight for a replacement to the automatic cuts later.

In that case, interest groups would step up pressure on lawmakers once the pain of the cuts really starts to set in.

“The sequester is a slow bleed that gets worse as it goes on,” said Sean West, the U.S. policy director for the Eurasia Group.

Indeed, its bite won’t be nearly as deep in March as it will be in April and beyond.

For instance, while more than 2 million federal workers may face unpaid furloughs for a day or two a week, those furloughs likely wouldn’t start before April.

And the White House budget office may be able to instruct some agencies to hold off on implementing cuts for a short period of time.

The elephant in the room – Spending vs. taxes: Of course, there’s no guarantee that lawmakers can bridge their ideological differences over spending and taxes.

Democrats have proposed replacing the automatic spending cuts with a combination of tax increases and spending cuts.

Republicans want to replace the defense cuts with more non-defense cuts, and they oppose any revenue increases.

West of the Eurasia Group believes the two sides will agree on a replacement package by April.

It may include mandatory spending cuts and tax increases, but the kind both parties can tolerate.

For instance, revenue increases might come from raising fees rather than tax rates, and thus be more palatable to Republicans.

And mandatory spending cuts may not affect Medicare or Social Security benefits but rather reduce non-health-related spending — for instance, by reforming federal retirement programs, he said.

Whatever ends up happening, get ready for a long and messy few weeks. Or months.