The White House made public an order at about 8:30 p.m. ET signed by President Obama making the budget cuts known as sequestration official and giving the federal government the authority to begin implementing $85 billion in across-the-board decreases.
The order released by the White House demands that "budgetary resources in each non-exempt budget account be reduced by the amount calculated by the Office of Management and Budget."
The cuts would run through Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year.
According to a letter dated today from Jeffrey Zients, deputy director for management of the Office of Management and Budget, to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, the sequestration calls for a 7.8% cut in non-exempt defense discretionary funds and 5% cut in non-exempt non-defense discretionary funding. It also calls for 2% cuts to Medicare, 5.1% to other non-exempt non-defense mandatory programs and 7.9% to non-exempt defense mandatory programs.
The federal government has said the cuts will soon translate into furlough notices to government workers, and that there will be cuts to government spending on defense contracts and domestic government programs. The plan protects active military personnel and anti-poverty programs.
The letter to Boehner, which introduced a detailed OMB report on the cuts, noted that federal lawmakers voted for sequestration "as a mechanism to compel the Congress to act on deficit reduction." The letter continued, "As a result of Congress's failure to act, the law requires the President to issue a sequestration order today canceling $85 billion in budgetary resources across the Federal Government for FY 2013."
An identical letter was sent to the president of the Senate, Vice President Biden.
The order comes after both Republican and Democratic alternatives to imposing across-the-board spending cuts failed to pass in the U.S. Senate.
The Democratic plan would have imposed a tax of 30% or more on millionaires, and cuts to defense and farm programs. The Republican plan would have forced responsibility on the president to determine how to implement the cuts as opposed to imposing an across-the-board decrease.
Contributing: The Associated Press
***Definition of Discretionary Spending
What is "discretionary spending"? What is the definition of the term "discretionary spending"?
"Discretionary spending" and "mandatory spending" are the two types of spending that make up the sum total US government expenditures on a yearly basis.
"Mandatory spending" is spending that is automatically obligated due to previously-enacted laws. This would include things such as Social Security and the interest on the national debt.
"Discretionary spending", on the other hand, consists of US government expenditures that are set on a yearly basis. This is money that members of Congress can adjust on a yearly basis.
Examples of discretionary spending in the United States:
-Environmental Protection Agency
-Department of Veterans Affairs
When looking to cut costs, lawmakers usually look to trimming discretionary spending.