Napolitano said the reductions also would disrupt her department’s ability to conduct customs inspections at ports, leading to increased wait times for travelers and cargo shipments. She said disaster relief funding would be reduced by $1 billion, meaning aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy and tornadoes in Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala., could be cut.
“I’m not here to scare people. I’m here to inform, and also to let people begin to plan,” Napolitano said. “Because they’re going to see these impacts in their everyday lives.”
At national parks, the effects could include shorter visitor hours, furloughs for paid staff members and less money for snow plowing.
That could delay spring openings at Yellowstone National Park and other places where snow must be cleared beforehand, according to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
At the National Institutes of Health, Director Francis S. Collins said the sequester would mean $1.6 billion in cuts and slow research on diseases such as cancer, influenza and Alzheimer’s.
Hundreds of research grants would go unfunded, he said, and some 20,000 highly skilled workers would lose their jobs. Collins said he also expects to have to turn away patients from NIH’s clinical center, which allows people who have exhausted their treatment options to participate in clinical trials.
At the Food and Drug Administration, officials said the cuts would probably mean delays in translating new science and technology into regulatory policy and decision making. That, they said, could result in longer wait times for the approval of new drugs and medical devices.
Senate bills expected
The warnings produced little progress on Capitol Hill, where Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are expected to introduce separate bills that would — in theory — avert the sequester. But both will be heavily partisan and designed to fail in hopes of embarrassing the other side.
For Democrats, the plan would be to delay the sequester until January and pay for it by cutting farm subsidies and raising taxes on the rich.
Republicans were still working on the details of their doomed bill Monday. One option would be to give the Pentagon more flexibility in determining the impact of the cuts. But some in the party oppose that idea.
“I didn’t spend all of those hours and two weeks on the floor of the Senate on the defense authorization bill to say, ‘Hey, do whatever you want,’ ” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). “I will adamantly oppose just giving it over to the executive branch. I took an oath to defend the Constitution.”
Senate leaders were still working Monday on how and when the bills will be brought up to fail. It will definitely happen by Thursday, they said.
Rosalind S. Helderman, Sean Sullivan, Ed O’Keefe, Zachary A. Goldfarb, Lisa Rein, Brady Dennis and Lori Aratani contributed to this report.