How it happened: Deadline day for the forced spending cuts
March 1st, 2013
08:53 AM ET
5 years ago

How it happened: Deadline day for the forced spending cuts

(CNN) - Lawmakers have known about this day since August 2011 - a day they say was never supposed to come - but nevertheless, it's here.

Starting Friday, the federal government is required by law to start cutting $85 billion from its budget over the next seven months, with a total of $1.2 trillion over the next decade.

The automatic cuts will hit a number of federal agencies in both defense and non-defense spending. Lawmakers and agency heads warn the effects will cause a range of issues from unemployment to longer lines at the airport to lower-quality food inspections.

President Barack Obama sat down at the White House with congressional leaders Friday morning - the timing of the last-minute meeting has been widely criticized - and later held a press conference in the press briefing room. But with most members of Congress out of town, few thought it likely top brass would reach a deal to avert the cuts.

Check below to see the day's developments.

8:31 p.m. ET: President Barack Obama signed as required on Friday evening an order implementing the broad forced federal spending cuts, known in Washington as the sequester. He was required to sign the order before 11:59 p.m. Read more.

8:24 p.m. ET: Sen. John McCain of Arizona said all in Washington - including himself - share part of the blame for the cuts taking effect. Especially hard-hit, he said, will be the military. "Are we going to be able to supply them with the equipment that they really need?"

5:48 p.m. ET - CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash looks at the battle of words over the cuts.

2:45 p.m. ET - Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney blasted President Barack Obama over the forced, across-the-board spending cuts–known in Washington as the sequester–scheduled to kick in Friday.

"Well, no one can think that's been a success for the president. He didn't think the sequester would happen. It is happening," Romney said in part of an interview that aired Friday on Fox News. "But to date, what we've seen is the president out campaigning to the American people, doing rallies around the country, flying around the country, and berating Republicans. And blaming and pointing. Now what does that do? That causes the Republicans to retrench and then put up a wall and fight back. It's a very natural human emotion."

Read more

1:51 p.m. ET - President Obama stated in his press conference that janitors and security personnel on Capitol Hill will face less pay because of the spending cuts. CNN's Dana Bash and Lisa Desjardins report that while there are no furloughs planned for those employees, Senate Sergeant at Arms Terry Gainer says some janitorial staff will likely see smaller paychecks because of the very sharp cut in overtime available and the lack of merit increases.

“Neither the United States Capitol Police officers nor our facility team members will experience compensation reductions. Overtime opportunities will be severely restricted and that ultimately impacts service,” Gainer said.

1:45 p.m. ET - Did you miss the press conference? Click here for a transcript of the president's remarks.

1:30 p.m. ET - From CNNMoney's Jeanne Sahadi: The political bickering over the automatic spending cuts has done little but cloud the public's understanding of what's going on and why. So we'll try to set the record straight on at least a few oft-repeated misconceptions.

Read more at CNNMoney: 4 myths about the spending cuts

1:23 p.m. ET - In the White House meeting earlier Friday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made clear that solutions to the across-the-board cuts "can and must be done through the regular order rather than in a backroom with no input from Senate Republicans," according to a Senate GOP aide.

McConnell also released a statement: “Today’s meeting was an opportunity to restate our commitment to the American people that we would significantly reduce Washington spending. Over the coming weeks, we’ll have the opportunity to ensure funding is at the level we promised while working on solutions for making spending reductions more intelligently than the President’s across-the-board cuts. But I want to make clear that any solutions will be done through the regular order, with input from both sides of the aisle in public debate. I will not be part of any back-room deal and I will absolutely not agree to increase taxes.”

12:42 p.m. ET - House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi held a press conference on Capitol Hill.

"I think some people may have thought sequester meant 'shut down of government.' No it means more like 'hold hostage all the things you care about so we can have across-the-board cuts'."

She then read a furlough memo issued by the Justice Department this morning.

"The furloughs are already going out," she said. "They will have an impact on peoples' lives."

12:22 p.m. ET - CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash reports that the White House meeting was quite "subdued" with no drama, according to a GOP congressional aide familiar with the meeting.

The source said there isn't much to add because nothing much happened besides people laying out their positions

12:20 p.m. ET - From CNN Political Producer Martina: "Just two months after the brinksmanship of the "fiscal cliff," Washington is staring at yet another deadline to avoid yet another fiscal calamity of its own making. But this time, something is different..."

Read more: Shame and blame: Why Washington needs couples therapy

12:18 p.m. ET - CNN Senior Congressional Producer Deirdre Walsh reports that House officers–including the House Sgt. at Arms, Clerk, Chief Administrative Officer–sent letters earlier this week telling their employees that they have been planning for potential cuts and there were no plans for furloughs initially, according to a senior House official.

The House is also cutting back on staffing for various entrances to Capitol/House office buildings. The Senate is doing the same. This official emphasized that security would not be impacted, and they are still finalizing the plans. But it’s expected fewer public entrances would be open around the complex.

Individual House members offices decide how to handle the cuts for their employees. One senior Democratic leadership aide said they are still awaiting the details on what the exact figures on the cuts will be.

11:57 a.m. ET - Asked Friday by CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin why he can't simply lock congressional leaders in a room until they reach a deficit-reduction agreement, President Obama said he can't "force Congress to do the right thing."

"Jessica, I am not a dictator, I'm the president," he said while speaking to reporters in the White House Press Briefing Room. "Ultimately, if Mitch McConnell or John Boehner say we need to go to catch a plane, I can't have Secret Service block the doorway."

11:54 a.m. ET - In his press briefing Friday morning, Obama continued to fault Republicans for Congress' failure to find a deficit-reduction agreement.

"None of this is necessary. It's happening because a choice that Republicans in congress have made," he said. "They've allowed these cuts to happen because they refuse to budge on closing a single wasteful 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. "

The president said that the nation's deficit problem is not about spending too much on education or repairing roads, but instead involves long-term medical costs that need to be addressed as part of entitlement reforms–cuts that Republicans want.

11:46 a.m. ET - House Speaker John Boehner's office released a statement about what took place at the White House meeting Friday morning. According to this office, Boehner reminded the president that Republicans had already compromised on revenue two months ago when they passed a fiscal cliff bill that included an increase in tax rates.

At the White House this morning, Speaker Boehner continued to press the president and (Senate Majority) Leader Reid to produce a plan to replace the sequester that can actually pass the Democratic-controlled Senate. He suggested the most productive way to resolve the sequester issue will be through regular order. The speaker reminded the president that Congress just last month provided him the tax hike he was seeking without any spending cuts. It’s time to focus on spending, the speaker told the group. The Republican leaders reiterated their willingness to close tax loopholes, but not as a replacement for the sequester’s spending cuts, saying any revenue generated by closing tax loopholes should be used to lower tax rates and create jobs.

11:39 a.m. ET - In the briefing room, Obama said he told congressional leaders "these cuts will hurt our economy, cost us jobs, and to set it right, both sides need to be willing to compromise."

The "dumb, arbitrary cuts" in government spending that take effect Friday are "unnecessary and inexcusable," he added, emphasizing that "not everyone will feel the pain right away" but over the next week, "many will have their lives disrupted in difficult ways."

"None of this is necessary," Obama added, placing blame on Republicans for not compromising and allowing tax revenue on the table as part of a deficit-reduction deal to avert the forced spending cuts.

11:18 a.m. ET - The White House announced the president will deliver a statement in the briefing room at 11:35 a.m.

11:14 a.m. ET - After the meeting, House Speaker John Boehner came outside to make a statement.

"The president got his tax hikes on January 1st. This discussion about revenue, in my view, is over. It's about taking on the spending problem here in Washington," he said.

Boehner said the House has already passed two budget bills and called out the Senate for not passing any. "The House has laid out a plan to avoid the sequester," he said. "I would hope that the Senate would act."

As for the next fiscal battle in Washington, the speaker announced that the House will move a bill next week to continue funding the government past March 27.

"I'm hopeful that we won't have to deal with the threat of a government shutdown while we're dealing with the sequester at the same time. The House will act next week and I hope the Senate will follow suit," he said.

11:07 a.m. ET - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was seen leaving the White House.

10:47 a.m. ET - Retired Republican Rep. Steve LaTourette said Congress failed to pass a deficit-reduction plan because "the two sides won't give up their sacred cows and reach some conclusion."

"Republicans have to get serious on revenue, and quite frankly the president has to begin has to begin talking about significant entitlement reform," the former Ohio congressman said on CNN's "Newsroom."

10:35 a.m. ET - The president and vice president started their meeting at 10:18 a.m. with the House and Senate leadership, a White House Official told the print pool.

10:10 a.m ET - Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said it's ridiculous that Congress left for the weekend as the cuts start to go into place.

"The the last place I should be right now is Florida," she said on CNN's "Newsroom," arguing that Democrats had "insisted" on staying in the nation's capital but Republicans "refused" to compromise. "We should be in Washington, sitting down at the table, working together."

10:06 a.m. ET - House Speaker John Boehner arrived for the meeting.

10 a.m. ET - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell arrived at the White House.

9:48 a.m. ET - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid arrived at the White House for the meeting.

8:04 a.m. ET: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement about today's meeting at the White House, reiterating that there will be "no last-minute, back-room deal."

"We promised the American people that we would cut Washington spending, and the President signed those cuts into law. Republicans have offered the President numerous solutions, including the flexibility he needs to secure those reductions more intelligently. I'm happy to discuss other ideas to keep our commitment to reducing Washington spending at today's meeting. But there will be no last-minute, back-room deal and absolutely no agreement to increase taxes."

Also see:

Forced spending cuts begin today

Spending cuts threaten military town's businesses

Spending cuts: When they'll really bite

Filed under: Congress • Debt • Deficit • President Obama
soundoff (454 Responses)
  1. jay

    Don't you love how Americans make ridiculous bills and proposals that won't come into effect until the next government is there, and they get blamed. lol what a sad country.

    March 1, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  2. Mark Pajak

    The idle, lazy elements in the society are starting to outnumber the hardworking middle class. If they government continues funding freebies for them, some kind of a budget disaster must follow. You can't subsidize mediocrity forever.

    March 1, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  3. Rick Shaw

    I wish the President and Congress would first cut their salaries and then put the sequester into place.

    March 1, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  4. Taxpayer

    Obama wants the cuts to take place, he wants to make them painful, and he wants to blame Republicans for the pain. This is why he threatens to veto a bill that gives him flexibility in implementing the cuts. This also explains administration's attacks on Woodward, who unveils the fact that the sequester was Obama's idea in the first place.

    March 1, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  5. newmalthus

    "dumb, arbitrary cuts" Just more lies from the "Tax and Spend" Murderer In Chief. The Senate democrats last night voted down a Republican plan that would have repaced the "arbitrary" cuts with reasonable cuts of Obama's choosing. Obama had said he would veto it any way. Last year Obama said tax increases for cuts. He got his tax increases in December, now he wants to cheat on his deal and not make any cuts at all.

    March 1, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  6. mark

    Glad to see that the republicans didn't cave. Obama spends money like it is growing on trees. Obama just kicked the can down the road. He is not a leader. A nice family man but couldn't lead a group of people out of a restroom.

    March 1, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  7. Rick

    I am a Democrat and I think the spending cuts are a great idea. How much more can we continue to raise taxes when the "rich" are already paying 95% of all Federal taxes? Sure, some people will be harmed but lets look at all the wasteful government spending that Obama refuses to mention. Besides, the Sequester was the President's idea in the first place.

    March 1, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  8. G D

    We have a plan, it's called Simpson-Bowles. The POTUS commissioned the study, GOPers like Paul Ryan vetoed it because it was balanced (i.e., included revenues), and the POTUS didn't have the backbone to rally believers. In the future, this event will be found in the dictionary under the term "dysfunction". We need some political viagra...

    March 1, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  9. n222s

    Lets examine the options available.

    A – Let the cuts occur, no changes.
    B – Let cuts occur, but do them differently with no tax increase.
    C – Raise taxes with some cuts (maybe).
    D – Don't raise taxes, don't cut at all.

    Please explain to me why B isn't a valid option? The ONLY way we can avoid the sequester is to raise taxes? As we did two months ago? Everyone agrees, even the President, cuts should occur. Why is B any less a valid option?

    March 1, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  10. eff_bush

    It's nice to see Obama finally admit that one of the ideas he ramrodded through Congress was a bad idea.

    March 1, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  11. Rob

    Remember this was his idea though. He came up with this to get Congress to come to terms, they didn't and all the while, he was traveling around complaining rather than trying to help solve it.

    March 1, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  12. AreYouKidding?

    "These cuts are dumb"

    Well then, Mr. President, perhaps you shouldn't have suggested them. And while we're at it, you can blame Republicans for a whole lot of things, but this is all yours, Sir. Don't be a poor leader AND a liar. Please just stick to one. We can't afford for you to be both right now.

    March 1, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  13. Carl

    Well folks, this is your lying, dividing a whole president again. The sequester was his original idea, that he praised to the Illinois Register newspaper. It's also the sequester that he said would never happen in the dates with Romney. He already got his tax hike on the wealthy. And now he's disparaging Republicans for not doing more when SPENDING the problem. How you Liberals can defend this guy with a straight face is beyond me. If this is YOUR idea of a president, well, then you are as stupid as you seem.

    March 1, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  14. Namerene

    Ahhh, poor big baby, you did this yourself

    March 1, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  15. Joel

    If $85 billions cuts is so bad, which the president also signed for it, how they are going to cut the $2 trillion defecit they
    are having every year let alone the $16.5 trillions defecit they already have on the books? It is time to cut all the waist
    and pet projects every congressmen have and adopt the Simpson bi partisan recommendations.

    March 1, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  16. Hot fresh kool aid for sale!

    "...I can't have Secret Service block the doorway."

    Hilarious. This has become like that moment where we hold hands at the edge of the volcano–assured that the spaceship will pick us up on the 'other side'–just before we jump (because Brother Enoch showed us the divine spiritual path to Narnia...)

    March 1, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  17. Snyphilis

    Daryl – I have more taxes taken out of my paycheck each week... That is a tax increase. I don't care what the details are or how it got there. It is STILL a tax increase. Poor excuses. Bush Cheney were dictatorial. Obama Biden are worse. Having one bad president is not an excuse for a 2nd. We are going to have no real leader for 18 years (I count the last 2 Clinton years). I am sure the parties will try to extend that streak.

    March 1, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  18. badmedia

    This is all Obama's fault... as a persident, he didn't communicate with Congress since Jan 2013.
    If it's is a dumb day, why he wait until the dead line passed to touch out to the other party?
    And it's not really a cut, it's cut the rise of spending. And it's Obama's idea in the first place.
    He's playing policitical game... and the media is supporting him.
    It's like communist county, government now control the media.
    Please wake up American.

    March 1, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  19. Bob

    At least he admits his idea was dumb.

    March 1, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  20. gijames1225

    You know federal government has gotten too big when the President has to reassure people he's not a dictator.

    March 1, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  21. Milagros

    Sequester was Obama's idea and he has complete control over which budgets might be reduced a bit. He always gets away acting like he has no control over anything. Complete nonsense. Cut the hype and cut the budget.

    March 1, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  22. jbrickley

    The sequestration was the POTUS suggestion to congress and then the POTUS signed it into law. The POTUS has authority to define where the cuts are made. So this whole thing is an attempt to blame the GOP when it was completely orchestrated by the POTUS himself! Now he claims all these serious cuts are going to be made and the world will end. Sounds like CA's Prop 13 in 1978 (freeze on property taxes) all repeating itself at the federal level. Talk about crying wolf! Not to mention throwing Bob Woodward under the bus! Wish the GOP would shout it from the roof tops every single time they get in front of a camera or microphone!

    March 1, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  23. R Thor

    The democrats and particularly this "president" refuse to take responsibility for anything. ever.
    It's embarrassing.

    March 1, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  24. Farouk

    Nice job re-electing this divisive hack. You reap what you sow. Unaccountability, unable to lead to togetherness, unable to cut just over 2 percent of a spending budget we can't I'm any way afford. Enjoy.

    March 1, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  25. Xenon

    Lack of leadership in the White House! Leaders don't blame and whine. Leaders influence. If you can't lead step aside!

    March 1, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
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