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. Anonymous

    What a tool this man is

    March 1, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  2. taxedmore

    Hey Nancy P. – you are worried about the impact of these small cuts – what about the impact of all your demo giveaway programs on the taxpayers who have to pay for them? Of course you don't care about the taxpayers do you?

    March 1, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  3. ourfuture

    What is all this talk of Tax increase?

    The talk is to close tax loopholes not increase taxes...

    why cant anyone get that, the Republicans just keep lying about that.

    we should be getting our 1 billion $ per week from companies like Apple.

    no one is talking about income tax increases.

    how hard is that to understand?

    March 1, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  4. Quirk

    So typical of this President – takes credit for good things that happen he had no part of, blames others for bad things he created.

    March 1, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  5. vidal808

    The Republicans and TeaBaggers are the problem. They got us here where we are and the people know it. The party of NO will feel the results during the next elections. The GOP will shrink and become inconsequential in the future -and that is exactly what they deserve.

    March 1, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  6. schaz


    Yeah, who signed that bill anyway?

    March 1, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  7. bear

    Yesterday the DEMs in the Senate voted down a GOP proposal to let Obama and his Cabinet move the money around to make the cuts smarter. So if the cuts are dumb blame the DEMs in the Senate.

    March 1, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  8. winchester74

    these massive layoffs are just one more part of the Republican plan to create jobs

    March 1, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  9. robrickmon

    What cuts?

    All we did was decrease the rate of growth.

    March 1, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  10. hvfpaints

    So his idea is "dumb" and it's the Repubs fault he is dumb? and now I hear Napolitano didn't know about those criminal releases that she announced on Monday? Darn – whole lot of amnesia going on!

    March 1, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  11. Andy

    I thought the GOP wanted to stop being the stupid party? They're only goal is screwing up things as much as possible until they get back in the whitehouse. They dont care about what happens to the country at all.

    March 1, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  12. Kyle

    If a tax rate is "temporary" for over 8 years and is finally allowed to expire, is that still an increase in taxes? Just because it was temporary and extended multiple times (to include Obama) doesn't mean your taxes did not go up, thus more revenue gained by the federal government. The President got the tax increase he sought.

    March 1, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  13. Ed

    Hey PJ. The GOP just imposed the tax increases on the wealthy that Obama wanted on Jan 1st. Since you believe we should now have more tax increases on teh wealthy before we have any cuts just proves how uninformed and out of touch you are. Get a grip.

    March 1, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  14. C. Joe

    We need a leader. I am ashamed when I see my president consistently blaming others. We have yet to see one act where he has brought the two sides together and done something for the benefit of the Amercian people. We, the people, must demand more from our president and government.

    March 1, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  15. n222s

    WHY do we assume the Federal government is the answer to our problems? This isn't a rant against Obam or the Federal government. More so, if they are doing such a bad job, WHY do we continue to give them more money? Wouldn't that money be better spent at the state or local level? At least it would be closer to us? Yes, we have to fund the military but we can't cut at all without cutting defense unnecessarily? Perhaps the Justice Department could do without a few personal trips on their Gulfstream jets as was disclosed yesterday.

    Look, blame every Republican in existence. I don't care. Because Obama is only one person and even if you believe he is the wisest, greatest President ever he does not man the window at the Social Security office. In other words, if the Federal government is the problem, why blame one man or party? Why not reduce their power a little by tightening the purse strings just a little? The closer the government is to us, the more control we have over it.

    March 1, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  16. Namerene

    Change you can step in !!!!!

    March 1, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  17. TC

    So he came up with sequester as a way to bluff and make his advesaries blink, he is now calling what he did dumb. Dems don't want budget cuts but thought they could force a hand and now we will all pay for it becasue these fools can't work together,

    March 1, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  18. Come-to-work-now

    Bottom line...

    No more "bread and circuses"; we can't afford them any more!

    Balance the budget with reduced spending. The rich already pay more than their share (Note: I said their SHARE, not more money). Close ALL loopholes and hold politicians accountable for what they want to spend be they GOP or DEMOCRATS.

    Mr. President... End the posturing and start leading. I voted for you the first time because I felt that we needed new ideas and new "blood" to energize our country. You have sadly disappointed me...

    March 1, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  19. JW

    Most of the republican senate are just a bunch of nay sayers with no real reason for saying no. I know the system is built to fail, but really, progress is hampered by those only doing the minimum of their senate obligations. Obama has been trying desperately to get things moving through the senate, but nay sayers who have silly non-substantial reasons for saying no hold it up for no reason. Instead of blaming Obama, maybe the republican senate needs to be reviewed. Get rid of the constant nay sayers. I'm not saying they should all vote for everything, but at least have a decent reason to vote against something other than because they oppose it because of some stupid reason.

    March 1, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  20. Dan Crawford

    These cuts are dumb" .....the ones he signed into law?

    March 1, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  21. Kat

    It was Obama's idea. And now he's blaming others becauser it didn't work.

    March 1, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  22. Uncle Hank

    Not a cut, reduction in increased spending. Yes, his idea is dumb, yes, it's stupid and unnecessary. Republicans have passes multiple budgets to Democrats' 0. Republicans have passed two bills focusing, undumbing, the cuts. Democrats have passed zero. What a childish baby our esteemed president is.

    March 1, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  23. Lili

    This is the guy you wanted re-elected and got him re-elected. Now, every American must deal with this fall-out and please quit blaming everything that happens in Washington on the Republicans. President Obama got us into this mess, so let's see him get us out of it.

    March 1, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  24. Sean

    What the heck is Obama going to do now the next couple weeks. All he has done is write checks to whoever he feels like. Maybe he will get out and play more basketball now that he cant sit around all day and spend money on stupid things that are actually hurting the economy. Like Obamacare.... I'm looking forward to paying for some thugs healthcare and his 32 other kids with 8 girlfriends.

    March 1, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  25. Justin Icart

    The point of the sequestrian was to force congress to come up with a balanced budget. So he's calling congress dumb, without actually saying it. C'mon people get your government 101 together please.

    March 1, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
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