How it happened: Deadline day for the forced spending cuts
March 1st, 2013
08:53 AM ET
2 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. Jennifer

    I am so tired of this blame game, there should be no parties once elected! What happen to being United? It is right in the name of our country for goodness sake.

    March 1, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  2. Overmann

    So who here is surprised Obama's blamed somebody else again?

    March 1, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  3. VL

    So, if he thinks "these cuts are dumb", then he can cut in a lot of areas he thinks "is not dumb". The House already said that they will pass a provision next week to allow the president to have more flexibility to cut on things he thinks is "not dumb". 2% reduction of expense is a very reasonable amount to anyone's standard. I truly don't understand why any one in the government would think 2% reduction in expense is ridiculous. When economy is bad, we should lower our expense, not raise it. And the reduction in expense could be to lower salary, not just fire someone. Did they ever think about that before they come out and say things and treat everyone as an idiot.

    March 1, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  4. rplat

    If the cuts are "dumb" then why did he propose them, make them a condition for the extension of the Bush tax cuts, then sign them into law. I knew the left was stupid but I hardly thought they were dumb enough to accept this phony BS from Obama.

    March 1, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  5. Win Win

    Regardless of who's being the turd, UNEMPLOYMENT is the only important word in the article. Spin it how you like.

    March 1, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  6. tv22

    Obama: "These cuts, which I signed into law and threatened a veto on anyone trying to get around them, are dumb."

    Where's the leadership?

    March 1, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  7. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Hey America...Clinton was impeached for blowing a load.
    -------------------------------------------------
    Was he now?

    March 1, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  8. bob edwards

    I think each political person from the President down should work for one day each week just like the other federal workers are going to have to.

    March 1, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  9. Really...

    "Obama added, placing blame on Republicans"

    What, Obama blamed the Republicans for something??? I can't wait for the next story:

    "Boehner added, placing blame on Republicans"

    This bickering will never end until another country takes over as the world's superpower and everyone will be left wondering what happened.

    March 1, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  10. Guest

    This is going to hurt my paycheck but you know what? If it's the only to run the liberal train of failure off the tracks....I'll suffer a little for the greater good of the country.

    March 1, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  11. Some Random Poster

    You can tell how incompetent a president is when even he thinks his plans a dumb.

    March 1, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  12. Ulysses-AZ

    The cuts are dumb? I'm glad the President is admitting his sequester plan was a dumb and irresponsible way of handling our addiction to government spending. I've got an idea... how about let's have our President lead, and act like he is the President of the whole country and not just of his political party. He won't, though... he is biding his time and counting on media assistance to blame Republicans for HIS sequester plan to enable Democrats to retake the house in 2 years. Then, he will have a rubber stamp for any tax increase he wants and can finish spending this country into oblivion.

    March 1, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  13. Congress Owns the Sequester

    Strange what some Republicans are willing to do...Pretend that that Legislative Branch did not legislate their OWN sequestration legislation...and did so near unanimously. Even went on talk shows for about a month afterwards patting themselves on the back for THEIR OWN LEGISLATION, not giving the Executive branch any credit for it...because it was THEIR OWN bill, written by them.

    Yet, look a the posts above and below that blame the Executive Branch for shoddy Legislative work. It is an embarrassment to this country that people have dumbed themselves down so much!

    March 1, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  14. nolanfnryan

    Obama doesn't get it. Stop spending our money. Let's have a sequel: Sequester 2: cut 20% from those that didn't get cut by the first sequester.

    March 1, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  15. USA

    Obama is 100% responsible for this. He cant blame Bush or the Republicans. And if you voted for this idiot you deserve what you get! Hopey Changey!!! LOL What a loser

    March 1, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  16. Fubarack

    Finally, Obama's crazy spending is cut back, but only slightly.

    March 1, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  17. tarastokens

    Maybe is those in DC had to live off of Min wage jobs they would not be rushing off so quickly to take the weekend off. God how I wish for a revolution right now!

    March 1, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  18. Stephanie

    Dear members of the US Government: How about coming to a compromise? If the current plan will not be accepted by all, than why not draft a new plan with tweaks that both sides can agree on. We as Americans teach our youth to compromise yet we don't set a good example on how it can be done correctly? Why is that?
    Dear Mr. President: even though you state that the Republicans are the ones not willing to work with you, it really doesn't matter who is at fault. In the end it will be remembered as your fault because you are the President and this is happening during your Presidency. I would like to strongly suggest that you come to a resolution to this today and stop these cuts from happening. The majority of the American people voted for you. That means that they believe in you. Please show us that we can count on you and help to resolve this matter quickly and fairly. Thank you.

    March 1, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  19. jus-say'n

    If the GOP would work more for the majority of the People and spend less time thinking of ways how to distract and point blame elsewhere maybe we’d be growing more as a Country. But, GOP just want to protect the wealthy and force the middle class to pay for the mess they’ve played a big part in mismanaging our Country’s debt too. But, some Americans will be feed anything and give no thought but follow. Someone said Bush wasn’t to blame…. Our Country had a surplus before Bush took office and when he left after 2nd term we had the highest debt in American history! GOP have/are more for party and wealth then the People, which is the fault of the Americans who refuse to educate and follow a party without question- loyalty to the party and not the People. Sad what things have come to and the ignorance and uncheck political rants in these posts too are the worst.

    March 1, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  20. michael doty

    let's have all members of congress, the senate and the house as well as the president and his cabinet give up their saleries for march and put this money into the cuts that are taking place, more then enough to cover this,,oh they might have to eat at mcdonalds, burger king etc for awhile, but it would do them good

    March 1, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  21. davester

    Well needed cuts were not really happening under the current administration. Let the cuts come and let the chips fall where they may. The more it hurts, the more we have been overspending.

    March 1, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  22. Karloff

    Can someone please find a nice little community for Community Organizer Obama? As president, he's hopeless.

    March 1, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  23. Robert

    Obama, here's a clue: ALL those NASTY Republicans you refuse to compromise with were EECTED by the PEOPLE by bigger margins than YOU, so LOTS of people LIKE what they are doing, YOU and Democrats are NOT the only lected people in our country! LISTEN to the other side, Oh Great Divider, and learn to lead and compromise!

    March 1, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  24. H L C

    Kevin and those who agree no more taxes- how much do you make? Have you ever lived off of 35,000 dollars a year and my children and I have to watch our husband leave for months or years to protect our country? Please... start taxing the rich people. They wont even notice a change because they dont bother looking at their bank accounts while we are checking if we have enough money to feed by another week.

    March 1, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  25. No email

    Lol the cuts were his idea in the first place, so 100% agreed that they are "dumb."

    They should be MUCH higher.

    March 1, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
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