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

    Didn't Obama propose the whole thing?

    March 1, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  2. EddiboyS

    Another clear example of the bought and paid for Republican congress pursuing the avarice based desires of the 1% over the best interests of the nation as a whole.

    March 1, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  3. yugaa

    Lets face it. These cuts are so small they won't make the tiniest dent in our debt. So if we can't figure out a way to stomach these cuts we are truly doomed. The President should be explaining to the American people that these cuts are insignificant compared to what we will need to cut in the coming decade (even with massive tax hikes to go with them) to be fiscally sound moving forward.

    March 1, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  4. jordan

    Republicans are Extemists and they are trying over and over to force thru Laws that Restrict our Freedoms a lot more than what Liberals try to do.
    Republicans need to be Voted out.They caused this and they only care about their damn Trickle Down BS................All that wealth got invested alright...................in China and other Foreign Nations but not in USA.All that Trickle Down Wealth was trickling down those rich greedy Businessmen and their Stooge Politicians Pants.Just like Urine a bunch of buttholes.

    March 1, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  5. Wilson

    The republicans need to continue to do their job. Preventing as many of this administration's country damaging policies as possible.

    March 1, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  6. RJCousin

    How many of the illegals would have been still detained if Obama would stop traveling to make his campaign speeches, his golf game with Tiger and Michelle's skiing trip with the girls.

    Can see that the Sequester certainly isn't hurting his travel plans.

    "It's Good to the the KING!"

    March 1, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  7. Notnownotever

    Hey, Obama said it was "Time for Change".
    He never said it was gonna be for the better.
    See, he's not a liar

    March 1, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  8. cedar rapids

    'Sidb1980
    "My message to [Congress] is simple: No. I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off-ramps on this one." (President Obama, Super Committee Statement, November 21, 2011)
    On February 12, 2013, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney admitted that Sequester was the President's idea. “Sequester was one of the ideas put forward, yes, by the President's team." (Fox News Special Report with Bret Baier, February 12, 2013)'

    sorry but what point are you trying to make here? those comments arent not exclusive or anything. The first comment is his saying that no, the cuts stay in place, you will not get out of coming to an agreement by my removing the theat. and the 2nd states that the idea for the cuts was from the WH.

    March 1, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  9. Pale Rider

    Failed leadership.

    March 1, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  10. Larry

    Let me say first that I am no fan of Obama's. That being said I am not foolish enough to completly blame him as so many other have on here. Those who do put all the blame on Obama either don't have ahandle on what is really going on or have no desire to know what is really going on. Aside from blaming the voters who seem to be clueless about who they vote for the real blame is on both parties equally. If the President and both parties of Congress truly wanted to reduce spending and get a handle on the debt there are a number of ways they could and here are just a few examples:

    - Get a handle on what the health care industry is charging. Drug companies, as an example, rake in record profits annually while spending over $200M annually in lobbying to protect their profits yet not one member from either party has asked for hearings to ask why they charge what they do. Heath care costs are bankrupting this country both at the government, state, local and individual level and that is a fact.

    - Outlaw lobbying unless it is for non-profit. In other words outlaw lobbying that takes place for the sole purpose of protecting a company or industries profits. Lawmakers are supposed to work for the voters not the lobbyists.

    - Pass legislation that states simply that no company, or individual can have a 0 or negative 0 tax rate. As a matter of fact there should be a percentage cap on how much a company or individual can get back on their taxes. It is insane if not stupid to think that we can get a handle on spending and the debt when more than 50% of all americans get back equal to or greater than what they pay in on their taxes. On top of that you have more 70 companies on the Fortune 500 list who have a negative tax rate while making huge profits.

    - the last thing and the one thing the President and Congress should do but will not do is REPEAL SEQUESTRAION!!! Sequestration should be repealed and replaced with a mandate to pass a reasonable budget within 6 months or resign. The President and Congress were not elected to point fingers, they were elected to work together to solve the problems this country faces. If they are unwilling or unable to do their jobs then for the good of the country they should resign.

    Since I know that President and Congress will never do what I have suggested above I have one final suggestion for anyone who reads this. Next year vote every sitting member of Congress out of office. I am not suggesting you change parties or change your political philisophies but I am suggesting you find someone else to vote for. Politicians are never going to listen to any of us until we send a clear message to them that either they start listening to us or we will find people who will.

    March 1, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  11. Tracy

    Just keep your cool Mr. President. This too shall pass!!!!!

    March 1, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  12. wobbles

    Yes Mr President. These cuts are "dumb", but they were also your idea. And you spent a whole 7 minutes of your time meeting with the GOP on them. So basically, not only are they dumb, not only are they your creation, but you also felt them worth less of your time to try to avoid than you spend on the toilet.

    March 1, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  13. Old Man

    I fully support the President issuing the Sequester Threat.

    It should never have come to it, but it is necessary. Am I being affected by it? Yes – I have been told that at some point before September, I am taking a month off. My only saving grace is that I have enough vacation time stored. My co-workers are not all as lucky. They will be hit with the thought of losing their entire months salaries.

    It is like I tell my daughter when she complains that I am too hard on my grandkids. "I did the same thing to you and your sister, and you both turned out fine."

    It is time the members are taken to the proverbial wood shed and reminded of the rules. They have grown too big and arrogant for their own good. It is going to hurt everyone in some way, but it needs to be followed through on and Congress packing up for the weekend is another example of their dismissal of the threat.

    March 1, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  14. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    I full Agree with the President. And DUMB is when the American people re-elect republicans inspite of the obvious...
    For example...

    The Clinton Surplus the GOP squandered – $230 Billion

    The GOP's Iraq and Afghan wars – $5.5 Trillion

    Bush's failed and ineffective Prescription Drug Prpgram – $1Trillion

    Bush Era Tax Cuts for the rich – $1.2 Trillion

    The GOP's Pork Barrel Earmark for Gravina Island bridge-to-nowhere – $398 Million. Note: the total population of Gravina Island is 50 inhabitants.

    Bush's TARP Bailout that failing Wall Street Banks gave to their partying CEOs – $700 Billion.

    Can anyone spare $85 Billion for the American people please???

    March 1, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  15. Frank

    Ah, the government class has to down size a tiny, weeny bit. Welcome to our world!

    March 1, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  16. Dean

    I'm puzzled. This was questioned during the debate. This is Obama's plan and he said during the debate that it would NEVER happen. Said it on TV for all to hear. Last night the senate, headed up by harry reid, threw out (turned it down) some sort of bailout plan. Are there really that many "head in the hole" americans in this country? If there are then we deserve whatever we get. I just hope this means that the Obamas have to stop taking their $10M vacations now. Congress should be the first to get the pink slips or pay cuts, they don't do anything. They are a waste of taxpayer money.

    March 1, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  17. Kevin in VA

    I am not a GOP supporter but that is NOT what he said a year ago.
    I, personnally think there is a complete lack of leadership in DC (both political partys) that is destroying this country.
    85 billion is nothing, stop paying 400.00for a hammer and 800.00 for a toilet seat. Another is the Davis _Bacon. Why pay an electrician 50.00 an hour just because it is govt work (and I am one) when this same position in the real world pays half of that.
    CUT THE WASTE from ALL government programs and watch the savings pile up

    March 1, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  18. nc1965

    Why should they care?

    Only the well off are complaining about cutting spending and Government programs.

    They don't have to worry about being in dire straits if unemployed.

    They don't have to worry about being in dire straits when becoming ill puts you in bankruptcy .

    They don't have to worry about being in dire straits from not being able to receive Government assistance from welfare to feed their children.

    But they will worry if the Republicans have their way by cutting funding for programs that provide us safety. It's all about Deregulations and cutting. Republicans love this....as long as it doesn't include not cutting taxes, billion dollar subsidies to big oil, defense.

    When their rich -a s s e s- are dying because a plane crashes or they are poisoned from food from food processing plants because of deregulations, they will realize that their money will not keep them from the grave.

    March 1, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  19. TimB

    Sequestration is owned by the Republicans, no question about it. 174 Republicans voted to pass the bill including Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnol and Boehner ("I got 98% of what I wanted!") while only 95 Democrats voted for it. How is it the White House's fault? Because the idea orig came from there? So what? Who cares where the idea started? What matters is WHO VOTED FOR IT ...and that answer would be House Republicans!

    March 1, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  20. RJCousin

    If Obama would have been a true leader, he would have taken the Republican offer and said, Congress, since you aren't going to do your job, though it's not going to make people happy, I will take the lead and start making cuts.

    Except the Democrats said – Don't do that... it will make US look bad and tarnish YOUR legacy.

    The President caved!

    WAY TO LEAD mr president!

    March 1, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  21. Bob

    Will this President ever accept responsibility for anything? Everyone makes mistakes sometime in their life and their career, there's nothing wrong with admitting fault, if anything it makes people respect you more. But to continually cry and whine that everything is Bush's fault or the Republican's fault, most especailly for a Bill that he signed into law in 2011 is so childish that you have to question his integrity as a President and as a man.

    March 1, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  22. Gregory

    Again, it's the republicans fault. Every time anyone talks about raising taxes on the rich, the REPUBLICANS vote against it. Normal republican response.

    March 1, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  23. stanford_gal

    What a child... take responsibility and accountability for being president. Almost every president has had to deal with a House or Senate that was led by the other party. But they were often able to compromise. Not this president... compromise is not in his vocabulary. Just blame.

    March 1, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  24. Had Enough

    Has this man EVER taken responsibility for ANYTHING that has happened under his so called leadership? All he does is blame blame blame. Between that and him apologizing to foreign governments when someone in the U.S. criticizes them (even though that country may burn our flag and kill our citizens) – he should be removed from office and not even allowed to finish this term. And if he really wants to do something about the budget use that executive power he's so fond of to cut his and congress's pay.

    March 1, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  25. BostonSteve

    Obama takes no responsibility and blames the GOP, the Tea Party, GW Bush, Global Warming, Big Oil, YouTube videos, the war in Afghanistan, the Iraq war, conservatives, and even the founding fathers...will this administration ever take responsibility for anything negative?

    March 1, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
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