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. nomad2003

    surprise surprise, Obama blames someone else for a problem. Obama started sequester, had his dem senate pass it, the repubs voted for it (got some cuts finally) and the Obama signed it.
    Obama had 2 years to come up with a different plan. The repub house passed two bills which the dem senate let die. Obama said he would veto anything without more taxes. After 10 years (10 years not temporary), taxes rates were raised along with new taxes for Obamacare (so we have 4 years of taxes without insurance exchanges) so a double hit. And also the 4 year 2% SS tax holiday.
    but the dems yell doom and gloom, and have you noticed, all the jobs they are concerned about seem to be union jobs. amazing how that works. The doom and gloom is hype... not wanting to cut anything.

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

    The most powerful person in the nation says he can't get anything done because it's everyone else's fault.

    Fool me once, shame on you. You got my vote in 2008, never again, idiot.

    March 1, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  3. sandysfinerthingsinlife

    I agree with Michael....they are all now unemployed.

    March 1, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  4. steve

    Obama comes up with the idea of the sequestration. Then does not want to own it. Then lies to the American people. Then throws Bob Woodward under the bus. The low information voters in the USA just eat every word he says up. Morons put him in office now make him work. Instead of blaming and traveling to proclaim it.

    March 1, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  5. Truth is

    Is it Bush's fault that Obama is incapable of being a leader? NO.

    March 1, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  6. Rob

    Hopefully this is a sign to the people that the current government is incompetent!

    March 1, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  7. roblearns

    Be careful, you don't want to make Obama mad. He's already got a committee working on if he's mad, and after that he could, after further study, choose a wide range of options to express his anger.

    But look – I see no reason today to be gleeful or sad or angry. Today is just another day – the cuts are ashame only in the sense that in a few weeks congress will double the amount of money that was saved with new spending initiatives.

    It's like a yo-yo dieter – we can expect every dollar saved will lead to a mad rush of spending – and we'll be more in the hole than ever – but for now – nothing to worry about. still 1 trillion dollar deficit – cutting was nothing in comparison to the problem – people who like to overspend rejoice – nothing happened.

    People who like to save – same message, nothing of significance happened.

    March 1, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  8. Lyddy

    When are the President and Congress going to learn that they can only spend what they take in for money. It is beyond ridiculous that they just keep spending when there is no money. Everything, I repeat everything, needs to be cut. You can keep on taxing the rich, which I am not one of as I am lower middle class, but when the rich leave the country where will the President and Congress get the money from. We are not a Socialist Country, thank God, but this President is doing everything he can to make us one. We have to quit giving. You cut the Military and they are the ones putting their lives on the line yet you continue to give to others.

    March 1, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  9. Wake UP

    Congress is a waste of tax payers money.... Put term limits in place and cut career politicians from the herd...

    We will be voting you guys out next election congressional loosers.

    March 1, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  10. Gregory Faith

    Standard operating procedure in Washington. Nothing getting done at the expense of the tax payer.

    March 1, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  11. tom

    The so called leaders are nothing but corrupt idiots. They are only concerned with filling their own pockets. That is it!
    We are supposed to hold these clown in high regard. Give me a break.

    Only thing they have accomplished is to run this country into the ground.

    March 1, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  12. rs


    Obama doesn't get it. Stop spending our money.
    Which branch of government is responsible for the budget, and paying the bills? Why that would be Congress!

    March 1, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  13. TJHolmes

    Sequestration = Person A and Person B keep fighting and won't compromise on anything. A rational guy comes in and tries to talk sense and tells them that he'll burn their homes if they don't settle their differences. Person A and Person B do nothing and wait for their homes to be burned down. Some even blame the rational guy that it was his idea to burn their homes.

    I am an independent voter and not a big fan of Obama, but if GOPers are so big on not increasing tax then why is Bob McDonell increasing taxes in Virginia?

    March 1, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  14. Gregory Faith

    "It is your fault! No, it is your fault!" While Rome burns!

    March 1, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  15. malibu123

    Hey Barry, you're the CEO of the government. Stop blaming and start acting like a leader. For once, stand-up and take responsibility. 65 million rocket scientists thought, for whatever reason, you're the man for the job. So, figure it out.

    March 1, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    Obama should be cut also. Who use million dollars for vacation? For Golf?

    March 1, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  17. Jake

    One thing that everyone can agree on, both parties and non-parties, is that Obama did in fact say in 2008:

    "the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort"

    I never remember this country being so divided.

    At least on that one major point and cornerstone of his 2008 election, we can all agree: FAIL

    March 1, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  18. J G

    Maybe if Obama wanted to get something done, he'd stop blaming the Republicans for all of his failures. Ya know, since Democrats hold both the Senate and the Presidential Office, or 2/3 of the Congress and Executive and yet continue to be unable to accomplish anything. Oh, and it wasn't Republicans alone that put the sequestration in place. You have both parties to thank for that. Good ol Washington DC.. as useless as ever. And good ol Obama's "Hope and Change." Same as it ever was.

    March 1, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  19. Loathstheright

    Republicans continue their treasonous acts to do everything they can to harm America so they can blame Obama for what they caused. They are the lowest of the low.

    March 1, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  20. Mark S

    ummmm....these were OBAMA's idea. Obama proposed the Sequestration in the first place.

    What a looser. I'm extremely embarrassed I voted for this guy. I wish I could take my vote back. Also didn't realize he'd go after my guns.

    March 1, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  21. ProtectAmericanJobs

    The ONLY REAL FIX is to Raise Revenue, by Bringing Back Jobs to US Citizens who Pay Income Tax.

    Massive cutting just puts more people on unemployment, which just depresses the economy even further.

    Returning private sector jobs to American Citizens will provide income tax revenue to OUR Government versus our government having to pay unemployment benefits to those who would be jobless instead. We need our elected officials to Start Protecting American Jobs and do whatever it takes to bring back the jobs they let go. We need leaders who will actually stand up for the American people.

    Bringing manufacturing back home to the USA is going to end up being not only a key to restoring our economy, but to maintaining our national security as well.

    China has been crushing the USA in a war without even firing a shot.

    Just check out Chinese extreme pollution issues – We all live in the same world, but not every country plays by the same rules.

    The bottom line is that “Our Government” has to protect domestic industry and the jobs that those industries provide. If they do that, the rest will take care of itself.

    We may have to pay a bit more for products made here in the USA by US citizens, but at least we'll still have jobs and a future for our children.

    March 1, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  22. AirForceGuy

    Even you republicans know it's the GOP's fault. Their whole agenda is to make President Obama look bad to the uninformed and uneducated portion of society. It's working hence all of the comments on here bashing the President. The GOP gives 2 fuks about you, your family, and even the economy for that matter. The just want to make Obama look so bad to the point that they dont care how detrimental the result of this non compliance is going to do to the country.

    March 1, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  23. laodegan

    "These cuts are dumb....and I should know, because I came up with them and signed them into law."- President Obama

    March 1, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  24. Informed voter

    When is he going to stop campaigning and start being a leader. Start taking responsibility this was your policy.

    March 1, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  25. Mojobutta

    Since big companies are doing so well. let them pay the bill.

    March 1, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
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