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. Curbut

    OMG people, we're talking about a cut in the proposed INCREASE in spending. It's not even close to the end of the world that our politicians are trying to make it. Let the sequester take place; assess and then do it again. Maybe then we can regain controll of our future.

    March 1, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  2. bill brasky

    Well it's pretty simple explanation of who is to blame: Unaccountable, histrionic, out of touch, old greedy people wasting space and air in DC. The president is just as responsible too since he goes on TV to try and pass blame when he should be saying "I apologize, we all failed to do our job on both sides. We have failed the american people by putting our own personal interests above the interests of our duties. Every congressman/senator has had their assets frozen until they fix the country or resign"

    March 1, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  3. Wallaceboy

    Gregory :
    Some background: Of the ten richest zip codes in the US / eight voted for Obama. The top 10% pay 73% of the taxes and the top 1% pay 37.5%. 48.5% pay no taxes. Also, many of the "rich" are small business owners that put the business on their 1040. We can either tax everyone a bit more or spend less. If jobs and prosperity are our goal then spending less is the way to go. Let's stop blaming the guy who is simply more successful than you.

    March 1, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  4. bucky badger

    I personally look forward to these cuts. We can finally find out what programs are essential and require money, and what others dont. I hear everybody wants to make cuts, but nobody wants to cut their own programs! Ron Swanson for President!

    March 1, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  5. roseydozey

    Pesident says cuts are dumb. I seem to remember he signed off on this BILL two years ago. Even if they 'thought' it would never happen, he should not sign off on something that he from the get go thinks is 'dumb'. My My!!!

    March 1, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  6. Gord

    Is that Barry "Pants on Fire" Obama at it again. This must be George Bush's fault.

    March 1, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  7. Steven

    How about the govt. do what everybody else has to do and that is live within a budget. You can't spend what you don't have. We can not allow the govt to use historical based budgeting process as we know they are spending more money then they need to on pork barrel spending and all that good stuff. NO MORE over staffing of offices. If you only need 100 people to do the job you hire 100 people and not a thousand. Let them use a zero based budget process and JUSTIFY every dollar that they want to spend. NO MORE FREE RIDES.

    March 1, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  8. Frances

    And you sit there and blame republicans when neither party is blameless in this siutaiton, it's the responsibility of both House and Senate. Ridiculous. Are children running our government?

    March 1, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  9. Virginia Seebrat

    This is only the beginning. Wait until 2014 when most companies that employ over 50 drop health insurance on all their employees and opt instead to pay the $2000 per employee fine (after the first 30 employees). I know our company will because it is the best financial decision. The lower paid employees will be eligible for government subsidies to help buy health insurance. The rich will be able to pay the outrageous cost of an individual health insurance policy. As usual, the working middle class gets the shaft. Several health insurance companies have told us to expect the rates we pay for individual policies to be double or triple what we currently pay for our group coverage. Because my husband and I work hard (he works two jobs) to try and take care of our family, and not depend on government handouts, it looks like we will be financially devastated by this President's idea of protecting and helping the middle class. Unbelievable. I hope that any middle class working family that voted for Obama understands what is about to happen and who is to blame.

    March 1, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  10. amarjeet

    Finding and imposing tax as revenue as per income is the first task of any governance. Not imposing taxes based on income is itself a failure, illegal and discrimination. All living in the country, working or outside must contribute to national treasury. Tax cuts are illegal. To give incentives commensurate to performance like production, exports & jobs creation within national boundaries are acceptable norms of Gov. Taxation policy. Bush tax cuts created a bad example & later exploited by republican to benefit their vested interests. Budget cuts can never be dumb as its effects and long term residuals affect the economy, jobs, and projects of development, reduce border patrolling, increase illegal entries etc. to neutralize the immigration reforms objective. GOP is following a policy that never fits in any national policy as it hits the poor, middleclass, national defense & civil defense as well other operational services with sharpest teeth to devour the administration process and governance. It is time to have war tax in the budget and build surplus to wage future wars. As wars have never benefitted people of America directly or indirectly besides sacrificing human lives with no return, it is positive those who earn more from war production should pay more. Ordinary people pay off extra for expensive goods & services from limited resources.

    March 1, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  11. dsangiovanni

    Let's cut their salaries, bunch of.....

    March 1, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  12. Don

    It is truely amazing what his President gets away with. He is no leader and it appears he wants to divide this country. A good leader will work to unite people and not divide them. He says thes cuts are "dumb" he and his cronies created these custs!!!! So I guess he is admiting he is dumb. Why does the media let him get away with statements like that. If he does not like what Congress is doing then bypass Congress (which is half Democrat and half Republican) he has done several times already in his 4 years in office.

    March 1, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    I can't wait until the 2014 elections are up. The RepuliCANT's will no longer be running the House. Boehner...your time has come! And every member of CONgress needs to be impeached!!!

    March 1, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  14. Shamus

    The idea that Obama is out here blaming the Republicans for not extending increased spending legislation so that the government can continue to spend money we dont have is ridiculous. Yes it does suck that some "necessary" programs are being affected but at the end of the day there needs to be lean government and accountability for a budget. We the People dont get extensions upon extensions to pay our bills yet Uncle Sam has a seemingly endless budget. For those speaking about it was all Bush's fault that we are in this mess is stupid. The current President had 4 years to do something and didnt and somehow 51% of Americans thought he deserved another shot. Priceless people

    March 1, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  15. Jan

    If both sides would spend as much time working to resolve things as they do blaming each other then things might actually get accomplished. These are the leaders of our country and they are setting a horrible example. I don't care if you are democrat or republican, we need some unity.

    March 1, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  16. Timothy

    What am I missing here, is Obama in charge of the country? The Republicans, the Democrats, Congress, everybody runs all over him and he sits back and blames everybody else when things do not get done. I cannot believe he was re-elected.

    March 1, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  17. weprint

    "I'm not a dictator". Sort of reminds me of when Nixon stodd in pretty much the same location and proclaimed " I'm not a crook".

    March 1, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  18. jack fitzgerald

    this guy's all politics and the media is in his hip pocket. instead of increasing the spending this year over last year by 85, they are increasing it by 6%. It's still an increase! I wish my paycheck went up independent of my job performance by 6% and I was allowed to wine on tv about my boss. Wah.

    March 1, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  19. Zaphod

    It's "Vulcan mind meld" not "Jedi mind meld" Mr. President sir. I'm going to let it go this time. Everyone gets one 😉

    March 1, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  20. cedar rapids

    Amazing. The president comes up with this cuts idea, goes to congress and says 'look guys, you lot need pressure to come up with a solution so here is my idea'. Congress goes 'sounds good', votes on it, passes it by a large margin, and then is still unable to come to a compromise on it.......and all people can do is moan about Obama for coming up with it in the first place? you moaners are missing the point by a huge margin.

    March 1, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  21. bill

    Obama's fault.. (period)

    March 1, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  22. chris

    "these cuts are dumb"; but the whole process Mr. President was YOUR idea.

    March 1, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  23. rs


    The republicans need to continue to do their job. Preventing as many of this administration's country damaging policies as possible.
    I think (unfortunately for the Right) that the majority of Americans see the GOP in "doing their job" (a strange idea of work you have) is what is damaging America. They saw the GOP last November as a party of overly radicalized kooks- supporting the rights of rapists, voting for ever larger tax cuts for the rich, and posturing ever-more dangerous foreign policy positions and voted accordingly.

    There is no heroism in NOT doing your job. The GOP IS the problem.

    March 1, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  24. growupandthink

    Good grief! Is there anything that this clown doesn't blame on Republicans?

    March 1, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  25. Mike

    Incredible leader – so who is the President? I thought President implied leader. The cuts are dumb, well, guess what, you could have done something about them. Number one BIGGEST problem in TODAYS society. Blame all your actions or inactions that you dont like, on someone else. And everyone wonders why we have problems????

    March 1, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
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