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. Barry Obama, NJ, US

    didn't this clown agree to the cuts, as a condition of letting the Democrats to continue to mortgage our future to China and immorally burden our kids??

    this Obama guy is a great revisionist.

    March 1, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  2. AAW

    Let me get this straight; the President wrote into law "deep" spending cuts, without an increase in revenue (more taxes) after getting a tax increase (on those making more than 400K per year back in December) and expected the GOP (the party of small government) to turn down the opportunity to do something they couldn't do (cut spending), if they tried it on their own, through the normal legislative process...and now the guy who wrote the law and handed this "gift" to the GOP is surprised that it happened? REALLY...? And now it's the GOP's fault that the law he designed and signed, is now THE LAW! And now that same President is going into the next round of budget talks with the same GOP led Congress and is expecting some form of contrition. Obama gave the GOP what they've wanted since before Clinton was in office, (George W. was no saver) and now goes into the budget negotiations with what leverage? Congresses approval rating can't get any lower and if they cared about what we thought, they wouldn't have went home this weekend.

    Look if you're one of those people who pray at the altar of government I hope you're paying attention to this long sad drama. Blame the GOP all you want YOUR party is 2/3rds in charge of the federal government and YOUR President wrote this law! He gave the GOP a spending a cut. If you give a crack addict crack, are you shocked when he smokes it?

    Now for the real question; after all these dire predictions, the doom and gloom, the releasing of illegal immigrants (several days before sequestration) what are the ramifications if sequestration has no real impact on the economy at all? What happens when people adapt and adjust (as they always do) and in some cases exploit the changes brought by sequestration for profit? You do know that when government services are cut, it creates a market someone or something else fills in don't you? What happens when we realize that we don't need a bloated federal government to survive and that low and behold, the American people both liberal and conservative are more than capable of surviving and thriving in this country on their own. The real danger of sequestration to the folks in Washington is the realization that we've all been had!

    March 1, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  3. Randy, San Francisco

    Tea Partiers are getting what they want...smaller government. Republican/Tea Party candidates will pay a heavy price in the 2014 elections for damaging the nation's economic recovery on behalf of their 1% wealthy friends.

    March 1, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  4. Guest

    If they allow the cuts to go thru, this will be the best day of obama's presidency.

    March 1, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  5. Jack Shown

    Republicans love to toss around the term "patriotic" all the time but what they really mean is self-interest. There are the wealthy, of course, and then there are the poor who vote for the GOP because "Daddy told me so." Sickening.

    March 1, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  6. Dirk

    Send your kids to public school, Mr. President. How about letting your wannabe celebrity wife stop buying expensive dresses for Oscar night. How about ending your taxpayer paid vacations to Hawaii. Maybe don't authorize a $545million load to a company like Solyndra – which failed miserably.

    March 1, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  7. Mike

    The reality is that even if Romney had won, he would be blaming Obama. The people have to change and it's up to us as a country to put the right people in positions to best represent the population. We as a nation have failed to put leaders in place that understand the big picture. It's ultimately our fault.

    March 1, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    Glad to see his comments are falling on deaf ears. What a political joke! 2.4% is nothing! Quite crying and figure out the best places to apply them.

    March 1, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  9. REGinAZ

    There can be no doubt as to the priorities of the parties, nor about who those priorities benefit and thereby who is being irresponsible while serving only "the money", their strong supporters and masters, and their own politics, without any concern or conscience for the people.  The polls have clearly indicated that the people, the majority actually find no fault with some revenue increases along with responsible cuts in spending, in other words they support the presidents plan, yet the Republicans stubbornly and belligerently hold out to protect the priorities favoring only "the money".  The Democrats leave plenty of room for improvement but what we have consistently seen over the last near thirteen years, is that the Republicans are owned and controlled by "the money" and together, with the power, influence and mega-bucks provided, they think they can arrogantly focus on their self-serving politics and just con the people and manipulate public opinion.  It is totally disgusting and very costly for the majority.

    March 1, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  10. mark

    BLAME BLAME BLAME. Nothing is ever his fault. Newsflash. Leadership starts at the top – you have NONE Obama!!!! And Congrats to you idiots who elected this buffoon. TWICE!!!!!

    March 1, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  11. Jack Shown

    Blame Game wrote:
    > It's either the Republicans or Bush's fault ALL of the time! (per Obama) He is above any and all mistakes. Really??????

    Yes. Really. Do you even pay attention or are you just a parrot of your GOP dad?

    March 1, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  12. apotas

    So let me get this straight– janitors on Capitol Hill will get pay cuts, but those responsible for this mess will continue to bask in their fat congressional paychecks and benefits packages while 'working' only one day a week?

    No wonder we're in trouble.

    March 1, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  13. Jim

    Well instead of shooting golf with Tiger, he should have been working on this instead. I know he needs a break from time to time but business and work 1st.

    IMO the Federal Government has swelled too big anyway. They need more cuts and to cut out these politicans unlimited ATM Card known as the taxpayers dollar. They treat it like its their own coffers. Too much redundant and squandering waste. Quit giving money away to the rest of world until you take care of the problems here, like the $60 Million to Syria.

    March 1, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  14. Jake

    So would the '"dumb, arbitrary cuts"' be the same ones Obama himself proposed over a year ago? Funny how what goes around comes around isn't it...?

    March 1, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  15. DemocracyUnchained

    These articles really don't provide any solid information. I have been reading them for months trying to find any progress with the current dept and deficit. Each article can be summed up with the same BS. I go straight to comments now because I want to know how Americans feel about our government. I can say that over the past few months comments have changed a lot. The people commenting a few months ago seemed very strong about their opinion of who is right or wrong (DEMS or GOP). Now the majority of the comments are generally the same. We are ALL fed up with the government not focusing on what this country needs.

    -Stop the loopholes for corporations. If anyone can learn to budget better, its the fortune 500 companies. They didn't get their through bad financial planning.
    -Make cuts in government spending where it's needed. I don't care why chimps throw their poo
    -Prisoners should have to work to support their own cost of detainment. Not tax payers
    -Reform healthcare by investigating why costs in every sector of the industry are so damn high. $50 for asprin?
    -Make politicians equal to american citizens. We pay into SS & healthcare, so should you. Also, no pension for life BS

    I can keep going on & on, but the point is this. We americans on this comment post care about eachother & not our governments own agenda. God bless you all, peace, love & day!

    March 1, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  16. Margaret

    I worked all my life and paid into social security,Medicare ,and Medicaid ,so don't tell me that I don't have a right to my own money.

    March 1, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  17. SeattleMike5

    The truth is that your Congress voted 'yes' to these cuts. So thank your foolish House Republicans and Tea Partiers for this fiasco, and quit trying to blame the President.

    March 1, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  18. dezi

    Just sucks that people are gonna lose there jobs. And a lot of programs needed are gonna suffer.

    March 1, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  19. Peter in Ottawa

    ...but he has a halo...he surely can't be wrong about anything at all, can he?

    Really, the very best word that can be used to describe Obama supporters is (ironically) 'religious' – there certainly is no logical reason to support him. He's a religious leader, pontificating on the evil of his opponents and the altruistic purity of his does he substantially differ from the religious zealots he so often disses?

    March 1, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  20. Adonis

    This guy is a Hollywood loving leaderless Fraud on the grandest scale. Thanks for buying into this garbage! I'm in healthcare and the tsunami is only starting when it comes to Obamacare. My employer has dropped dependents and the premiums are going up and up. All BS government rules and costs get passed on to the worker not the employer! Thanks for voting in a lawyer with a crappy résumé to run our economy into the ground. All working tax payers are done with this non pro growth Hollywood President.

    March 1, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  21. Marty Rogers

    wow I can see the tea party is really busy on these boards. And the ignorance is amazing. THese cuts are cuts not reduction in increased spending. We are here not because of Obama, but because the super committee put together to come up with a balanced debt reduction plan couldn't agree and these cuts meant as deterrent kicked in. THis president is trying to help the hardest working people in the US: the poor and middle class. THey have been creamed and many work in non-livable wages while the CEO's of the companies they work for make immoral salaries. THis president knows that and wants to soften the burden of the debt on the middle and poor classes. For those claiming the reps already compromised on taxes remember this: those were tax rates that were never meant to be permanent and the HE THE PRESIDENT compromised in 2009 and extended them. THerefore the reps haven't compromised one bit. Does it sit well with you that a family living on minimum wage now has to deal with their preschooler losing head start funding just so the Koch brother or Soros, for that matter, can keep writing their 20 million dollar yacht off as a business expense?

    March 1, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  22. scott

    How about saving $40 billion a year and load up most of our violent prisoners/death roll inmates and drop them off in Iraq or Afganistan.

    March 1, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  23. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    No deal? Perhaps that's no big deal after all.

    let's see how all the gun toting welfare nutjobs in red states are going to buy their booze and ammo now. Or power their trailers. You voted for those inconsiderate worthless politicians in congress so its your mess. Enjoy it.

    March 1, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  24. SaltyDog

    What a failure Obama has turned out to be. I was one who jumped on his band wagon early for his first election, but by the time he ran the second time I had seen the handwriting on the wall and could not vote for him again. Everyday I regret my first reaction to support him.

    March 1, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  25. Mike

    There are "dumb" cuts and "wise" cuts...

    March 1, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
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