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. rs

    Triple A

    This has been the plan all along, Obama and his clan has been nurturing this blow to the middle class for 4 years.
    Really? Which party has been against the poor and middle class for 30 years? Why, I believe that would be the GOP! Name ONE thing the GOP has done since Reagan that benefitted anyone but the rich.

    March 1, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  2. The REAL Truth...

    @SeeThruIt2 – see thru what? The TARP bailout was proposed and introduced by then Treasury Secretary Ron Paulson and brought to the floor of the House at the end of Sept 08. It failed.

    March 1, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  3. Ekaterina Kaverina

    most members of Congress out of town.

    March 1, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  4. Taj

    "We promised the American people that we would cut..." I think Mr. McConnell means "We THREATENED the American people". I am ashamed that I ever voted Republican. For the second time, they are destroying the economy – destroying our LIVES – in hopes of gaining more power.

    March 1, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  5. Frank

    I really believe that once Congress lets the sequester fall into place, and all of the inevitable ngative imacts are obvious throughout the economy, the GOPers will the blame the financia ruin on the Dems. By the timing, it shuld really hit around the time of the mid-term elections. I am sure that enough people who are suffering at that time will forget that the real source of their plight lies with the refusal of the GOP to negotiate.

    March 1, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  6. Erik Barnett

    As a United States Marine, I am absolutely disgusted with these 50+ yr old kids. If this was the Marine Corps, my foot would of been heavily entrenched up where the sun dont shine until they figured out how to act "FOR THE COUNTRY". The more this continues, the more I feel compelled to run for office. District 9 South Carolina "Mick Mulvaney" would be a pretty easy win.

    March 1, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  7. Danger Will Robinson

    I still find it amazing that Republicans scream for smaller government.
    Never in our history has there been 340 BILLION people living in this country.
    Republican idea of smaller government is NO REGULATIONS.
    Corporations, banks, oil companys running amock in the name of the allmighty dollar.

    You want your beef inspected ?
    Your pharmacuticals tested ?
    You want clean air and water ?
    You want your kids to get a good education ?
    You want fair pay and safety on the job ?


    March 1, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  8. Borderless

    Obama's planned sequester seems to be playing out. Bob Woodward has said the emperor has no clothes. Is anyone listening?

    March 1, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  9. Two Row

    Campaign endlessly and have a meeting with congressional leaderes the day of the deadline. Way to lead Obama. He never wanted to get out of the sequester. Just another show.

    March 1, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |

    This was created by Obama 2 years ago as a compromise and extension for many deadlines he has always failed to keep his promise on... When are the DEMS going to the message... STOP SPENDING and TAXING....

    March 1, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  11. Guest

    Ofailure is backing himself into a corner and the liberal propaganda line is cracking under the truth. Suckers!


    March 1, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  12. wade

    Obama never takes responsibility for anything. he knows the Liberal media will lie to protect him and the American people are stupid after all they voted for this loser dictator failure TWICE. Now the Media and the people will find a way to blame the GOP even thought this was Obama's baby and his fault.

    March 1, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  13. Anonymous

    Absurd – Air traffic control open shifts caused by furlough are filled with overtime beyond the 8 hour day and/or open shifts are filled with regular pay until the controller exceeds 40 hours in the pay week, then they are paid overtime. Results COST MORE to the taxpayer.. lol

    March 1, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  14. Manti

    The Republicans have one agenda.............abolish Medicare and Social Security so they can add their pork. The Democrats also have an support the needy. Unfortunately the needy have no incentive to help themselves climb out of poverty when they are handed money from the government on a silver platter.

    March 1, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  15. Josh

    $85 billion? We need (I want) no less than $850 billion cut, and cut NOW !

    March 1, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  16. thomasb

    To call these guys 'lawmakers' is a massacre of the English language. They will go down in history as the absolute 'DO NOTHING AT ALL' congress! All for one reason, to see to it that our President, who happens to be the president of the county they call home but who happens to be a Democrat, is able to accomplish NOTHING. If they voted for anything at all, even in the light of day – they would be vote only if it caters to the RICH and not to the 47 percentiles posting the comments on this blog. It’s like this 'challenged' group of politicans has no inkling that they are being watched and heard, day after day, as they scratch their asses. Face it, if this group didn’t have the RICH and some dysfunctional group ideology – there would be nothing to string together this bunch of misfits – but stupidity.

    March 1, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  17. Frustrated Eddie

    To all those saying "good" to the cuts. Please consider those of us who are Federal employees, but not in D.C. We're th folks who clean up after disasters, reload the ammo in jets and tanks, rehab the soldiers wounded in action, keep the border as safe as we can, etc.

    I can assure you, none of us except those in D.C. have "cushy" jobs, or are overpaid. When the economy is up, I regularly got teased about having a "crappy government job–must not be able to cut it in the real world".

    Not true. I just believe in this country and want to help do my part. Now that the economy is down, all I hear is "lazy overpaid government workers". We work has hard as we ever had, and for LESS money each year (our wages have been frozen and/or reduced every year for 4 years now). Ever see a government office parking lot? Not a bunch of really nice cars. We buy TVs on layaway, laugh at the thought of eating at fancy steak houses, and worry about how we'll help our kids pay for school.

    And now we're being either laid off altogether, or told we have a 20% paycut starting later this month. I know a lot of Federal employees who live paycheck to paycheck, struggling to make it work just like everyone else. Another 20% cut is going to sink a lot of us. And ironically, that triggers an automatic firing action–the FedGov doesn't employee people who have "financial difficulties" at the worker-bee level.

    Ironic, isn't it? Congress crashes the system, and goes on vacation, their paycheck secure. Those of us trying to keep the country actually running are getting slashed and burned for nothing but political theater.

    Enough griping. I still have a job to do, and need to figure out how to survive this paycut without falling too far behind on payments.

    March 1, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  18. Mr. K

    i wish every GOP will be voted out off office

    March 1, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  19. Larry Fisher

    I am so tired of the left calling the right idiots and the right calling the left idiots. I'll tell you who the idiots are – WE THE PEOPLE. We elected all of these idiots and now we're putting up with OUR partisan idiocy. It's time for ALL of them to go and for us to get rid of all political parties and lobbyist and take back OUR GOVERNMENT!

    March 1, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  20. Rudy NYC


    I am so sick of the "blame game" and of being held hostage by the very people who claim to care about this Country, when in fact all they care about is their personal goals.
    The Republicans have been trying to cast blame for several weeks because the polls show that 2/3 of Americans would blame them for any fallout from the Sequestration. The polls should come as no surprise in light of the fact that House Republcans literally walked away from responsibility before the Jan 1 deadline by going on vacation.

    Democrats have reacted by pointing out the lack of effort by Republicans in regards to the March 1 deadline. Spkr Boehher dismissed the new 113th House on a 12 day break. When you consider the fact the House only "works" an appalling 3 day work week, that adds up to a 4 WEEK vacation. Negotiations become difficult when so many of the Republican House members are out of town, which means Boehner cannot even talk to, or negotiate with, his own caucus. And then he blames the president for the lack of negotiations?

    Meanwhile, the Senate has been occupied with confirmation hearings and votes.

    March 1, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  21. Mete Krop

    Most congress men have left Washington for home. I don't think they would be comming back. They left for good. Say good byeeee to them.

    March 1, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  22. Farrok

    Defense spending is way out of line; cut it !

    March 1, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  23. bigdicmcgee

    I cant believe some of the stuff Im reading: this is a 2% reduction to the growth... Every American that pays taxes has had a 2% change to their budgets in the last couple of months. Teachers around the country have had furlough days for years now. The two sides can work together to spread the cuts. But really think about it: 2 pennies out of every dollar? The government can't do without that? Travel, conferences, Education TESTING (Race to the Top), everyone one on capital hill take a 2% paycut. all the staffers, politicans, etc... Outisde of Washington we have already made the cuts and most states are sitting in good shape; EXCEPT for a few that will remain nameless.

    March 1, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  24. anonymous

    LOL obamas fault?? republicans have been trying their darndest to put a blemish on his record. they will be the ones to feel it next election 🙂

    March 1, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  25. Sagebrush Shorty

    Well Mr. President, you got what you wanted. So handle it without blaming everyone else.

    March 1, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
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