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. plain&simple

    If Obama leads he's a dictator if he asks congress to do their job and present him with a bill ...he's not a leader!!! Congress won't raise anyone's taxes only their finger at me and you!!!

    March 1, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  2. sc

    nothing to see here. move along, move along.

    March 1, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  3. lel2007

    Gullible Nation
    Responding to the Obama administration's operatic warnings of catastrophe for Meals on Wheels for the elderly, Head Start, meat inspections, air traffic controllers, and police, fire, and 911 operators if the government reduces the rate of increase of federal spending by 2 percent, radio host Chris Plante offered the following suggestion: "Since this two percent obviously covers all essential government spending, let's cut the other 98 percent!"

    March 1, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  4. Tstranko

    Stop being blind people... This is BOTH sides. The White House is who proposed this sequester in 2011 as part of the legislation and they talked Reid into it at the time as he was originally against it. GOP is unwilling to negotiate on revenue increases and Democrats are unwilling to negotiate on cuts. Sounds like both sides to me. The democrats only proposed future defense spending cuts AFTER total withdrawal from Afghanistan and fram subsidies. Those arent serious cuts. And the GOP will not permit more revenue until they see serious cuts. Sounds like they are at a stand still due to both sides

    March 1, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  5. Ray E. (Georgia)

    Aw, Well,
    rs Rudy and maybe a few others. There is an old saying out there. Maybe you've heard it. ROME WASN'T BUILT IN A DAY. If you want to get up in the world you have to get cracking. Nobody is going to hand it to you. You can try to get more than the Market Will Bare but you won't get it, for long. That's what happened to the Automoblie Unions. They wrote themselves a big check they couldn't cash. The Automoble Companies went Bankrupt. Some chided Romney for saying, let them go bankrupt. But sone took him to Task for speaking the truth. The result was the same. IF IT LOOKS LIKE A DUCK, QUACKS LIKE A DUCK, WALKS LIKE A DUCK, IT MUST BE A DUCK ! But Omama is telling you it is a Gold Mine. Sooner or later you will figure out it is actually a Duck.

    March 1, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  6. lel2007

    Mona Charen –
    Even if these "draconian cuts" are implemented, the federal government will spend more this year than it did last year.

    Another way to think about it is this: In 2007, the government was 40 percent smaller than it is today. Were poor people sleeping under bridges? Were the elderly starving? Were planes grounded? Was food unsafe to eat?

    Here's another question: Are Americans really this gullible? The president's doom saying is so absurd that a mature country would hoot him off the stage. As it is, the housebroken media credulously report his obviously partisan scare mongering as fact.

    As the sequester has loomed, the president and even many Republicans have argued that these "across the board" spending cuts (they're actually just reductions in the rate of increase) are "stupid" and "destructive" and so forth. This raises (it doesn't beg) the question: if cutting spending across the board is so stupid, what does that say about the priorities of the congress and president who passed these spending bills in the first place? If our spending priorities are so out of whack that cutting everything equally is unthinkable, why hasn't the government adjusted those programs before now?

    March 1, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  7. Rudy NYC

    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.
    Correct. It failed on Tuesday, which was still FY2008. But, it was passed three days later on Friday, Oct. 2, 2008, which was FY2009. Nothing much changed within the two bills that were voted on, aside from which fiscal year that they would be attached to. TARP pushed the FY2009 to over $1.4 trillion, which is a common fact that the right wing chooses to blame on Democrats and Pres. Obama.

    March 1, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |

    How will you ever lower taxes if you don't have cuts? The SPENDOCRATS will always spend more than they have if you let them.

    March 1, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  9. Dolores Lois

    Fire the majority of the House of Representatives. Are we really getting our bang for our buck. What job let's you walk out (and to boot take a few days off beforehand) instead of doing what has to be done? Most of us would be fired on the spot. How many millions/billions of dollars would we save by slashing the House of Representatives in half? Tax increases for the wealthy vs spending cuts for needed government services? Is that what it comes down to? I guess the top 1% calls the shots...

    March 1, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  10. r kidd

    All these cuts to Americans, and not one word about cuts to foreign aid.

    I guess obama thinks it is more important to support his muslim brothers , than the American people.

    March 1, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  11. Lynda/Minnesota

    For a group of people who literally voted for each and every cut they are now going be forced to accept (i.e. voted for the Grand Old Party) they've certainly become more whiny then usual. What's up with that?

    Either the cuts are good or the cuts are bad. Decide which it's going to be, one or the other ... and get back to me.

    March 1, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  12. sandra

    The focus for America is JOB CREATION & JOB GROWTH. I have yet to hear from the Republican side as to what they may propose or suggest in this critical area.......HAS the T-PARTY been able to down grade this country?
    Why can we not tax (close loopholes) on large greedy Corporations that pay little or no tax by shelving profits into other countries.

    March 1, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  13. A*A*

    I think it is going to cost more in the long run. With the across the boards furlough I am a Federal Correctional Officer and we will be so short handed that we are going to have to hire overtime just to keep the prison running and that's not counting on the call-ins going up cause most are off weekends and they want to furlough us on Thursdays so I know people will call in Friday and take the extra off day.

    March 1, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  14. Fortinbras

    I think this should begin to sour support for spending cuts. Spending cuts further than the sequester will likely usher in a resounding democrat victory in 2014.

    March 1, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  15. Ancient Texan

    Peter Clarke- The middle class has suffered more under the Obama regime than before. Each year has seen around $4,000 drop in income for the past four years. Yet you believe he is good for the middle class?

    March 1, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  16. Anonymous

    Listen to everyone. Both sides going at it. As long as we are divided, we fall. I blame both sides. We need to clean house (no pun intended) and start over.

    March 1, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  17. johnsonj3

    I love the way everything is being blamed on the President. You haters would be doing this is he was a White President? Our President has given and taken a lot in these 4 years. People remember the GOP said they would not work with this man on anything and yet they were voted back in office, so don't start crying now about what is going on,. Tell the GOP to get off their behinds and work with our president but no they went home. So who do they really care about themselfs. not us sthe working class .

    March 1, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  18. thomasb

    The Republicans leadership cannot 'LEAD' their own party to the lunch counter. The conservatives cannot be LED...even by one of their own.

    March 1, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  19. Sailor

    I'm one happy camper to see this sequester go through. Since our politicians are unable to cut spending at least this is a start. How many of you conduct yur household budgets in the same manner? Quit blaming the's both parties that are at fault. This president has his own agenda and if you don't agree with him he goes into an attack mode. People have an inclination to follow a leader but they need to question thoroughly their motives; never put your faith in anyone's hands blindly. How many of you liberals have read President Obama's books? I suggest all you liberals read them....their free for takeout at any public library.

    March 1, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  20. braintrian

    I have a feeling that this will be more finger pointing. How about for compromise they make the cuts and then immediately start tax reform after to increase revenue.

    March 1, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  21. JH

    Anytime there is a fight, both sides usually have fault. The actions of ALL sides are deplorable. Obama is trying to win by being the LEAST blamed for all of this mess.

    For all of the sheeple that are blindly following the President's mantra i have one question. If he cared so much about this matter, why wouldn't he give in on cuts now to avoid sequestration, and deal with revenue increases later?

    The answer seems that he just wants to play politics instead of protecting the people the he "cares" so much about.

    March 1, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  22. DG

    No one should have to pay more taxes, take the cuts all around! Quit being so dependent people and learn to fend for yourselves. I think this is the best thing that has happened to Washington, good start, keep it going with anther 5 to 10% in cuts down the road. Those fat cats have been starving the middle class people for years! We should be rejoicing! We have become a nation of wimps and losers! Toughen up and deal with it and get off your lazy butts!.

    March 1, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  23. Rudy NYC

    Ray E. (Georgia)

    Aw, Well,
    rs Rudy and maybe a few others. There is an old saying out there. Maybe you've heard it. ROME WASN'T BUILT IN A DAY. If you want to get up in the world you have to get cracking. Nobody is going to hand it to you. You can try to get more than the Market Will Bare but you won't get it, for long. That's what happened to the Automoblie Unions. They wrote themselves a big check they couldn't cash.
    I don't know what your point is supposed to be, but you still need to be corrected. The US auto makers mismanaged themselves. Ford hurt itself by cutting corners when it came to R&D and quality control. Remember the exploding state trooper vehicles and roll-over Explorers? Both GM and Chrysler had similar mismangement problems, most especially when it came to the size and variety of their consumer model lines. Both had tried to grow by acquisition, where they used pension money to guarantee the loans to purchase other companies.

    As recently as 30 years ago, GM had about a 40% market share. They had 40 some odd consumer models spread across half a dozen brand names. By 2008, GM had only a 15% market share, which was comprised of over 90 consumer models spread across more than a dozen brands. Management blew it, not the unions.

    March 1, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  24. jane

    Boehner: This is terrible, horrible and all the President's fault
    Boehner: I got 98% of what I wanted. I'm happy

    Republican leaders: This is terrible, horrible and should never have happened
    Republican leaders: Only ones who voted FOR sequester – no Democrats voted in favor of it
    Republican leaders: Yesterday, filibustered call to 'cancel' the whole stupid thing with a one line bill.

    Apparently Republican leaders think the US people ARE just that stupid to not realize these things.....

    March 1, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  25. t1865

    Cut baby cut and don't stop there!

    March 1, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
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