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. Tyler

    Does anybody know if and how much this budget cut will have on financial aid for undergraduate and graduate students?

    March 1, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  2. thomasb

    The President is a member of the majority. The minority thinks that everyone is as dazed and confused as they are. Bad assumption. Its OK for one, or even a few, members of congress to make a 'bad assumption'...but an entire party? The hapless lost Republicans. Bless their hearts.

    March 1, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  3. Supermammal

    "Obama added, placing blame on Republicans for not compromising and allowing tax revenue on the table as part of a deficit-reduction deal "

    Once again it has nothing to do with controlling spending but Obama wanting to take even more in taxes. Maybe if he would of got of his butt and did his job by passing a budget we won't have to hear about all the governments failures since the 1st of the year.

    March 1, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  4. Anonymous

    Congress raised taxes as Obama wanted. If the House caved today and allowed more taxes, the President would be asking again on March 27th for more and more.

    March 1, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  5. Tstranko

    and out comes the "race card"!! surprised it took until page 4! @Johnsonj3 you know The White House proposed this sequester? When the president offers some serious cuts along with revenue increases then I'll back him because the only way to fix this is with BOTH! and no that doesnt mean the weak offering of future cuts they've proposed so far

    March 1, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  6. Darkseider

    President Obama says "dumb, arbitrary" forced spending cuts that take effect today are "unnecessary and inexcusable." WHAT!? This is the same man who when signing this largely supported bi-partisan effort said he back it fully and would stop anyone who tried to change it. Now he spews this? This man is the BIGGEST hypocritical bag of sh1te I have ever seen. What a f$ck1ng @$$h0le we have for a president! The only thing that is inexcusable is that you haven't been impeached or tried for treason!

    March 1, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  7. Anthony

    Republicans, the blame game goes both ways. Republicans blame everything under the sun on Obama. Republicans' problem is that they have no credibility, do not offer better alternatives, so no one outside of their base listens to them.

    March 1, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  8. harmbringer


    the US government is spending what 3 trillion dollars this year?

    and they are whineing about cutting 85 billion?!?!

    Oh my gods.. we are sooo freaking doomed.

    March 1, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  9. Voter

    The buck stops at the President's desk. Lead, follow, or get out of the way!

    March 1, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  10. felix

    Another in a long line of fiscal crises produced by the unyielding Republican Party of Upper Class America..

    March 1, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  11. vpk

    does obama still get his salary for doing nothing? hi must return it for first 4 years, and work for free 4 more years

    March 1, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  12. Audry

    800,000 families who are supported by someone working for the federal government will see their paychecks cut, not by 2%, but by 20% folks. This is a lot of money and for some represents mortgage payments and utility bills that won't get paid. This is not just about shutting down some trivial government program. This is people's livlihoods.

    March 1, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  13. Fair is Fair

    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.
    Why then has the amount to the TARP bailout (fully paid back, by the way) been baselined into federal expenditures ever since? That's a fact that the left wing continues to be hush-hush about...

    March 1, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  14. Jay

    How quick do people forget, the Republicans have already given tax increases to the President, he just wants more, so he can afford more government control over our lives. Just how many federal employees, and duplicated federal programs do we need? He's on TV upset that he's going to have to reign in his out of control spending, and the funny thing is that so many people believe him, truth is he's still got 1.x trillion, tell me how we got by 6 years ago? How was air travel then, how were gas prices, how were food prices? Obama talks out one side of his mouth and that's it. His agenda is higher electricity costs, higher gas/oil prices, higher cost of living for us all, and as many give away programs as he can get for the lower class. Who's caught in the middle in his games, us middle class workers who watch our salaries shrink, our cost to go to work everyday increase, and all our utility bills to go up.

    March 1, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  15. JayJay

    I'm sorry to say this but you really can't blame the republicans anymore. That scape goat ran out when President Obama's second term started. If he was such a great leader he would be able to work with both sides and make it work. But all he is good at is appearing on camera and blaming everyone but himself. I'm not saying that we shouldn't fire every congress person because we should. We someone who can lead not just tell us what we want to hear!

    March 1, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  16. TchrMan

    Obama was elected based on raising taxes on the rich. GOP congressmen were elected to not raise taxes.
    There is no amiable solution and there will not be one until either party has all of the power. But still, all this mud slinging and such is fun and interesting.

    March 1, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  17. Larke Marie

    This was his idea to begin with, who is he kidding?

    March 1, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  18. Slever

    This is exactly why I am neither democrat nor republican. Both parties are holding the people hostage in an attempt to get their own way. I hate to say it, but America may have had its day in the sun and now, like Rome, we will experience our own decline unless both parties are willing to compromise.

    March 1, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  19. Bob

    Not as dumb as Obama proposing the cuts and signing them into law and then doing nothing to try to avoid them until the WEEK they take effect. Heck, he previously said multiple times he would refuse to consider anything that would change the sequester at all. You made this.

    March 1, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  20. Joe in Kalispell

    He shouldn't have signed them into law in 2011 if he couldn't live with them.

    March 1, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  21. Foxrun

    The president signed this into law himself last year – why does he suggest that it's "dumb"?

    March 1, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  22. Quoc

    Why he signed into law something that so "dumb"?

    March 1, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  23. JPM

    The cuts are dumb???? He is the one that came up with them. He is dumb!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 1, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  24. cnnmembuh

    Incredible and ironic that BO characterizes his own sequester plan as "dum" (so spelled to avoid moderation) and "unnecessary".

    March 1, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  25. Bob

    Ts, the problem is, the GOP already gave on tax increases. It matters not to Obama that the GOP already gave a lot of concessions. He still refuses to compromise on anything.

    March 1, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
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