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. Anonymous

    Why are they (prez and congress) ALL talking like this is not their fault?

    March 1, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  2. BlueAlliance

    It's all about the GOP not acknowledging a black president. They want to destroy his administration and his legacy. This is certainly a slap in the face for the American people who voted for Obama to be their president and I hope they remember these obstructionists when it comes time to vote in 2014.We should make a list of their names and work to vote them out, we have to do it for our country. These GOP members are not patriots and need to stop destroying our president and our country.

    March 1, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  3. Natch

    If they're so dumb, why did you suggest them, Barry?? If there was a better way, why didn't you suggest that, instead?? Nope, it's your typical song and and spend, tax and spend, blame, blame, blame!!

    March 1, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  4. PJ

    The people spoke in November; however, the GOP was not listening. This is terrible to put us thru this mess. Stop the nonsense and allow those tax increases on the wealthy. Too many Americans are going to be hurt just because the GOP doesn't like Obama.

    March 1, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  5. faboge

    seriously what happens when you take 800,000 jobs off a struggling economy? This congress with an approval rating at par with ebola are deliberately tanking the economy! God save us!

    March 1, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  6. Disanitnodicos

    Wait, "dumb"? He's just calling names now? And does he care that he is offending people who are mute? Absolutely disgusting.

    March 1, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  7. Sly

    We MUST cut our massive, waste-ridden Military spending. These are not even cuts – simply a 3% reduction in the INCREASE.

    Cut cut cut. I am a liberal, but I'm with the Tea Party on this one – reduce the deficit, and start with the Military.

    Come on Republicans in Congress – come to the table.

    March 1, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  8. bjgreen

    I've been asked numerous times in my career to reduce my budget and it was always more than 2 percent. When I made my recommendations, it was always to reduce non essential items that had little or no impact on the business. Obama is grandstanding with the emotional appeal. Remove non essentials and move on.

    March 1, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  9. theapatriot

    Obama came up with the idea and calls it dumb.

    March 1, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  10. Dean

    Obama says cuts are dumb. Me thinks Obama is the dumb one especially since the cuts are his idea................

    March 1, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  11. ben law

    stop spending!!!! cutback like the rest of the population has had to do!! makes me sick these lying crying thieves

    March 1, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  12. calamity jane

    Right here on these comment boards, not one person is offering any substantial suggestion. All it amounts to is name calling, back and forth blame – pretty much what Congress is doing on a larger scale. How can we legitimately comment on their behaviour when all of ours is just as bad? I don't see people on these comment boards coming to any compromise on their own stand and reaching out to resolve this problem. And we think that we should fire everyone in Congress when even WE can't function like adults. That's pretty rich.

    March 1, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  13. Kelly S

    Does anyone else feel this man is a leader? He sits there and openly blames Republicans for anything they don't agree with. He's a child, who when not getting his way, pouts and says "they started it!". Some leader, some "unifier". How could anyone have voted for this small, narcissistic, ego-maniacal pathetic verson of a man? You know what he's spending time doing? Golfing with Tiger Woods- are you happy with where your tax dollars are going? Do you ever recall a President standing in front of others and blaming one of the two largest parties in this country for all of our problems in this nation. People, wake up, PLEASE!

    March 1, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  14. acepylut

    You know what Obama’s biggest fear about the sequester is? That it won’t lead to “grammy not getting her SS”. That it won’t lead to “meals on wheels” being cancelled. That our military still does it’s thing. Because once we find out that 80 billion is a drop in the bucket and that our gov’t marches along like normal, everyone will that democratic administration policies are bloated and unnecessary.

    But I will bet real cash, that in a year, when the world hasn’t ended, that Obama will take credit for it. All of it.

    Because that’s all he does – blame someone else for anything bad, take all credit for anything good.

    March 1, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  15. Dean


    I love the way everything is being blamed on the President. You haters would be doing this is he was a White President?
    To johnsonj3 – If he was white he never would have been elected. He sure wasn't elected for his qualifications.

    March 1, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  16. bear

    So the GOP in the Senate tried to pass a bill that would allow Obama and his Cabinet the flexibility to move the money around. The DEMs voted it down. So I guess the Senate DEMs do not want any cuts or they don't trust Obama to do them.

    If the DEMs are unwilling to cut 2% from the budget, then they are unwilling to cut anything.

    March 1, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  17. Kelly S

    And johnsonj3- wake up. He has gotten more leniency due to his "black heritage" than any President in this history. Do you really think that Bush was treated better than this man? He's smug, arrogant, one-minded, and a dictator. Bush was torn apart, ridiculed by every late-night comedian and Democractic politician and no one cried "you're making fun of him because he's white". If you want to pull the race card- try reversing it. Stop drinking the kool-aid and blaming race these issues. Race helps obama, it has never hurt him.

    March 1, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  18. rs

    Ray E. (Georgia)
    Grand talk, sir. But you fail (every time) to explain how the American middle class (never mind the poor) are suppossed to survive in a minimum wage world, where health care costs increase, wer college costs go up, and one where Republicans actively work against then- by destroying unions for example, or fighting livable wage initiatives.
    Your "truths" are one thing. reality is: we have the greatest number of millionares and billionaires than at any time in history; we have the greatest dispartity in income between the rich and poor; the wage earning distance between the highest and lowest paid has NEVER been greater; corporate profitability hasn't been higher in years. Ergo, Republican economic policy that has been dominant for the past 40 years has failed.
    i.e. there are no "bootstraps" at $7 an hour.

    March 1, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  19. Benjamin

    Time to get rid of all Republicans in Congress. Everything Obama recommends, they just ignore or oppose it. The Repubs are beholden to their rich backers and they dont care about the middle class anymore. Next election, be sure to dispose Boehner
    who is a robot to his own party including the Tea Party Talibans.

    March 1, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  20. Obama

    Spend spend spend spend. Sad.

    March 1, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  21. TWM

    LOL Obama signed this into being. Now he wants to pass the buck elsewhere? We need a leader in office not this clown. He got his take hikes, where are the cuts?

    March 1, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  22. Top of The Morning`

    Think of your own family – when the money gets tight, you do something about spending. For the president to take more money in rax revenue, yet refuse to cut spending is irresponsible. For the president to put his minions out there to release illegal aliens who are criminals, threaten longer lines at airports, say teachers are going to get pink slips, and say our borders will be less secure indicates to Americans that this administration has its priorities all wrong.

    March 1, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  23. Steve

    So if these "cuts" are "dumb, arbitrary" and "unnecessary and inexcusable," what does that make Obama, who signed the bill in the first place?

    March 1, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  24. Clarke

    I wish people would stop the stereotyping . It is getting so old. Really, it is!

    March 1, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  25. Jim

    So the president is now calling the plan he came up with as dumb? good to know maybe there is hope for the young community organizer. Now if he will jsut dmit Obamacare was dumb as wel, we could get on teh road to a recovery. Also the true spending cuts are about $44 billio. If $44 billion in cuts from a $3.7 trillion budget can cause this many issues and disasters then we will never be able to balance our budget. Also be realisitc there are no cuts just reductions in the rate of spending

    March 1, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
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