How it happened: Deadline day for the forced spending cuts
March 1st, 2013
08:53 AM ET
1 year 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. Alex

    85 Billion? That's not even real money, it's an imaginary number.

    March 1, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  2. Kevin

    I agree, no more taxes. Get the spending under control before you ask for more taxes. We're taxed to death for God's sake! Thank you Republicans!

    March 1, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  3. Daryl

    there was no tax increase. The temporary tax decreases expired> They were made temporary and they were extended multiple times.

    Republicans are lyinig

    March 1, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  4. jeremy

    Obama is sending conflicting messages: "dumb, arbitrary cuts" and "White House threatens to veto bill that gives Obama flexibility on implementing sequestration"

    March 1, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  5. Daryl

    Yes I feel Obama is a leader, and the record number of filibusters and obstructionism coming from the right wing shows lack of leadership from the GOP.

    I've payed attention daily for the last 14 years and Bush Cheney was a disaster and more dictatorial then any president in my lifetime

    There were never any tax increases by Obama in the fiscal cliff deal, they were temporary tax breaks that were extended multiple times and needed to expire

    March 1, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  6. betterdays

    I liked the way he pretty much admitted that he's not for cutting "unnecessary programs" until he gets the tax increase he wants.

    So he knows they are unnecessary, but he wants to keep them around for leverage.

    What a leader.

    March 1, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  7. janetleemac

    calamity jane – We don't have to come up with any substantial ideas – that is what the President and Congress were elected to do.

    March 1, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  8. Bob

    Thank goodness for this. Every time a few select people announce the world is about to end, we, the largely unitiated, fall in line and perform like animals seeking a treat. Perhaps this thing going through will finally pull the curtain back and reveal the truth. Having made a compromise, having won a very close election he probably should not have won other than the deficiency of his opponent, perhaps our presidents ego got in the way allowing him to shoot himself in the foot.
    Unfortunately this may reveal more about the man than he would like but it will reveal certainly what he has always been careful to hide. Unfortunately, the man who crafted this deal and now denies his role, will never be questioned by many and that is the danger any man causes- not hsi own ability, but the ability of those who will follow blindly.

    March 1, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  9. Ellis

    Wait a second...this is the guy we re-elected? I guess he can't blame Bush for this mess he's gotten us into. But blaming the Rep's for the sequestration that was orginially HIS IDEA!!?????
    Hey America...Clinton was impeached for blowing a load. I think this guy needs impeachment for blowing up the country!
    4 more years???? OMG, maybe I'll move to a thrid world country with less debt and a better plan!

    March 1, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  10. Paul

    This whole "dumb" thing started when Obama was elected the first time. Here is your "hope and change"!

    March 1, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  11. OBG

    President Obama,

    If the cut are dumb why did you sign the bill?

    No one forced you to sign the bill.

    You threatened a veto of a bill this week.

    America needs leadership to solve problems. Not crying and blaming.

    Things turn out best for those who make the best out of the way things turn out.

    March 1, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  12. DWheel

    why don't they start with the way they spend money like really what did it cost for the big party he had when re elected who paid for that???????????????????

    March 1, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  13. cedar rapids

    'Natch – If they're so dumb, why did you suggest them, Barry??'

    seriously, why is it people like you kee[p making this sort of comment? i mean talking of dumb, did you not understand why they were put forward in the first place? Obama doesnt want these cuts, never has done; they were put forward as the stick to try to force congress to actually work together to come to a compromise based on the understanding that the alternative would be far worse, but apparently even that wasnt enough to stop the fighting.

    March 1, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  14. Jim

    For those that say we need to cut military spendign, first of all defense is the only job the federal governemnt is tasked to do. Also military spending accounts for 17% of the budget, social programs account for over 50%, so if you want to balance social programs need to be cut or overhauled.I suggest we eliminate the departments of Education (this is a state function as a one size fits all doesnt work). EPA, department of agriculture(state function), homeland security (FBi/CIA can handle). Cut subsidies for failed energy projects, cut foreign aid, cut out all duplicat programs, sell off the real estate that is sitting empty, stop subsidizing Amtrak and post office. there thats a good start

    March 1, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  15. dfoote16

    How is it possible that we have a President that is so dilusional? How can he not believe that spending is a problem? He wants so much to make this look like a failure of Republicans, that he won't even accept changing where the cuts come from. I'm so frustrated that I can't even think straight.

    March 1, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  16. sevenseasevents

    WHat the media does not tell you is that the bill in the Senate yesterday to stop this "dumb" idea was also voted against by four DEM Senators including Harry Reid. Look it up. So what is dumb?

    March 1, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  17. jon

    The GOP is directly at fault for this. They absolutely refused to compromise a year ago, so here we are now.
    However, to reduce the deficit we do need cuts, so let's have at it! What does the GOP want in cuts? – cutting our Social Security and Medicare? Baloney – let the cuts begin with the military, defense, and all the bloated Federal agencies.

    March 1, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  18. Pen

    What is really dumb is giving 60 million dollars to another counrty (Sryria) when we have to make budget cuts in the United States. Who made this decision. Obama. There is no common sense. Take care of the United States first.

    March 1, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  19. Tacpilot

    End all of the fraud, waste and abuse in the Government and you will not have to cut any programs.
    End the pork barrel spending, and the free programs.
    It is terrible that my children and grandchildren will have to pay for all of the free programs incurred today and paid for in the future…..
    The new priority today, not food or shelter; but iphones and social media…….

    March 1, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  20. Moonraker

    Keep it up, GOP, this is why people hate you and this is why you lost in a landslide last November.

    March 1, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  21. Eric

    Interesting that the president considers pressuring congress into action to be dictatorial, but torture and extrajudicial execution are apparently okay.

    March 1, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  22. overtaxed

    So The Prez has moved on from blaming everything on Bush to blaming the republicans. People need to remember that there are three parties in this battle. I don't see anyone else offering any way to cut 85B from the spending, I was goining to say budget but we haven't had one of those in what 4, 5 years? The president does a great job on campaining but a terrible job of running the country. It is time we put someone in the job that can make sound decisions put what is best for our country ahead of special interests. This is true for any of the parties that might gain control because they are all made from the same cloth. Oh wait yet again we had a chance to change things and the country voted to stay the course of destruction. Is it really so bad to have a one term president? Time has come to change out congress also, they need term limits so that they don't get so much power that they are a danger to our country.

    March 1, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  23. Sidb1980

    "My message to [Congress] is simple: No. I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off-ramps on this one." (President Obama, Super Committee Statement, November 21, 2011)

    On February 12, 2013, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney admitted that Sequester was the President's idea. “Sequester was one of the ideas put forward, yes, by the President's team." (Fox News Special Report with Bret Baier, February 12, 2013)

    March 1, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  24. Kevin

    Right on Kelly

    March 1, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  25. Bill

    BlueAlliance, Mr Low Information, here is $1 buy a clue. If it is not about race with you people then it is Bush's fault. Skin color has nothing to do with it. Leadership or the lack thereof has everything to do with it. Mr. Obama says:"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 knife C U T S both ways. Quick taxing us into depression Mr Obama and come up with REAL TAX CUTS. This notion that it is your way or the highway just will not work. ALL you do is blame Republicans for your short comings and near sightedness. Step up and do what even Bill Clinton would do, be a man and cut spending!

    March 1, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
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