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

    For God's sake, whatever you do, don't sit down and compromise. Please, just keep pointing fingers. We love it sooo much.

    March 1, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  2. Mike D

    Mr. Boehner, sir, we all know this is the President's fault, and the fault of the Democrats in the Senate – those bad, bad people. You and the Republicans in Congres are completely blameless and have been doing everything you possibly can for us litle people. Thank goodness for real leaders like you, sir. And "you're doing a heck of a job, Brownie .... aaahh, Boehner!" Hey, Johnnie, walk up call ... you are the meteor that will hit the Earth and destroy the dinosaur race of the Republican Party ... so tell your Replican friends to take cover.

    March 1, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  3. Jim Steele

    As they say in Texas - Obama's all hat, no cattle.

    March 1, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  4. cajr

    obama and the democraps cannot keep spending and handing out money, not to mention obamacare. taxes cannot keep getting higher and higher because you want to buy the american people with lavish gifts and then ship billions all over the world.

    March 1, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  5. Bob

    What we have here is a failure to communicate. (credits to Cool Hand Luke). There is a total lack of leadership from both parties and the white house. It seems the only real effort is to make the other party look bad. Both parties seem to hope that the public will get so fed up with the "other party" that they will have a big sweep in the next election. The problem with that is the country is too evenly divided for that too happen. And in the meantime, we all suffer from this total lack of leadership and governance!!

    March 1, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  6. SteamingPileOfPolitician

    That you Mr. President, you are a master of the obvious.

    March 1, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  7. Patty

    Obamacare should not be implemented. Maybe we should adopt Chinese's policy, limit people from having more than one or two children, the government domestic spending can be reduced. President Obama is a bully to have his own way and disregard the people' voices.

    March 1, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  8. Dave

    It is very sad that this is how a great country like ours has to go into the night. So be it. We voted for this people so it is our fault.

    March 1, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  9. Aaron Moore

    I am numb to anything coming out of our President's mouth anymore. To see his shameless portrayal of Congress (he means Republicans) as unwilling to do the right thing, and calling these its "dumb" when it was his idea, and is only coming to fruition due to his lack of willingness to compromise is, in my opinion, the low point in the history of the office. I'm not even angry. I'm just numb. Not just because our President acts this way, but because a majority is in support of such action.

    March 1, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  10. jack fitzgerald

    Can our President run for President of Greece after he's finished taking out trillions of dumb loans and spending the cash; leaving Joe Q DA taxpayer to pay his tab? We are the dumb ones in this equation.

    Everybody else has to live on a budget, why can't you? Wahhh! These cuts are dumb. you have the intelligence...sit down at a desk, pretend you don't need to be on tv, work for 8 hours and come back and do it again for the next 700 hundred days and THEN hold a press conference telling us how dumb these miniscule cuts in this year's INCREASE OVER LAST YEAR'S spending are. Obviously it would have been "nice" if you sat down and tried to grasp the economics in your first term, but better lete than never....that and we are paying you for another 4 years.

    What would you do if you didn't have the lap dogs in the media to follow you around?

    March 1, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  11. aparatrooper

    STOP giving my money away to foreign countries, especially to those who want to see us destroyed. Geez!!!!!

    March 1, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    It is obvious that some governement 'programs' have more merit than others, so a straight % reduction to all programs is not fair, per Obama it is 'dumb'. However, we need to reduce the spending, like so many citizens have already done with their personal lives. Hopefully, the sequester will force some tough decision to be made on what this country can and can not live without and some 'intelligent' spending cuts can be made so the budget can be balanced.

    March 1, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  13. Adam

    GOOD!! It's about time those little kings and queens in DC feel the pain that we do. And this has NOTHING TO DO WITH RACE!!! To those of you who think this is a move against a black president, you are just as racist. Our government has spent with wild abandon on everything and now since they have to actually stop and do some work, they are running scared with the POTUS throwing out scary terms like, the middle class will feel pain. And we'll have to wait at the airport? Oh dear God, heaven forbid. The horror! We do it now anyway!!!!!!! Our representatives (and I use that term loosely) are so out of touch with us that money means nothing to them. They rely on the scare tactics from the media to get their agendas out. Thank God these cuts came. Now maybe they will get a glimpse of what the real world is like.

    March 1, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  14. grace

    How come white folk get to spend money but put a black man in charge and nobody wants him to spend the cash he has rightfully earned.

    March 1, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  15. JM

    It's easy for you people to blame the Republicans, but the overriding truth is that Democrats won't agree to cut any spending. Hence, the across the board approach is necessary. Now if we can just control the growth in Medicare/SS expense we will be doing something

    March 1, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  16. Mike

    If the Republican are giving the President the flexibility to make the cuts where they need to be and he's not taking it this will come back and get the Dems count on it. There's no excuse Mr. "O" you wont be able to explain this one. Why did you even run for President?

    March 1, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  17. Raintree

    Lets see, Obama signed this into law, and he sat on it for how long?

    And now he has a porblem with it and its everyone else's fault but the LEADER.

    Weill it ever end.LOLOLOLOLOLO

    March 1, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  18. JokeCuts

    If the Feds can't cut a lousy 2% of the budget, falling mostly on dubious discretionary programs and the bloated military complex, then we truly are on the path towards insolvency.

    March 1, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  19. Scott

    There is no leadership at all from the top. All Obummer does is create one crisis after another & then blame Congress, Bush or anyone but himself. Then he sends his puppets to go on all the news channels & talk as if the world is going to end. My God folks, it's a little over 2% – if we can't handle that how are we ever going to even come close to balancing a budget. I've never in my lifetime seen a President so useless !! Clinton, Reagon & others like them could negotiate & get it done. This guy is the most unqualified guy we ever put in office.

    March 1, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  20. Vickie

    No, it's happening because of something YOU Mr. President signed as law a few years ago.

    March 1, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  21. michiganfan

    Race has nothing to do with this! Obama is half WHITE as well... It would be refreshing for everyone in our government to stop playing the blame game, including the President...he's supposed to be our leader, so lead! Lead by example...all of those people were elected to do a job...if I was as unproductive at my job as the government is at theirs, I would be unemployed...

    March 1, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  22. Mike in SA

    So...it's dumb, huh? The very thing that he signed off on is now "dumb"? Amazing the level of hubris and hypocrisy from this administration. I think it's dumb that we haven't had a working budget for years; I think it dumb that the government is not expected to "live within it's means" like we are supposed to; I think it dumb to be multiple trillions in debt...

    Of course, though, I'm just an average citizen who has to balance my spending monthly to care for my family and my future...

    March 1, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  23. Tiz

    Sure would be nice to have a president who wasn't so afraid to lead..... just remarkable they way he casts blame.... it's never his fault for anything......

    March 1, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  24. Alyx

    We are not a poor country, the wealth is just continuing to flow in the hands of fewer and fewer people. Refusing to raise revenue on those making the most to help our nation so that you can ensure votes you were already going to get is a losing strategy and I'll be helping to ensure congress feels the change come 2014.

    March 1, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  25. Raintree

    Could you imagine running a company like this where the leader stands up time and time again and demands More Debt, More Debt, More Debt...

    And the day will come when 'finger pointer' turns the tables and says congress did it, not him.

    March 1, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
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