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. Rudy NYC


    So if these "cuts" are "dumb, arbitrary" and "unnecessary and inexcusable," what does that make Obama, who signed the bill in the first place?
    It makes him pragmatic and smart. Seeing how that was the 11th hour and sequestration was the only legislation that made it through both the Senate and House, not signing it would have meant that we would have defaulted on our nation's debts.

    March 1, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  2. Tim

    Politics as usual in Washington. The President could have used discretion and prioritized the small amount of budget cuts and minimize the negative effect on all of America. Instead he chooses to play politics, scare Americans and blame Republicans. Disgusting, there is no leadership in Washington.

    March 1, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  3. Tea Party

    GOP killing itself.

    March 1, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  4. steven

    Actually it is what the congress was elected to do.

    March 1, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  5. Gary

    Let the ship sink. Time to reboot america, so let us fail, Great depression start from scratch. We know what works and what doesn't so here is the REAL chance to fix it.

    March 1, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  6. freshnewblog

    I agree with Obama. Sounds pretty stupid. Why doesn't he veto them? Nothing gets passed with out his signature. What is going on here?

    March 1, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  7. Fair is Fair

    Cut some more. Cut some more. Cut some more.

    March 1, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  8. yo!

    Prez played his hand and miscalculated. Underestimated those sneaky Repulbicans.

    March 1, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  9. FedUp

    I could single handedly balance the budget, reduce the deficit and put us back on track. It is so easy, i am not sure wether to laugh or cry.

    March 1, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  10. Bill

    The best thing for the country would be for Obama to resign. Let him blame who he wants, but just GO. We can put up with Biden for a couple of years, so long as he gets rid of all the socialists and muslims now infesting government. Hoo-Ray for PRESIDENT BIDEN.

    March 1, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  11. Rudy NYC

    overtaxed wrote:

    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?
    We have not had an annual budget signed into law since the Bush administration, who blew the lid off of the FY2009 when they passed the TARP. We've been operating on Continuing Resolutions ever since. The POTUS is required to submit a budget to the Congress every year. Despite right wing claims that he hasn't, he has in fact done so every year. Because if he had not submitted a budget, you can believe that he would have been brought up on charges of treason, facing certain impeachment by Republicans.

    March 1, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    I thought it was a Vulcan Mind Meld.....

    March 1, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  13. Lou50

    Well you had since August 2011 to get Congress to avoid them. Should have tried threatening them like you do reporters and see how that works.

    March 1, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  14. Bob Meuse

    None of you get it. IT'S ALL ABOUT THE FED!!! The 85 billions an interesting number, because that's about how much the FED keeps pumping into this economy to prop it up and nothing happens. Don't be fooled by the stock market!! It's gonna get a loooooot worse. Look up Zimbabwe hyperinflation. It may take a while, but we're headed there.

    March 1, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  15. Mainscribe

    Democrats just got their Credit Card account closed! Just like 200 million of the rest of us...Its about time.

    March 1, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  16. EJ

    In the election in November, if you add you all the votes that republican candidates got in congress and all the votes democratic candidates got, the democrats got more votes (add them up yourself and see). And yet, the republicans control 234 to 201. They hold control of the house through Gerrymandering, yet they act like a large majority of the people support them.

    I want to see a two party system with both parties healthy. But with the GOP is on a self destructive extremist path, we may not see this in a few years.

    The extreme Republicans got to power in 2010 because of dissatisfaction on Obama's handling of the economy. The people are realizing that the mess the prior administration left was that bad. The economy is improving. What the GOP does now will make a bid difference in the 2014 elections.

    Taxes on the wealthy are going up. You (GOP) need to work the best deal you can rather that just shutting down the government or you will likely pay a price in 2014.

    March 1, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  17. doxiemomma

    Of course he blames Republicans. He blames everyone but himself for this sorry economy that he claimed he could change around but has only made it much worse. He is the worst president this nation has ever had and we are rolling down hill at a high rate of speed. Thank you to all who voted him back in for the ruin of our nation.

    March 1, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  18. Nathan

    This is silly... All the finger pointing. We've known for years that our spending was out of control, and this day would come. Private sector jobs are continually being lost, but public sector services shouldn't be affected? Where does the money come from, dollar trees? It's time to downsize and quite frankly, these cuts are minuscule and should be increased.

    March 1, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  19. trotcantorgallup

    Sorry Mr. President but 85 billion in budget cuts is only one drop in one bucket of an ocean full of debt. Perhaps you can pony up by donating your royalties from "The Audacity of Hope" and help control the out of control spending manually.

    March 1, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  20. Big_D

    So the GOP will still not compromise even to the point of accepting closing the loopholes in the tax code Romney pointed out. I guess if you want the GOP to be against something all you have to do is say Obama is for it. They lost the election but they are still determined to make it hard on Obama not matter what the cost all for political revenge.

    March 1, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |

    Obama wrote the cuts maybe he should blame Geo bush.

    March 1, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  22. Lyddy

    When is the President and Congress going to learn that you can only spend what you take in. It is absolutely absurd the amount of money going out compared to amount of money coming in. There have to be cuts everywhere. I am tired of everything being put on the lower middle class and small businesses. We are the ones who suffer not the lower class who get everthing taken care of i.e. insurance, food stamps etc. You can keep taxing the rich but when they leave the country where are those taxes going to made up.

    March 1, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  23. Marie

    This does not effect them, they have jobs, jobs we elected them to do, it effects everyone else, if you think your
    job is secure, think again, all of us who are unemployed, can't find a job – you have no idea what suffering and stress lies ahead for America – everyone join the unemployment line – it's a disgrace when our government can't or won't do their job – maybe they shouldn't get paid either so they can feel our pain.

    March 1, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  24. Tom

    Poor Barry didn't get his way......

    March 1, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  25. Bill

    Simple suggestion! Since the Executive and Legislative Branches have demonstrated that they cannot do what they are in office to do! THEY ALL NEED TO RESIGN! All of them need to return their pay and relinquish ALL of their benefits, past, present, and future.

    March 1, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
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