Obama Signs Order Activating Sequester Spending Cuts

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WASHINGTON (CNN) — Politics trumped progress on Friday as President Barack Obama and Republican leaders traded blame for $85 billion in forced spending cuts after they failed to come up with a compromise to avert the harshest impacts.

The president signed an order required by law that set in motion the automatic, government-wide cuts.

Obama and congressional leaders from both parties met for about 45 minutes at the White House, but no agreement emerged to avert the cuts that both sides oppose.

After weeks of campaign-style events intended to inspire public outrage over the cuts, Obama sought to temper his description of their impact while making clear he thinks Republican intransigence prevented a deal to avoid the economic harm they’ll cause.

How to define a devastating budget cut “We will get through this,” he told reporters. “This is not going to be an apocalypse as some people have said. It’s just dumb and it’s going to hurt.”

Still, a White House budget office report sent to Congress and released with Obama’s order said the cuts would be “deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments, and core government functions.”

The action was described in the report as “a blunt and indiscriminate instrument” that was “never intended to be implemented and does not represent a responsible way” for the country to realize deficit reduction.

In a sign of the potential impact, the Department of Justice sent furlough notices to employees that warned they may be forced to take days off without pay in coming months.

Similar furloughs, as well as reduced services, were expected at other agencies if the cuts don’t get replaced or eliminated. Military leaders have warned of impaired readiness of U.S. forces.

However, the full impact of the cuts weren’t expected until April at the earliest.

The cuts amount to roughly 9% for a broad range of non-defense programs and 13% for the Pentagon over the rest of the current fiscal year, which ends on September 30.

They were included in a 2011 deal to raise the federal borrowing limit as an unacceptable outcome if Congress failed to agree on a comprehensive deficit reduction plan.

However, election-year politics stymied progress on such a deal, leading to the situation Friday in which both sides acknowledged being unable to prevent something neither wanted.

“There are smarter ways to cut spending,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, after the meeting with Obama.

Boehner repeated his past assertion that the GOP-led House has offered proposals to replace the forced spending cuts while the Democratic-led Senate has not, as well as his party’s opposition to any increased tax revenue to offset the forced spending cuts.

Others who also took part in the White House gathering were Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

In the White House briefing room, Obama told reporters that Republicans in Congress “allowed these cuts to happen because they refuse to budge on closing a single wasteful (tax) 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,” Obama said.

He was referring to a procedural vote on Thursday in which Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic proposal that called for eliminating some tax loopholes as part of a package with spending cuts.

Boehner and Republicans say the president and Democrats have yet to propose a serious plan to reduce spending, including costly entitlement programs, on a scale necessary to bring chronic federal deficits and debt under control.

Both Obama and Boehner foreshadowed the next major spending showdown – a March 27 deadline for Congress to authorize funding to keep the government running for the rest of the fiscal year.

Boehner told reporters that the House will take up a measure next week to authorize federal funding beyond that deadline.

“The president and leaders agreed legislation should be enacted this month to prevent a government shutdown while we continue to work on a solution to replace the” forced spending cuts, said a statement by Boehner’s office.

Although the funding measure is unconnected to the spending cuts, Obama indicated he was open to a broader agreement that would resolve both issues.

“I do know that there are Republicans in Congress who privately, at least, say that they would rather close tax loopholes then let these cuts go through,” said Obama in response to questions from reporters.

“… In the coming days and the coming weeks, I’m going to keeping on reaching out to them — both individually and as groups of senators or members of the House — and say to them, ‘Let’s fix this, not just for a month or two, but for years to come,’ because the greatest nation on Earth does not conduct its business in month-to-month increments or by careening from crisis to crisis,” Obama said.

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  • wgary34

    Really….with all that is on the line, lawmakers left on Thursday to begin the weekend! This is ridiculous! I wish all of these politicians would stop holding the country hostage just to prove a point! We need to come together to move this country forward.

  • malclave

    Obama and the Democrats need to pretend to be adults and find things in to cut. Instead, they're once again counting on media collusion and stupid voters to blame the Republicans.

  • dmayn1

    Why was my comment erased? It had nothing bad except for my opinion. So, KTLA, I have no right to my opinion because you support this dictator? I have been watching your channel for 20 years. Guess what, you just lost a viewer. Nothing in my comment was derogatory. I will no longer watch your news. Liberals.

    • malclave

      I had the same thing happen… I think with these spammers linking to virus sites they've really amped up security settings.

  • CinderRaillee

    Have to ask why havent the Babboons on Capital Hill taken a paycut? So awesome for other agencies to take a cut yet they only get increases….

  • Ricardo640

    No offensive language is used and yet comments re deleted because of politics? Incredible how ktla has devolved

  • Metapy

    Wake up people this is main stream media, owned by 1 of 6 different corporations, that control what they want the public to see and will delete any thing that the BIG bosses don't want the sheeple to see. I found it was to my best interests to throw out my TV over 20 years ago. The programs that were on the TV are just another way to distract sheeple from reality, and lead them to believe what the corps want, and not always factual. There are other alternative news sites, that put forth factual information, and on the net more and more sheeple are going to these sites, and becoming people that have woke up. Don't get me wrong I have nothing against MSM, however I choose to get my news elsewheres.