- Created on 01 March 2013
(CNN) -- With no deal in place in Congress, $85 billion in sweeping federal spending cuts will take effect Friday, targeting everything, from defense to education.
There is little hope of a last minute deal to stave off the automatic cuts after the Senate failed to strike a deal and a large number of the members of the House left Washington on Thursday for the weekend.
The pending budget cuts are the result of impasse along primarily party lines, whose origins stem from an August 2011 deal to reduce the nation's debt limit by more than $1 trillion.
Expectations are low that a meeting Friday morning between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders will yield a solution.
Most observers believe both sides will use the meeting at the White house to underline their positions heading into the next round of the budget wars -- a possible government shutdown on March 27, when current federal funding authority expires.
Under the law, Obama is required to sign an order sometime Friday that will force federal spending to shrink.
If that happens, Obama will formally notify government agencies that an obscure process known as sequestration is in effect.
It's unknown what immediate effect the cuts will have on Americans. Obama has warned it could devastate a fragile economy, while Republicans have challenged the dire warnings.
"I think the sequester is crazy, I think the president had to show more leadership, Congress should do more," said Rep. Peter King, a Republican heading back to New York. "But just to sit here by myself serves no purpose."
King was one of many congressmen who, before noon Thursday, walked down the Capitol steps and into awaiting cars to leave Washington. Democrats criticized Republicans for not even sticking around when the cuts start coming; Republicans, in turn, blasted Democrats for not stepping up to do more to rein in spending.
There was plenty of blame to go around -- but not a lot of action.
The Republican-controlled House held one vote Thursday on the Violence Against Women Act. The chamber had no votes scheduled on Friday. Neither did the Senate.
"I mean, we could stay here ... and not pass ... a bill," said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Washington, as he left the Capitol. "That's not any better."
Democratic, GOP alternatives
As expected, a sharply divided Senate voted Thursday afternoon to reject alternative plans put forward by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.
Reid's plan got 51 votes in support while McConnell's got 38 -- well shy of the 60 needed to clear the 100-member chamber.
Reid had proposed replacing the current spending cut package with a $110 billion blueprint that included placing new taxes on millionaires while cutting agriculture subsidies and defense spending. Most Republicans object to new defense cuts and have called any new taxes unacceptable.
McConnell wanted to give Obama more flexibility to pick a set of replacement cuts by March 15. Democrats considered the proposal a trap, designed to put more responsibility for the cuts on Obama's shoulders. Critics in both parties considered the idea an abdication of Congress's power of the purse.
Nine Republicans voted against McConnell's proposal: New Hampshire's Kelly Ayotte, Maine's Susan Collins, Texas's Ted Cruz, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, Nevada's Dean Heller, Utah's Mike Lee, Arizona's John McCain, Kentucky's Rand Paul and Florida's Marco Rubio.
Three Democrats opposed Reid's plan: North Carolina's Kay Hagan, Louisiana's Mary Landrieu and Arkansas's Mark Pryor.
The same game played out in the House.
Speaker John Boehner referred to two GOP-authored bills the chamber passed last Congress on partisan lines to replace the now-imminent spending cuts.
Democrats dismissed the bills, which had no chance of clearing the Senate or surviving a presidential veto, as ideological showboating. Furthermore, the bills are null for the moment since they didn't pass the House as presently constituted.
But that didn't stop Boehner, an Ohio Republican, from trying to put the onus on the Democratic-led Senate.
"We've done our work," he said Thursday morning. Senators have "not done theirs. The House shouldn't have to pass a third bill to replace the (looming cuts) before the Senate passes one."
CNN's Jim Acosta, Ted Barrett, Tom Cohen and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.
- Created on 28 February 2013
(CNN) -- Had it not been for Rosa Parks and others of her era, President Barack Obama said he wouldn't be unveiling a bronze statue of the civil rights icon in the US Capitol.
"We can do no greater honor ... than to carry forward her principle of courage born of conviction," Obama said at a ceremony on Wednesday.
Fifty-eight years after she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks became the first African-American woman to be honored with a full length statue in National Statuary Hall.
The statue shows Parks sitting with her hands folded neatly in her lap, reminiscent of the day of her arrest.
Her action echoed Martin Luther King Jr's notion that civil disobedience could be effective in challenging segregation.
"The tired feet of those who walked the dusty roads of Montgomery helped a nation see that to which it had once been blind. It is because of these men and women that I stand here today," Obama said. "It is because of them that our children grow up in a land more free and more fair. A land truer to its founding creed, and that is why this statue belongs in this hall."
Obama was joined at the unveiling by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Despite rising acrimony between Obama and congressional Republicans over the forced government spending cuts set to go into effect on Friday, Obama kept his remarks focused on Parks' legacy. He praised her courage and the lasting effects of her actions. Congressional leaders did the same.
The National Statuary Hall Collection consists of two sculptures gifted from each of the 50 states. They honor distinguished people throughout U.S. history, including several presidents.
Parks' statue was authorized by a special act of Congress that was introduced two days after her death in 2005.
- Created on 26 February 2013
No progress to report in efforts to stave off looming government-wide spending cuts, President Barack Obama on Tuesday singled out for praise the few Republicans who say they’re open to aspects of his approach, seeking to turn up the heat on GOP leaders ahead of Friday’s deadline.
- Created on 27 February 2013
In a reception this evening Rep. John Lewis will receive an award for his "long-standing support of the U.S. museum field" and "his strong leadership in the creation of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture." The awards ceremony will take place today February 26th, from 5-7 pm in the Kennedy Caucus Room, Room 325 of the Russell Senate Office Building. The ceremony is hosted by the American Alliance of Museums and the Southeastern Museums Conference (SEMC).
"As a courageous leader, Rep. Lewis understands the significance and impact of museums to tell the story of all Americans and preserve our national history and culture," said SEMC Executive Director Susan Perry.
Other 2013 honorees are Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) as well as Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) from the House. The award recognizes both "long-standing support of the museum field over a public career, as well as specific initiatives championed by the Members."
Lewis will also be honored for his commitment to sponsor the Artist-Museum Partnership Act, which he has sponsored in several Congresses. The act provides artists who create works of art the same tax deduction as collectors. Currently artists donate their work to a non-profit museum, they can only deduct the cost of the tools required to recreate a work of art, while collectors can deduct the retail value of the same work from their taxes. This inequity in the tax code has encouraged important American artists to donate their works to museums outside the United States or to sell their works to private collectors, which robs Americans of the opportunity to view these works in public settings in this country.
"Rep. Lewis is an inspiration to us all and his unflagging support of museums has enabled our field to inspire tens of thousands of Americans every day. This award is emblematic of our appreciation for the Congressman's efforts," said Ford W. Bell, president of the Alliance.
- Created on 25 February 2013
The National Rifle Association is using a Justice Department memo from the Obama Administration claiming their gun control plan will fail.
The obtained memo states that Obama's gun control plan won't work unless the government seizes firearms and requires nationwide gun registration. The administration's memo states that the total elimination of assault weapons would have little or no effect on gun killings due to the fact that assault weapons account for a small number of those crimes.
The nine-page document refers to the usage of background checks and their success would depend on requiring gun registration.
Since Obama has been in office, the administration has not proposed any gun registrations, buybacks or banning of firearms. As part of his gun restrictions package, Obama proposed that he order federal scientific agencies to research gun violence.
"Still think President Obama's proposals sound reasonable?" Chris W. Cox, the NRA's chief Washington lobbyist asked of the memo's release. Cox declined to say how the NRA obtained the memo.
The written memo was named under Greg Ridgeway, the acting director of the National Institute of Justice.
Dated Jan. 4, this was two weeks before Ridgeway's first day as acting chief and Obama's announcement for restricting guns.
A Justice Department official labeled the memo "an unfinished review of gun violence research" and said it does not represent administration policy accurately.
White House officials declined to comment on the memo.