By The Hill Staff - 04/04/11 10:36 AM EDT
• House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said on “Fox News Sunday” that his 2012 budget plan cuts more than $4 trillion from the deficit, a number that exceeds the goals set by President Obama’s deficit commission, of which Ryan was a member.
Ryan’s plan, to be released Tuesday, will go beyond discretionary spending caps; he said he is still working with the official number but he would impose statutory spending caps — setting spending levels based on the country’s gross domestic product. The plan also addresses entitlements and has some “pro-growth” tax reforms.
“We don’t have a tax problem,” Ryan said. “We aren’t in this situation because Americans aren’t taxed enough, the problem is Washington spending.”
Ryan criticized Obama’s leadership role, or lack thereof, on the budget debate. “He is punting on the debt crisis,” Ryan said.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) also said the president should be more involved in the discussions. “We need presidential leadership on [the budget and deficit] and he’s MIA on this,” said Cornyn on “State of the Union.”
“This week he’s announcing his reelection, it’s like, where are your priorities,” he said.
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Obama had been active behind the scene. Reid said on “Face the Nation” he consulted with Obama daily about the budget negotiations.
Durbin said on “Meet the Press” that House Republicans have lost credibility with the American people by bringing the riders — defunding Planned Parenthood and limiting the Environmental Protection Agency — into the debate.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), agreed, saying during a “State of the Union” appearance that, “What message does that send if we shut down the government based on a few social policy riders?”
Reid said he thinks the two parties will work things out to avoid a government shutdown. “I always look at the glass as half-full,” he said.
Cornyn called a continuing resolution to finish fiscal 2011 “small ball” compared to the vote later this year to raise the debt limit, which he and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said they would oppose unless concessions are made.
“I don’t ever want to vote to default this country,” Rubio said on “Fox News Sunday.” “But anyone who votes to increase the debt limit does just that eventually.”
Jones: Iran seeking advantage in Arab uprisings
• Former National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones cautioned against the ongoing threat from Iran, calling it “the big shadow on the whole region” that benefits from the chaos of popular uprising.
“There are a lot of things going on that, if you’re the Iranian government, you’re probably pretty happy with,” Jones said during an appearance on “State of the Union.”
“Despite the banner of democracy and change, Iran is going to be out there agitating things … You can bet that Iran is affecting virtually everything and trying to play in every country,” he said.
Jones referenced the January nuclear talks held in Istanbul in which Iran refused to bargain with the assembled Western countries until they agreed to halt economic sanctions, among other conditions.
“We do have to pay attention to their nuclear program,” he said. “All this trouble in the region masks what’s going on [with it].”
Asked about the U.S. intervention in Libya, Jones told “This Week” that stability there is more in the “vital interest” of Europeans, who are concerned about the hazards of immigration, terror and fluctuations in the oil market.
“It’s not in the vital interest [of the United States] in the sense that it affects the vital security of the nation. But we are part of an alliance,” he said.
Also on Sunday, lawmakers weighed the pros and cons of arming the Libyan uprising, which some believe could have dangerous elements.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) argued for it. “We need to help the rebels help themselves, and provide arms when it makes sense,” he said during his “Face the Nation” appearance. “Help the rebels, take the fight to Tripoli, and get this thing over with.”
Meanwhile Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) hesitated on “Face the Nation” and “Meet the Press.”
“We just need to know a lot more before we give them advanced weaponry,” Rogers said.
He also noted that Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi has chemical weapons — a threat he said “keeps him up at night.”
Petraeus, senators condemn Quran burning
• Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. commander in Afghanistan, sent a letter Sunday condemning the actions of a Florida church that burned The Quran. The actions of the church, lead by Terry Jones, sparked deadly riots in Afghanistan, posing a major setback for the war effort.
“Terry Jones jeopardized the lives of American soldiers,” Sen. Dick Durban (D-Ill.) said on “Meet the Press.” “We should all condemn the actions of this man.”
On “Face the Nation,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he would look into the possibility of a Senate vote to condemn the burning, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) agreed.
“Free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war,” Graham said. “In World War II, there were limits on what you could say if it could incite the enemy … I think Congress would be right to support what Gen. Petraeus said.”
Sen. Graham rejects State Dept. ‘army’
• Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) expressed concerns that the State Department would form its “own army” once American military forces leave Iraq at year’s end.
He said the State Department has asked for a fleet of helicopters, armored vehicles, and “thousands of private security guards” to defend the American civilians that remain to work on civil-society projects.
“We are inside the 10-yard line in terms of finishing the job [in Iraq],” he said. “But the State Department can’t conduct their mission … unless the American military is there.”
“We’ll have a State Department Army. I will not vote for that. I will not support that … That will fail,” he said.
Graham said he would favor leaving “some troops behind” in order to protect American civilians. He also said it would help to “have an edge against Iran.”
Several publications reported in summer 2010 that the State Department had requested Black Hawk helicopters, surveillance systems, fuel trucks and other military gear from the Pentagon in anticipation of the exit of U.S. forces from Iraq.
A report at the time by the legislative Commission on Wartime Contracting said that the number of contractors in Iraq would grow by more than 50 percent if the request was carried out.
Planning for the transition began in Washington and Baghdad in spring 2009, according to McClatchy.