U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) talks with reporters after the Senate failed to pass legislation approved last month by the House that would cut $57 billion from the federal budget at the U.S. Capitol March 9. (Chip Somodevilla/GETTY IMAGES)


Schumer on tea party: ‘They are extreme’

The intervention in Libya is not in “the vital interest” of the United States, retired general Jim Jones said. “It’s more in the vital interest of the Europeans, “when you consider the effects of massive immigration, the effects of terror, the oil market.” He argued, however, that there was a true alliance of nations in the effort and that the U.S. presence would scale down with time. He doesn’t know how the U.S. will get Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi to step down: “That’s the part that’s being worked on.” He said he’s “not convinced” Pakistan is doing its part to help destroy terrorist safe havens.

A government shutdown is not imminent, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) agreed. Schumer argued as he has in recent days that “the one group standing in the way here is the tea party.” He addressed the accidentally public strategy session he held last week, saying that he had “no problem” with reporters hearing him tell fellow Democrats to describe the tea party as “extreme.” “They are extreme,” he said, pointing to the movement’s declining poll numbers to argue that Americans agreed. He said that progress was being made, however, on “changes in mandatory program spending,” or CHIMPS -- pointing to possible cuts in agriculture, banking and justice programs.


Paul Ryan: ‘We are giving them a political weapon’

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) previewed the budget plan he plans to unveil Tuesday, saying that he knew his cuts would give Democrats campaign fodder. “We are giving them a political weapon to go against us. But they will have to lie and demagogue to make that a political weapon,” Ryan said. “Shame on them if they do that.” The congressman said his plan will be closer to the one he introduced last fall with former Office of Management and Budget chief Alice Rivlin than to the controversial “Roadmap” he came up with on his own.

In his first Sunday show appearance since the election, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was evasive on Libya and a government shutdown. He said he would not vote to raise the debt limit without getting some of the reforms he outlined in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. He objected to the idea that he, like President Obama when he was a senator, would be casting a symbolic ‘no’ vote while knowing the debt ceiling would be raised. Rubio argued that there was a difference, because he had offered a “clear alternative.” Rubio also ducked questions on ground troops in Libya, saying the United States shouldn’t say what it will or won’t do. The senator signed a letter last week calling for the Senate to authorize the use of force in the country.


Bipartisan condemnation for Florida pastor

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee cautioned against arming rebels in Libya until we know more about them. However, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) added that allowing Gaddafi to stay is not an option. He joined Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in condemning the Florida pastor who burned a copy of the Koran last week, an incident that sparked riots in Afghanistan in which at least 20 people have died. We’ve asked Americans in every tough conflict we’ve had in this country to be thoughtful and mindful of each citizens’ responsibility to do their part to make sure our soldiers come home safely and with a sense of an accomplished mission,” Rogers said.

Durbin said he sympathized with House Speaker John Boehner’s “delicate and tough political position” in the budget fight. While the Republican lawmaker says there’s no agreement yet on how much to cut, Durbin argued that the only thing holding up a deal was Boehner’s desire to please the conservative base. “At the end of the day the American people don’t care who has bragging rights at the end of this,” Durbin said.


Sen. Cornyn: ‘I think people are looking for a little adult interaction’

Asked if the mission in Libya was clear, former National Security Adviser to President Obama,Gen. James Jones (Ret.), said he believed it was. “The problem is that while everybody wants to see Gaddafi leave, either be removed or leave on his own, that end state is not yet clear.”

Asked if the U.S. military action in Libya was really about Iran, Jones did not commit either way, instead saying, “Iran is the big shadow here, on the whole region, from Yemen to Egypt to Tunisia to Libya, and it’s a factor that we should not -- we should not take our eye off of.” Asked how he felt about the administration’s policy in the Middle East, Jones neither praised nor overtly criticized his former employer. Instead, he expressed his frustration with the Iranian regime during his time as National Security Adviser, saying that when Iran walked away from talks in Istanbul, it was a sign – at least for him – that the regime was not serious. “All of the trouble going on in the region right now, has allowed them to slide under the radar,” said Jones, going on to say that he was certain the administration had not taken its eye off of Iran over the long term.

Conversation turned to the looming possibility of a government shutdown. Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and John Cornyn (R-Ariz.) joined. Asked if there would be a government shutdown Friday, Warner kept to the Democratic line saying, “I hope not.”

Cornyn was equally vague, saying “I hope we can solve the problem because, frankly, I think people are looking for a little adult interaction.” Asked about the debt limit, Warner was adamant that the ceiling be raised saying, “It just frightens the heck out of me that anyone responsible would say, let's go ahead and light the fuse that might create the next economic meltdown.”

“Really what we’re lacking is presidential leadership on this issue,” said Cornyn, echoing an oft-repeated Republican talking point. “Instead you see the president, really M.I.A and see him planning his re-election announcement in the next couple of weeks. … Where are your priorities?” Warner, given an opportunity to defend the president said that Obama would be involved soon.


House Appropriations Ranking Member: ‘It’s getting close’

House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Norman Dicks (D-Wash.) continued the theme among Democrats of expressing hope that a budget compromise would be reached but not saying definitively whether a shutdown would be avoided. “It’s still isn’t quite together, but it’s getting close,” Dicks said.

Regarding the Republicans’ proposed cuts, Dicks said, “I would not bet on much of an increase over 73 [billion].” He said Republicans are experiencing “tunnel vision” when it comes to the budget and where to make appropriate cuts.

On Libya, Dicks had little praise for the administration’s approach. “I think there is confusion when the president says getting Gaddafi out would be the right thing to do, but we’re not going to use means to get him out,” Dicks said.

Tying both Libya and the looming government shutdown threat together, Dicks said, “How can we possibly do this in the middle of all this military controversy? … I think it would be the height of irresponsibility – the height of irresponsibility -- not to keep the military funded,” said Dicks.

Asked to weigh in on the political landscape, Dicks laid into Republicans, saying that he thought the American people were “deeply concerned,” about Republican plans. “I think what they’re doing is wrong and I think people are worried about it.”


Sen. Harry Reid on arming Libya rebels: ‘Let’s just wait and see’

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) responded to Florida pastor Terry Jones’s Koran burning, calling it a “publicity stunt,” saying, “I think people should understand the consequences of what they do under the guise of religion.”

Asked if there would be hearings on the incident Reid said he didn’t know, but that Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) was looking into the matter.

The conversation turned to the situation in Libya. Asked if the U.S. should arm anti-Gaddafi rebels, Reid said, “I think at this stage, we really don’t know who the leaders of this rebel group [are]. … So, I think at this stage, let’s just wait and see.”

On Syria, Reid said he did not see the U.S. becoming involved militarily. “I do think Syria really has been a difficult problem for us for some time,” Reid said. “They get their orders from Iran. So this country is really not a country of its own. … But I don’t see us getting involved there militarily.”

Talk turned to the on-going budget battle and the looming threat of a government shutdown. “The Republican leadership in the House has to make a decision, whether they want to do the right thing for the country or do the right thing for the tea party,” said Reid. Reid continued his criticism of the tea party saying, “The tea party is dictating a lot that goes on with the Republican leadership in the House and it shouldn’t be that way.” Asked if the president needed to become more involved in the budget process Reid countered Republican criticism saying, “the president has been heavily involved.”

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) followed Reid, defending the tea party’s ties with the GOP and expressing optimism that both sides would come to a budget agreement. “I think we’ll get together,” he said. “I think we’ll find consensus.”

Graham also weighed in on the Koran burning, saying he would join with Sens. Reid and Kerry in condemning the act. Graham also weighed in on the situation in Libya, saying he would support the arming of anti-Gaddafi rebels if it “made sense,” and that he had grave concerns regarding the Obama administration’s policy in Iraq.

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