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Sec. Of State Clinton Meets With House Budget Committee Chair As Budget Debate Continues

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met Thursday with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the new House Budget Committee chair, “to set out her objections to the House Republicans’ deficit-cutting plans,” the Financial Times reports. Obama administration officials and congressional Democrats argue that Republican’s proposed budget cuts “will reduce U.S. influence throughout the world … and cost lives in Africa and beyond,” the newspaper writes in a story outlining the different perspectives over how far budget cuts should go.

Some of the proposed cuts could hamper an “effort to beef up the State Department” and “would reduce” foreign aid levels, the Financial Times writes. “At root are differing concepts of national security – the new Republican House majority argues that diplomacy and foreign aid should not be classified as national security spending and, as a result, should not be exempted from a general push to bring down government expenditure. The White House disagrees. It has enlisted the support of Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, who recently said it was ‘absolutely mandatory’ that the State Department had a ‘robust enough budget … to meet the needs of our times,'” the publication writes. 

“If you look at our major challenges – Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen – they require effective military action, effective diplomatic action and effective development action,” Philip Crowley, a spokesperson for the State Department, said (Dombey, 2/10). 

Meanwhile, House Republican leaders met on Thursday in an effort to identify even deeper budget cuts, the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Jamie Dupree writes on his blog. At his weekly news conference, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, “You’re going to see more spending cuts come out of this Congress than any Congress in the history of this country.” He added, “It’s time for Washington to get serious, and that’s exactly what the American people expect of us” (2/11).

“But finding the $100 billion in savings demanded by House budget hawks could be difficult, with just a few days before the bill is due on the floor and many agencies already targeted,” CQ reports. “Our intent is to make deep but manageable cuts in nearly every area of government, leaving no stone unturned and allowing no agency or program to be held sacred,” said House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.).

“Appropriators are facing serious time pressure,” according to CQ. “They are pushing to unveil their new spending measure, which would be in the form of a continuing resolution (CR), on Friday, so leaders can put the bill on the floor next week.” Congress would face a government shutdown if lawmakers don’t pass the measure before the current CR expires on March 4 (Young, 2/10).

In a sperate article, CQ looks at Senate Democrats’ perspective on the budget cuts. “Senate Democratic leaders criticize many of the spending cuts House Republicans are proposing, but they are not tipping their hand for the budget confrontation that lies ahead,” the publication notes.

“Our minds are open to anything that’s reasonable,” Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. “The infighting among House Republicans is causing gridlock that could risk a government shutdown,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY).

“Reid and Schumer left open the possibility that they could agree to an overall fiscal 2011 spending total less than current spending levels. But they objected to some of the House Republicans’ proposed cuts, including spending reductions for the FBI, local law enforcement grants and college aid. Schumer said Democrats agreed during their three-day retreat in Charlottesville, Va., this week that some spending cuts are necessary. ‘Our caucus was united that we have to make serious and significant cuts,’ he said” (Friel, 2/10).

Budget expert Stan Collender noted the upcoming deadlines on NPR’s Morning Edition: “The president’s budget [for FY2012] comes out and then, in very short order, the government’s funding is going to run out,” he said. “If Congress and the president don’t somehow agree on the next level of funding, the government’s going to shut down by March 5. And then, as soon as that’s over, the government’s going to reach its debt ceiling,” he added.

“Both parties are tripping over each other to convince voters they are making a real dent in the budget,” according to NPR. “We’re going to be presenting a very clear picture of what investments are needed, where the belt tightening needs to happen,” said White House Budget Director Jacob Lew (Liasson, 2/11).

In related news, Inter Press Service looks at what budget cuts could mean for U.S. development efforts. “The upshot of the budget situation is that we will continue to rely on the military for development efforts,” Connie Veillete, foreign assistance expert at the Centre for Global Development, said at a recent panel discussion organised by the Society for International Development. “We need to take a more realistic approach in what we are asking DOD to do,” said Doug Brooks, an expert on the role of the private sector in international stabilisation operations. “Things like poverty reduction should be left to the civilian side … We need to re- civilianise things, not push everything to DOD,” he added (Muscara, 2/11). 

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