House Votes to Cut $61 Billion in Government Spending

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The House of Representatives voted early Saturday morning to cut $61 billion in government spending – what Speaker John Boehner called “one of the largest spending cuts in American history.”

At 4:40 a.m. all Democrats and three Republicans – Reps. Jeff Flake, Ariz., John Campbell, Calif., and Walter Jones, N.C., –  voted against the bill.

Afterwards, Boehner, R-Ohio, commended lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for their efforts and said “the House works best when it is allowed to work its will.”

“Cutting federal spending is critical to reducing economic uncertainty, encouraging private-sector investment, and creating a better environment for job creation in our country," Boehner said in a statement. "We will not stop here in our efforts to cut spending, not when we’re broke and Washington’s spending binge is making it harder to create jobs.”

After introducing an alternative short-term extension at current spending levels late Friday evening, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi declared that the vote to pass the spending bill would destroy jobs.

“Congressional Republicans have spent the last six weeks ignoring jobs and refusing to offer a plan to grow our economy.  Today, they have made matters worse – passing a spending bill that destroys jobs, weakens the middle class, hurts schools and young adults, eliminates assistance to homeless veterans, and diminishes critical investments in our future,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement. “The American people deserve better.”

The bill now heads to the Senate, where it has no support from the Democratic majority. President Obama has also threatened to veto the bill.

The current CR budget runs out of funding on March 4. If Congress and the White House are not able to come to an agreement on the spending bill, the government faces the possibility of being shut down.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Wisconsin Governor Says Dems Have 'Failed to Do Their Jobs'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MADISON, Wisc.) -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Sunday the Democratic state senators who fled the state to block a vote on his controversial budget bill have "failed to do their jobs," and he expects them to concede this week.

"If you want to participate in democracy, you've got to be in the arena, and the arena is right here in Madison, Wisconsin," Walker said on Fox News Sunday.

"My hope is that cooler minds will prevail and by some time earlier this coming week they'll show up for their job," Walker said. "Democracy is not about hiding out in another state. It's about showing up here in the capital and making the case there, and for us, we're willing to take this as long as it takes."

The bill, which would cut benefits for public employees and drastically reduce unions' collective bargaining powers, has sparked protests that stretched into a sixth day today. Union members and supporters have begun to arrive in both Madison and Green Bay, where a smaller pro-union rally is scheduled outside Packers Stadium.

More than 70,000 protestors descended on Wisconsin's capitol Saturday, many of them angry at Walker's bill, which has the backing of the Republican controlled state Senate.

But there were also supporters of Walker's bill, many of them bused in by Tea Party groups, and organizers said they would begin recall efforts against the 14 Democratic state senators who are hiding in Illinois and preventing the bill from coming to a vote on Tuesday.

Some Wisconsin doctors threw their support behind teachers protesting the Republican governor, saying they would write sick notes for teachers to skip work to demonstrate.

Wisconsin has a $137 million shortfall this year and $3.6 billion over the next two years.

Other governors facing similar budget crises are watching Wisconsin carefully. More than 40 states are facing a combined projected shortfall of $125 billion for the fiscal year of 2012. The hardest hit are California, facing a $25.5 billion gap, Texas at $13 billion, Illinois at $15 billion, New York at $9 billion and New Jersey at $10.5 billion.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sarah Palin Wades Into Wisconsin Budget Debate

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sarah Palin waded into the Wisconsin budget debate Friday night with a Facebook posting that called on public employee union members to break away from their leadership.

"You don’t have to kowtow to the union bosses who are not looking out for you, but instead are using you," wrote Palin.

"Wisconsin union bosses want union members out in the streets demanding that taxpayers foot the bill for unsustainable benefits packages.”

As recently as Thursday in an appearance before the Long Island Association in Woodbury, N.Y., Palin declared "a pension is a promise" and that benefits should not be cut for retirees and older workers who have been paying into the programs. However, she has said that younger workers should be willing to sacrifice.

On Facebook, Palin noted that her family has union connections -- her father was a longtime science teacher in Alaska -- and said that union members are "doing themselves no favor" by "closing down classrooms and abandoning children’s needs in protest against the sort of belt-tightening that people everywhere are going through. Union brothers and sisters: this is the wrong fight at the wrong time."

She called on the union members to "sacrifice and carry our share of the burden. It does no one any favors to dismiss the sacrifices others have already had to make -- in wage cuts, unpaid vacations, and even job losses—to weather our economic storm."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama's Weekly Address: 'The Lesson on Display at Intel'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- After his two-day swing to the West Coast where he dined with business leaders and toured Intel President Obama says that the nation needs to create the next Intel, the next Google and the next Microsoft.
“If we want to win the global competition for new jobs and industries, we’ve got to win the global competition to educate our people,” President Obama says in his weekly address. “We’ve got to have the best trained, best skilled workforce in the world.  That’s how we’ll ensure that the next Intel, the next Google, or the next Microsoft is created in America, and hires American workers. “
The message is one that the president not only carried with him to the West Coast but one he’s been hammering home since the State of the Union address at the end of January. Taped from inside Intel after a tour the president uses his weekly address to hold up Intel as an example of a company that competes even as global competition has intensified over the years.
“Companies like Intel are proving that we can compete -- that instead of just being a nation that buys what’s made overseas, we can make things in America and sell them around the globe,” Obama says, “  Winning this competition depends on the ingenuity and creativity of our private sector -- which was on display in my visit today.  But it’s also going to depend on what we do as a nation to make America the best place on earth to do business. “
Next week President Obama will travel to Cleveland, Ohio to hold a jobs forum with local businesses “to get ideas about what we can do to help their companies grow and create jobs.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


GOP Weekly Address: Rep. Price on Washington's 'So-Called Budget Battle'

Photo Courtesy - TomPrice dot House dot gov(WASHINGTON) -- In the weekly Republican Address, Congressman Tom Price, R-Ga., said lawmakers' focus should be on "creating jobs and getting our economy moving again," pointing to the "so-called budget battle" going on in Washington. 

Price, who is also a member of the House Budget Committee, criticized President Obama saying that he has not delivered on his promise that this year would be the year that he would seriously address the deficits and debt hurting the U.S. economy.  Price said that instead, the president "started out by asking Congress to raise the debt limit, without any commitment to cutting spending at the same time." 

Price also indicated that Obama's proposed budget for the next fiscal year was contradictory to statements the president made about stimulus spending during his State of the Union address last month.

"In his State of the Union Address, he called for more effective 'stimulus' spending.  And this week he submitted a budget for the next fiscal year that destroys jobs by spending too much, and borrowing too much and taxing too much," Price said about Obama in the weekly address.

Price echoed what many Republicans have said during recent weeks that the key to boosting economic confidence and investment is to "end Washington's spending binge."  He added that the House majority is working hard in support of their "reform-minded" colleagues in the Senate to cut federal spending.

"That's why the House spent this past week working on a bill to cut discretionary spending by $100 billion over the last seven months of the current fiscal year," he said.  "We're not only living up to our Pledge to America, we're exceeding it.  And more cuts and more reforms are on the way."

Price emphasized the House's plan to cut "wasteful mandatory spending," and said that work will begin soon on legislation to get the job done.

Congressman Price said to look forward to a new budget proposal this spring for the next fiscal year that will "offer ideas for real entitlement reform," an issue that many Republicans have knocked President Obama for not addressing in his budget in recent days.

Copyright 2011ABC News Radio


Tea Party Descends on Wisconsin Protests

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MADISON, Wisc.) -- Wisconsin Tea Party activists are weighing in on the ongoing state worker protests, bussing in picketers to counter protest and exploring measures to recall the Democratic senators that have fled to boycott the vote on Gov. Scott Walker's budget bill.

Madison police expected approximately 100,000 people to fill the square outside the capitol building Saturday as Tea Party members' voices were added to the chorus of dissent and the protests entered their fifth day.

Tea Party members are forming two exploratory committees to recall two of the Wisconsin Democrats that fled the state on Thursday to protest the vote on the certain-to-pass bill, which will drastically cut state worker benefits and eliminate union bargaining rights.

Gov. Walker told reporters Friday that he would not "allow protesters to drown out the voice of the taxpayers," adding that he had received 19,000 supportive e-mails this week and that a "quiet majority" of the state's residents are behind his plan.

Walker has been calling upon the Democrats to return and end their "theatrics."

Wisconsin has a $137 million shortfall this year and $3.6 billion over the next two years.

Other governors facing similar budget crises are watching Wisconsin carefully. More than 40 states are facing a combined projected shortfall of $125 billion for the fiscal year of 2012. The hardest hit are California, facing a $25.5 billion gap, Texas at $13 billion, Illinois at $15 billion, New York at $9 billion and New Jersey at $10.5 billion.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Rep. Baldwin: ‘Similarities’ Between Egypt and Wisconsin

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The juxtaposition of worldwide events has brought Egyptian imagery to Wisconsin this week. Some protesters have gone so far as to attack the Badger State’s governor as “Hosni Walker” -- a reference that links Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., to the ousted longtime Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak.

“I think the similarities are that people are wanting to be heard, and they are taking direct action,” said Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., who represents Wisconsin’s capital. “They are coming to Madison -- they're holding events all throughout the states.”

It is in Madison where the protests against proposed budget cuts have been playing out.

Democrats in the state Senate, Baldwin said, “took prudent steps to slow down this debate” by leaving the state and denying Republicans the quorum they’d need to act on the governor’s budget-cutting proposal.

The proposal would include a significant benefits reduction for public employees. Baldwin said national Republicans are planning a similar “attack” on public workers.

“I do see some similarities in terms of -- we've got to balance budgets, but we've got to be smart about it.  And in Wisconsin being smart about it means involving all the voices including that of organized labor, public servants, to help come together to address our challenges.”

But don’t look for similar scenes of protests in Washington, Baldwin said.

“One of the problems though is that national government is less accessible to the people than state government,” he said. “It’s easier for people to get to their state capitals to voice their opinion. I'm certainly hearing from my constituents about the deep cuts that we're looking at this week, though.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Napolitano Won't Seek Arizona Senate Seat

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Friday she will not leave the Obama administration to run for Senate in Arizona in 2012. Her name had been tossed into the ring by supporters who thought she could be a strong candidate to replace retiring GOP Sen. Jon Kyl.

Earlier this week Republican Congressman Jeff Flake announced his bid for the seat. Flake already has the endorsement of the Club for Growth and the Tea Party-affiliated organization, Freedom Works.

But speculation is brewing that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who is still recovering from her injuries after last month’s shooting in Tucson, might run for the seat. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., recently said there is a "distinct possibility" Giffords will run, but it's far from certain.

Statement from Napolitano's office:

“Secretary Napolitano told senior Democratic Party leaders earlier this week that she will not seek Arizona’s open U.S. Senate seat in 2012. She cares deeply about Arizona, but the Secretary intends to continue doing the job that the President asked her to do – protecting the American people from terrorism and other threats to our country. She's focused on continuing to strengthen our counter-terrorism initiatives, border security, immigration enforcement, transportation and cyber security, and disaster preparedness."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Protesters Take State Capitol in Wisconsin

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(MADISON, Wis.) -- A dramatic political showdown is underway in Wisconsin over painful budget cuts that threaten thousands of state employees.  Even President Obama has injected himself into the growing fracus.

"Some of what I've heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you're just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally seems like more of an assault on unions," Obama told Milwaukee's WTMJ-TV in a White House interview Wednesday.

"The idea is to sit down and negotiate," said state Sen. Mark Miller, who fled Wisconsin on Thursday in an effort to delay a vote that would curb the state's unions and force them to contribute more for benefits.  "We've heard over a thousand people testify about the impact this is going to have on their lives.  It's heartbreaking, people break down in tears.  This is a disaster and we're being asked to swallow it in just four days."

Thursday night, more public workers, including firefighters, poured into the capital, in a third day of protests that have brought tens of thousands to Madison.  Some families camped out overnight in a last-ditch effort to protest budget cuts they fear would cripple their union rights.

On Thursday, Republicans were poised to pass an austerity budget requiring state workers to pay more for pensions and health care.

But what really has protesters steamed is a dramatic move by the Republican governor to eliminate union bargaining on everything from wages to work rules.

So the 14 Senate Democrats fled the state on Thursday to prevent a vote, and prevent Wisconsin police from rounding them up.

Gov. Scott Walker unveiled the budget bill only last Saturday.  Faced with a $3.6 billion deficit, he denies he is trying to bust the unions.

"The bottom line is we're broke.  We can't negotiate for something we don't have the ability to give on," said Walker.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


What's In A Word? Debate Over 'ObamaCare'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The debate over President Obama’s health care reforms has been raging for years, but on Capitol Hill on Friday the debate shifted from the merits of the new law to simply how lawmakers should refer to it.

House Democrats say it should be called the Affordable Care Act, as it’s technically named. Most Republicans prefer to call it ObamaCare.

On the House floor this morning Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-FL., argued GOP lawmakers should be forbidden from calling it “ObamaCare” because that term is disparaging to the president.

Only minutes after Wasserman-Schultz spoke, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, used the term “ObamaCare” a slew of times, arguing that President Obama himself used the term during a health care summit at Blair House last year.

But why not just call it the Affordable Care Act?

“It’s not affordable in the first place,” King replied. “It’s $2.6 trillion in spending over the first ten years, so that doesn’t work. I don’t know what else to call it.”

“The other side has argued and defended it, so if they were successful, they wouldn’t think the term ObamaCare was pejorative,” King added. “This is a piece of language that if you Google it, you get millions of hits on ObamaCare.”

“It’s got to be in dictionaries by now…but it’ll certainly be in dictionaries in the future. I think as children read this in their history books, they will read ObamaCare.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio