Budget Talks Intensify

June 27, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

Vice President Biden’s bipartisan budget working group collapsed last week after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) withdrew from the talks, citing disagreements with Democrats on revenue increases. President Obama and Biden will meet separately with Sens. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) today. President Obama and Speaker Boehner (R-OH) have yet to schedule a meeting, although they are seen as the primary negotiators as Congress approaches the August 2 debt limit. The Senate Appropriations Military Construction-VA Subcommittee will mark up its bill on Tuesday, with a  possible full committee markup on Thursday. No other Senate Appropriations markups have been announced, and Senate action on the State-Foreign Operations bill is not expected until after the August recess at the earliest. The House is on recess this week.

Must Reads

Who’s In the News

ND jobs, US security on the line (Inforum, Gen. Charles Wald)

As a nation, we face a critical moment. While we fight to keep our families safe and get our economy back on track, our leaders in Washington must also wrestle with an out-of-control deficit and calls for harsh spending cuts. It’s no easy task, and I believe strongly that we must find ways to cut back spending. But we have to make sure we trim only the programs that are not serving our national interests and protect those that are doing that job. Based on my military experience and the business outcomes I’ve seen in North Dakota, it’s clear that the International Affairs Budget is a smart investment.

Africa is Awakening, Helped by Free Trade (Wall Street Journal, Daniel W. Yohannes and Mo Ibrahim)

Long a symbol of stagnation, the African continent is experiencing a reawakening. Poverty and hunger are still widespread problems, but Africa’s growing middle class is creating business and investment opportunities that are among the best in the world. With the right trade policy and development assistance, we can unlock the potential of a thriving private sector and lift millions from poverty.

The Road Home from Kabul (Foreign Policy, Sen. John Kerry)

A successful transition will be challenging. We need to rethink how best to build and sustain the Afghan army and police in order to leave behind an effective, targeted security force — not 350,000 unpaid, armed, and angry soldiers. And we have to take concrete steps to prevent the collapse of the wartime economy we have helped create, such as slowly reducing our assistance and working with other donors to set a standard wage so that we stop hiring so many of Afghanistan’s qualified civil servants to work for foreign governments and organizations.

Smart Power

Positive Disruption (New York Times, Roger Cohen)

Here in the United States we have been debating how many of the 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, up against some 100 Al Qaeda operatives and maybe 25,000 Taliban, should be withdrawn, when perhaps we should have been focused on another set of numbers: Cellphone penetration in Afghanistan was at 30 percent in 2009, is now at 50 percent and will be at 70 percent before long, so how do we ensure this dramatic trend empowers in positive rather than negative ways? Texting can be good counterterrorism.

Politics/Foreign Policy

President Obama, Mitch McConnell square off on debt (Politico, David Rogers)

Monday’s White House meeting between President Barack Obama and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is an important first test for both men, each trying to draw out the other in the face of August’s debt ceiling deadline. Before the Republican walkout last Thursday, budget negotiations led by Vice President Joe Biden had made significant progress toward a package promising savings in the range of $1.6 trillion to $1.7 trillion over 10 years, not counting reduced interest charges.

Egyptian Leader Assures McCain and Kerry on Transition (New York Times, Dina Salah Amer)

After talks with the leader of Egypt’s ruling military council, Senator John McCain on Sunday expressed confidence that the caretaker military rulers wanted to transfer powers to an elected government “as soon as possible.” Senator McCain, an Arizona Republican, and Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, who were visiting Egypt with an American business delegation, said it was in the interest of the United States’ national security to see Egypt become a free and democratic country.

What’s happened to America’s leadership role? (Washington Post, Fred Hiatt)

In the decades after World War II, as Japan, Germany, France and Britain recovered and America’s share of the global economy declined, we could have accepted the inevitability of a multipolar world. Instead, the United States drew the reemerging powers into alliances that spread the burden of leadership, magnified U.S. influence and promoted freedom and free trade.