On the Sunday-morning talk shows this week: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says he's confident that Congress will vote to raise the debt ceiling, but House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., says Republicans have made the administration no promises. Also: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood introduces safety measures for air-traffic controllers, and Donald Trump says he's a bigger businessman than Mitt Romney. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden says Libya must not overshadow the threat from Yemen.
- Ryan: GOP Hasn’t Given Obama Debt-Ceiling Promise
- Geither: Pols Who Play Brinksmanship on Debt Vote Will ‘Own the Responsibility’
- Geither: Congress Will Raise the Debt Ceiling
- Coburn on Spending New Revenue
- Trump Bashes Romney, Says He’d Take Libya’s Oil
- LaHood Announces Safety Changes for Air-Traffic Controllers
- Yemen, Not Libya, Is the Key, Hayden Says
- Rand Paul Wants Balanced Budget Amendment
11:18 a.m.: Appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., tried to counter Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s optimism that Republicans will not block an increase in the debt ceiling. Ryan said Geithner is wrong for suggesting on two shows that Republican leaders have privately told President Obama that the votes will be there.
“No they haven’t,” said Ryan. “What they also have told me they told the president [is] that in addition to raising the debt limit we want financial controls, we want cuts in spending.... That is, I believe, what they have told the president.”
He said that Geithner’s comments were “no news as far as I can tell.”
But he insisted that Republicans are not going to “play around with the country’s credit rating.” He added, “Nobody wants to see default happening. But we also think it is important to get a handle on future borrowing as we deal with raising the debt limit.... We just want to see some cuts and controls in spending going forward, and that is what we have been telling the White House.”
Ryan also criticized the president for comments he has made attacking Ryan’s budget plan. “The tone gets set at the top,” he said, “and I think it would be more productive if the tone set at the top was one more of mutual respect, one more of getting things done and coming together to solve problems.”
George E. Condon Jr.
11:03 a.m.: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday that while the administration is open to making long-term fiscal reforms along with congressional action on raising the debt limit, that can be done “in parallel”—and not necessarily bound together.
“If by the time we need to raise the debt limit we haven’t worked all that out, Congress still has to raise the debt limit,” Geithner told host David Gregory.
Geithner added: “Those people up there who are telling people that you can take this to the brink, because it gives them some leverage, they’re going to own the responsibility for the risk that creates for the American economy.”
Asked later about rising gasoline prices, Geithner said that while they put a drag on the economy, and “people are going to feel it,” they won’t endanger the recovery.
10:30 a.m.: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner insisted Sunday that Congress will approve an increase in the debt ceiling if only because the consequences of failure are so dire. Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Geithner said, “I want to make one thing perfectly clear. Congress will raise the debt ceiling.... They recognize that America has to meet its obligations.” He added, “There is no alternative and they recognize that.”
He said that to get that vote the administration is willing to “lock in some targets for deficit reduction.”
But Rep. Steve Southerland of Florida, one of the freshman Republicans elected with tea party support, said on the same show that Republicans will need much more before they will raise the ceiling. “We have to have some guarantees. It’s going to have to be concrete.”
George E. Condon Jr.
10:27 a.m. Sen. Tom Coburn, appearing on Fox News Sunday, laid out the problem for deficit hawks on raising taxes or otherwise increasing revenue.
“What everybody on my side’s worried about is, OK, if you agree to this, how do you make sure the spending cuts stay there?” the Oklahoma Republican said about a budget plan that’s fair, preserves the social safety net, and promotes economic growth. “...So if in fact we devise a way to make sure you can’t cheap on the caps, both mandatory and discretionary spending, I’m willing to do what is necessary to solve the very real problems our country is in.”
Does that mean increasing federal revenue through doing away with tax loopholes? host Chris Wallace asked.
“The added revenue comes from an economic expansion and the dynamic effects of lower rates,” he said.
10:16 a.m.: Donald Trump on Sunday continued celebrating his rise in the early 2012 presidential polls by directing more scorn toward President Obama. In an interview on CNN’s State of the Union, Trump was contemptuous of Obama’s policies toward oil prices and China.
Trump insisted the price of oil would be coming down rather than going up if only someone else were president. “It’s not coming down because OPEC sets the price,” he said. “It’s the messenger.... Obama is not the right messenger. We are not a respected nation anymore. The world is laughing at us.”
Asked about one of his potential competitors for the GOP nomination, Trump brushed aside former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as an inferior businessman. “Mitt Romney was a small business guy if you really think about it,” he said, adding, “He was a hedge fund. He was a funds guy. He walked away with some money from a very good company that he didn't create. He worked there. He didn't create it.” He also added, “He’d buy companies; he’d close companies; he’d get rid of jobs.”
Trump also bragged: “I'm much bigger than this man and have a much, much bigger net worth. I mean my net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney.”
He said he will make his decision about running before June.
Trump also criticized Obama’s conduct of the military operation in Libya against ruler Muammar el-Qaddafi. “Look at this mess,” he said. “We go in, we don't go in, he shouldn't be removed, we don't want to remove him, we don't want to touch him, but he should be removed. Nobody knows what they're doing on Qaddafi. Then we're back into rebels, oh, gee whiz, maybe we can't because they're backed by Iran.”
He said his approach to Libya would be simple: “Either I'd go in and take the oil or I don't go in at all. We can't be the policeman for the world.”
Asked by host Candy Crowley if he would “just take their oil,” he replied bluntly, “Absolutely. I'd take the oil. I'd give them plenty so they can live very happily. I would take the oil.... In the old days, when you have a war and you win, that nation is yours.”
George E. Condon Jr.
9:50 a.m.: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a three-part plan on Sunday to stop this year’s spate of air-traffic controllers falling asleep on the job.
“I don’t know when I’ve ever been madder,” LaHood told host Chris Wallace in announcing the new rules on Fox News Sunday.
LaHood said his department would increase controllers’ minimum rest time from eight hours to nine; make managers more available early in the morning and late at night to watch over controllers; and ban controllers from shifting schedules if it means insufficient rest. Those plans would be subject to change if they’re insufficient, he said.
In addition, LaHood said, “controllers need to take personal responsibility for the very important safety jobs they have.”
Before the reforms, controllers could work two evening shifts followed by eight hours of rest and a day shift, then eight hours of rest and two midnight shifts, giving them a long weekend.
LaHood said his department had been under the assumption that controllers were getting enough rest, and that this was the first he’d heard of the problem. But he said the heads of the Federal Aviation Administration and the air-traffic controllers union would be touring airports around the country to promote the changes and talk safety.
LaHood also pushed for Congress to approve a permanent FAA reauthorization. The FAA bill is currently on its 18th extension, he said.
Finally, asked about the recent newsmaking video of a 6-year-old girl being patted down by a Transportation Security Administration worker at an airport, LaHood demurred but said, “I have nine grandchildren. I wouldn’t want my granddaughter treated like that.”
9:50 a.m.: Retired Gen. Michael Hayden, President George W. Bush’s director of Central Intelligence, painted a grim portrait of the terrorist threat to the United States posed by the growing instability in Yemen. Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, Hayden warned that Yemen is far more critical than what happens in Libya.
“Much of our attention and, unfortunately, much of our energy is focused on Libya. And as difficult as that might be in humanitarian terms, in geopolitical terms it is somewhat self-limiting,” he said. “That is not the case in Yemen.”
Yemen, he said, is much more of a threat.
“We have a thriving al-Qaida affiliate in Yemen in al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. We have over a million Yemeni expatriates, guest workers across the gulf region. What happens in Yemen bleeds out from Yemen much more quickly than things that happen in Libya.”
Nobody, he said, knows what will push President Ali Abdullah Saleh out of office or what will replace him.
George E. Condon Jr.
9:50 a.m.: There were no signs of give Sunday from one of the leading opponents of raising the debt limit. Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, said he could support the increase only after an amendment to the Constitution is adopted mandating a balanced budget and he received assurance that this increase would be the last one.
And he insisted that the United States would not default on its obligations even if the debt ceiling is not raised, contending the interest on the debt could be paid with revenue as it comes in.
He left himself a little wiggle room, though, saying, “We haven’t yet determined what our strategy will be. The people of Kentucky elected me to shake things up. They didn’t elect me to raise the debt ceiling.”
George E. Condon Jr.