- - Wednesday, January 26, 2011

PENTAGON

Officials defend proposed cuts

Top Pentagon officials are defending Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates‘ proposed multibillion-dollar cuts in military spending amid competing congressional demands for both more reductions and sparing weapons programs.

Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn said the budget proposal strikes the right balance. Mr. Gates has called for cuts of $78 billion. The military budget would still be $553 billion in the next fiscal year, close to double what the military got in 2001. And the amount doesn’t include funds for the war in Afghanistan and reduced operations in Iraq.

Mr. Lynn faced members of the House Armed Services Committee, including Republican Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon of California, who expressed concern about proposals that might jeopardize the military. Specifically, lawmakers are concerned with Mr. Gates‘ plan to cancel the Marine Corps’ $12 billion Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.

MEDICARE

Official doubts law savings

A leading expert on Medicare says two of the central promises of President Obama’s health care overhaul law are unlikely to be fulfilled.

Medicare’s independent economic expert told Congress on Wednesday that the landmark legislation probably won’t hold costs down, and it won’t let everybody keep their current health insurance if they like it. Chief Actuary Richard Foster, whose office is responsible for independent long-range cost estimates, made the comments to the House Budget Committee.

Mr. Foster’s assessment came a day after Mr. Obama in his State of the Union message told lawmakers that he’s open to improvements in the law, but unwilling to rehash the health care debate of the past two years. Republicans want to repeal the landmark.

SENATE

Thune candidacy OK with McConnell

The Senate Republican leader is encouraging Sen. John Thune’s potential White House bid but is stopping short of an endorsement.

Sen. Mitch McConnell said Wednesday he hopes the South Dakota lawmaker will run for president in 2012. When asked on MSNBC whether he was endorsing his colleague, Mr. McConnell of Kentucky laughed and said he didn’t want to give Mr. Thune that handicap.

Mr. Thune is among more than a dozen names mentioned as a potential challenger for President Obama. Mr. Thune said he hasn’t yet made a decision but told ABC News that “the clock is ticking.”

Story Continues →