Israel watching Syria chemical weapons
WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- The Israeli ambassador to the United States said Sunday his country had drawn a "red line" against Syrian chemical weapons falling into the wrong hands.
Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Ambassador Michael Oren said that while Syrian President Bashar Assad was "reckless and irresponsible and ruthless," a bigger threat to regional stability would be allowing al-Qaida and its ilk to get their hands on Assad's chemical weapons arsenal.
"Can you imagine if Hezbollah, with its 70,000 rockets, got its hands on chemical weapons that could kill thousands of people," Oren said.
The ambassador declined to comment on media reports Israeli intelligence had agents inside Syria monitoring the chemical-weapons situation. He said, however, Israel was aware of what was going on and had drawn a "red line" in terms of weapons falling into the wrong hands.
"The jihadist presence is big and getting bigger," Oren said. "And the longer the conflict goes on there, the bigger it will get."
GOP whip says Obama wants more spending
WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- A top House Republican insisted the Obama administration's goal in the fiscal cliff talks was to get more money for spending rather than deficit reduction.
Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., contended the White House's insistence on higher taxes for wealthy Americans was accompanied by plans to actually increase government spending at a time when major cuts were vital.
"We have spent all this time talking about revenue, but as we watched, our government continued to spend more," McCarthy said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." "This is really about spending."
McCarthy accused Obama of ignoring constructive ideas from the Republicans and banking on post-election campaigning in order to build public support for his approach.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., countered the Democrats had already agreed to significant spending cuts, and said U.S. voters indeed agreed with the president's approach, particularly in terms of taxes for upper-income Americans. "The American people spoke on this issue in the election. I'd say to House Speaker (John) Boehner and Congressman McCarthy, listen to what the American people said in the election."
Bowles, Simpson: Cliff talks degenerating
WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- The namesakes of the Simpson-Bowles Commission Sunday chided all sides in the seeming stalemate over the U.S. fiscal cliff.
Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles said on CBS' "Face the Nation" failure to put together a comprehensive deal on taxes and spending by the end of the month would derail the U.S. economy and deliver a severe blow to financial markets and the middle class.
"I think it would be disastrous for the country," said Bowles, who was White House chief of staff for President Clinton. "You can look at the forecast that we have; economic growth would slow by 4 percent. That, by definition, puts you back into recession when you're only growing by 2 percent. About 2 million people would lose their jobs. Unemployment would go to 9 percent."
Simpson, a former Republican U.S. senator, said he was disturbed by the degeneration of the debate into pure political calculations over which party would benefit the most by allowing the nation to plunge over the cliff. "There is something terribly bizarre and juvenile about that to think your party comes ahead of your country," he said.
Both men urged Americans, especially the younger generation, to make their views known in Washington before they are drowned out by special interest groups that will be dominating the media to protect their interests.
"Everybody is in the game," Simpson said. "We'll be savaged this next month with full-page ads."
The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform was founded in 2010 by President Obama to make recommendations to improve U.S. fiscal policy.
Senators debate extent of Medicare cuts
WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- A Republican U.S. senator said Sunday the pain of pending cuts to Medicare and other entitlement programs would be widespread.
Sen. Tim Coburn, R-Okla., said the only way to save Medicare would be to ensure there were sweeping reforms that included more "individual participation."
"The way to fix it is to control the costs," Coburn said on ABC's "This Week." "And the way to control the cost is to have more individual participation."
Coburn dismissed the idea that some segments of the Medicare community, as well as Medicaid and Social Security, could be spared. "Everybody in this country will have to participate in some discomfort if we're going to get out of this hole," he said.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., countered the GOP's glum outlook was based on their insistence that their wealthy supporters be protected from tax increases. "The only thing I hear, the only thing we see is middle-class families being asked over and over again to be the ones who have the burden in solving this problem," she said.