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Jan. 6, 2013 at 5:00 PM
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McConnell says time to talk spending

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- The leader of the Republicans in the U.S. Senate said it was time to talk spending cuts, and lots of them.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in ABC's "This Week" that President Obama had gotten a tax deal from the GOP in the fiscal cliff crisis and now had to reciprocate with serious reductions in spending.

"Now it's time to pivot and turn to the real issue, which is our spending addiction," McConnell said. "And we ought to do it together now. We all know we've got to quit spending so much."

McConnell said the target would have to be "very popular entitlement programs" since that's where the money was. At the same time, he predicted, the continuing economic woes in the United States would make it possible for a divided Congress to reach an acceptable deal.

Speaking for the Democrats, freshman Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., told ABC the Republicans on Capitol Hill continued to issue ultimatums on fiscal policy even though the November re-election of Obama proved they had a weak hand that many American voters did not support.

"I think what we need to do is stop talking in ultimatums and start talking about how we resolve the issue, with a sense of urgency," said Heitkamp, who was elected in a state that went for Republican Mitt Romney in the presidential vote. "That's what the American people sent us here to do."

Pelosi: Defend Medicare, Social Security

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the Democrats were ready to defend Social Security and Medicare as the next round of budget debates looms in Congress.

Pelosi said on CBS "Face the Nation" she opposed raising the eligibility age of Medicare or the way Social Security benefits are calculated.

Pelosi said while the cost of social programs needed to be reduced, she had doubts the Republicans were interested in helping the middle class as they were looking for ways to reduce upper-income tax rates or benefit corporate benefactors.

"I really do not think that we should do anything to Social Security that reduces benefits to the beneficiaries," Pelosi told CBS. "I do think there are ways for us to strengthen Medicare and Social Security, but I think ... if you find savings in any initiative on Social Security, it should be poured back into Social Security to prolong its life. It should not be a cash cow to give tax breaks some place in the tax code and say we have to cover it by changing Social Security."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told CBS' Pelosi's seeming reluctance to move on the spending issue was disappointing and a reflection of President Obama's inability to face up to the difficult steps needed to save Medicare and other "popular" programs.

"If the president won't lead us here in the direction of reducing this massive spending addiction that we have, then we have to use whatever leverage we have," Pelosi said.

Obama signs Sandy aid bill

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama signed the $9.7 billion aid bill for victims of Superstorm Sandy, the White House said Sunday.

The measure temporarily increases Federal Emergency Management Agency's borrowing authority for the National Flood Insurance Program to pay out claims to those who have federal flood insurance.

The measure passed the House Friday on a 354-67 vote and the Senate approved the measure unanimously on a voice vote.

FEMA had said the insurance program likely would run out of money this week. Nearly 140,000 Sandy-related flood insurance claims have been filed, FEMA said, with most still not paid or not paid in full.

The House action came after Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was heavily criticized by Democrats and Republicans for not holding a vote on a Senate-passed $60 billion relief package earlier last week.

Indian forces cross into Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Pakistani officials say two men were killed after Indian troops crossed into Pakistan territory early Sunday, prompting an attack from Pakistani forces.

The Indian troops crossed the Line of Control the Bagh area of Pakistan and attacked a security checkpoint, Dawn News reported.

Two Pakistani soldiers were injured in the attack, one of whom later died during treatment. A Pakistani civilian was also killed during the attack and two others were injured.

Pakistani forces returned fire, resulting in the Indian forces pulling back.

Pakistani military officials said the Indian troops "physically raided" an army outpost, Voice of America reported. Indian military official said that contention was "baseless" and their troops only shot back after coming under fire from the Pakistan side of the border, the U.S. network said.

The two countries have fought three wars and there have been several violations since a cease-fire in the Kashmir region was reached in 2003. Pakistani Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told VOA, however, relations between the two nuclear powers have improved.

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