ISLAMABAD (AP) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Pakistani leaders Monday that if they don't resolve protests stalling some military shipments across the border with Afghanistan, it could be difficult to maintain political support in Washington for an aid program that has sent billions of dollars to Islamabad, defense officials said.
By Steve Holland ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (Reuters) - President Barack Obama embarked on a three-day trip on Monday with former President George W. Bush, leading a U.S. contingent to attend a memorial service in South Africa for the late Nelson Mandela. On board Air Force One for a flight estimated at 16 hours were Obama and his wife, Michelle, Bush and his wife, Laura, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Flying separately to Johannesburg were former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
By Caren Bohan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Senator Rand Paul said on Sunday he is giving serious thought to a run for the presidency in 2016 but might decide against it because of the burden a campaign would cause for his family. "But I'm also very serious about the family considerations." Paul, a favorite of the conservative Tea Party movement, said politics had become "uncivil" and that sometimes "you have a good week" and other times "the haters and the hacks go after you." Paul indicated on Friday that his wife disliked the idea of a presidential run, ABC News reported. When asked after a speech in Detroit whether he would run, Paul replied, "Where's my cellphone? My wife has both of them, and both of them are 'no' votes right now," Paul said, according to ABC.
By Caren Bohan and Aruna Viswanatha WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A senior Democrat said on Sunday he hoped an emerging deal on the U.S. budget would include an extension of unemployment benefits but added that his party would not necessarily walk away from an agreement that left it out. "I don't think we've reached that point where we've said, ‘This is it, take it or leave it,'" Senator Richard Durbin told the ABC program "This Week," when pressed on whether his party would insist on including jobless aid in a final deal. Durbin, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, said that based on what he has heard from Senator Patty Murray, the lead Democratic negotiator on the budget, the fiscal talks are making progress and moving in the right direction. The House of Representatives and Senate budget panel, created after the government shutdown in October, is discussing a two-year accord that would ease the impact of across-the-board spending cuts known as the "sequester" and lower the near-term risk of another damaging fiscal showdown.
By David Lawder and Richard Cowan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A minimalist U.S. budget deal that congressional negotiators hope to reach in coming days will do almost nothing to tame rising federal debt, but it could usher in a nearly two-year fiscal truce, minimizing the risk of future funding crises and government shutdowns. If the accord comes together, it would blunt some of the automatic "sequester" spending cuts and set funding levels at around $1 trillion for fiscal 2014 and 2015 for government agencies and programs from the military to national parks. However, it might restore some order to the federal budget process, which broke down years ago and has been replaced by stopgap funding measures, accompanied by brinkmanship and shut-down risks. "If this holds together, it is a very good story," said Greg Valliere, chief political strategist at Potomac Research Group, which advises institutional investors.