(CNN) Washington - On President Barack Obama’s last day of a troubled vacation, politicians criticized his leadership and called for action in the growing threat of terrorist group ISIS.
“The President has got to come forward with a cohesive, comprehensive strategy, not only in Iraq, but also in Ukraine, also in other parts of the world. This is an administration - which the kindest word I can use is feckless - where they have not outlined a role that the United States of America has to play, and that’s a leadership role,” Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
In the wake of the beheading of American journalist James Foley, administration officials made clear that they are shifting from defensive operations against ISIS in Iraq to weighing an attack on ISIS where they are strongest, in Syria. But politicians on both sides of the aisle are impatient for the President to construct a plan and consult with Congress on what many see as an imminent threat from ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State and is called ISIL by some U.S. government officials.
Washington (CNN) - Two bipartisan senators on Tuesday introduced pared-down legislation to provide benefits for the long-term unemployed that they hope will be more attractive to House Republicans who have shown little interest in a previous more generous bill sponsored by the two.
Unlike their earlier legislation, which passed the Senate in April, this measure will not pay benefits retroactively to the estimated 3.1 million people whose benefits have run out since the program expired at the end of December. Instead, it will offer up to five months of benefits from the enactment date depending on how many weeks of eligibility an individual had left in the program before it lapsed.
Washington (CNN) - A top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee urged the Obama administration against taking unilateral military action in Syria, in part because of how it would look in the international community.
Sen. Jack Reed said Monday on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer" that unilateral action would be "a mistake" and that with a coalition the "political pressure would be sufficient" to pressure the Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad. Potential partners could include Great Britain, France and Turkey, he said.
(CNN) - Now that Chuck Hagel has been nominated for defense secretary, the former Republican senator from Nebraska faces what many expect to be an uphill battle for confirmation in the Senate.
Hagel took quite a pounding from some senators and independent groups on both sides of the aisle in the days before last week's announcement, with many of them taking issue with some of Hagel's positions and comments dealing with Iran, Iraq and Israel in particular.
Washington (CNN) - Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on Sunday condemned President Obama’s leadership over the situation in Libya, calling on the United States to “get rid of” Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
“We used to relish leading the free world, now it’s almost like leading the free world is an inconvenience,” Graham said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I think the president has caveated this way too much, it’s almost like it’s a nuisance.”
“This is not a conventional war,” Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. “There are different geographical areas that we’re fighting this war in and there are political issues that are far-and-away the most difficult that we’ve encountered probably in any conflict we’ve ever been in.”
The Georgia lawmaker added, “You have the most corrupt government that we’ve ever dealt with from a conflict standpoint. And until you provide some stability and some confidence in the Afghan people about the way forward from a governing standpoint, then I think . . . we could win militarily and still have a very ugly victory.”
Another Armed Services Committee member, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., largely agreed with Chambliss’ assessment.
Washington (CNN) – Just days before President Obama is expected to announce his plan to send tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, the Ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Sunday that the Afghan government currently is not a reliable partner in the American effort to build up Afghan security forces.
After Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar mentioned an ambitious plan to train 134,000 Afghan security forces in a year, which is expected to be part of President Obama’s larger Afghan strategy rolled out to the nation Tuesday evening, CNN Chief National Correspondent John King asked Lugar whether the Afghan government is up to the task of meeting the demands the Obama administration is expected to place on Kabul.
“Do you trust the other side of the equation?,” King asked Lugar on State of the Union. Do we have a reliable partner in the Afghan government?’
“For the moment, we don't have a reliable partner,” Lugar bluntly replied. “If the training occurs, will the government really take hold? We don't know, frankly,” Lugar also said Sunday.
Democratic Sen. Jack Reed, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Sunday that concerns about the administration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai should not impede President Obama’s reported plan to send roughly 30,000 additional U.S. troops to the war torn country.
Washington (CNN) – The Ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Sunday that the Senate should set aside the impending debate on the health care reform bill and, instead, use the remainder of the year to focus on the appropriate strategy for the Afghanistan war, funding the war, and passing the appropriations bill necessary to keep the federal government running.
“I would just make this suggestion,” Republican Sen. Richard Lugar said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, “that in the three weeks of debate we still have ahead of us, we really ought to concentrate in the Congress on the war, on the overall strategy of our country and the cost of it. And we ought to be on the budget - passing appropriations bills in a proper way. . . . We may wish to discuss higher taxes to pay for [the war]. But we're not going to do that debating health care in the Senate for three weeks through all sorts of strategies and so forth.”
“The war is terribly important,” Lugar continued, “Jobs and our economy are terribly important. So this may be an audacious suggestion, but I would suggest we put aside the health care debate until next year, the same way we put cap and trade and climate change [aside] and talk now about the essentials: the war and money.”
Democratic Sen. Jack Reed, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, disagreed with Lugar.
“Absolutely not,” Reed replied when asked by CNN Chief National Correspondent John King whether the Senate put off debate on the health care reform bill until 2010.
Sens. Richard Lugar and Jack Reed discussed Afghanistan on Sunday's State of the Union. (Photo Credit: CNN)
(CNN) - Still no word on whether Defense Secretary Robert Gates is being asked to stay on the job by the president-elect or whether he would stay if asked. But he makes CNN’s Short List of possible contenders for the cabinet position. Following Lincoln’s model, Obama is open to a bipartisan cabinet, and Gates isn’t the only Republican that makes our list:
ROBERT GATES: He had his first substantive meeting with members of President-elect Barack Obama's transition team Thursday to discuss key issues the new administration will face as it comes into office.
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL: The Republican did not seek re-election to the U.S. Senate in the recent election. Over the course of the Iraq war, Hagel has emerged as a critic of the Bush administration.
SEN. JACK REED: The Rhode Island Democrat serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and was mentioned as a possible running mate for Obama.
Click here for additional CNN short lists for Obama’s potential cabinet.