[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/18/art.boehner.cnn.jpg caption=" Bush and Cheney have struck different tones since exiting the White House."](CNN) - One day after President Obama challenged Republicans to offer their own budget proposals if they disagree with his own, House GOP leader John Boehner said his party is in the process of drafting an alternative budget.
"Mr. President, with all due respect: your budget spends too much, taxes too much, and borrows too much, and that's going to do further harm to our economy at a time when it desperately needs our help," Boehner says in a video message posted on YouTube Wednesday. "We believe there's a better way – better solutions to restore some fiscal sanity here in Washington while encouraging more job creation and more investment.
"Our alternative, which is being drafted as we speak by Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and others, will reflect core principles that should guide us as our nation works to emerge from this crisis stronger than ever."
Boehner also indicated the GOP budget proposal will include lower taxes for families and small business, cuts in federal spending, an expansion of affordable healthcare, and end to federal bailouts.
UPDATE: The Democratic National Committee has released a Web video criticizing Boehner's response.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/03/11/obama.earmarks/art.obama.grab.cnn.jpg caption="President Obama will travel to Mexico next month."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Obama announced Wednesday he will travel to Mexico next month to meet with President Felipe Calderon.
Obama last met with Calderon in January, but this is his first time he will visit the Mexican leader as President of the United States.
The president made the announcement during a session with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that the White House described as "robust and strategic meeting" on immigration. During the meeting, he told the lawmakers that he will discuss immigration reform with Calderon, and ways to end Mexico's drug-related violence.
This will be Obama's second international trip as president. He traveled to Canada last month.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/18/art.aig.gi.jpg caption=" Join the conversation on Jack's blog."]
As outrage over AIG bonuses reaches a fever pitch, many are now wondering why our leaders in Washington didn’t do more to prevent the situation in the first place. The Obama administration says that it didn’t know until a couple of weeks ago that AIG executives were set to receive $165 million in bonuses.
They say that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner found out last Tuesday; and the president learned of all this on Thursday, just a day before the controversial retention payments went through. But Geithner was running the New York Federal Reserve Bank last fall when AIG got a high-interest loan of 85 billion dollars to help prevent collapse — along with its first installment of federal bailout money.
And none of these folks must watch CNN because in late January, Mary Snow did a story on this very program about the insurance giant paying hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses to its financial products unit.
To read more and contribute to the Cafferty File discussion click here.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/11/art.getty.arlen.specter.jpg caption="Sen. Arlen Specter said he's staying a Republican."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter says he's staying a Republican - but said an independent run is "always something that could be a possibility."
"I'm staying a Republican because I think I have a more important role to play there," he told The Hill earlier this week. "I think the United States very desperately needs a two-party system. … And I'm afraid that we're becoming a one-party system, with Republicans becoming just a regional party."
The moderate senator was one of three Republicans to vote for the stimulus bill - a move, he later said, that put him in some "political peril."
A likely primary re-match from Club for Growth president Pat Toomey - coupled with recent surveys that showed him receiving far higher marks from Democrats than from GOP voters - has sparked speculation the vulnerable incumbent might bolt the party.
"It's pretty hard to run without a party," Specter told The Hill. "It's always something that could be a possibility. But then I wouldn't be in the Republican caucus - wouldn't have quite the standing as a Republican."
He said that if he decided to run as an Independent, he would continue to caucus with Republicans, just like Sen. Joe Lieberman, an Independent, votes along with Democrats.
But Specter would have a harder decision than Lieberman, decided to run as an Independent after losing the Democratic primary in 2006. Pennsylvania election laws force candidates to declare their party affiliation before the primary.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Defense Department will pay for families of fallen soldiers to travel to Dover Air Force Base to be present for the return of their deceased family member, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Wednesday.
The announcement comes as the Pentagon prepares to allow the media to record the return of fallen soldiers from overseas at Dover, if the families of the troops permit it.
The media has been prevented from doing so since 1989.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/04/art.terryvid0104.yt.jpg caption="McAuliffe is running a new ad on black radio stations in Virginia."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman now seeking the Virginia governorship, is running a new advertisement on black radio stations in the commonwealth tying himself to President Obama.
The 60-second spot, which began airing Tuesday in central and southeast Virginia on urban and gospel radio stations, says that McAuliffe fought to protect voting rights for African-Americans during his tenure at the DNC.
"Terry McAuliffe defended our rights and was the leader who brought us together and united the party," says a narrator in the ad. "And in 2008 our voices were heard when we elected our president, Barack Obama."
Another female voice chimes in, promising that McAuliffe "will bring those skills to Virginia, that's the kind of leader we need."
The ad, of course, does not mention McAuliffe's outspoken backing of Hillary Clinton before the 2008 Virginia Democratic primary - a contest Obama won with the support of 90 percent of the state's African-American voters.
The radio ad is McAuliffe's second to target black voters, who will almost certainly be a crucial constituency in the June Democratic primary. One of his Democratic rivals, former House member Brian Moran, also launched a radio spot in the Hampton Roads area in February.
The new ad suggests that, for the moment, the so-called "Obama brand" continues to carry weight up and down the ballot in both parties. On Tuesday, Republican Jim Tedisco, who is running for Congress in New York's 20th Congressional District, began airing a TV ad invoking the president's bipartisan rhetoric.
"Like the president says, in these difficult times, we're not Republicans or Democrats," Tedisco says in the ad. "We're Americans, and that's the team I'm on."
Post updated at 3:00 p.m. EST
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/18/art.getty.gates.troops.jpg caption="The military will use incentive programs to encourage extending service."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - The military will phase out its "stop-loss" program - the controversial practice of holding troops beyond their enlistment dates - for all but extraordinary situations, Defense Secretary Roberts Gates announced on Wednesday.
The military will use incentive programs to encourage extending service. Soldiers who have been extended already will get a monthly payment of $500, retroactive to the date Congress passed the law to pay them.
The stop-loss program was put into place to ensure that units deployed fully. Those whose enlistment dates were to end in the middle of their unit's deployment could have their tour prolonged.
Currently, the Army is the only service that uses the stop-loss program. As of January 2009, 13,217 soldiers had tours extended under the policy.
The Army also used the stop-loss policy during Operation Desert Shield, and after September 11.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/18/art.getty.barney.frank.jpg caption="On Wednesday's 'American Morning,' Rep. Barney Frank, who chairs the House Finance Committee, shared what was legally and legislatively within the government's power on recovering the AIG bonuses."](CNN) - As the tide of outrage over AIG bonuses continued unabated Wednesday, a congressional committee became the epicenter of the issue as Edward Liddy, CEO and chairman of the troubled insurer, prepared to answer questions about executive bonuses.
On Wednesday's "American Morning," Rep. Barney Frank, who chairs the House Finance Committee, shared what was legally and legislatively within the government's power on recovering the AIG bonuses and reforming the whole financial incentive system.
Kiran Chetry, CNN anchor: When he appears before your committee today, what type of assurances are you guys seeking from Mr. Liddy with regard to these bonuses?
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts: Well, I don't have a lot of confidence in Mr. Liddy's view at this point. When he said that first he couldn't get the money back because they had contractual rights but also that he was worried about not retaining them, it left me unconvinced he's really going to be trying.
CNN's Lisa Desjardins and John Lisk reveal what's ahead for AIG on Capitol Hill.
To subscribe to this podcast, go to cnn.com/podcast.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/20/art.rahm0120.gi.jpg caption="White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel met with veterans groups on Wednesday."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Leaders from 11 veterans groups were conferring Wednesday afternoon with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel on the Obama administration's plan to charge private insurers fortreatment of veterans' service-connected ailments.
Veterans' representatives and members of Congress have angrily opposed the proposal, which White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said is not finalized.
On Monday, the groups met with President Obama, Emanuel, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and Steven Kosiak, director in charge of defense spending for the Office of Management and Budget.
The administration sees the plan as a way of raising more than $500 million in revenues for the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, veterans groups see it is a violation of the government's moral obligation to treat veterans injured during service to their country.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/18/art.getty.money.jpg caption="Democratic leaders scrambling to strip AIG executives of bonuses are having a hard time answering a key question: Why didn't Congress act to prevent the bonuses in the first place."] WASHINGTON (CNN) - Democratic leaders scrambling to strip AIG executives of bonuses are having a hard time answering a key question: Why didn't Congress act to prevent the bonuses in the first place.
"There's always more we can do, and hindsight is 20/20," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Tuesday.
But though some lawmakers did move to prevent bonuses in the stimulus bill last month, the final language actually makes an exception for pre-existing contracts, effectively exempting AIG.
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Connecticut, who originally proposed the executive compensation provision, said he did not include the exemption clause, which said new rules "shall not be construed to prohibit any bonus payment required to be paid pursuant to a written employment contract executed on or before February 11, 2009."