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Since Congress went on its spring recess, after approving two budget versions, there has been "nobody to watch the store" in Washington, D.C., except bureaucrats and congressional staff. While President Obama traveled abroad to the G-20 and elsewhere, ending in Turkey, how did things go? What went on as the week began?
Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates is openly seeking sweeping changes in the way the DoD spends its vast sums of money. According to Reuters, the defense plan kills programs and trims the missile shield. And Congress has already started to weigh in: a bipartisan group of Senators dashed off an upset letter to the President. It could be a very big fight. The proposed budget, to quote from the Washington Post,
. . . would shift billions of dollars in Pentagon spending away from elaborate weapons toward programs more likely to benefit troops in today's wars.
. . . In unveiling his new priorities for the Pentagon, Gates acknowledged that he would probably face opposition from lawmakers eager to protect jobs in their districts. "My hope is that members of Congress will rise above parochial interests and consider what is in the best interest of the nation as a whole," he said.
Congress is still in the throes of several unsettled elections. Illinois voters will vote Tuesday to fill White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel's vacant House seat. And officials in New York's 20th District can begin an immediate count of absentee ballots already on hand in the election between Jim Tedesco-R and Scott Murphy-D for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's vacant House seat. Who knows when the Minnesota Senate race will be over?
President Obama, while in Muslim Turkey, took the occasion to visit a mosque and to hold a town hall meeting with students and to talk extensively about the Israeli/Palestinian peace process. The President's plane departed from Istanbul, Turkey at 2:30 PM, local time.
UPDATE: President Obama made an unscheduled stop in Baghdad, Iraq, on his way home, Karen Tumulty reports for Newsweek. Because of bad weather that prohibited helicopter flight, he had to talk with Iraqi leaders by phone rather than in person. Tumulty concluded,
He will meet with Gen. Odierno at Camp Victory (motorcade there); meet with troops there and participate in awarding of 10 medals of valor; call Talibani and Maliki; and depart. "He will speak with PM Maliki and P Talibani by phone because commanders on the ground determined weather prevents helicopter trave[l]," he said.
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