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Posted at 12:39 PM ET, 03/13/2011

The aftermath in Japan, Gov. Mitch Daniels on 2012 and the budget battle in Congress (Sunday Talk)

By Felicia Sonmez and Emi Kolawole

The aftermath of the earthquake in Japan dominated Sunday talk. Other topics included the continuing battle over the federal budget on Capitol Hill, and the victory scored by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R). Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist and Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-Ind.) also discussed the still-evolving Republican 2012 presidential field.

The Sunday Talk Shows:

- CNN: Japanese amb. tsunami warning system: 'There could always be improvement'
- FOX: McConnell: 'We ought to concentrate on helping the Japanese get past this catastrophe'
- ABC: Nuclear expert: 'This is already one of the worst nuclear accidents in history'
- CBS: Lieberman: U.S. should "put the brakes" on nuclear power plants for time being
- C-SPAN: Grover Norquist on the 2012 race: 'Watch the governors'
- NBC: Mitch Daniels says he supports Lugar for Senate


Japanese ambassador on nation's tsunami warning system: 'There could always be improvement'

Japanese Ambassador to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki defended Japan's tsunami warning system but acknowledged that improvements could always be made. "The warning system is better than any country, but there could always be improvement," Fujisaki said.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said that he expects the latest stopgap government funding measure introduced in the House on Friday to pass in both chambers by the end of the week. "I hope that the Republican leadership in the House will see this as a signal of good faith," he said. "We're in a position now where we need to sit down and reasonably come to a conclusion so that we can get about the business of governing this country." Durbin defended Obama's leadership on the budget talks, insisting that "the president is working behind the scenes." Durbin also reiterated his support for drawing on the nation's oil reserves to mitigate rising oil prices. "I'm worried that if we don't use the reserve that our economic recovery will stall and fall backwards," he said.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) pointed the finger at Democrats over the continued need for stopgap measures. "When you ask what can Republicans do, the House has put its proposed budget for the rest of the year," Kyl said. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) laid the blame at the feet of Vice President Joe Biden who McCarthy said had only limited meetings with Republicans. "Look, we're not going to shut down the government," McCarthy said. "We want the Democrats to step up. You can't negotiate with yourself."

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McConnell: 'We ought to concentrate on helping the Japanese get past this catastrophe'

Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear policy expert and president of the Ploughshares Fund, said that the current situation in Japan is "an unprecedented crisis" and said that the worst-case scenario would be that the fuel rods in the reactors fuse together and spew radioactivity into the water, ground and air, potentially reaching the U.S. Cirincione also said that the next 12 to 24 hours is a "key period" that will determine the extent of the catastrophe.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to say whether he thought the earthquake and tsunami in Japan will have an impact on U.S. policy. "We ought not to make American and domestic policy based upon an event that happened in Japan, and we ought to concentrate on helping the Japanese get past this catastrophe," McConnell said. On keeping the government funded, McConnell said that "we're on a path, a slow path, but a path nevertheless" to reach the $61 billion in spending cuts that House Republicans have proposed. He said that the short-term spending plan introduced in the House on Friday "should pass and will pass." On the issue of policy riders, McConnell noted that they're "always controversial" but said that "this will all be worked out in some kind of negotiating process going forward." McConnell also said that when a group of Republican senators recently declared they will oppose any bill that doesn't cut spending, the statement didn't mean that they would block measures, but rather they will offer amendments on cutting spending to unrelated bills. "My prediction is not a single one of the 47 Republicans will vote to raise the debt ceiling unless it includes with it some credible effort to do something about our debt," he said. He also criticized Obama on drilling, arguing that "there's been a conscious effort to make it difficult to drill in this country." On Libya, McConnell said it's "noteworthy" that the Arab League has called for a no-fly zone but declined to state his own opinion. "I think we ought to continue to monitor the situation," he said, adding that administration officials are "on top of this."

Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) discussed the ongoing "Gang of Six" negotiations on lowering the deficit. Chambliss said that everything must be on the table, including raising taxes, otherwise the U.S. will become a "second-tier nation." Warner said that it's necessary to consider entitlement reform because "every day that we punt, every day that we don't act, we add $4 billion to our national debt." Asked about linking any longer-term deficit reduction plan to a debt ceiling vote, Warner said, "I think we want to make sure we get it right more than some arbitrary timeline" but added that if it doesn't happen before next year, the presidential election could mean it would be punted to 2013.

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Nuclear expert: 'This is already one of the worst nuclear accidents in history'

Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear policy expert and president of the Ploughshares Fund, discussed the tragedy in Japan. "This is already one of the worst nuclear accidents in history if it stops right now," Cirincione said. He noted that nuclear reactors are built to endure multiple crises, "but it's very hard to build a facility that can withstand this." He also said that exposure to radiation at the reactor sites "could be fatal" to workers scrambling to get the situation under control.

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Lieberman: U.S. should 'put the brakes' on nuclear power plants for time being

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said he's been a "big supporter" of nuclear power and notes that the U.S. has "got a good safety record." But he said the recent tragedy in Japan should give the U.S. pause. "I think it calls on us here in the U.S. naturally not to stop building nuclear power plants but to put the brakes on right now until we understand the ramifications of what's happened in Japan," Lieberman said. He also said that he spoke with FEMA Director Craig Fugate Sunday morning and that Fugate is worried not about government preparedness but about the readiness of individual Americans. "The government is ready, about as ready as we can be," Lieberman said. "But what to do in the case of a disaster -- and go to the FEMA Web site because, if you live particularly near the coast, you have to have an evacuation plan. You have to have emergency supplies so you'll be safe to respond to a disaster."

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Grover Norquist on the 2012 race: 'Watch the governors'

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist discussed the ongoing budget battles both nationally and in individual states. "The country's going to move in two very different directions state-by-state," said Norquist, warning that Democrats may use tax increases as a bargaining chip for further budget cuts. Norquist also said that while he supported the House amendment defunding Planned Parenthood, he did not support the addition of the amendment to an already agreed-upon deal.

Asked whether he would lend his support to any of the potential 2012 presidential candidates, Norquist declined to offer a single name. "Watch the governors," Norquist said. He did give a list of candidates he believed could rise as "dark horse" candidates, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who just this week claimed victory in a dispute with state worker unions over his proposal to strip those unions of their bargaining rights.

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Daniels says he supports Lugar for Senate

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), who is contemplating a run for president, was asked to speak to his tenure as director of the White House Office of Management and Budget under president George W. Bush. "You probably think I'm paying more attention to this than I am,"
said Daniels. Republicans "don't need any advice from me," he added. Asked about the protests in Wisconsin against the now-signed measure that would strip unionized state workers of collective bargaining rights, Daniels said he had "no way of knowing" whether Walker had won the political fight.

Daniels was also called on to respond to criticism from fellow conservatives over his call for a truce on social issues. "I don't sit around calculating the political pluses and minuses of every little word I utter," said Daniels. "However ... it comes to this: are you more committed to results or to rhetoric?" Asked whether he would stick to his gubernatorial campaign commitment not to run for elected office again, Daniels said he wasn't sure. He also did not commit to an announcement timetable, saying "I still think there's time." Daniels also expressed his support for Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), although he did not commit to appear on his behalf on the campaign trail.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he was "optimistic" that lawmakers could reach an agreement on a permanent funding solution for the government in fiscal 2011. "I think we're united in one thing: we should make significant cuts, but we can't cut into our seed corn," Schumer said. He did not say directly whether he would support another short-term budget measure, but emphasized that he would prefer to pass a long-term budget. On Libya, Schumer said that the Arab League's decision to support a no-fly zone over the country "makes a no-fly zone more likely," and that Congress "should defer to the commander in chief on short term" decisions like this.

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By Felicia Sonmez and Emi Kolawole  | March 13, 2011; 12:39 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency, Sunday Talkies  
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