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News Wrap: House Budget Committee Begins Debate on GOP Proposal

April 6, 2011 at 6:12 PM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: The House Budget Committee began its markup of a GOP proposal to slash nearly $6 trillion in spending over the next 10 years.

The committee chair, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, unveiled the plan yesterday. It would restructure Medicare and other federal health-care programs, as well as reduce total spending. Ryan said sky-high deficits made the cuts vital.

Democrat Bill Pascrell of New Jersey denounced it as an attack on health programs for retirees and the poor.

REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis., Budget Committee chairman: Let’s get through this partisanship, and let’s get on to the business of saving this country and getting this debt paid off while we can still do it on our terms. The reforms in this plan are gradual. They’re sensible.

This is something we can preempt. This is something we can stop. We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to our children and grandchildren, we owe it to our fellow countrymen to get this debt under control.

REP. BILL PASCRELL JR., D-N.J.: I think that your budget needs a GPS, because it is a road map into the woods, and we’re not going to be able to get out. We believe in providing health-care security for more than just the next decade. And we reject the nation that we can balance the budget by privatizing our safety net for seniors, the poor and the disabled.

HARI SREENIVASAN: An analysis by the Congressional Budget Office found under the plan most future retirees would actually pay more for health care. The nonpartisan agency said, when people now 54 and under retire, they would enroll in a voucher-like plan to buy private insurance. And it noted the Medicare benefits package is more expensive to deliver through private insurers.

Opposition forces in the Ivory Coast moved in on the man who will not leave office. But the fighters were repelled by heavy arms fire coming from behind the gates of Laurent Gbagbo’s residence in Abidjan. Gbagbo refuses to cede power, despite losing last November’s election to Alassane Ouattara.

We have a report narrated by Rohit Kachroo of Independent Television News.

ROHIT KACHROO: The distant evidence of an assault aimed at removing Laurent Gbagbo — as it began, rebel leaders said they were going in to end the comedy. Then they stormed the luxurious compound where he’s been hiding.

Gbagbo played the commander-in-chief for state TV cameras. Today, he’s cornered at his home in an underground bunker, but still refusing to leave. U.N. strikes forced him close to surrender, but he switched to defiance.

LAURENT GBAGBO, former Ivory Coast president (through translator): I love life. I love life. My voice is not the voice of a martyr. I do not seek death. It’s not my goal here to die.

ROHIT KACHROO: Today, his wife emerged and showed that he still has some support in this divided country.

SIMONE GBAGBO, wife of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo
(through translator): God is leading our fight. God has already given us the victory.


ROHIT KACHROO: But her husband lost the election. It’s his former citizens who’ve lost the most, though, desperate for food and for a solution. Aid agencies report a growing refugee crisis. Others fear revenge killings after Gbagbo goes.

HARI SREENIVASAN: French military officials said their forces were not taking part in today’s offensive. French troops are backing up U.N. peacekeepers in Ivory Coast to protect civilians.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has sent a personal letter to President Obama, calling for an end to airstrikes on his country. The three-page letter written in English was obtained by the Associated Press.

In it, Gadhafi writes that “NATO is waging an unjust war against a small people of a developing country.”

In Washington, with the Italian foreign minister, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said there’s no mystery about what the U.S. expects from Gadhafi.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Mr. Gadhafi knows what he must do. There needs to be a cease-fire. His forces need to withdraw from the cities that they have forcibly taken at great violence and human cost. There needs to be a decision made about his departure from power and, as the foreign minister said, his departure from Libya.

HARI SREENIVASAN: A boat that set sail from Libya loaded with 300 migrants has capsized in the Mediterranean. It overturned in rough seas off the coast of a tiny Italian island near North Africa. Rescue crews were battling strong winds in their search for survivors. Fifty-one of the migrants were rescued and brought ashore. Thousands of people have fled to Italy to escape the recent unrest in their home countries.

Unrest in the Middle East continued for another day. Thousands of protesters in Yemen defied a government crackdown and took to the streets of Sanaa to demand president Ali Abdullah Saleh step down. Major rallies were also held in the southern city of Taiz.

Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates traveled to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for talks on the spreading unrest in the region.

Japanese engineers turned their focus today to preventing new explosions at the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. They began injecting nitrogen near the reactor to prevent more hydrogen explosions, like the ones that happened after a tsunami hit last month.

That came as The New York Times reported the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission sees a host of new threats at the plant, including explosions and growing stresses on containment structures.

Portugal has become the third Eurozone country to request an international financial bailout. The prime minister said the country needs the extra help to tackle skyrocketing debts, amid recent political instability. He said the fact that Parliament rejected austerity measures last month made the request for aid inevitable. Greece and Ireland have already asked for financial assistance.

On Wall Street, stocks closed higher today, as the Dow neared a three-year high. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 32 points to close at 12,426. The Nasdaq rose eight points to close above 2,799.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.