HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama promised today the initial drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan will be more than symbolic. The pullout is slated to begin this summer.
The president talked about it in his interview with the Associated Press.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I’m confident that the withdrawal will be significant; people will say this is a…
BARACK OBAMA: Well, that they will say this is a real process of transition. This is not just a token gesture.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The president said he will wait to hear from Gen. David Petraeus, who is overseeing the mission, before discussing actual numbers.
The U.S. House today approved the Republican budget plan for next year.
NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman reports.
KWAME HOLMAN: The Republican outline was approved almost entirely along party lines, 235-193, and starkly highlighted the partisan divide over spending, taxes and deficits likely to dominate the political debate until the 2012 election.
REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis., Budget Committee chairman: This is the most predictable economic crisis we have ever had in the history of this country, and yet we have a president who is unwilling to lead.
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, D-Md.: We don’t think it’s fair to raise taxes on middle-income Americans to pay for additional tax breaks for the folks at the very top. Yet, those — those are the choices that are made in the Republican budget. Where is the shared sacrifice?
KWAME HOLMAN: The Republican plan calls for $5.8 trillion in spending cuts from current levels, spread over the next 10 years. The sharpest debate was on the proposal that Medicare help seniors buy private insurance instead of paying doctors directly.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif., House minority leader: I want to say to my Republican colleagues, do you realize that your leadership is asking you to cast a vote today to abolish Medicare as we know it? Because that is the vote that we have.
REP. ERIC CANTOR, R-Va., House majority leader: The Congressional Budget Office acknowledges that, if we don’t take action, these important safety net programs will go broke. We cannot afford to ignore this oncoming fiscal train wreck any longer.
MAN: The chair notes a disturbance in the gallery.
KWAME HOLMAN: The House was disrupted briefly by protesters, and a dozen people were arrested. President Obama again today cited his own deep disagreement with Republican plans on spending, but in his AP interview, said he wants a smart compromise that’s serious.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Consumer prices rose last month, due mostly to food and gas. But, otherwise, the Labor Department said today inflation was up just a tenth-of-a-percent.
The news helped Wall Street chalk up slight gains. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 56 points to close above 12,341. The Nasdaq rose four points to close at 2,764. For the week, both the Dow and the Nasdaq lost a fraction of one percent.
Severe storms and tornadoes struck across Oklahoma and Arkansas overnight. At least nine people were killed, including two children. One of the hardest-hit towns was Tushka in southeastern Oklahoma, where two sisters in their 70s died. A tornado strike there late Thursday caused widespread damage, including the destruction of the town’s school. Witnesses reported seeing two twisters that merged to form a single storm.
The operator of that crippled nuclear power plant in Japan will soon compensate those forced to flee the area. Tokyo Electric Power Company announced today it plans to pay an initial $12,000 to each affected family. Some 48,000 households will be eligible. The company also said it may resort to pay cuts and layoffs to help cover its costs.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.