Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on Wednesday told a crowd at Howard University in Washington, D.C. that the Republican Party has not done enough to promote that it cares about environmental protections. "We can do a better job," Paul said.
Paul then cited the Clean Water Act, which he said was created with good intentions but has been taken too far and can now be used to infringe on personal rights.
"We need to do a better job saying we believe in a clean environment, that we do believe in rules," Paul said. "But that the balance has shifted too far, and we're now abusing property rights and abusing farmers and small property owners, and we need to shift the balance back. And that if you shift the balance of regulations too strongly, you lose jobs."
Unveiling his budget proposal Wednesday at the White House, President Obama said entitlement reforms must be met with reforms to the tax code, including closing loopholes that benefit the wealthy.
"If you're serious about deficit reduction, then there's no excuse to keep these loopholes open," Obama said in the White House's Rose Garden. "They don't serve an economic purpose, they don't grow our economy, they don't put people back to work. All they do is to allow folks who are already well-off and well-connected game the system."
Obama added, "If anyone thinks I'll finish the job of deficit reduction on the backs of middle-class families or through spending cuts alone that actually hurt our economy short-term, they should think again. When it comes to deficit reduction, I have already met Republicans more than halfway, so in the coming days and weeks I hope that Republicans will come forward and demonstrate that they're really as serious, as serious about the deficits and debt as they claim to be."
Unveiling his budget proposal Wednesday at the White House, President Obama said the U.S. economy is "poised for progress" -- as long as Washington doesn't get in the way.
"Frankly, the American people deserve better than what we have been seeing, a shortsighted, crisis-driven decision making, like the reckless across-the-board spending cuts that are hurting a lot of communities out there, cuts that will cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs during the course of this year," Obama said, according to a rush transcript.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on Wednesday told reporters that the House will review gun control legislation produced in the Senate. "It's important for the Senate to do its work," Boehner said, adding that if legislation passes, "we'll be happy to review it."
Boehner's remarks come as a deal has reportedly been reached between Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) to expand background checks. The two senators are scheduled to unveil their progress at 11 a.m. ET Wednesday at a press conference on Capitol Hill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has scheduled a preliminary vote on gun control measures for Thursday. "It'd be a real slap in the face to American people not to do something on background checks, on school safety, on federal trafficking," Reid told reporters on Tuesday. "The American people deserve a vote."
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) told MSNBC on Wednesday that he hasn't been interviewed by the FBI or a grand jury, which is reportedly investigating the senator's work on behalf of Salomon Melgen, a wealthy campaign donor and friend.
"And the reality is, is look, we welcome any review by any entity," Menendez said. "Because at the end of the day, we know that review will prove that we have acted appropriately at all times. What we don't know in this process is who was behind the money and the smears that they tried to level. We do know that there were people behind it. We do know that Republican operatives were at play, by a whole host of press accounts. We'd love to know who was behind that."
MSNBC host Chuck Todd pressed Menendez on his relationship with Melgen and asked if he can say with certainty that he never advocated on behalf of his friend beyond what he would do for any other constituent.
"We have all types of constituents, both in New Jersey and from across the country, who bring us issues," Menendez said. "And we look at those issues, we make a determination as to whether or not those issues have legitimacy, and then we make a decision to pursue it ourselves if we think the issue has legitimacy. And in this case, as in every other case, that's the road that we followed. It's the same road for everyone. And as I say, I'm, you know, happy to see our actions reviewed, because, at the end of the day, they were totally appropriate."
The FBI has probed Menendez's dealings with Melgen over a port security contract in the Dominican Republic, according to the Washington Post. In a recent interview with Bloomberg News, Melgen acknowledged that he has discussed the port security contract with Menendez, adding that there was no foul play.
The Post also reported that the FBI has investigated allegations that Menendez solicited prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. Menendez has denied the allegations, and the Post's report, published in mid-February, said there was no evidence to support the claims.
Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) have reportedly reached a deal on background checks for gun sales, and the two senators are scheduled to hold a press conference at 11 a.m. ET Wednesday to announce their progress.
The Associated Press reported that the senators' deal would close the gun show loophole and expand background checks for online sales, but not for face-to-face transactions.
First lady Michelle Obama is scheduled to deliver a speech on youth violence Wednesday in Chicago, CBS News reported.
"First Lady Michelle Obama will return to her hometown to address local business and community leaders about providing more opportunities for young people to achieve their full potential," the White House said in a statement, according to NBC News.
Obama is expected to join Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at a lunch with business leaders, where she will make her pitch to increase investment in youth opportunities, according to NBC's report. After the lunch, Obama will meet with students from Harper High School, a school that has seen 29 of its current or former students shot in the last year, according to CBS.
House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI), the architect of the House GOP's budget, said on Wednesday that he fears President Obama's budget will maintain the status quo.
"The status quo's not working too well," Ryan said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "We have massive deficits, a crushing debt, a slow economy, high poverty rates. So is he going to break the status quo? Is he going to take on real entitlement reform? Is he going to kick start true negotiations? That's the question that is open in my mind. I don't hear much of that, though, so my fear, based on what I now know and what I've heard, is that it's more of a status quo budget."
But Ryan resisted going after Obama's proposal too aggressively before he has seen all the details.
"The good news in all this, and I want to be constructive here, is at least we've got everybody putting a plan on the table," Ryan added. "We haven't had that for four years. So now the Senate has given us a budget. Don't like the budget. They don't like ours. That's fine. And at least the President, two months late, is putting his budget on the table. So now we're going to have to start looking for where the common ground exists."
The President's budget does embrace changes to entitlement benefits, including adopting Chained CPI. Obama is scheduled to discuss his budget proposal at 11 a.m. ET Wednesday at the White House.