Former Secretary of Defense and CIA director Leon Panetta urged a bitterly divided Congress to fund the government until mid-December — and then hold a summit on contentious issues – like entitlements and tax reform — that are holding up an agreement to end a four-day-old shutdown.
“The first thing is to … put politics aside and take the steps necessary to solve this crisis,” Panetta told CNN’s “The Situation Room.”
“The Speaker [of the House John Boehner] has to allow the House to vote” on funding the government and “on lifting the debt,” he said, adding that a later summitlike conference could “negotiate issues involving entitlements … [and] tax reform” toward a “deal that would restore some confidence.”
“I suspect the majority of Republicans and Democrats would support a clean [continuing resolution,” he added, scolding lawmakers: “You can’t let the extremes control the party … work needs to be done.”
Panetta bemoaned the image the U.S. is sending around the world as it struggles with a protracted shutdown triggered by a balky Congress.
“I am very concerned that the message we are sending,” he said, is “a message of weakness that the U.S. can’t govern itself.”
Panetta said the shutdown has precluded intelligence gathering “to protect this country” and “the support they need” in the military.
“All of this has an impact on our image,” he said. “This is a tragic moment for the United States … in terms of our national security. That is [a] price we cannot afford to pay.”
Panetta also accused lawmakers of “violating their oath of office.”
“We are elected to represent [and] protect, not hurt,” he said. “You swear to defend this country and fulfill your duties. These members [of Congress] are violating their oath of office.”
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