Debt Looms Large on Senators' To-Do Lists

VIDEO: Senators Discuss the State of the
WATCH A Chat With Sens. Lieberman, Conrad and Hutchison

In an exclusive interview on "This Week," three key Senators sat down with anchor Christiane Amanpour to preview the President's State of the Union address. Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn. and Kent Conrad, D-N.D. said they wanted to hear Obama talk about solving the nation's growing debt problem.

Lieberman said he wanted Obama's speech to "deal with the biggest long-term threat to America's strength and our economy and that is the debt. And I hope the President will really be hands on and say he's willing to take political risks if we are, to get America's books back in balance for the sake of our children and grandchildren."

Sen. Kent Conrad explained why the country's debt is so difficult to address.

"The American people say: don't touch Social Security, don't touch Medicare, don't cut defense. That's 84% of the federal budget. If you can't touch 84% of the federal budget – and, by the way, they also don't want to touch revenue. You're down to 16% of the budget, at a time where we're borrowing forty cents of every dollar they spend," he said.

"There needs to be leadership to help the American people understand how serious this problem is and that it's going to take a lot more than cutting foreign aid and taxing the rich," Conrad explained. "You're not going to solve the issue that way."

The New Pro-Business Obama?

The president has attempted to beef up his pro-business credentials in recent weeks, with the appointments of Richard Daley, the former JPMorgan Chase executive, as his chief of staff and GE CEO Jeff Immelt as the head his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Obama is expected to address America's competitiveness and job creation in the State of the Union.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, indicated that she was less concerned with the content of Obama's speech and more concerned with his follow-through on helping businesses.

"Will he really get his regulatory commissions to cut back on the regulations that are hurting the growth of business? Will he agree to some changes in the Obamacare which is keeping people from hiring? I can tell you, I'm all over my state. That's what I hear," Hutchison told Amanpour. "They're not going to hire people if they are looking at these big fines and big expenses in the health care bill."

Senators Retiring at End of Term

All three Senators have announced in recent days that they will not run for re-election in 2012. Hutchison and Lieberman both told Amanpour that they thought they could win a re-election, but had chosen to retire for other reasons.

"I didn't run because I want to try something different," Lieberman said. "I've loved service in the Senate. I feel good about what I've been able to accomplish working across party lines. But I must say, I'm excited about a new chapter and new opportunities," he explained.

Hutchison said she was ready for something different. "It was a personal decision for me. I commute every week. I have two young children. And the time was right for me," she said.

Nine days ago, Hutchison announced she would not seek re-election to the Senate in 2012. Conrad and Lieberman both said this week that the current term would be their last.

Last year, Hutchison lost her bid to be Texas governor when she was defeated in the Republican primary by current Gov. Rick Perry.