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April 16, 2012 at 10:00 PM   |   Comments

'Buffett Rule' Senate cloture vote fails

WASHINGTON, April 16 (UPI) -- Democrats' efforts to move the so-called Buffett Rule through the U.S. Senate failed to overcome a Republican filibuster in a procedural vote Monday.

The cloture vote failed 51-45 along mostly partisan lines. Sixty votes were needed to end debate on the Paying a Fair Share Act of 2012 and move it to a vote.

Prior to the vote, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., ridiculed the reasoning behind the Buffett Rule, saying it would only open the door to higher taxes on the middle class. Toomey called the rule "bad economic policy."

The legislation targeted investment income, requiring it to be taxed at 30 percent, up from the current 15 percent, for those earning at least $1 million a year.

Buffett, ranked by Forbes as the world's third-wealthiest person, has made a point of saying he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary and thinks it's only right for the rich to pay taxes, as a portion of income, comparable to people in the middle class.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., called the tax system broken.

"We just don't understand why … middle class people are paying so much … They're paying a higher tax rate that someone making $1 million more. That's not fair," he said, denying he would deny anyone success. "When people believe the American dream is in reach, they will all pull a little harder."

Toomey said though Democrats say the rule is targeted at millionaires and billionaires, the revenue it would raise would barely make a dent in the budget deficit and the rule would inevitably be expanded to affect the middle class as well.

Toomey likened it to the alternative minimum tax, which has to be adjusted annually to keep it from affecting too many Americans.

Toomey took issue with President Barack Obama's statements the rule would help the economy, saying it would reduce investment, which in turn would lead to a loss of jobs.

Before leaving Colombia, Sunday, Obama said the Buffett Rule was not about income redistribution.

"We're making an argument about how do we grow the economy so that it's going to prosper in this competitive 21st century environment," he said. "And the only way we're going to do that is if people like me, who have been incredibly blessed, are willing to give a little bit back so that the next generation coming along can succeed as well ... .

"The history of the United States is, we grow best when our growth is broad based. We grow best when our middle class is strong. We grow best when everybody has opportunity."

Republicans called the bill a publicity stunt that would do nothing to fix the country's economic problems.


Colombia: 10 military members investigated

WASHINGTON, April 16 (UPI) -- Ten members of the U.S. military, along with 11 Secret Service agents, may have engaged in misconduct prior to the Summit of the Americas, the Pentagon said.

The admission came as two congressional committees, the Secret Service and the Defense Department prepared to investigate alleged involvement with prostitutes by members of the military and Secret Service before last weekend's meeting in Cartagena, Colombia.

Eleven secret service agents and officers were under investigation for allegedly bringing prostitutes to a hotel and drinking heavily.

Col. Scott Malcom, a spokesman for U.S. Southern Command, said the 10 military members "were in the same hotel and when the police were called they somehow got caught up in the incident," the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

A U.S. military official said the Pentagon investigation is focusing on five Special Forces Army soldiers, two Marines, two Navy personnel and one member of the Air Force. The official said the Navy and Air Force personnel are members of explosive detection unit.

"We let the boss down," Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Pentagon news conference Monday, referring to President Barack Obama. "I can speak for myself and my fellow chiefs: We're embarrassed by what occurred in Colombia, though we're not sure exactly what it is."

Obama said he would be angry of the allegations proved true.

"If it turns out that some of the allegations that have been made in the press are confirmed, then of course I'll be angry, because my attitude with respect to the Secret Service personnel is no different than what I expect out of my delegation that's sitting here," Obama said in Cartagena at the end of the Summit of the Americas before flying to Washington. "We're representing the people of the United States, and when we travel to another country, I expect us to observe the highest standards because we're not just representing ourselves, we're here on behalf of our people.

"And that means that we conduct ourselves with the utmost dignity and probity. And obviously what's been reported doesn't match up with those standards."

The Secret Service put the agents and officers on administrative leave and immediately replaced them with other service members, the agency said.


Afghan forces end Taliban attacks

LONDON, April 16 (UPI) -- Afghan officials say coordinated terrorist attacks in Kabul committed by the Taliban were put to an end Monday with 38 of the attackers killed.

President Hamid Karzai issued a statement condemning the attacks and seemingly putting some of the blame on NATO forces, The New York Times reported.

A total of four civilians were reported from the attacks -- two in Paktia Province, one in Jalalabad and one in Kabul -- while dozens more were injured and at least eight Afghan National Security forces members died.

Karzai called for an investigation into what he called an "intelligence failure for us and especially NATO."

The British government, a target of attacks in Kabul, said it condemned coordinated attacks on the city but lauded the response from Afghan security forces.

Heavy weekend fighting spilled over into Monday as Taliban militants announced the start of a spring offensive with coordinated attacks on targets in Kabul, including the British Embassy and the building housing the Afghan Parliament.

British Foreign Minister William Hague said there were few reports of serious injury and damage to the premises was minimal.

"The Afghan National Security Forces responded to the attacks bravely, promptly and effectively, once again illustrating the significant progress that has been made in ensuring that Afghans can look after their own security," he said in a statement. "Britain stands with the government and people of Afghanistan as they work to build a peaceful future."

British forces in Afghanistan recently handed over parts of Helmand province over to their Afghan counterparts. Afghan forces are set to take control over security beginning in 2014.

The attack on Kabul ended Monday, roughly 18 hours after it began. The Guardian newspaper in London reported that elite forces had outmaneuvered insurgents in one of the most serious attacks on Kabul since the Taliban government was overthrown in 2001.


Wen calls for crackdown on corruption

BEIJING, April 16 (UPI) -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao called for a crackdown on political corruption following Bo Xilai's suspension from the Chongqing party amid a murder investigation.

Wen has promised tougher reforms to curb abuse of power, The Guardian reported Sunday.

In an article for his Communist Party's Seeking Truth magazine, Wen said regional governments that allowed "important cases" of corruption or failed to act quickly would be held responsible, adding that governments should quickly investigate claims of corruption by the people and the media.

The crackdown came as an attempt to quell political fallout coming from the suspension former Chongqing party chief Bo, The Guardian said.

Bo's wife and a family employee have been detained on suspicion of murdering Neil Heywood, a British businessman found dead in Chongqing city. Bo may face charges in the case for possible breaches of law and has been suspended from his party post pending an investigation.

"I think this is a very serious legitimacy crisis for the party," said Patricia Thornton, lecturer in politics of China at the University of Oxford. "As more details of the case come out, I think it will be very, very difficult to sustain that."

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