WASHINGTON, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Republicans Saturday said it was vital to the U.S. economy that tax breaks for the highest-income brackets be extended.
In the party's weekly media address, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said the wealthy were the font of the nation's job creation and allowing their tax bills to go up would have dire consequences on working folks.
"We should not raise these taxes, but we should enact comprehensive tax reform that will generate more revenue, create jobs and increase our GDP by as much as 3.5 percent," Hatch said.
Hatch predicted that allowing taxes to rise for the roughly 2 percent of taxpayers in the upper-income ranks would impact a large number of companies and threaten around 700,000 jobs, The Washington Times said.
Hatch accused President Obama of trying to pull a "classic bait-and-switch" on the nation in which higher taxes would not be accompanied by necessary spending cuts, particularly to Medicare and Medicaid.
Hatch's message came a few days after the White House proposed a plan a Republican congressional aide said included $1.6 trillion in tax increases and $400 billion in spending cuts, CNN.
Hatch said the top priority should instead be keeping taxes low, reducing the budget deficit and agreeing to major overhauls of Medicare and Medicaid, the healthcare systems for the elderly and poor.
"Make no mistake about it -- shoring up Medicare and Medicaid will not be easy," Hatch said, adding the programs were beyond the point they could be stabilized through tax increases alone. "The situation has become so severe that it is the only responsible course to take."
Report: DR Congo rebels heed peace deal
GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Gunfights and other violence eased Saturday in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo as rebels withdrew from the city of Goma, U.N. officials said.
Local media reported hundreds of armed men were seen leaving the city on flat-bed trucks, 11 days after the city was taken over by anti-government forces, the BBC said.
United Nations peacekeeping troops didn't report any armed engagements, although several vehicles transporting goods deemed to be rebel-related were stopped.
The rebels, largely military deserters who have named themselves M23, were moving outside a 12-mile U.N.-declared safe zone from Goma, the BBC and CNN said.
Both neighboring Uganda and Rwanda have denied various international accusations they are supporting DR Congo rebels.
U.N. agencies say at least 5 million people have died in the rebellion that began in 1997.
Mexico inaugurates new president
MEXICO CITY, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Mexico's new president was sworn in Saturday after a campaign in which he called for closer ties with the United States.
Enrique Pena Nieto was officially inaugurated in Mexico City shortly after midnight and was to take the oath of office before the Mexican Congress later in the day.
Pena, 46, succeeded Felipe Calderon and campaigned on a platform that included continued cooperation with the United States on the economy and anti-narcotics programs.
The New York Times said Pena cast his image as the face of a new version of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that would be more responsive to the public than the PRI that governed Mexico for much of the 20th Century.
But Pena received only 38 percent of the popular vote, which the Los Angeles Times said would likely make it tough to implement the types of government reforms he had promised on the campaign trail.
"The most serious problem for Pena Nieto is his desire to draw a line between those traditional PRI practices ... and the image of modernity that is incompatible with the old way of doing politics," columnist Ezra Shabot said in El Universal earlier this month.
In particular, Pena may have alienated powerful PRI governors and the labor unions that have provided the party with support over the years. The Los Angeles Times said his proposal to open up Mexico's nationalized oil industry to foreign investment was likely to face resistance from the oil workers unions.
Kuwait holds parliamentary election
KUWAIT CITY, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Opposition leaders boycotting Saturday's parliamentary elections in Kuwait say new voting rules were designed to favor pro-government parties.
Voting began on time in the oil-rich state where 423,000 citizens are eligible to cast their ballots and where analysts expect turnout to be critical to an effective new legislature.
Al-Bawaba said the results of the voting were expected about three hours after the polls close Saturday evening. The BBC said media reports on early turnout around Kuwait ranged from normal to somewhat lighter than expected.
The voting comes after weeks of protests by opposition supporters who contend the royal rulers were trying to manipulate election laws to favor pro-government candidates. A particular sore point was the October decree limiting the number of candidates a voter can select from four to one.
The BBC said the controversy began when the government annulled last winter's election in which the Islamist-led opposition made significant gains.
Clinton cool on new Israel settlements
WASHINGTON, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Saturday urged Israel to reconsider the construction permits for a new settlement development near East Jerusalem.
Clinton met with Israeli officials in Washington and called the 3,000 new homes in the area known as E1 a potential impediment to a "negotiated peace" between Israel and the Palestinians.
"This administration -- like previous administrations -- has been very clear with Israel that these activities set back the cause of a negotiated peace," Clinton said in her remarks at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy.
CNN said Israel's approval of the settlements, which Clinton said would cut through the West Bank, has been seen as retaliation for this week's vote in the United Nations to recognize the Palestinian Authority's bid to achieve "non-member observer state" status.
Clinton called the move by the Palestinians "a step in the wrong direction," but also stuck up for the P.A. for its achievements in improving public services and as an alternative to Hamas, Voice of America said.
"At a time when religious extremists claim to offer rewards in the hereafter, Israel needs to help those committed to peace deliver for their people in the here and now," Clinton said.
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