U.S. DEMOCRATS ACCUSE REPUBLICANS OF EXEMPTING $1 TRILLION FROM DEFICIT
UNITED States (U.S.) Democrats are accusing newly empowered House Republicans of exempting more than $1 trillion in proposed tax cuts and higher spending over the next 10 years from a promise to cut federal deficits.
The exemptions, according to Senate Democrats include a bill to repeal last year's health care legislation as well as the Republican-backed proposals extending a series of tax cuts for upper income filers that are due to expire in two years.
House Republicans have made deficit reduction a cornerstone of their agenda for the next two years and passed a series of rules changes on Wednesday designed to accomplish their goal. But the rules exempt a handful of specific bills until a budget plan is in place for the fiscal year that begins October 1 and leave a subsequent accounting unclear.
The effort to repeal President Barack Obama's health care bill is the first major measure expected to come before the House. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the year-old legislation will reduce deficits by $143 billion over the next decade, suggesting its repeal would raise red ink by the same amount.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has planned to send 1,400 additional Marines to Afghanistan to boost its combat forces ahead of the spring fighting season.
The United States, which led a 2001 invasion of Afghanistan that toppled the Taliban, has about 100,000 troops in the country, and Obama is under pressure to show results so he can begin a promised withdrawal this year.
'The Marine battalion could start arriving on the ground as early as mid-January. The forces would mostly be deployed in the south, around Kandahar, where the U.S. has concentrated troops over the past several months.' the Wall Street Journal reported. It cited unnamed officials.
The Taliban are at their strongest since they were ousted form power, although operations against the insurgency have intensified since 2008. More than 700 foreign troops were killed in Afghanistan last year, and civilian casualties were at record levels.
Obama said last month that enough progress was being made in the campaign to meet his pledge to start withdrawing U.S. troops by July and hand over security to Afghan forces by 2014.
Separately, the U.S. government has strongly protested to Vietnam over the treatment of an American diplomat.
A media report said the human rights officer was roughed up while trying to meet with a prominent dissident.
U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia said Christian Marchant, a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, was attacked by police on Wednesday outside the home of Catholic priest Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly in the central city of Hue.
Marchant was wrestled to the ground by authorities and later put into a police car and driven away, it said. Marchant's work on human rights was recently recognized with an award from the State Department.
The U.S. Embassy did not release specific details, but outgoing Ambassador Michael Michalak confirmed that an incident occurred on Wednesday in Hue.
'The United States government, both here in Hanoi and in Washington, has lodged a strong, official protest with the government of Vietnam regarding the treatment of one of our diplomats,' Michalak told reporters during his farewell press briefing.
He called the issue a matter of grave concern, saying foreign diplomats are protected under international law.
'All governments are responsible for complying fully with the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, including ensuring the safety and security of diplomatic personnel,' he said.
Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said the government is reviewing the incident, but added that foreign diplomats also have a responsibility to abide by the host country's laws.
Ly, 63, one of Vietnam's best-known dissidents, was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2007 on charges of trying to undermine Vietnam's Communist government. He is now under house arrest after being released last year on medical parole.