News January 4

Senator Sanders

113th Congress Vice President Joe Biden administered the Senate Oath to Sen. Bernard Sanders during a swearing-in ceremony Thursday on Capitol Hill in Washington, The Associated Press and WPTZ-TV reported. LINK, LINK  

Senate Progressives The progressive movement sees the 2013 class of liberal senators as a historic opportunity to shift the Democratic Party to the left. Four progressive incoming senators join Sherrod Brown, Sheldon Whitehouse, Sanders, Jeff Merkley and Al Franken, CBS News reported online. Elizabeth Warren is “left of Bernie Sanders on some issues,” Politico’s Jonathan Allen said on MSNBC. LINK, VIDEO

Fiscal Fallout Sen. Bernie Sanders was critical of the compromise despite voting in favor of it. “It’s not a good piece of legislation by any means,” he said. “I gave some thought to voting against it, but upon reflection, it’s clear to me that the alternative would have been a lot worse.” At the very least, Sanders said, the compromise spared middle-class Americans from tax increases and continued unemployment benefits for those who are out-of-work, as well as veterans’ benefits for those who have served in the military, while putting off for at least two months potential cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, the Valley News reported. LINK

Fiscal Cliff: What’s Next? “Making the wealthy and large corporations pay a few dollars more in taxes is not the moral or economic equivalent to cutting Social Security benefits for a senior citizen trying to stay alive on $15,000 a year, throwing elderly people off Medicare, or cutting benefits for disabled veterans,” Sen. Sanders wrote in a column in the Times Argus. LINK

Sanders Calls Carper Social Security Plan ‘Disastrous’ Sen. Tom Carper plans to introduce Social Security reforms that would increase the retirement age and slow the increase of benefits over time. "It's a disastrous idea and not only will I oppose it but I, along with other senators, will be introducing legislation which will prevent cuts to Social Security benefits and for cuts to the benefits of disabled veterans, which is what the Carper proposal would do," Sen. Sanders told The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal. LINK  

Wind Power Sanders was happy that Congress extended a tax credit that benefits wind-power developers. "This is a win-win for our economy and our environment," Sanders said in the Bennington Banner. LINK 

VA Delays Although Congress five years ago approved funding for an $80 million VA clinic in Oregon, the often-delayed project probably won’t be completed until 2015. Rep. Peter DeFazio said he is “unbelievably frustrated” and vowed to work with Sen. Sanders, the incoming chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs process for siting community clinics, the The (Eugene, Ore.) Register-Guard reported. LINK

National

Unemployment American employers added 155,000 jobs in December, about apace with job growth over the last year, the Labor Department reported on Friday. The unemployment rate was 7.8 percent, the same as in November, whose rate was revised up from 7.7 percent, The New York Times reported. Real unemployment was 14.4 percent, according to the Labor Department. LINK, LINK

Boehner Retains Speaker’s Post Rep. John Boehner was narrowly re-elected speaker of the House on Thursday amid open dissent from conservatives on the House floor that signaled that the turmoil and division of the 112th Congress is likely to spill into the newly constituted 113th. LINK

113th Congress Most Diverse A record number of women and racial minorities were elected to the 113th Congress, which was sworn in Thursday. Among them was the first Buddhist to join the Senate, as well as the first Hindu and the first openly bisexual woman in the House. House Democrats became the first caucus in the history of either chamber not to have a majority of white men. It was a watershed moment for the Democratic Party, which has marketed itself as the party that looks more like a fast-changing United States, The Washington Post reported. LINK

President Draws Flak For Signing Defense Bill President Obama dropped his veto threat and signed a defense-policy bill into law, prompting complaints Thursday from human-rights advocates that he was breaking a promise to close the terrorist-detention system set up by his predecessor, George W. Bush. The National Defense Authorization Act gives rough spending levels for 2013 and sets policy for the Pentagon. LINK

Veterans Turn to Teaching As the U.S. military winds down two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, scores of young men and women are coming home to an uncertain job market. School administrators are increasingly finding that many service members make good teachers and they’re pushing to bring veterans into the mainstream of teacher recruitment, USA Today reported. LINK

Sandy Disaster Relief Vote Today  Congress was set to vote Friday on the first large aid package for victims of the deadly Superstorm Sandy that hit the country's most densely populated region two months ago and led to new concerns about climate change. The newly seated Congress was voting on a $9.7 billion measure to pay flood insurance claims after a vote on Sandy aid by the outgoing, Republican-controlled House of Representatives was put off earlier this week. New Jersey's famously outspoken Republican governor, Chris Christie, erupted in response at his own party and joined New York's Democratic governor in calling the move a "disgrace," AP reported. LINK

Vermont

Health Exchange Gets Go Ahead Vermont won conditional federal approval for its plan to build a consumer-friendly health insurance marketplace, AP reported. "We commend Vermont for taking this important step toward providing affordable health insurance for consumers," U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote to Gov. Peter Shumlin on Thursday. LINK

Dale Long Act President Obama signed a law named after a Vermont ambulance driver who died on duty extending to all paramedics the benefits given to police, firefighters and medics who are killed or disabled while working. The "Dale Long Act" was pushed by Sen. Patrick Leahy, AP reported. LINK

Education Secretary Gov. Shumlin appointed Armando Vilaseca to the new position of secretary of education for one year while a national search is conducted for someone to take the job on a more permanent basis, Vermont Public Radio reported. LINK