News January 23

Senator Sanders

Global Warming Congressional Democrats are weighing strategies for curbing greenhouse gases following President Obama’s inaugural pledge to redouble efforts on climate change. Sen. Bernie Sanders said Tuesday that he is readying climate legislation he intends to introduce next month which would include a price on carbon and massive investments in sustainable energy, Congressional Quarterly reported. LINK

Climate Change Sen. Sanders praised the president’s support for action on climate change and “we agree with Sen. Sanders in his urgency,” the Bennington Banner wrote in an editorial. “The overwhelming scientific consensus is clear. Unless we take bold action soon the temperature of our planet could rise by up to 8 degrees Fahrenheit. That would be catastrophic," Sanders said.  LINK

Stop Keystone Pipeline As debate resurfaces over the Keystone XL pipeline, Sen. Sanders recommitted his opposition to the transcontinental oil pipeline. “It would be a terrible message,” he told Politico. “You cannot say that we have to transform the energy system, that we have to cut back on carbon and that we’re going to approve the Keystone pipeline,” added Sanders, who plans to introduce legislation in February that includes putting a price on carbon. The Nation quoted Sanders’ statement urging the president to “reject harmful projects like the Keystone XL pipeline.” LINK, LINK

End Big Oil Giveaways Tax breaks for oil, coal and gas industries will total $110 over the next decade. “I made it a real key issue in my race. So did Bernie Sanders,” Rep. Keith Ellison said Tuesday on Current TV. “We can go a long way toward solving deficit problems by just cutting these loopholes and giveaways for these oil companies and the coal companies and the natural gas companies. You know what? We do way more for them than the green industry”. VIDEO

Don’t Cut Disabled Vets’ Benefits At Monday’s Salute the Heroes Inaugural Ball, Sen. Sanders, told CNN he is committed to protecting veterans from benefit cuts proposed by congressional Republicans. “Republicans are beginning to catch on. They're beginning to understand the American people do not think that it makes sense to cut back on programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans' needs.” VIDEO

Sanders: No on Lew Jacob J. Lew, President Obama’s choice to succeed Timothy F. Geithner as Treasury secretary, made the rounds of allies in the Senate on Tuesday ahead of a confirmation hearing. Sen. Sanders told Congressional Quarterly he would vote against Lew’s nomination citing concerns about Lew’s ties to Wall Street and the need for tough oversight of the financial services industry. LINK

Gas Price Ripoffs Why are gas prices in Chittenden, Franklin, and Grand Isle counties higher than elsewhere in Vermont as well as most other places in the country? Three Vermont House committees on Tuesday heard from Sen. Sanders who said the problem is not enough competition, The Associated Press, WCAX-TV, WPTZ-TV, ABC22, Fox 44 and Vermont Public Radio reported. LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, VIDEO, VIDEO, VIDEO, VIDEO

Vallee vs. Bernie Skip Vallee, chairman and chief executive officer of the St. Albans-based gas distributor R.L. Vallee Inc., continued a verbal sparring match with Sen. Sanders that started last summer when Sanders raised questions about gas pricing. Vallee, a longtime Republican who served as U.S. ambassador to Slovakia under President George W. Bush, fiercely disagrees with Sanders, who supports gas pumps at the Costco store in Colchester near a Vallee station, the Burlington Free Press reported. LINK

Tax Cuts Legislation passed by Congress this month made Bush tax cuts permanent for more than 99 percent of Americans. Sens. Sanders and Patrick Leahy voted for the Bush-tax cuts under the Obama-McConnell plan, but when Bush proposed the cuts, in 2001 and 2003, “our elder senators said they would rather gouge their eyeballs out than vote for them,” The Caledonian-Record asserted in an editorial. LINK

Tops on Twitter Sen. Patrick Leahy told the Burlington Free-Press in 2008 that Sen. Sanders “picks his issues and when he does speak he has something valuable to say and people listen.” That includes on Twitter, where Sanders often strikes out at large corporations and Wall Street, according to an NBC News online post that ranked Sanders third in the number of Twitter followers in the Senate behind Sens. John McCain and Marco Rubio. LINK


Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won a third term Tuesday, although it was a more difficult victory than expected and will pressure Netanyahu to form a more moderate coalition, The New York Times reported. LINK

EU Prime Minister David Cameron promised Wednesday to let the British people vote on whether or not to stay in the European Union, launching a risky political gambit that drew quick warnings from foreign leaders, business executives and opposition politicians, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK


Debt Ceiling House Republicans introduced a measure to extend the government’s borrowing authority through May 19, a proposal accepted by the Obama administration. The bill also sets an April 15 deadline on the Congress to pass a formal budget for the first time in four years, The Wall Street Journal reported.  LINK

Filibuster Reform Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says Democrats will take the unprecedented step of changing filibuster rules on a party-line vote if Republicans don’t agree to a bipartisan deal this week. Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell met Tuesday on a proposal to pare back the use of the potent stalling tactic, but the Nevada Democrat then publicly threatened to change the filibuster rules with 51 votes, rather than 67 votes, if a deal can’t be reached soon, Politico reported. LINK

Nebraska Backs Pipeline Route The governor of Nebraska on Tuesday approved a revised route through the state for the Keystone XL pipeline, setting up a decision for President Obama that pipeline opponents say will be a crucial test of his intentions on climate change. Gov. Dave Heineman, reversing an earlier position and brushing aside vocal opposition from some citizen groups, said the pipeline could be built and operated safely and would bring thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue to Nebraska, The New York Times reported. LINK

Hagel and McCain Meet For President Obama, the first test of his second term passed peacefully on Tuesday as his nominee for defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, sat down with the Republican who poses one of his biggest potential hurdles to Senate confirmation, Senator John McCain of Arizona. By all accounts, the 45-minute one-on-one meeting went well enough for the White House to feel that it has finally turned the tide in favor of Hagel, The New York Times reported. LINK

Gen. John Allen Cleared of Misconduct The Pentagon’s inspector general has cleared the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan of wrongdoing following an investigation into whether he exchanged inappropriate e-mails with the same Tampa socialite involved in the scandal that prompted David H. Petraeus to resign as CIA director, U.S. officials said Tuesday, The Washington Post reported. LINK

Revolving Door Former Sen. Ben Nelson has been named CEO of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, The Hill reported. Before beginning his two terms as senator, Nelson was the group’s executive vice president. LINK


Solar Power Green Mountain Power said Tuesday that collaborating with National Life Group in Montpelier and Green Lantern Capital in Waterbury has increased the number of small renewable generation projects in Vermont. Solar farms utilizing All-Earth Renewables’ Vermont-made AllSun Tracker were installed at the Poor Farm in Rutland, Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury, Woods Market Garden in Brandon, and the town of Williston. The projects generate a total of 600 kilowatts of power, the Burlington Free Press reported. LINK

Environment Agenda WCAX-TV reported on a Tuesday news conference by seven environmental groups advocating on their energy priorities. Among these were investment in weatherization, blocking tar sand transport, funding of the Clean Energy Development fund, and infrastructure to support electric vehicles. LINK

Vermont Yankee Six Vermont Yankee nuclear plant protesters will have $3,264 in trespassing fine paid by donors, the Brattleboro Reformer reported. The protestors, all women, are part of the Shut It Down Affinity Group, which organizes protests against the power plant’s continued operation.  LINK

Online Privacy Sen. Dick Sears is introducing online privacy legislation for the second year in a row, the Vermont Press Bureau reported. The proposed law would make it illegal or employers to request social media passwords during hiring. Similar legislation was enacted in September by California. LINK

Private Prisons Jonathan Leavitt of Counter Punch magazine published a piece investigating private prison systems in Vermont. The article reported $14 million spent on for-profit prisons by the state. LINK