News January 24

Senator Sanders

Global Warming Despite President Obama’s renewed attention to climate change in his inaugural address, the White House on Wednesday ruled out a tax on carbon emissions favored by many environmentalists. White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked about legislation that Sen. Bernie Sanders plans to introduce to charge companies a fee for carbon pollution. “We have not proposed and have no intention of proposing a carbon a tax,” Carney said, according to The Washington Times, C-SPAN and Environment & Energy Daily. LINK, VIDEO

Recipe for Disaster Energy insiders say the White House will dribble out executive actions and federal rules over the next four years – the same low-key, bureaucratic approach the administration has taken since 2009. “The president has got to do everything he can,” Sen. Sanders told Politico during an interview on Tuesday as the Senate considered a $50 billion aid bill for Hurricane Sandy. “If we don’t get our act together, we can expect to be voting on bills like this every single year,” Sanders said. LINK

Jobs for Veterans Helping veterans find jobs is one of the top legislative priorities for Senate Democrats. One of the first 10 bills introduced in the 113th Congress is a measure that seeks to get more veterans hired for civil service jobs; provide federal grants to encourage employers to hire veterans as first responders; expand small-business loans; and strengthen employment and re-employment rights. Sen. Sanders, the incoming Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman and cosponsor of the bill, said his panel “will be looking very seriously at how to improve veterans’ employment and training programs,” Navy Times reported. LINK

Treasury Secretary Senate Republicans on Wednesday offered encouraging words about President Barack Obama's Treasury nominee, Jack Lew, but withheld support. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have already endorsed him, but a number of Republicans and Sen. Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, have said they think Lew should not serve as Treasury secretary, Reuters reported. LINK

Filibuster Reform Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is expected to win slight concessions to speed debate in the Senate, but he reportedly has dropped a plan that would have required senators who want to delay action on a bill they oppose to actually explain their position on the floor, a so-called talking filibuster. Without that requirement, Sen. Sanders conceded on MSNBC, “we’re simply not going to be able to address the serious problems facing the American people.” With what’s left of filibuster reform, he allowed, “there won`t be much in the way of teeth. What you`ll see is some improved efficiencies.” Sanders told Vermont Public Radio that reform is needed to bring critical legislation to the Senate floor for debate. LINK, VIDEO

Corporate Loopholes Congress gave the pharmaceutical giant Amgen a $500 million gift tucked into the fiscal cliff bill that passed last month. Sen. Sanders told the Rutland Herald and Times Argus that he is prepared to introduce legislation in the Senate similar to a bill by Rep. Peter Welch to repeal the Amgen giveaway. With the country saddled with a $16 trillion national debt and at the same time there are calls to raise Medicare’s eligibility age, Sanders said “there is no excuse for Amgen to be getting this … break other than the fact they have dozens of lobbyists here in Washington and have a lot of political influence.”  LINK

The Sanders Standard In Seven Days, the1940s Progressive Party activist Henry Wallace was described as “the Bernie Sanders of his day: an unrelenting advocate for the economic interests of the American working class.” In his inaugural address, President Obamatook a document designed to restrain concentrated power and turned it into a document designed to demand concentrated power. He turned James Madison into Bernie Sanders” New York Times columnist David Brooks blogged. LINK, LINK

World

Clinton’s Forceful Defense on Benghazi In what probably was her final major public appearance as secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton spent Wednesday delivering a forceful defense of the Obama administration’s response to the killings of four Americans in Libya last year and praising the commitment of the United States’ diplomats. Clinton, who returned to work this month after suffering a concussion and blood clot in early December, spent six hours testifying and answering questions, The Washington Post reported. LINK

National

Women in Combat The Pentagon is dropping the last vestiges of rules barring American women from serving in combat, paving the way for the largest expansion ever of their role on the front lines. Women in the military already are allowed to serve on most Navy ships, as combat pilots and in hundreds of support jobs, including those in war zones, but they have been historically excluded from direct combat roles, by federal law in earlier times and more recently by military policy, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK

Debt Ceiling Avoiding an economic showdown with President Obama, the House on Wednesday passed legislation to eliminate the nation’s statutory borrowing limit until May, without including the dollar-for-dollar spending cuts that Republicans once insisted would have to be part of any debt limit bill. The 285-144 vote staved off an impasse, The Washington Post reported. LINK

Budget Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democrats’ chief political strategist, sees a joint budget resolution between the Senate and House as the key to raising another $600 billion in new tax revenues. Democratic leaders say that will be the minimum amount needed from tax reform to stop automatic spending cuts to social and defense programs mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act, The Hill reported.  LINK

Union Membership Plummets U.S. union membership fell to 11.4 percent in 2012, the lowest levels since before the 1930s, the Detroit Free Press reported. The Bureau of Labor Statistics findings showed, despite public sector jobs maintaining high levels of union membership, public unions saw a steep drop in ranks – an estimated one million fewer members. The total number of union members fell by 400,000 last year, to 14.3 million, even though the nation’s overall employment rose by 2.4 million. LINK

Jobs for Vets In a letter to the Huffington Post, researcher Maura McCarthy of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America laid out the challenges ahead to increase veteran hires in the workforce. “In the next three to five years, an estimated one million service members will separate from the military, many of whom will transition to the private sector.” A veterans’ job advocacy blog, Hire Purpose, rebutted some common stigmas companies have associated with hiring veterans for a new position along with reasons why veterans make excellent hires. The blog pointed out that veterans are often highly-trained in technical skills and very committed to a job task. LINK, LINK

Obama Gun Proposal is Popular Most Americans respond positively to the stricter gun control measures Barack Obama proposed last week in the wake of the tragic shootings in Newtown, Conn. Fifty-three percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll view Obama’s gun control plan favorably, 41 percent unfavorably. Strong proponents outnumber strong opponents by 38 vs. 31 percent in this poll. LINK

Vermont

State Revenues Vermont will collect about $20 million less in revenue than initially projected for three state budget funds, the AP reported. Consulting economists told the state Emergency Board that lag in transportation and education funds contributed to the collection deficit. Overall, the state will fall about $3 million below projections. LINK

Smart Meters A report on wireless "smart" meters installed by Vermont utilities says the devices release a fraction of the radio frequency emission limits set by the federal government. The report was prepared for the Department of Public Service. It's based on lab testing and field measurements of wireless meters used by Green Mountain Power and the Burlington Electric Department, Vermont Public Radio reported. LINK

Goddard Staff Unionizes Staff members at Goddard College voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to unionize. The tally was 58-8 out of 74 eligible voters. The staff are now members of United Auto Workers Local 2322 based out of Massachusetts, which already represents the faculty, the Times Argus reported.

Vermont Bread Iconic Brattleboro bakery Vermont Bread Company has been bought by the Burlington-based Koffee Kup Bakery, returning ownership to the state of Vermont, the Brattleboro Reformer reported. The 45-year-old company was purchased by a New York-based firm, Charter Banking, in 2006. LINK

Shelter from the Cold In the wake of an arctic front sustaining below-freezing temperatures in New England, many of Vermont’s homeless are unable to find shelter, despite a state law that requires motels to offer homeless individuals emergency rooms upon request. The law requires presentation of photo ID, which can be too costly or inaccessible for the homeless, according to the Burlington Free Press. LINK