News January 25

Senator Sanders

Sanders Votes No on Filibuster ‘Reform’ The tradition-laden Senate voted Thursday to modestly curb filibusters by making it a bit harder but not impossible for outnumbered senators to sink bills and nominations. The changes were approved by votes of 78-16 and 86-9. In both roll calls, Republican opponents were joined by independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, The Associated Press, Bloomberg and Congressional Quarterly reported.This country faces enormous crises. The American people want us to deal with them and it’s impossible to deal with them when you need 60 votes and a supermajority,” Sanders told The Hill. LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK

‘Why Are Democrats Such Wimps?’ “It's a huge disappointment. It's a wasted opportunity and it's one more time when Democrats just don't show any freakin' backbone. Good for Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders voted against this deal yesterday because he said it was a joke,” Bill Press commented on Current TV. “If Democrats don't get anything done on immigration reform, can't get judges passed through the Senate … because of filibuster, filibuster, filibuster, it's their own damn fault for not changing it when they had the opportunity ... Why are Democrats such wimps?” VIDEO, VIDEO, VIDEO, VIDEO

Gas Prices Costco was granted a land use permit to install gas pumps at its low-price store in Colchester, Vt. The competition could bring down high gas prices throughout the northwestern Vermont region, according to Sen. Sanders, the Burlington Free Press, WPTZ-TV, WCAX-TV, Fox 44 and ABC 22 reported. “I hope and expect gas prices throughout the region will go down saving families a substantial amount than what they are currently playing,” Sanders said. LINK, LINK, LINK, VIDEO, VIDEO, VIDEO

Herding Cats NPR’s Frank James analyzed the upcoming budget battle and challenges facing the Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray. “Getting her dozen senators to agree could test Murray's cat-herding abilities to their limits. The committee includes Mark Warner, who has indicated in recent years that he would be open to entitlement cuts, and Sanders, the independent who has vowed to fight such cuts.” LINK


North Korea North Korea said on Thursday it would carry out further rocket launches and a nuclear test that would target its “sworn enemy,” the United States, Reuters reported. North Korea is not believed to have the technology to deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting the continental United States. LINK


In Senate, New Push on Taxes Incoming Budget Committee Chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray, a liberal Democrat from Washington state, told her colleagues Thursday that her first budget would call for additional revenue, drawn from changes to tax breaks that give an advantage to upper-income households, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK

Lew’s Citigroup Ties Questioned A day after New Year’s in 2008, Citigroup announced that one of its most troubled units had a new chief operating officer: Jack Lew. In a sea of Wall Street traders and hedge fund managers, Lew stood out. He was a career government bureaucrat who had joined Citigroup 18 months earlier hoping to gain experience in the business world. Now he was getting more than he could have imagined. LINK

Kerry Mum on Pipeline Sen. John Kerry, gave no indication of his intentions for the Keystone XL pipeline at his confirmation hearing for secretary of State on Thursday, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. The State Department must review the proposed pipeline because it crosses an international border and will decide whether to issue the project a permit this spring. “It will not be long before that comes across my desk, and I will make the appropriate judgments about it,” Kerry said at the hearing. LINK

Senate to Vote Monday on Sandy Aid Northeast lawmakers hope to complete final action by Congress Monday night on a long-delayed disaster aid package for the victims of Hurricane Sandy — almost exactly three months after the storm hit the region in late October. The $50 billion-plus bill passed the House last week and will be taken up by the Senate under an agreement to allow two votes, each requiring a supermajority of 60 to prevail, Politico reported. LINK

Regulating Business President Obama tapped Mary Jo White, a former United States attorney, to be the next chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission. He also nominated Richard Cordray to a full term at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, The New York Times reported. While both are former prosecutors with histories of targeting white-collar crime, White is currently a defense lawyer for several Wall Street firms. LINK

Gun Safety Sen. Dianne Feinstein and several other Democrats said they were introducing a bill to ban semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips. With 310 million guns in civilian hands and 11,000 homicides with firearms last year, the United States is one of the world's most heavily armed and violent countries, according to Reuters. LINK

Obama’s ‘Grassroots’ Group When President Barack Obama rolled out his new political outfit last week, he and his allies declared it would be powered by grassroots activists and change politics from outside Washington. Not exactly. In its first days, Organizing for Action has closely affiliated itself with insider liberal organizations funded by mega-donors like George Soros and corporations such as Lockheed Martin, Citi and Duke Energy, according to Politico. LINK


State Budget Gov. Peter Shumlin called for welfare reform in his budget address to the state Legislature. Shumlin also proposed directing Earned Income Tax Credit funds toward child care expenses for low-income families, expanding passenger rail to Western Vermont, investing in higher education, and a surcharge on certain lottery tickets to pay for energy efficiency programs. Shumlin said progress toward his proposed single-payer health care system would not require more revenue. The nearly $1.4 billion budget is up 3.4 percent, the Burlington Free Press reported. LINK

Health Care Gov. Shumlin on Thursday released a new accounting of what Vermont’s universal health care system might cost, but left for later how it would be paid for, AP reported. Vermonters would have to pay $1.6 billion in new taxes to pay for their share of a single-payer system, but that would be more than offset by the fact that most individual and employers would no longer be buying private health insurance, a savings of $1.9 billion, the report said. LINK

Health Care Exchange Website designers unveiled the software that will be used to implement Vermont’s Health Care Exchange later this year. The software functions much like commercial banking and travel sites and can calculate tax credits to subsidize coverage costs, as featured in Vermont Public Radio. By 2014, all companies with fewer than 50 employees and all individuals will be required to purchase health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  LINK

Vermont Workers Vermont’s labor force may have ended its long trend of steady growth, said University of Vermont economics professor Art Woolf in the Burlington Free Press. Potential factors include discouraged work applicants, early retirees, and a decline in young workers. LINK