News January 27

Senator Sanders

Women in Congress New Hampshire has the first all-female delegation in history, but Vermont is one of only four states that never have sent a woman to Congress. The main impediment seems to be the value the state has long placed on incumbency. There is a bottleneck of federal lawmakers in place who show no signs of stepping down; and there’s no one who suggests that they should, according to the Valley News. The current Vermont delegation consists of Sens. Patrick Leahy, 72, a Democrat, and Bernie Sanders, 71, an Independent; and Rep. Peter Welch, 65, a Democrat. LINK

Leahy on Guns As Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Leahy has a powerful role in advancing the Obama administration’s gun-control agenda but he risks angering constituents in gun-friendly Vermont, according to the Burlington Free Press. Some gun advocates cite the fate of former Republican Rep. Peter Smith when asked about their political power. Smith cosponsored a bill banning semi­automatic rifles in 1989, prompting an aggressive campaign against him in the1990 election by the NRA and local affiliates. He was unseated and the election went to independent Bernie Sanders, according to the Free Press. LINK

World

U.S. Aids French in Mali The United States is significantly expanding its assistance to a French assault on Islamist militants in Mali by offering aerial refueling and planes to transport soldiers from other African nations, the Pentagon announced Saturday night. The gesture comes amid a debate within the Obama administration about how deeply it should engage in the French effort to prevent Islamists from wresting control of the West African nation, The Washington Post reported. LINK

National

Secret Donors Fund Fight on Hagel  A brand new conservative group calling itself Americans for a Strong Defense has joined at least six other groups financed by anonymous donors running advertisements urging Democratic senators in five states to vote against Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee to be secretary of defense, The New York Times reported. LINK

Sen. Harkin to Retire Tom Harkin, Iowa’s liberal lion and a powerhouse in the U.S. Senate, revealed on Saturday that he won’t seek re-election. “You know what, it’s somebody else’s turn,” he told The Des Moines Register on Saturday in a sit-down interview that he requested on Friday. By the end of his term, Harkin, 73, will have served in Congress for four decades. LINK

Vermont 

Food Labels Vermont-based ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s has come out in support of state legislation requiring labeling of products containing genetically modified organisms, and says it will stop using such products by the end of this year. The company, a subsidiary of international food conglomerate Unilever, says 26 of its ice cream flavors — ranging from Cherry Garcia to Mint Chocolate Cookie — already come without GMOs, AP reported. LINK