News February 12

Senator Sanders

Obama May Cut Social Security The White House said Monday it remains willing to consider trimming the growth of Social Security benefits as part of a broader deficit-cutting deal. “I am not confident that the president will protect Social Security,” Sen. Sanders warned in Congressional Quarterly. “Wall Street billionaires and other supporters claim that changing the consumer price index is a ‘minor tweak.’ Tell that to the millions of senior citizens trying to survive on just $14,000 a year whose Social Security benefits would be cut overall by $112 billion during the next decade,” Sanders wrote in an op-ed published Tuesday by The Hill. LINK, LINK

Global Warming Sen. Sanders soon will introduce "the boldest piece of legislation" to move the nation's energy systems away from fossil fuels. The bill would combat climate change through a fee on polluters, WCAX-TV reported. "There will be a price on carbon. There will be massive investments in sustainable energy. There will be money made available to families who may end up paying higher fuel prices as a result of the transformation in our energy system," Sanders said. LINK, VIDEO

Climate Change President Obama is expected to launch a serious second-term push on climate change with his State of the Union address. Liberals in Congress have urged the president to go big on climate as well. “From a planetary point of view there is no issue more important than climate change, and the president has to be as bold and specific as he possibly can,” Sen. Sanders told reporters on the eve of Obama’s address, The Hill and The Washington Times reported. LINK, LINK

Tar Sands Pipeline President Obama is being pressured by business interests, labor unions and the Canadian government to approve a controversial oil pipeline from the tar sands region of Alberta to Texas. Environmentalists who cheered Obama’s inaugural remarks on climate change say approval of the pipeline would stain his legacy. “It would send a terrible message,” Sen. Sanders told CQ. LINK

Osama bin Laden Shooter on VA Waiting List The Navy SEAL who says he killed Osama bin Laden is waiting for disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs nearly six months after leaving the military, according to Esquire magazine. Sen. Bernie Sanders announced on Monday that he would be holding hearings next month on what he called "a broken claims system,” the Sacramento Bee and Virginia Pilot reported. "It is simply not acceptable for any veteran to wait many months or years for the benefits that they are entitled to receive," said Sanders, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. LINK, LINK, LINK

VA Benefits Backlog A bill that would make it easier for veterans to prove mental health problems are linked to sexual assault while in the military will be introduced Wednesday by Sen. Jon Tester and Rep. Chellie Pingree. The Ruth Moore Act is named for a veteran who faced a 23-year battle with the Veterans Affairs Department. With the help of Disabled American Veterans and Sen. Sanders, she now is rated as a 100 percent disabled veteran. “This process took me 23 years to resolve, and I am one of the fortunate ones,” she told Navy Times. “LINK

Tax Havens Sen. Sanders  introduced legislation to force multinational companies to pay taxes on their foreign-source income. Such tax-avoidance techniques, while legal, have come under increasing political attack, according to New York Times blogger Bruce Bartlett, who held senior policy roles in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. Sanders and Rep. Jan Schakowsky introduced the bills, Tax News reported. Their proposal would “benefit long-neglected federal revenue collection efforts as well as the rapidly diminishing American middle class,” according to Louis Varricchio of The Eagle, an Addison County weekly. LINK, LINK, LINK

Treasury Secretary Treasury secretary nominee Jack Lew faces questions about his work at Citigroup and an investment in a Cayman Islands fund when he testifies tomorrow before the Senate Finance Committee. Sen. Sanders opposes Lew because of his Wall Street connection, according to Bloomberg. “We need a Treasury secretary who will work hard to break up too-big-to-fail financial institutions so that Wall Street cannot cause another massive financial crisis,” Sanders said. Sen. Sanders asked Lew if he thought deregulation of Wall Street caused the financial crisis. Lew said he didn't consider himself an expert, National Public Radio reported. LINK, LINK, AUDIO

State of the Union Caroline Braun, a junior at Champlain Valley Union High School, is the winner of Sen. Sanders’ annual State of the Union essay contest for Vermont high school students. Emily Ellsworth, a junior at Colchester High School, finished second and Genevieve Chiola, a freshman at Mount Abraham Union High School in Bristol, finished third. More than 300 students from dozens of high schools throughout Vermont submitted essays, the Times Argus and Rutland Herald reported. LINK

World

North Korea Conducts Nuclear Test North Korea confirmed on Tuesday that it had conducted its third, long-threatened nuclear test, according to the official KCNA news service. President Obama vowed that the United States and its allies will take "swift and credible action" over the move he denounced as a "highly provocative act," The New York Times reported.  LINK

Chinese Cyber-Spies The National Intelligence Estimate identified China as the country most aggressively seeking to penetrate the computer systems of American businesses and institutions for economic gain, The Washington Post reported. Cyber-espionage, which was once viewed as a concern mainly by U.S. intelligence and the military, is increasingly seen as a direct threat to the nation’s economic interests.  LINK

National

Slower Growth in Health Costs Narrows U.S. Deficit A sharp and surprisingly persistent slowdown in the growth of health care costs is helping to narrow the federal deficit, leaving budget experts trying to figure out whether the trend will last and how much the slower growth could help alleviate the country’s long-term fiscal problems. The Congressional Budget Office in new projections released last week erased hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid outlays. New data also show overall health care spending growth continuing at the lowest rate in decades for a fourth consecutive year, The New York Times reported. LINK

Senate Likely to Pass Domestic-Violence Bill A bill scuttled by partisan disagreements last year is poised to clear the Senate Tuesday, but its fate in the House is unclear. The bill would provide funding for battered-women's shelters and programs to bolster the prosecution of domestic-violence offenses, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK

Medal of Honor Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Obama on Monday, the Associated Press reported. Romesha personally saved at least 10 soldiers near the Pakistan border during an intense firefight in which Americans were outgunned 53 to 300 Taliban fighters. LINK

Vermont

Vermont Equal Pay Act The 2010 census shows that working women in Vermont continue to earn less than their male counterparts, despite the passage of the Vermont Equal Pay Act over a decade ago, Vermont Public Radio reported. Representative Jill Krowinski says a bill she introduced would create new protections for women who report wage discrimination, and would prohibit employers from retaliating against them. LINK

School Choice Vermont students may now apply to any of the 61 public high schools in the state, regardless of where they live, the Burlington Free Press reported. The new law making this possible says funding does not have to follow the student from the home district to the new one. LINK

Sustainable Growth Brattleboro was selected among 43 communities in 27 states to receive assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency to pursue sustainable growth. Some of the tools offered this year included projects called a Green Building Toolkit, Land Use Strategies to Protect Water Quality, and Using Smart Growth to Produce Economic and Fiscal Health, the AP reported. LINK

Tax Forms Printed tax forms will be distributed later than usual this year, but are currently available online, according to the Vermont Department of Taxes, the AP reported. They can be found on the “forms” section of the Department of Taxes website. LINK