News February 13

Senator Sanders

State of the Union President Obama “challenged Congress on Tuesday night to assist an American middle class squeezed by rising costs and stagnant wages, making clear that he will devote much of his second term to closing the income gap between rich and poor,” according to The Washington Post. “I look forward to working with his administration to create the millions of new jobs we desperately need, to improve our pre-school and educational system and to combat climate change,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said on WCAX-TV and in the Burlington Free Press. LINK, LINK, VIDEO

Global Warming President Obama told lawmakers he intends to take bold action – with or without their help – to address global warming. Meanwhile, Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer and Sen. Sanders plan to unveil legislation Thursday that would put a price on carbon dioxide emissions and fund investments in clean-energy technology, Congressional Quarterly and The Nation reported. “It’s not clear Obama will invest any political capital to push for that or other climate change legislation,” according to Politico. LINK, LINK, LINK

Wind Power “As a supporter of Bernie Sanders I am floored … [that he] doesn’t seem to understand that wind … does not replace fossil fuels,” Carol Maroni of Craftsbury asserted in a letter to the editor of the Times Argus. In his State of the Union address, President Obama said that last year wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. “So let’s generate even more,” he declared. LINK, LINK

‘A Left Reply’ Washington Post columnist EJ Dionne tweeted before the State of the Union address: “There's a center-right GOP reply to Pres. Obama & a Tea Party reply. Doesn't balance demand a left reply? Bernie @SenSanders anyone? LINK 

Sanders Meets ‘The Shooter’ The Navy SEAL who says he killed Osama bin Laden attended a series of private conversations Tuesday with congressional leaders about his wait for disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The SEAL met with nine lawmakers from both parties, including members of the leadership of both houses, and Sen. Sanders, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, the Fresno Bee reported. LINK

VA Backlog The Esquire story about a heroic service member who killed bin Laden being left without military health care sparked outrage. Chairman Sanders of the Senate Veterans Affairs' Committee said his panel will hold a hearing on the "VA backlog" of disability claims. But The Washington Times said critics also are outraged that the article omitted mention of the five years of free health care given to veterans. LINK

USPS The current travails of the U.S. Postal Service are a manufactured crisis. In 2006, acting at the behest of the Bush-Cheney administration, Congress mandated that the Post Office pre-fund 75 years of future health-care benefits for retirees over the course of 10 years. Sen. Sanders notes that simply ending this bizarre requirement and allowing the postal service to recoup billions in excess pension payments would put the USPS out of the red, Katrina vanden Heuvel said in an online column for The Washington Post. LINK

New England Pipeline Northeastern lawmakers are planning to ask the Obama administration to require an extensive environmental review process for any efforts to utilize an existing pipeline to ship crude oil produced at Canada’s tar sands to Maine. Sen. Sanders signed on a letter to the Obama administration calling for an extensive environmental review process, CQ reported. LINK

Treasury Secretary Republicans are set to press Treasury Secretary nominee Jack Lew about his tenure at Citigroup — and a controversial Cayman Islands investment — during a confirmation hearing Wednesday before the Senate Finance Committee. Sen. Sanders has said he expects Lew will be confirmed but plans to vote against him, citing his Wall Street experience, The Hill reported. LINK

Budget Committee Sen. Patty Murray presided over her first Budget Committee hearing on Tuesday. The Hill said her challenge will be to bridge differences within her own caucus between the independent Sen. Sanders and Sen. Mark Warner, who it called “a pro-defense deficit hawk.” LINK

‘Love in the Air’ Less an hour before the State of the Union address, bipartisanship may not exactly have been in the air, but love certainly was. Just off the Senate chamber, a parade of senators wandered by, many accompanied by their spouses. Sen. Harry Reid walked by holding hands with his wife. Sen. Sanders came through with his arm around his wife. And Sen. Marco Rubio was accompanied by his wife, who turned heads in a fun, stop sign-red dress, The New York Times live blogged.

World

Afghanistan President Obama announced a drawdown of 34,000 troops from Afghanistan at his State of the Union address Tuesday night, The Washington Post reported. The withdrawal would cut the size of the American force in Afghanistan by half over the next year, in an acceleration of the U.S. departure. LINK

N. Korea Nuke Test North Korea’s nuclear test on Tuesday drew strong condemnation from the United States and China, Reuters reported.  LINK

National

Income Inequality in America A new study shows that the top 1 percent of American earners captured 121 percent of income gains from 2009 to 2011, resulting in negative income for the bottom 99 percent of American earners, Think Progress reported.  LINK

Senate Votes Overwhelmingly to Expand Domestic Violence Act The Senate, with broad bipartisan support, voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to expand the reach of the landmark Violence Against Women Act of 1994 by fortifying the power of American Indian tribal courts and explicitly protecting gay victims of domestic abuse. The 78-to-22 vote raised the pressure on the House to act and expanded by 10 votes the margin of approval that a nearly identical bill garnered in the Senate last April, according to The New York Times. LINK

Senate Panel Backs Hagel The Senate Armed Services Committee approved Chuck Hagel's nomination to be defense secretary, splitting along party lines Tuesday as it sent the nomination to the full Senate, where it is likely to face further challenges. The committee's 14 Democratic members voted to recommend that the full Senate confirm Mr. Hagel's nomination, while 11 Republicans voted against it. One Republican, Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana wasn't present for the vote. LINK

Media Consolidation Comcast announced that it will buy General Electric’s 49 percent stake in NBCUniversal for $16.7 billion. LINK

Budget Surplus The U.S. budget posted a January surplus, largely reflecting a big boost in tax revenue, The Wall Street Journal reported. The first January surplus since 2008 helped narrow the fiscal year’s deficit to $290.4 billion. LINK

Vermont

Death Bill The Vermont Senate took an unusual vote not to reject a bill to allow doctors to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients requesting it. Now senators are ready to debate whether to pass the measure. The Senate voted 17-13 on Tuesday to reject a recommendation from the Judiciary Committee that it defeat the measure variously called "end-of-life choices" or "physician-assisted suicide," AP reported.

Stun Guns A group of Vermont lawmakers and the heads of disability and civil rights groups are pushing legislation that would create new rules governing police use of electronic stun guns, the Times Argus reported The effort follows the death last year of Macadam Mason, a Thetford man who suffered a heart attack after a state trooper hit him with a Taser. LINK

Vermont Yankee Lawyers for Entergy Vermont Yankee want to sharply limit the issues a state regulatory panel can review as it weighs Yankee's request for a nuclear plant permit lasting until 2032, Vermont Public Radio reported. The embattled energy company has had various environmental groups protest the continued operation of its plant.  LINK

Vermont Catholics Bishop Salvatore Matano, head of the Vermont Catholic diocese, released a statement on the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI, saying the resignation causes “great sadness,” but that it shows love for the church, the AP reported. LINK