News February 22

Senator Sanders 

Health Care Vermont is on track to become the first state to implement a single-payer health insurance system in 2017. “If we do it and do it well, other states will get in line and follow us,” Sen. Bernie Sanders told Vermont Life. “It will not only be enormously important to this state, it will be a model.” Sanders has been advocating a single-payer system since he was mayor of Burlington in the 1980’s, the magazine said. LINK

Tax Havens Pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly and Pfizer have fought to make it illegal for the American people to buy cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and Europe, but they shift drug patents and profits to the Netherlands and other offshore tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes,” Sen. Sanders wrote in an op-ed published by the Bennington Banner. The London-based global bank Barclays is closing a controversial tax-avoidance unit, The International reported in an article that cited Sanders’ bill to close loopholes corporations use to evade U.S. taxes. LINK

Carbon Tax China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, may soon get its very own tax on carbon emissions. Although U.S. carbon emissions are falling at the moment, many analysts think we’ll ultimately need a price on carbon to ensure the trend continues. Last week, Sens. Barbara Boxer and Sanders unveiled a bill that would impose a carbon tax in the United States starting at $20 per ton, The Washington Post reported online. LINK

Tar Sands Pipeline Attacks on a proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline are coming from the U.S. Senate where Sanders and Boxer are sponsoring a bill that will impose a carbon fee of $20 on every ton of fossil fuel produced in or imported into the United States. Unless an importing country, such as Canada, adapts similar measures to tax carbon, their manufacturers will also have to pay the U.S. carbon fee, The (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) Star Phoenix and other Canadian newspapers reported. LINK

Big Oil American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard said he does not expect the Sanders-Boxer climate change legislation to get on the Senate floor for a vote, The Hill and Environment & Energy Daily reported. Already, he said, “the United States has done more than anybody else around the world to reduce their carbon emissions … due largely to the increased use of clean burning natural gas.”

Obama on Energy President Obama is talking about investment in "clean energy" sources like wind, solar and water, yet in both speeches he also continued to promote "dirty energy" sources like coal, oil and gas. “Mr. President, you can't have it both ways. A good act will not cancel out a lousy one,” wrote in The Huffington Post. The column cited the legislation by Boxer and Sanders.

Hansen Faults Sanders-Boxer Bill James Hansen, the NASA physicist, said efforts to stem climate change won’t work as long as fossil fuels remain the cheapest form of energy, but he found fault with a carbon tax proposed recently by Sens. Boxer and Sanders because 35 percent of the money would go to deficit reduction, Hansen said. “Government shouldn’t be making decisions as to what the next energy sources are,” he told the Santa Fe New Mexican. LINK

‘Clean Coal’ Legislation by Sens. Sanders and Boxer would effectively end the Obama administration’s research into “clean coal,” Energy Guardian reported. The Energy Department agency in charge of clean coal research received about $560 million in 2012 and could receive $421 million this year. “The fossil fuel industry should be developing cleaner technologies to cut pollution, but this mature and profitable industry does not need government assistance,” a Sanders spokesman said. LINK

Nuclear Safety Sen. Sanders signed on with 11 other senators calling on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to enact safety upgrades recommended by its own staff. The safety recommendations were made following an analysis on how to prevent radiation incidents similar to what happened in Fukushima, Japan following the 2011 tsunami, Environment & Energy Daily reported. LINK

Treasury Treasury Secretary nominee Jack Lew will likely secure broad Senate support next week, The Wall Street Journal reported online. So far, only Sens. Jeff Sessions and Sanders have signaled they will oppose Lew. LINK

Sequester With across-the-board spending cuts about to start March 1 absent a last-minute breakthrough, Democratic Party leaders say there’s really no way out of this mess without new revenue. Sen. Sanders echoed Obama’s call for raising revenue by closing loopholes and limiting deductions that benefit the rich. “The wealthy are doing phenomenally well while the middle class is getting decimated,” he said in an interview with Politico. LINK

Guns “Most hunters would be for common-sense measures to keep guns out of the wrong hands,” Richard Czaplinski of Adamant wrote in a Times Argus op-ed that called Sen. Sanders “brilliant.” LINK

Minnesota Senators In new National Journal rankings of the most liberal and most conservative senators, Al Franken tied for third-most-liberal and Amy Klobuchar ranked 30th “only two notches higher than self-described democratic-socialist Sen. Sanders,” the St. Paul Pioneer Press noted in an editorial.


Syria A car bomb in Damascus killed more than 50 people and wounded around 200 on Thursday, marking the latest in a series of violent attacks in the Syrian Civil War. Until now, the center of the capital city has been largely shielded from the violent attacks that have claimed an estimated 70,000 lives, Reuters reported LINK


Sequestration White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Obama had called House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Thursday to discuss how to prevent $85 billion in across-the-board sequestration cuts, Reuters reported. Carney said conversations were “good.” LINK

Republican Governors Warm to Medicaid Under pressure from the health care industry and consumer advocates, seven Republican governors are cautiously moving to expand Medicaid, giving an unexpected boost to President Obama’s plan to insure some 30 million more Americans. The Supreme Court ruled last year that expanding Medicaid to include many more low-income people was an option under the new federal health care law, not a requirement, tossing the decision to the states and touching off battles in many capitols, The New York Times reported. LINK

Republicans Divided on Defense Cuts, Taxes Republicans head into the next budget battle with President Barack Obama torn between two long-standing goals: Strengthening the military and cutting federal spending. The prospect of deep cuts in defense is troubling to many in the party, which has traditionally supported robust defense spending. But increasingly, that impulse is giving way to arguments from GOP lawmakers, many of them new to Congress, who say the most important goal is to rein in federal deficits, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK

Republican Bloc Opposes Hagel 15 Republican Senators signed on to a letter over the recess formally requesting that President Obama withdraw his nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, The Washington Post reported. Hagel’s initial confirmation vote was delayed by an effective Republican filibuster in the Senate last week. LINK


Health Care Vermont won a $45 million grant under a federal program designed to bring new efficiencies to state health care programs. Gov. Peter Shumlin says the announcement of the grant from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid is a big boost to the state's efforts to retool its health care system, The Associated Press reported.

Welch: Protect Facebook Passwords If you’d prefer that your current or prospective boss not see your Facebook post from last week­end’s party, you’ve got an ally in U.S. Rep. Peter Welch.The Vermont Democrat says he will introduce a “Password Protection Act” that would pro­hibit employers from requiring employees or job applicants to turn over their social-media passwords, the Brattleboro Reformer reported.

Adjutant General State lawmakers picked Brig. Gen. Steven Cray as Vermont’s next adjutant general, taking command on March 1. The state’s top military position has been officially vacant since 2006, the Burlington Free Press reported. One of Cray’s first challenges will be dealing with the possibility of furloughs as a result of the federal sequester, AP reported. LINK, LINK

Sequester to Hit Head Start Unless Congress acts, Vermont’s Head Start education program will be among the federally-funded programs facing budget cuts as a result of the March 1 sequestration, VPR reported. The cuts would translate to summer layoffs for the program serving pregnant women and children under three years old. LINK

College President Accused of Embezzlement Found Dead James Beckwith was found dead Wednesday of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, the same day federal authorities filed a complaint alleging he embezzled $440,000 from Southern Vermont College while serving as acting president, the Bennington Banner reported.

Vermont Gas Vermont Gas Systems is planning to extend gas transmission pipes through Addison County, Vermont Public Radio reported. Some residents are opposed to the pipeline, noting that it won’t serve every part of town it passes through. LINK

Energy Loans Vermont is launching a new program to make low-interest loans available to businesses for renewable energy and efficiency projects, the AP reported. The Vermont Clean Energy Loan Fund is expected to provide up to $10 million in financing for energy efficiency projects undertaken by businesses. LINK