News February 27

Senator Sanders

‘Dumb’ Budget Cuts Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday called $85 billion in across-the-board spending reductions due to take effect starting Friday “a dumb way to do cuts.” On The Ed Schultz Show, Sanders said more revenue is needed to lower deficits. He noted that total revenue today amounts to about 16 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. That’s down from more than 20 percent the last time the federal budget was balanced when Bill Clinton was president. AUDIO

Carbon Tax Sen. Sanders on Tuesday hit back at a National Association of Manufacturers report claiming that a tax on carbon emissions to fight global warming would cut factory output and hurt the U.S. economy. The cost of not responding to climate change would escalate costs to taxpayers, homeowners and businesses as natural disasters become more frequent, Sanders countered. Legislation that Sanders introduced with Sen. Barbara Boxer calls for a $75 billion in the coming decade to help manufacturers invest in energy efficiency and make them more competitive. It also would invest $10 billion over 10 years for job-training programs for workers in new energy technologies, Reuters reported. LINK

Disaster Costs Climb Sanders said the manufacturers study overlooked the costs of responding to weather disasters that scientists say are becoming more intense because of global warming. “The price that America cannot afford to pay is the price of doing nothing to reverse global warming," Sanders said, according to Energy Guardian. The Brookings Institution said a carbon tax could help address federal budget shortfalls and reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions and the Sanders-Boxer legislation was praised by Citizens Climate Lobby Director Mark Reynolds in the Times of Trenton (N.J.). LINK, LINK

Global Warming Poses ‘High Risk’ The Government Accountability Office listed the government's financial risks from climate change as a "high risk area" in need of significant reform, bolstering calls from Democrats and the Obama administration to regulate greenhouse gases to address the threats. Legislation proposed by Sens. Sanders and Boxer “actually addresses the crisis and does what needs to be done to protect the planet," Sanders said at a Feb. 14 press conference, according to Clean Air Report.

Climate Change Sen. David Vitter on Tuesday asked President Obama whether he agrees with his Treasury secretary nominee and press secretary that his administration has no plans to propose a carbon tax to deal with global warming. In a letter to the president, Vitter asks Obama to express his opposition to recently introduced legislation by Sens. Sanders and Boxer that would impose a carbon tax, The (New Orleans, La.) Times-Picayune reported. LINK

Warming Bill DOA in House “It’s almost certain” that the Boxer and Sanders legislation “will be dead on arrival in the Republican House. But that rejection could actually help the White House. In his State of the Union, Obama declared that if Congress won’t act on climate change, he will. The failure of a high-profile bill would create the opportunity for the administration to roll out its new regulations, National Journal asserted. LINK

VA Backlog Sen. Sanders told an American Legion conference in Washington on Tuesday that an “overwhelmed, broken claims system” at the Department of Veterans Affairs is not prepared for the arrival of new veterans as combat troops return home from Afghanistan, Stars and Stripes reported. He pledged “aggressive” oversight by his Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to push for a faster solution, Navy Times reported. A hearing is planned for next month, The Examiner reported. LINK, LINK

American Legion Organizations like The American Legion are critical in helping Congress provide oversight over the Department of Veterans Affairs – a point Sen. Sanders made very clear in speaking at The American Legion Commander's Call during the organization's 53rd annual Washington Conference, Sanders said veterans service organizations provide an invaluable service for his committee, according to the Legion website. LINK

Treasury Secretary The Senate Finance Committee advanced Jack Lew’s nomination as Treasury Secretary for a confirmation vote on the Senate floor, CQ-Roll Call reported. Five Republicans on the panel voted against Lew, joining fellow Republican Jeff Sessions and Sen. Sanders in opposition to Obama’s nominee. LINK

Tax Havens Sen. Sanders introduced a proposal to make it more difficult for corporations to hide profits in offshore tax havens. Writing for The Washington Times, Cato Institute fellow Richard Rahn criticized efforts to stop what he calls “legal tax minimization strategies.” LINK

Progressives Sen. Sanders was praised for his “ringing oratory” in the Allentown, Penn., Morning Call. Political scientist Ted Morgan said Sanders “has consistently spoken out for policies that actually meet the needs of the American people, not the 1 percent.” LINK

World

Berlusconi wins Italy Billionaire incumbent Silvio Berlusconi pulled ahead in the Italian election Tuesday, once again establishing him as the leader of a new coalition in the Italian government, Reuters reported. LINK

National

American Austerity The federal government, the nation’s largest consumer and investor, is cutting back at a pace exceeded in the last half-century only by the military demobilizations after the Vietnam War and the cold war. And the turn toward austerity is set to accelerate on Friday if the mandatory federal spending cuts known as sequestration start to take effect as scheduled, The New York Times reported. LINK

Budget Cuts President Obama flew on Tuesday to the vast shipyard where the nation’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers are built to send a warning that automatic cuts in the Pentagon budget, only three days away, threatened the jobs of tens of thousands of workers and America’s fragile economic recovery, The New York Times reported. LINK

Immigration Detainees Released to Save Money Federal immigration officials have released hundreds of detainees from immigration detention centers around the country, an effort to save money as automatic budget cuts loom in Washington, The New York Times reported. LINK

Poll: Americans Oppose Spending Cuts Just a fifth of those polled think the cuts, known as the sequester, are a good idea, while a majority considers them a bad idea, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. LINK

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel won confirmation Tuesday to become defense secretary over objections to his views on Middle East security and the administration’s handling of an attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya. On a 58 to 41 vote, the Senate confirmed the former GOP senator as four Republicans joined 54 Democrats in approving Hagel, ending a nearly two-month battle that included an unprecedented filibuster against the nominee. All 41 no votes came from Republicans. LINK

Eavesdropping Law Survives Court Challenge The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned back a challenge to a federal law that broadened the government’s power to eavesdrop on international phone calls and e-mails. The decision, by a 5-to-4 vote that divided along ideological lines, probably means the Supreme Court will never rule on the constitutionality of that 2008 law, according to The New York Times. LINK

JP Morgan Cuts 4,000 Jobs J.P. Morgan Chase  announced Tuesday morning that it plans to cut overall expenses in 2013 by $1 billion and reduce headcount by 4,000 in its consumer-banking business, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK

Gun Control Advocate Wins Illinois Special Election In a victory for gun-control advocates led by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former state Rep. Robin Kelly won the Democratic nomination in a special election Tuesday, defeating former congresswoman Debbie Halvorson, whose positions on guns had come under consistent attack from opponents, The Washington Post reported. LINK

Vermont

Wind Moratorium Proposal Dropped Senators removed a proposed three-year moratorium from legislation regulating large-scale wind projects. Instead, the legislation now would add more rules to the permitting process. It still has the strong opposition of renewable-energy advocates, Vermont Public Radio reported. LINK

Dental Care A new dental center serving people of all income levels is expected to open this fall in Bristol’s revitalized industrial park, thanks to a recently announced $300,000 federal grant, the Addison County Independent reported. The center is expected to serve around 1,000 patients per year, 550 of which will be low- or moderate-income citizens. LINK

Trooper Fraud An independent audit found a state police payroll system that was “vulnerable to fraud”  but “rarely abused,”  the Burlington Free Press reported. Gov. Peter Shumlin called for the independent audit amid the allegations that former state police patrol commander Jim Deegan had defrauded the department for $213,000 through falsified time sheets. LINK

Whooping Cough The number of whooping cough cases in Vermont has dropped in half since a vaccination and public information campaign was launched in December, The Associated Press reported. LINK