News February 28

Senator Sanders

Budget Brinksmanship President Obama invited congressional leaders to the White House tomorrow to try to find an alternative to $85 billion in across-the-board spending reductions due to take effect starting Friday. Sen. Bernie Sanders hoped the effort succeeds. “There is nobody who believes sequestration makes a lot of sense,” Sanders told Chris Jansing on MSNBC. VIDEO

Undoing the New Deal Some in Congress see a rare opportunity to whittle down Pentagon spending but say the military cuts are not enough to justify damage to other programs. ''While the Democrats may be winning the political battle, Republicans are winning the ideological war,'' Sen. Sanders told The New York Times. ''The goal of the right wing is to essentially undo the Roosevelt era, the New Deal, substantially cut back on government, and in a sense, they are achieving that. This is a huge step.'' LINK

Budget Negotiations “That business cliché - think outside the box - has a lot of merit.  But Washington is framing its budget talks within the smallest box imaginable: deficits … There's no room at the conference table for smart, enterprising out-of-the-box thinkers like Sen. Sanders or the members of the House Progressive Caucus who have proposed better ways to fix the economy - and reduce the deficit,” Richard Eskow wrote for The Huffington Post. LINK

Sanders Voted No on Sequester With its meat-cleaver hacks, the sequester was intentionally designed to force compromise.  In the Senate, six Democrats plus Sanders voted no when the sequester mechanism was put in place in 2011. House Democrats split down the middle on the deal 95-95, with most progressives voting against it, according to Salon. LINK

Treasury Secretary By a vote of 71-26, the Senate on Wednesday confirmed Jacob J. Lew to be Treasury secretary. A total of 25 Republicans and independent Bernie Sanders voted against Lew's confirmation, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today online, The Associated Press, United Press International, Agence France Presse and CQ Roll-Call and National Public Radio reported. ''We need a secretary of the Treasury who does not come from Wall Street but is prepared to stand up to the enormous power of Wall Street,'' Sanders said from the Senate floor. ''Do I believe that Jack Lew is that person? No, I do not.'' LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, AUDIO

Journal on Lew Lew’s support “from every Democrat (save Sanders) sets a new standard that renders irrelevant a decade of Democratic political campaigns. Investment accounts in the Cayman Islands are no longer evil tax havens …  Poorly disclosed executive compensation is no longer a plague on profit-making businesses … And private lending in the student-loan market -- featuring what liberals used to call kickbacks to colleges -- is now officially acceptable in President Obama's Washington,” The Wall Street Journal editorialized. LINK

Bankers Dodge Taxes In a statement on the Senate floor explaining why he would vote against Lew, Sen. Sanders accused Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs of taking taxpayer bailouts and then avoiding U.S. taxes, The Huffington Post reported. “When it comes to paying their taxes, oh, suddenly they love the Cayman Islands,” Sanders said of Wall Street banks. “So my suggestion is, the next time these crooks destroy their banks and they need to be bailed out, let them go to the government of the Cayman Islands to get their bailout.” LINK

Global Warming “A carbon tax is one policy mechanism that has the potential not only to make a meaningful dent in the budget deficit, but also to raise sufficient revenue to justify lowering other taxes,” according to a Brookings Institution report covered by Politico. The article said Sen. Sanders’ bill would impose a $20 fee per ton of carbon from the nation’s largest greenhouse gas emitters. LINK

Climate Change Sen. David Vitter sent a letter to President Obama asking if he will denounce new legislation that would impose a so-called "carbon tax." Sens. Sanders and Barbara Boxer said revenues would fund energy efficiency and sustainable energy technologies such as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. They said their proposal also would provide rebates to consumers to offset any efforts by oil, coal or gas companies to raise prices, The (Baton Rouge, La.)  Advocate reported on Wednesday. LINK

Veterans Sen. Sanders’ presented the prevention of veteran suicide as a top priority as chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Veterans Today reported. He also praised a growing coalition of seniors, labor organizers, and veterans in fighting a change in how cost-of-living adjustments are calculated which would cut Social Security and benefits for disabled veterans. LINK

The “True Left” There is a “fundamental imbalance” in the discussion around events like the President’s State of the Union, Chico Enterprise-Record reader Tom Reed said in a letter. Sen. Sanders was among the few candidates who could have delivered a progressive response to the President’s speech to balance rebuttals from Sens. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, Reed said. LINK

Lawyer for Little Guys Vermont lawyer Jim Dumont traces his legal career representing small advocacy groups fighting large special interests to a small role he played during Bernie Sanders’ mayoral campaign in 1981. Dumont worked late on election night to make sure ballots were sealed following Sanders’ narrow win, Seven Days reported. LINK

Bennington Select Board Former state Rep. Peter J. Brady is hoping to use his experience in the Statehouse as a member of the Select Board to help the town grow. "I know the legislative process. I ran an office here for (Sen.) Bernie Sanders for a little while. I've been involved in several, several campaigns over the years," he told the Bennington Banner. LINK

World

U.S. to Bankroll Syrian Rebels The Obama administration said Thursday that it will provide the Syrian opposition with an additional $60 million in assistance and — in a significant policy shift — will for the first time provide nonlethal aid like food and medical supplies to rebels battling to oust President Bashar Assad. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Syrian National Council leaders Thursday in Rome, The Washington Post reported. LINK

National

Voting Rights Act The Supreme Court listened to arguments in a case challenging a central provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act with conservative justices showing opposition to the statute, The New York Times reported. The provision requires nine states, mostly in the South, to get federal permission before changing voting procedures. LINK

VA Backlog The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing Wednesday on the backlog that keeps veterans waiting as long as nine months for processed disability claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs, NBC News reported. Members of the committee pointedly asked representatives of the VA and the Department of Defense to defend a decision to halt a program to create an integrated health records system for veterans. LINK

Veterans Health Care The Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs may let veterans care fall through the cracks by scrapping a plan to build a joint health-records system, U.S. lawmakers told Bloomberg. LINK

Dow Reaches Five-Year High Stocks roared higher for a second straight day, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average to a five-year high and shedding concerns of a European debt crisis following the developments of the close election in Italy, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK

Violence Against Women Act House Republican leaders approved a bifurcated process to consider the Violence Against Women Act, which will likely lead to consideration of the bipartisan Senate version of the bill and a swift signing by the White House, The New York Times reported. LINK

Vermont

Sequester Leaders of the Vermont Legislature say a looming series of automatic federal budget cuts could cause enormous problems with Vermont’s budget for next year. House speaker Shap Smith, a Democrat, says the budget being considered for next year is already tight and any cuts from Washington could ‘‘upset the apple cart,’’ according to AP. LINK

Soda Tax A Vermont House committee reversed itself and approved a penny-an-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages to pay for health care subsidies, AP reported. LINK

Fuel Assistance Gov. Peter Shumlin is looking for $900,000 in funds to plug a shortfall in the Vermont emergency fuel assistance fund, AP reported. LINK

Child Care The Senate Economic Development Committee considered whether to extend collective bargaining rights to child care providers on Wednesday. LINK

Culvert Repair About 50 bridges and 40 culverts in Vermont still lack repair in the 18 months since Tropical Storm Irene, in some cases due to a discrepancy between state requirements and FEMA reimbursement statutes, VPR reported. LINK

Sugar Season Gov. Shumlin tapped a maple tree on the Statehouse lawn on Wednesday to kick off Vermont's maple sugar season, which typically starts when daytime temperatures rise above freezing followed by cold nights. Vermont is the leading producer of maple syrup in the country, AP reported. LINK