News April 25

Senator Sanders

Senate Resolution: Don’t Cut Social Security Sens. Bernie Sanders and Tom Harkin on Wednesday introduced a resolution opposing President Obama’s proposed cuts to Social Security and disabled veterans’ benefits, The Hill reported. Harkin and Sanders suggested an alternative to strengthen Social Security. They would lift the current cap on income subject to the payroll tax. LINK

Sanders’ Solution Writing about “the left’s sharp criticism” of Obama’s proposal to cut Social Security, The Associated Press said Sen. Sanders is leading a petition drive opposing "any benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid." The deficit, he said, "was primarily caused during the Bush years by two unpaid-for wars, huge tax breaks for the rich and a prescription drug program" for Medicare, funded through borrowing. Higher taxes on the wealthy are the fairest way to tackle the deficit, he said. LINK

Obama and Progressives House progressives joined with Sen. Sanders in requesting a meeting with President Obama to discuss his proposal to change the consumer price index in a way that would erode benefits for retirees and veterans, according to a Washington Post blog and Talking Points Memo. LINK, LINK

Obama and Bush Both presidents suggested reforms to Social Security as a solution to the nation’s persistent debt crisis. Bush’s privatization plan died swiftly with progressives in the Senate. Some liberal senators, including Sen. Sanders has promised a similar fate for Obama’s budget proposal, which would trade slower interest rate growth on benefits for new taxes on the wealthiest Americans, according to The Hill. LINK

Sanders’ ‘Common Sense’ “When confronted with the wonky conventional wisdom of economic experts,” Sen. Sanders’ “common sense kicks in, causing him to question … Wall Street, the corporate media, Republican lawmakers, and the Obama White House for their insistence that our Social Security program needs a little operation,” Jim Hightower said in a radio commentary. LINK

Deficit Hawk Hypocrites “Deficit hawks just got a reality check from Sen. Sanders,” The Huffington Post reported after a speech by the senator on Wednesday expressing opposition to deficit reduction legislation that would cut programs important to the middle class. “You cannot talk about how you proceed with deficit reduction, you cannot say that it is okay to cut Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid or nutrition programs when the middle class of this country is disappearing,” Sanders said. LINK

Food Labels On the heels of last year's defeat on the issue in California, Sen. Barbara Boxer introduced a bill to order the Food and Drug Administration to mandate the labeling of genetically engineered foods. The legislation would require food manufacturers and stores to tag items made with genetically modified ingredients or grown from genetically engineered seeds. "All over this country people are becoming more conscious about the foods they are eating and the foods they are serving to their kids," said Sen. Sanders, a cosponsor of the bill. "I believe that when a mother goes to the store and buys food for her child, she has the right to know what she is feeding her child." LINK

USPS Rep. Peter DeFazio introduced a bill to reverse a strict legal requirement that mandates the United States Postal Service pre-fund future retirees’ healthcare, reported The Hill. The requirement was recently cited as a contributing factor in the Postal Service’s decision to end Saturday mail delivery. Sen. Sanders introduced companion legislation in the Senate. DeFazio posted a petition on the White House webpage asking for Obama’s support. LINK

Border Fee Members of Vermont’s congressional delegation reject the idea of imposing a border crossing fee on motorists or pedestrians entering the U.S. from Canada. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has proposed a study of such fees as part of a plan to raise money for costly border security. Sens. Sanders and Patrick Leahy oppose the idea, The Caledonian-Record reported.

St.JFD A four-year quest to replace the St. Johnsbury Fire Department’s 36-year-old fire truck finally came to an end as Sens. Sanders and Leahy announced with Rep. Peter Welch that a $475,000 FEMA grant would replace the truck, according to The Caledonian-Record and Vermont Business Magazine. Sanders, Leahy, and Welch wrote the director of the FEMA program to express their support of the St. Johnsbury application. LINK

Amazon Tax Rep. Welch “was one of the first to realize the need to protect Vermont’s downtowns” by favoring legislation to make retailers that sell goods over the Internet collect the same sales tax Main Street merchants must charge. Sens. Leahy and Sanders supported a measure “giving huge momentum to help our Vermont retailers get a fair and level playing field,” developer Ernie Pomerleau wrote in an op-ed for the Burlington Free Press. LINK

Wind Power Some high-profile figures opposed a moratorium on wind energy projects, saying it would send the wrong message to a world struggling to come to grips with climate change: that even environmentally conscious Vermont can’t get behind sustainable energy. These moratorium critics have included author and activist Bill McKibben and Sen. Sanders, who have been vilified for defending “Big Wind.” “To accuse McKibben and Sanders of becoming corporate tools is a stretch,” the Rutland Herald and Times Argus said in an editorial. LINK

Shumlin on Guns Gov. Peter Shumlin met with Sens. Sanders and Leahy on the same day last week when the Senate blocked legislation to require more background checks on guy purchases, according to a Seven Days column about the governor who “calls for a ‘50-state solution’ to address gun violence but who will never quite say what that solution should include.” LINK

Unemployment Hearing Unemployment remains a major problem in the United States, but a hearing Thursday to address long-term unemployment began with just one Senator in attendance, reported The Huffington Post. Minutes into the hearing, more lawmakers arrived. Senator Bernie Sanders was unable to make the hearing. LINK

World

Bangladesh Building Collapse Kills Hundreds A garment factory building in Bangladesh collapsed on Wednesday, injuring thousands and killing hundreds, CBS News reported. Workers were reportedly hesitant to enter the building before work on Wednesday because it had noticeable cracks in its structure. LINK

New Italian PM Enrico Letta was appointed Italy’s prime minister after months of political gridlock, reported Bloomberg. Letta’s center-left Democratic Party does not hold a majority, so he will be forced to build coalitions around legislation with participation from other parties. LINK

National

Senators Seek Way to Ease FAA Cuts Complaints about air-travel delays in recent days have prompted Democrats in Congress to reconsider their strategy for dealing with across-the-board spending cuts. This week, the Federal Aviation Administration began furloughing air-traffic controllers to comply with the required cuts, known as the sequester, The Wall Street Journal reported.  Airlines and some lawmakers have said the FAA is taking a rigid approach to the cutbacks, applying them in a way that has led to flight delays across the country, especially at airports in the Northeast. LINK

House Delays Health Care Vote Republicans in the House of Representatives leadership delayed a vote on Wednesday on a bill that make significant changes to the Affordable Care Act, reported The Hill. If passed, the legislation would move billions of dollars from the Prevention and Public Health Fund to the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Program. Conservative backlash stalled a vote when the Club for Growth urged members to vote against the bill. LINK

Vermont

Gas Tax Hike Approved by Legislature The House on Wednesday quickly approved a compromise transportation bill that would raise gas taxes 5.9 cents in May, while diesel taxes will increase by 2 cents in July. A year later, the tax on diesel goes up another penny, for a total increase of 3 cents. The goal behind raising the fuel taxes was to match $56 million in federal funds targeted for road and bridge repair, Vermont Press Bureau reported. LINK

Craft Breweries The Vermont House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs is considering legislation to allow craft breweries to ship beer directly to customers, reported The Brattleboro Reformer. Wineries are already allowed to ship directly to customers, now the robust craft brewing business in Vermont wants its chance to expand its customer base online. LINK Legislation that will raise gas and diesel taxes May 1 has passed the Legislature and is on its way to the governor for his signature.

Vermont Wind Lobbyist Apologizes Geoff Levanthall apologized Wednesday after identifying health concerns associated with wind turbines as “hoo-hah,” in a Vermont Senate Health and Welfare Committee panel, reported The Associated Press. Two Vermont doctors testified about negative health effects associated with wind energy utilities. LINK