News November 12

Sanders on Budget Priorities Sen. Bernie Sanders is holding a news conference a day before Congress reconvenes to debate automatic spending cuts and tax changes. Sanders is a member of the Senate Budget Committee. President Barack Obama and Congress have just a few weeks to figure out how to avert the automatic cuts to defense and domestic programs totaling $110 billion next year, The Associated Press reported on Monday. LINK

Veterans Benefits Sen. Sanders is leading a drive of more than 50 organizations of veterans and senior citizens to block what he calls significant cuts in veterans' benefits and Social Security. Sanders made the call in advance of the Veterans Day holiday. Sanders, a senior member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, sent a letter to congressional leaders opposing a change in how annual cost-of-living-adjustments are calculated that he says would lower Social Security and veterans' benefits, The Associated Press, WPTZ-TV and WCAX-TV reported on Sunday. LINK, LINK, VIDEO, VIDEO

Social Security Sen. Sanders says he has received assurances from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that Social Security benefits will not be touched in a deficit deal, The Hill reported on Monday. "In the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, Wall Street and corporate America and virtually all Republicans are working on a deficit reduction plan to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, while lowering tax rates for the wealthy and large corporations. Sadly, some Democrats are also engaged in this effort," Sanders said in a letter.

Social Security Sen. Sanders opposes a change that could curtail Social Security payments by $1,000 in the next few years. The change in an index that measures consumer prices was first proposed by the bipartisan Center and on Budget and Policy Priorities and was endorsed by the president's commission on deficit reduction, WTOP-AM in Washington, D.C. reported on Monday. AUDIO 

Veterans Day "Sadly, Vermont has seen more than its share of service members killed in action during the past decade. We have monuments and memorials throughout our state honoring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, but theirs is a debt we can never fully repay. Our thoughts and prayers are extended to their families and friends, who know that Veterans Day will always be one of reflection and remembrance of lives cut short. Many service members have also been injured, often grievously, in the recent wars. Our thoughts and prayers are with them as well," Sen. Sanders said in a Veterans Day statement in the Burlington Free Press.

Food Co-Op The $9 million Brattleboro Food Co-op celebrated a grand opening on Saturday of the 14,500-square-foot store and 24 mixed-income apartments above it. Saturday's celebration also included representation from staff members of U.S. Sens. Sanders and Patrick Leahy, the Brattleboro Reformer reported. LINK

Whither Vt. Republicans? It was very difficult to be a Republican in Vermont this election year and it appears to be growing more difficult with each passing election. Tuesday night, minutes after the polls closed at 7 p.m., The Associated Press projected, based on exit polling, that Vermont had gone for President Barack Obama and that Sen. Sanders and Gov. Peter Shumlin had won. The first two were hardly surprising, but the speedy conclusion about Shumlin‘s victory was the first of many slaps in the face for those at the Republican gathering in Montpelier. "That has a tendency to suck the enthusiasm out of the room," Lt. Gov. Phil Scott told the Burlington Free Press. LINK

National

Obama to Take Case Outside Beltway As he prepares to meet with congressional leaders at the White House on Friday, aides say President Obama will not simply hunker down there for weeks of closed-door negotiations as he did in 2011, when partisan brinkmanship over raising the nation's debt limit damaged the economy and his political standing. He will travel beyond the Beltway at times to rally public support for a deficit-cutting accord that mixes tax increases on the wealthy with spending cuts, The New York Times reported. LINK

Social Security, Medicare are Likely Targets To make a real impact on the deficit, agricultural subsidies and oil and gas giveaways may face the chopping block. But more than anything, lawmakers will likely target Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and a host of other social programs that help those with the fewest advocates in Washington, including people on food stamps, veterans, retiring federal workers, home health care workers and the elderly. Seventy percent of voters, however, prefer a more balanced approach to deficit reduction than the deep, across-the-board cuts that the GOP has advocated, The Huffington Post reported. LINK

Cuomo to Seek $30 Billion for Storm Relief Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo plans to ask the federal government for at least $30 billion in disaster aid to help New York City and other affected areas of the state recover from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, top administration officials told The New York Times. President Obama, emboldened by his decisive re-election and lessons learned over four years in office, is looking to the renewal of budget talks with Republicans this week as a second chance to take command of the nation's policy debates and finally fulfill his promise to end gridlock in Washington, associates say. LINK

Vermont

Welch Priorities Vermont's lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives is going to be talking about his priorities for the lame-duck session of Congress. Rep. Peter Welch is planning to discuss the issues in his Burlington office on Monday before he returns to Washington, AP reported.

Leahy Priorities While efforts to head off tax increases and automatic spending cuts will dominate the agenda when Congress returns to work, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said he is hoping to find time for action on two bills aimed at curtailing violence against women as well as human trafficking, the Times Argus and Rutland Herald reported. LINK

Lou Slaughtered Green Mountain College in Poultney said the ox, named Lou, was put down Sunday after a recurring injury to his hind leg continued to deteriorate. Lou and another ox, Bill, were retired this summer from the college's working farm. The school planned to turn them into beef products to be served in the college dining hall. The college says Bill will stay at the school farm and receive care consistent with appropriate livestock practices, AP reported. LINK