News November 15

Senator Sanders 

Saving Social Security Sen. Bernie Sanders, a reliable advocate for social safety programs, is hosting a summit today to agitate in favor of preserving Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Sanders joins progressives in Congress and across the country in applying new pressure on President Obama to oppose cuts to social programs and extending tax cuts for high earners as part of a budget compromise, Salon reported. LINK

Defend Social Security "The so-called ‘fiscal cliff' debate should not include Social Security, as it does not contribute to the deficit - being paid for by payroll taxes - and currently has a surplus of $2.7 trillion, which will allow it to deliver 100 percent of benefits for the next 21 years, according to the Social Security Administration and a recent article by Sen. Sanders," Pearl Korn blogged for TheHuffington PostLINK

Jobs "The U.S. economy today is working very well - for millionaires and billionaires. Not so well for the disappearing middle class. While we have come a long way in the last four years since Wall Street greed drove us to the verge of a worldwide depression, much more has to be done to create millions of new jobs," Sen. Sanders wrote in an op-ed published by the Burlington Free PressLINK

‘Fiscal Cliff' Sen. Sanders appeared on C-SPAN's Washington Journal and told reporter Libby Casey "Millionaires and billionaires are going to have to pay their fair share. We cannot balance the budget on the backs of the sick, the elderly and the poor." LINK

‘Fiscal Cliff' Vermont's congressional delegation voiced unanimous pessimism that a deal could be reached by January 1. Sanders told the Burlington Free Press that "It's not like you'd be going over the cliff and nothing can be done the day after. When you talk about the cliff, you're talking about a 10-year situation. Ten years. So you can absolutely address that problem in the first month or two of the new session without any damage whatsoever." The Caledonian-Record said in an editorial, "We understand his position but Sanders' cavalier attitude is worrisome in light of the stakes." LINK

A People's Mandate President Obama won an overwhelming majority in the Electoral College, a daunting majority of the popular vote and a majority of the nation's states representing a mandate for more humane and equitable governance, John Nichols wrote for The (Madison, Wis.) Capital Times. "My sincere hope is that the Republican Party now understands that the American people do not want a government pushing right-wing extremist policies. They want a government that addresses the needs of working families, the elderly, the children and the sick, and not just the wealthiest people in this country," said Sen. Sanders, who won his own election in a 71-percent-of-the-vote landslide. LINK

Filibuster Reform Use of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate dates back to 1837, and in December 2010, Sen. Sanders exercised his senatorial rights and spoke for more than eight and a half hours to protest President Obama's deal with the Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts. Yet most contemporary filibusters are conducted behind closed doors, anonymously, requiring 60 votes for termination, and by Republicans, leading many Democrats to call for reform, which could be enacted by a simple majority when the Congress reconvenes in January, the Chicago Reader reported. LINK

Angus King Maine's independent senator-elect announced he would caucus with Democrats, giving the party a 10-vote advantage over Republicans in the upper chamber, The Boston GlobeCBS NewsMSNBC and CNN reported. King said he made his decision after conferring with independent Sens. Sanders and Joe Lieberman, who told him Democrats never forced them to sacrifice their ideals, Fox News, the Los Angeles Times and Roll Call reported. "I had a series of conversations starting with Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders, asking them how they were treated as independents in the Democratic Caucus. They confirmed that they were essentially left alone, allowed to make their own decisions, not pressured to go the party line." LINK,LINKLINKLINKVIDEOVIDEO

A Good Year for Independents Senator-elect Angus King may have had the most coverage of any independent for Senate but his 53 percent vote share came nowhere close to Sen. Sanders' 71 percent mark. And while they did not win their elections, non-major candidates established high marks in three states and the Libertarian Party registered its strongest performances ever in five states, AllGov.com reported. LINK

Home Heating "Old Man Winter is right around the corner. Which is why we were relieved to hear on Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is releasing $17.69 million in home heating assistance funding for Vermont. Our congressional delegation -- Sens. Patrick Leahy and Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch -- had been calling for the release of these funds in addition to the continued support of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program ... As lawmakers in Washington continue to examine our nation's budget issues, we hope the importance of LIHEAP is not an overlooked afterthought," the Brattleboro Reformer editorialized. LINK

Industrial Hemp Sens. Rand Paul and Sanders, normally legislative foes, have come together in support of industrial hemp cultivation, introducing a bill to legalize the crop last August. Paul and local Kentucky groups continue to lobby for hemp, WBKO of Bowling Green, Ky., reported. LINK

Reminders for Republicans "I know you're in agony, Republicans," wrote comedian Jim David for The Huffington Post. But consider this: "We survived Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. You can survive Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren." LINK

Armenians Twelve out of the 15 candidates backed by the Armenian National Committee of America won re-election, including progressive Sens. Sherrod Brown, Sheldon Whitehouse, Tammy Baldwin and Sanders, The California (Glendale) Courier andAsbarez.com reported. LINK

Moran Plant A resolution that would solidify public ownership of Burlington's Moran plant was debated by the City Council Tuesday. Mayor Miro Weinberger wants a private developer for the site but some councilors said that undercuts a vision of a waterfront for people of all incomes. Councilor Max Tracy paraphrased former Mayor Sanders' formula for public/ private partnerships: Burlington is open for business, but is not for sale, the Burlington Free Press reported. LINK

World

Israeli Strike Kills Hamas Leader An Israeli airstrike blew up a car carrying the commander of the Hamas military wing in Gaza, making him the most senior official of the group to be killed by the Israelis since their invasion of Gaza four years ago. The Israeli military said had ordered the airstrike in response to days of rocket fire launched from Gaza into Israeli territory, The New York Timesreported. LINK

Syria Syrian authorities ordered airstrikes for a third consecutive day close to the tense Turkish border, and said a French decision to recognize and consider arming a newly formed Syrian rebel coalition was an "immoral" act "encouraging the descrution of Syria," The New York Times reported. LINK

National

Leader Pelosi House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will remain atop the Democratic caucus for at least two more years, extending her role as Congress's most vocal liberal voice opposing the Republican agenda despite the second straight election in which her party failed to win back the majority, The Washington Post reported. LINK

Obama Meets with C.E.O.s Pres. Obama met with business leaders on Wednesday seeking their support as he prepares to negotiate with Congressional Republicans over the budget, The New York Times reported. LINK

Education Financial troubles interfere with the academic performance of roughly one-third of all college students, and a similar number of students regularly skip buying required academic materials because of the costs, according to a survey released on Thursday, The New York Times reported. LINK

Vermont 

Circumventing Leahy Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Rob Portman joined forces across the political aisle to address a cause for which Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy has long been fighting: an end to human trafficking. Blumenthal suggested his bill has a better chance of passing before the end of the current Congress than legislation being pushed by Leahy, the Times Argus reported.

State Hired FEMA Consultants Two consulting firms hired by the state shortly after Tropical Storm Irene to navigate FEMA's bureaucratic maze are set to receive up to $4 million under a pair of consulting contracts, Vermont Public Radio reported. LINK

Legalizing Marijuana On election night, Burlington voters registered their support for legalizing marijuana in the city in a non-binding referendum. Leaders at the Statehouse say a more likely course of action is to decriminalize the drug, Vermont Public Radio reported. LINK

Brattleboro Retreat Layoffs The Brattleboro Retreat psychiatric hospital is cutting 31 jobs. The move comes two days after unionized workers held an informational picket over what the union has called deteriorating contract talks. Retreat officials say the cuts are due to projected deficits this year and next year, AP reported. LINK