News November 16

Senator Sanders

Bernie for President? Sen. Bernie Sanders said on Friday that it is essential to have someone in the 2016 presidential campaign willing to take on Wall Street, address the collapse of the middle class, tackle the spread of poverty and fiercely oppose cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Addressing global warming also needs to be a top priority, not an afterthought, Sanders said. In an interview with the Burlington Free Press, Sanders said he is willing to consider a run, probably as an independent, if no other progressive candidate steps up. LINK

USPS Profits The U.S. Postal Service achieved its first revenue increase in five years but still lost $5 billion in fiscal 2013, according to figures released Friday. Postal unions, the USPS board of governors, and at least one lawmaker said the overall loss was due to a requirement that the agency pre-fund retiree benefits to the tune of about $5.6 billion per year. Sen. Sanders, who has proposed legislation to end the pre-funding obligation, told The Washington Post that the Postal Service would have recorded a net profit of $600 million without the annual payment, which the agency has defaulted on for the past several years. LINK

Budget Conference Senate Budget Chairman Patty Murray and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan are in daily communication looking for ways to cobble together a deal, privately. With just weeks to go, however, members on the committee acknowledge a bipartisan coalition is meeting separately. Sen. Bernie Sanders remains "cautiously optimistic" something could be done if Republicans were willing to budge on taxes. “The truth is that the two sides are not that far apart,” he told U.S. News & World Report in an interview Thursday. LINK

Save Social Security The conventional wisdom in Washington is that Social Security threatens to raise deficits and needs cutting, Sean McElwee wrote in The Huffington Post. Instead, McElwee says it needs to be expanded at a time when the middle class and poor need more help. "Social Security is not an entitlement program. It is an earned income benefit that has been enormously successful in cutting the rate of senior poverty," said Sen. Sanders. LINK

A Moral Issue When Sen. Sanders asked whether or not growing economic inequality was a moral issue, thousands responded. "People are seeing it as not just an economic issue, but a moral issue," Sanders said Friday on The Thom Hartmann Program. "Do you feel comfortable about living in a nation where the top 1 percent owns 38 percent of the financial wealth?" AUDIO

Single Payer In light of the Affordable Care Act's botched launch, Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post said a single-payer system may have worked better. “The Obamacare critics see the ACA as monstrous socialist over-reach, but I seem to recall that ACA had roots at the Heritage Foundation, that it conspicuously earned buy-in from private stake-holding industries, including insurers who saw a whole new pool of customers, and that it wasn’t what the liberals and Bernie Sanders (an actual socialist) wanted, which was a single-payer plan. Hey, maybe single payer would have worked much better,” he blogged.  LINK

Military Sex Assaults Bill Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is hopeful that Congress will pass her legislation to address military sexual assaults, according to US News & World Report. "Today we have a bipartisan bill and can you believe who I have on it? I have Bernie Sanders and Barbara Boxer, no surprise, but I have Ted Cruz and Rand Paul as well," she said. "When you have Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz, you're going to pass this bill in the U.S. Senate." LINK

COLA for Veterans The House passed the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2013 on Tuesday, which would provide a 1.5 percent increase in compensation for disabled veterans and survivors, The Ripon Advance reported. Sen. Sanders introduced the measure in May. LINK

Carbon Tax Would Lower Deficit, CBO Says The Congressional Budget Office’s latest data shows that a carbon tax would dramatically reduce the deficit, The Daily Caller reported. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer floated a bill with Sen. Sanders earlier this year, but have opted to instead push a the legislation as a part of efforts to reform the tax code. LINK

Health Plan Extensions Some Democrats did not welcome with open arms the administration’s decision to extend citizen health insurance plans, American Thinker reported. Many have little interest in maintaining plans that don’t provide sufficient coverage to the American people. "Am I in favor of policies which are inadequate? I am not,” Sen. Sanders said this week. LINK

Farm Bill “Congress has an important opportunity to create jobs and grow the economy by passing a long-term, comprehensive food, farm and jobs bill. The Vermont congressional delegation members — Sen. Leahy, as the senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Sen. Sanders and Rep. Welch — are working hard to pass the farm bill because they know it affects every American and would strengthen our nation,” Ted Brady, USDA Rural Development state director and Bob Paquin, USDA Farm Service Agency state executive director Burlington, wrote in the Times Argus. LINK

Sanders in the South The South has won the “economic war” and our youth are quite aware of it — why else would they be leaving Vermont for “hostile territory”? Don Keelan asked in a Bennington Banner column about Sen. Sanders’ trip to the South. LINK

Gene Farley, 86 “We have lost a great progressive. Gene Farley, a trail-blazing physician and peace and justice activist who believed every American deserves all the medical care they need, died last week … You could always spot Gene and his wife Linda, who died in 2009, at Fighting Bob Fest, not as wallflowers but as active participants. They loved Bernie Sanders, the independent U.S. senator from Vermont, helping welcome him to several Bob Fests and encouraging him in his crusade for single-payer,” Ed Garvey wrote in The (Madison, Wis.) Capital Times.

World

Change in China China's leaders announced on Friday the first significant easing of the country's one child per family policy in nearly 30 years and moved to abolish an often-abused labor camp system, The Associated Press reported.  Community leaders also vowed some of the most ambitious economic reforms in recent Chinese history. LINK

Iran Nuclear Program A senior Obama administration official said on Friday that a solution could be found for one of the major stumbling blocks to an agreement that would freeze Iran’s nuclear program, The New York Times reported. An accord could be achieved next week when talks between six world powers and Iran resume on Wednesday. LINK

National

Budget Conference Too Slow A Democratic negotiator says there has been almost no progress toward an agreement in a House-Senate budget conference and believes Republicans may be “running out the clock” in the talks. “These negotiations are going painfully slowly,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen told Congressional Quarterly. “We need to pick up the pace, and we really need to accelerate the effort.” LINK

House Approves ‘Keep Your Plan’ Act The House passed legislation on Friday that allows insurance companies to offer health plans that do not meet new requirements under the Affordable Care Act, The Hill reported. Thirty-nine Democrats broke with their party's leaders and backed the bill despite a veto threat by the White House. Only four Republicans opposed it. LINK

EPA Proposes Ethanol Cuts The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday proposed the first cut in the amount of ethanol that must be blended into the nation’s gasoline supply, Politico reported. The shift marks a huge blow to corn growers and a win for the oil industry. LINK

Vermont

Food Stamp Funds in Jeopardy The Shumlin administration says it’s working hard to rectify accounting errors in the food stamps program that are on pace to cost the state nearly $800,000 in federal penalties by June. The state has for two straight years exceeded the federal government’s allowable error rate in the payments it makes to recipients and has been assessed more than $400,000 in penalties, Vermont Press Bureau reported. LINK

Shumlin: Little Impact from Federal Health Decision President Obama’s decision Thursday to allow the extension of existing health insurance policies for a year is unlikely to have much impact on Vermonters, said Gov. Peter Shumlin. The state had already decided to allow individuals and small businesses to extend their current health insurance plans through March 31 to ensure people have coverage while problems are worked out with the Vermont Health Connect website, The Associated Press reported. LINK

Fire Departments Need Volunteers Across Vermont, fire departments are in search of volunteers, and at least one has put up signs on the sidewalk asking for 10 to 15 people, AP reported. Nationally, about 69 percent of firefighters are volunteers, and their numbers have been on the decline as the average age goes up. LINK