News November 20

Senator Sanders

Senate Panel Votes to Expand Veterans Health and Dental Care The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on Tuesday approved a measure that will expand access to VA health benefits. “One of the concerns that I have is that there are many veterans who would like to access VA health care who for one reason or another are unable to do so,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, the committee chairman, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday with the Vermont Press Bureau. A separate Sanders bill approved by the committee would expand veterans’ access to dental care. LINK

VA Shutdown Protection The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee moved Tuesday to protect all veterans programs from a future government shutdown. The measure enjoys wide support from veterans’ groups but the Obama administration and a few members of Congress are not on board. The committee approved the bill on a 13-1 vote. Sen. Richard Burr, the ranking Republican, was the lone opponent. The shift would provide the VA with more flexibility in its spending priorities, Sanders told the Vermont Press Bureau. LINK

Bank Slapped with Record Fine JPMorgan Chase agreed Tuesday to a record $13-billion settlement with the government over selling shoddy mortgage investments. The nation's largest bank admitted to knowingly peddling the toxic securities that led to the housing bubble and the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression. Sen. Sanders told the Los Angeles Times that he was pleased officials were taking action. "We continue to be in the midst of a terrible, terrible economic downturn because of the greed and recklessness and illegal behavior of Wall Street," Sanders said. "People want justice to be done.” LINK

Guantanamo Bay Senators on Tuesday voted down dueling bills on transferring detainees from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. An amendment that would have eased the Obama administration’s ability to detain and try suspects in the United States or release them overseas fell eight votes shy of the 60 needed for passage. The Associated Press reported that four of the most liberal senators – Patrick Leahy, Ron Wyden, Elizabeth Warren and Sanders – joined Sen. Mark Pryor in voting against the amendment by Sen. Carl Levin, whose amendment was opposed by civil liberties groups. The votes left legislative efforts on track that ultimately could shutter the controversial detainee facility. LINK

Minimum Wage Senate Democrats are backing a proposal to lift the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. Sen. Sanders told Ring of Fire Radio's Robert Kennedy Jr. that the bill would increase the amount of money flowing into the hands of low-income workers who are more likely to purchase goods and services that create jobs. “This bill will give 30 million workers a raise and that is something we have to do,” Sanders said on WFFF-TV and WVNY-TV. AUDIO, VIDEO, VIDEO

Budget Conference Sen. Sanders on Tuesday discussed progress being made by a special House and Senate committee working on a budget for the coming year. He spoke on the Vermont Public Radio program Vermont Edition. LINK

Strengthen Social Security Sen. Sanders and several colleagues are supporting legislation to expand Social Security, MSNBCThe Raw Story and Politix reported. Ezra Klein cited Sanders in a Washington Post column saying the retirement program is “not generous enough to counteract the sorry state of retirement savings.” In the Burlington Free Press, Steve Flemer disputed Sanders’ assertion that the Social Security trust fund possesses a $2.8 trillion surplus. LINK, LINKLINKLINKLINK

Drones Members of a Vermont veterans’ peace group on Tuesday urged the state’s congressional delegation to support legislation banning the use of armed drones by the military and the CIA. A Sanders aide said the senator is sympathetic to the group’s concerns. LINK

Socialism in America The election of Kshama Sawant, a self-proclaimed socialist from Seattle, is proof that Americans are not “innately allergic to socialism,” Ari Paul wrote for The Guardian. Several cities have elected socialist mayors, and independent socialist Sen. Sanders was elected on the national level. LINK

White House '16 The nation needs a progressive candidate for president in 2016 “to start talking about what the American people believe and start representing the interests of working families," Sen. Sanders said on Public Radio International's The Tavis Smiley Show. Sanders “won't rule out a run in 2016,” Ed Schultz said Tuesday on MSNBC. The Vermont senator wants to “rally the American people, stand up and fight for their needs.” Sanders “might just have to run,” John Nichols blogged for The Nation. AUDIO, VIDEO, LINK


Israel Tensions There is a stark contrast between Israel and the Obama administration in regards to the preliminary deal with Iran over its nuclear program, The New York Times reported. The Israeli government sees it as enshrining the status quo and rewarding a few unproven leaders with cash and sanctions relief, while the Obama administration sees it as an effort to freeze the program and buy time to negotiate a better deal. LINK

Pact with Afghanistan Afghan officials said Tuesday that President Hamid Karzai would clear the way for a long-term security pact with the United States after receiving assurances that President Obama would issue a contrite letter acknowledging American military mistakes in Afghanistan and vowing not to repeat them, The New York Times reported. LINK


Reid Moving to Limit Filibusters Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is prepared to move forward with a vote that could severely limit the minority party’s ability to filibuster presidential nominees, possibly as early as this week, Democrats said Tuesday. Exasperated with the refusal of Senate Republicans to confirm many of President Obama’s nominees, Reid has been speaking individually with members of his caucus to gauge whether there is enough support to change filibuster rules, The New York Times reported. LINK

Obama Backs Piecemeal Immigration Overhaul President Barack Obama said Tuesday he would accept a piecemeal approach to overhauling the immigration system, a move aimed at jump-starting a moribund process that reflects the realities of a divided Congress.. Obama has long favored the sweeping immigration bill that passed the Senate in June, but the House has made clear it wouldn't consider that measure, according to The Wall Street Journal. LINK

Tax Code Overhaul Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus on Tuesday unveiled a plan to overhaul the nation’s tax code for corporations, The New York Times reported. The draft legislation would permanently exempt corporate profits earned by subsidiaries in foreign countries and immediately tax profits from goods and services sold to Americans from such subsidiaries. LINKLINK

Military Sex Assaults Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Tuesday he will support legislation from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to remove prosecutions of serious crimes, including sexual assault, from the military chain of command, Roll Call reported. LINK

NSA Spying Newly declassified documents related to National Security Agency spying programs released this week show that the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved a program to systematically track Americans’ emails in 2004 during President George W. Bush’s administration, according to The New York TimesLINK

Gettysburg Address Thousands gathered Tuesday on the Civil War battlefield where President Abraham Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the landmark event in United States history, CBS News reported. LINK

Veterans Health Care Criticized CNN reported on military veterans dying because of long waits and delayed care at U.S. Veterans Hospitals. VIDEO

Health Care Perks for Lawmakers Members of Congress say they will have the same health care enrollment experience as constituents because the law forced lawmakers to get coverage from the new insurance exchanges. But members of Congress have access to “in-person support sessions” being conducted at the Capitol and congressional office buildings by the local exchange and four major insurers. They can log on to a special Blue Cross and Blue Shield website for members and use a special toll-free telephone number — a “dedicated congressional health insurance plan assistance line.” And lawmakers have a larger menu of “gold plan” insurance choices than most of their constituents, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK, LINK


Vt. Settles with Google Vermont will receive $467,000 from a settlement with Google Inc. for bypassing security settings on Apple’s Safari web browser in 2011 and 2012, The (Addison, Vt.) Eagle reported. Sorrell’s Office, along with the attorneys general of 36 states and the District of Columbia, entered into the $17 million settlement on Tuesday. LINK

Burlington Lakefront City and community organizations are preparing to present their ideas for improving Burlington’s waterfront. The groups are discussing their proposals Wednesday and Thursday at Public Investment Team meetings.

The groups have requested a total of about $17 million in tax increment financing funds, AP reported. LINK