News November 28

Senator Sanders

Social Security Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday welcomed “a good step forward” by the White House on Social Security. Sanders’ comment in an interview on The Ed Schultz Radio Show came after President Obama’s spokesman said any changes to the retirement and disability program should be done separately from any plan to reduce the deficit. “This is a step in the right direction for more than 55 million Americans who have earned Social Security benefits today and every working American who will receive Social Security benefits in the future,” Sanders said on MSNBC. The White House statement is the same position taken by Sanders and 28 Democratic senators in a letter in September, The Associated Press reported. LINK, AUDIO

Social Security Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin joined Sen. Sanders and other progressives in calling for Social Security to be left out of ongoing budget negotiations, The Huffington Post reported. “Once Obama was re-elected, Social Security was probably not going to be on the table, but the advocacy of Bernie Sanders made sure that it never was,” Jason Easley wrote for Politicus. LINK, LINK 

Budget Negotiations Between 2010 and 2011, over $1 trillion was cut from programs that help low-income people and the middle class while the wealthy kept their same low tax rates. “The Republicans have been very clear in saying that their job is to represent the largest corporations and the wealthiest people, and up until this point they have succeeded,” Sen. Sanders told Thomas Roberts on MSNBC. Fox News said Obama as long ago as 2010 called Medicare and Medicaid major reasons for deficits and quoted Sanders’ concerns as an example of how “some on the left in Congress are even refusing to deal with that simple reality.” VIDEO, VIDEO 

‘Fiscal Cliff’ Despite hyperbolic rhetoric, the consequences of failing to pass a budget deal before the January “fiscal cliff” deadline will be far less dire than predicted. And with several progressive members entering Congress after January, the chances for a budget deal favorable to middle and working class families will be more auspicious after the deadline, Roger Bybee wrote for In These Times. Sen. Sanders, he noted, has said he “would prefer no deal to a bad deal.” LINK

Gas Prices Sen. Sanders called on gasoline distributors in northwestern Vermont to stop charging customers higher prices than are being charged in other parts of the state. Sanders planned to call the top executives of the three largest gasoline distributors in the region this week to make the request. He said there's no reason customers in northwestern Vermont should be paying about 25 cents a gallon more than are customers in other parts of the state, the Burlington Free Press, The Associated Press, WCAX-TV and Vermont Public Radio reported. LINK, LINK, LINK, VIDEO 

VA Clinic Plans to build a new $2.6 million outpatient clinic for veterans in Burlington, are moving forward. Sen. Sanders said Monday that the Department of Veterans Affairs has picked a contractor — Fortieth Burlington LLC — to build the facility, which will replace a clinic in Colchester that has outgrown its space, the Rutland Herald and Times Argus reported. LINK

Education Loans The Vermont Student Assistance Corporation has joined other state-based nonprofits to service federal education loans under a federal contract Sen. Sanders helped secure. “I am delighted that the federal Department of Education, recognizing VSAC’s excellent history of working with students, has selected them to service federal education loans to college students,” said Sanders, reported. LINK 

Filibuster Reform If the Democratic Party reformed Senate rules to only allow “talking filibusters,” then delays in legislation would become significantly more interesting, according to The (Monterey County, Calif.) Herald. It pointed to Sen. Sanders’ eight-hour 2010 “filibuster” against an extension of the Bush tax cuts, which was one of the most popular global events on social media that day and received wide press coverage. LINK

A Progressive Election In the words of Nancy Pelosi, “for the first time in Congressional history the majority will be women and minorities,” many of whom are progressives. Mazie Hirono, Tammy Baldwin, Elizabeth Warren and others join Sen. Sanders in the growing progressive faction in the Senate, Political Affairs reported. LINK

Burlington Waterfront The Burlington City Council considered an old issue earlier this week: how to reinvigorate the space occupied by the long-defunct Morgan Power Plant. New members are eager to transform the space but are relying on a tried-and-true saying of Sen. Sanders: “The waterfront is open for business but not for sale,” WCAX-TV reported. LINK


Egyptian Protests Thousands of people flowed into the streets of Cairo to protest President Mohamed Morsi’s attempt to assert broad new powers for the duration of the country’s political transition. There was a major protest in Tahrir Square, the focal point of protests that led to Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow two years prior, The New York Times reported. LINK 

Ambassador Rice What was supposed to be a make-nice meeting on Tuesday seemed only to make things more contentious between the White House and Senate Republicans over U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s comments following the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, The Washington Post reported. LINK


House Republican Urges Party to Yield on Tax Cuts A senior House Republican on Tuesday urged his party’s leadership to embrace the immediate extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for households earning less than $250,000, then fight out the fate of higher-income tax breaks later. In a private meeting of the House Republican whip team, the group responsible for vote counting, Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma broke with the rest of the leadership and said the party should join with President Obama for now, Republican aides told The New York Times. LINK

Filibuster Reform Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell have spent two days emboriled in an unusual and personal debate over Reid’s plans to curtail the filibuster. Reid plans to ask the Senate to prohibit filibusters for “motions to proceed,” a plan strongly opposed by McConnell, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK


Leahy Wants Congress to Act on Violence Against Women Sen. Patrick Leahy says one of his top priorities in the current lame duck session of Congress is the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The Senate passed legislation sponsored by Leahy earlier this year that would extend the law for another five years but the bill has not been considered by the House, Vermont Public Radio reported. LINK

State Budget Gov. Peter Shumlin will ask lawmakers to close a $50 million budget shortfall by making cuts to state programs and not by raising any broad based taxes. The administration is in the process of drafting its budget for next year and the governor says he's asking all agencies and departments of state government to submit a level funded spending plan for policy makers to consider, VPR reported. LINK

Campbell Survives Challenge Democrats in the Vermont Senate chose John Campbell from Windsor County to again lead the chamber in the next legislative session. He faced a challenge from Washington Senator Ann Cummings. Campbell received 15 votes and Cummings got six, VPR reported. LINK

UVM University of Vermont President Tom Sullivan and Gov. Peter Shumlin are planning to make a joint announcement. Officials would not release any details of the announcement planned for Wednesday morning, AP reported.

Voting Audit Secretary of State Jim Condos says the state’s election division will perform a random audit of vote tabulator results from the recent election to ensure the process is honest and accurate, the Times Argus reported. LINK

Patronage A group of Burlington residents alleged that the city’s recent hiring of Vermont Rep. Kesha Ram as a community development specialist verged on “patronage.” City officials said Ram was thoroughly vetted, the Burlington Free Press reported. LINK