News November 30

Senator Sanders

Obama’s Budget Overture President Obama made an opening bid in budget talks with Republicans that calls for a $1.6 trillion tax increase, $50 billion in infrastructure spending in 2013 and new power to raise the federal debt limit. Republicans called it a step backward in efforts to avoid looming tax increases and spending cuts. “When Republicans talk about being flexible, we have not heard one definitive word as to what they mean,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said Thursday on CNN.  “Our Republican friends have got to understand that this issue of the fiscal cliff was debated during the election … You know what the American people said? The wealthy are going to have to start paying their fair share of taxes.” VIDEO

Sanders on Taxes Democrats and some Republicans are pushing for the House to immediately pass a Senate bill that would keep taxes from rising on middle class Americans in January. "The wealthy are going to have to start paying their fair share of taxes ... More and more Republicans are catching on to that fact and that's why the Republicans have got to do exactly what we did in the Senate, which is say we're going to protect the bottom 98 percent of the American people,” Sanders said in reports on KFSN-TV in Fresno, Calif., KIFI-TV in Idaho Falls, Idaho, News Channel 8 in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere. LINK, VIDEO, VIDEO

The Face of Class Warfare Sen. Sanders derided Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, along with other Wall Street leaders, for pushing for cuts to entitlement programs as a part of the nation's budget negotiations. “I do have a problem with wealthy CEOs from Wall Street who caused the recession now coming to Washington and saying, if you're old, if you're sick, or if you're poor, we're going to cut your benefits,” the outspoken senator told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “I frankly think that's obscene,” he continued. “We don't need advice from the people who caused this recession through their greed and illegal behavior.” LINK, LINK, VIDEO

The Face of Class Warfare In a Wednesday speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Sanders lambasted corporate CEOs lobbying for cuts to safety-net programs. A group of CEOs, including Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein, met privately that same day with President Obama to discuss budget negotiations, In These Times reported. “We have folks from Wall Street who received huge bailouts from the people of our country, from working families in this country, because of the greed and recklessness and illegal behavior … and now these very same people are coming here to Congress to lecture us and the American people about how we have to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,” said Sanders. VIDEO

Sanders Seeks Assurances on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid The deficit-reduction talks are the latest illustration that the real legislating in this Congress occurs only at the leadership level. Sen. Sanders, who opposes entitlement cuts, said that leadership should not give the rank and file “a fait accompli.” Sanders told National Journal he has sought assurances, so far without success, from the White House on entitlements. LINK

A Grand Bargain There has been a lot of discussion around Congress about enacting a “grand bargain” based on the budget plan put forward by Alan Simpson and former Wall Street banker Erskine Bowles. But that plan would cut Social Security and veterans’ benefits, raise taxes on low-income Americans and lower tax rates for millionaires, billionaires and large corporations even more than President Bush did, harmful actions that the Democratic Caucus should firmly oppose, wrote Sen. Sanders in a letter published by Campaign for America’s Future and Truthout. LINK

Social Security Sen. Sanders welcomed White House assurances that Social Security benefits won’t be cut as part of negotiations on a year-end deficit-reduction deal, The (Killington, Vt.) Mountain Times reported. “This is a step in the right direction for more than 55 million Americans and 128,000 Vermonters who have earned Social Security benefits today and every working family American who will receive Social Security benefits in the future, said Sanders. LINK 

Social Security Sen. Sanders is a champion of the “Social Security Protector’s Pledge,” signed by 110 representatives and 11 senators, an effort criticized by David Walker in a column for Reuters. Walker’s Comeback America Initiative is heavily funded by Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson’s Peter G. Peterson foundation. Walker said “a refusal to consider cuts to social insurance programs” is “irresponsible.” LINK 

Deficit Reduction Sen. Sanders has long fought to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, programs that progressives are rallying to defend from cuts during ongoing fiscal cliff negotiations, The Paramus (N.J.) Post reported. “Poll after poll shows that the American people want to see deficit reduction done in a way that is fair,” Sanders said. “They do not want to see cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid while millionaires, billionaires and large corporations continue to receive huge tax breaks.” LINK 

Bill Named for Bennington EMT Advances Sen. Patrick Leahy announced on Thursday that progress had been made on passing the “Dale Long Act,” which will benefit emergency medical technicians and is named after a Bennington EMT who died on duty in June 2009. The other members of Vermont’s congressional delegation, Sen. Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch, also support the legislation, the Rutland Herald and Times Argus reported. LINK

‘The Greatest’ Sens. Tom Harkin and Sanders are “the two greatest liberals and progressives in the United States Senate,” Current TV and radio host Bill Press declared Friday in a promo for an interview with Harkin. “How great would this country be if we had 50 Tom Harkins and 50 Bernie Sanders?” Press asked Harkin. “I just love that Bernie Sanders,” Harkin said. “He’s just wonderful and we do a lot of good work together.” VIDEO, VIDEO

World

U.N. Elevates Palestine More than 130 countries voted on Thursday to upgrade Palestine to a nonmember observer state of the United Nations, a triumph for Palestinian diplomacy and a sharp rebuke to the United States and Israel, The New York Times reported. LINK

U.S. May Arm Syrian Rebels The Obama administration, hoping the conflict has reached a turning point, is considering providing arms directly to opposition fighters in Syria in attempt to push President Bashar al-Assad from power, The New York Times reported. LINK

Polar Ice Sheets Melt Faster Higher temperatures over the past two decades have caused the polar ice sheets to melt at an accelerating rate, contributing to an almost half-inch rise in global sea levels, according to the most comprehensive study done so far, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK

National

Obama Threatens Defense Bill Veto The White House threatened a veto of the sweeping defense policy bill being debated on the Senate floor Thursday, citing “serious concerns” about the bill's limitations on funding to transfer prisoners from Guantanamo Bay; restrictions on the Pentagon’s ability to procure alternative fuels; and zeroed-out funding for an air and missile defense system, among other issues, National Journal reported. LINK

VA Investigation Continuing an investigation into alleged wasteful spending, the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing to investigate photos posted on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ official Facebook page that looked like a junket, The Washington Post reported. LINK, LINK

Email Privacy The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved a bill that would strengthen privacy protection for emails by requiring law enforcement officials to obtain a warrant from a judge in most cases before gaining access to messages in individual accounts stored electronically. The bill is not expected to make it through Congress this year and will be the subject of negotiations next year with the Republican-led House, The New York Times reported. LINK

Vermont

State Hospital FEMA has decided that the state hospital in Waterbury was damaged but not destroyed by Tropical Storm Irene, meaning the state does not qualify for 90 percent federal funding to replace the facility. While the decision is a setback for Gov. Shumlin’s administration, officials are still confident that the federal government will fund some of the $43 million needed for repairs, Vermont Public Radio reported. LINK

Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon, a 1977 Dartmouth graduate and the current provost at the University of Michigan, will take office on July 1 as the college's 18th president, the college announced Thursday, Vermont Public Radio reported. LINK

Reporter a Sex Offender The publisher of the Times Argus defended his paper’s hiring of a convicted sex offender to cover police and courts. Publisher John Mitchell said he supports fair punishment for those who break the law but also supports giving them an opportunity for rehabilitation, AP reported. LINK