News December 5

Senator Sanders

Budget Fairness Sen. Bernie Sanders will speak today at the National Press Club on the need to shield Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from cuts in a “fiscal cliff” deal, according to The Hill and The Associated Press Daybook. LINK 

Deficit Reduction “If we’re serious about doing deficit reduction in this country in a way that is fair, then we have got to ask the wealthy to pay more. We’ve got to end all of those corporate loopholes and I think we’ve got to take a hard look at defense spending which has tripled since 1997,” Sen. Sanders told Revolution Radio host Jeff Santos. “The bottom line, Jeff, is that we can do deficit reduction without cutting Social Security, which hasn’t contributed a penny to the deficit, without cutting Medicare benefits, without cutting Medicaid benefits, and without cutting other important programs.”

The Nation Institute “We will not accept cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid,” Sen. Sanders declared Monday night at The Nation Institute dinner where the independent senator from Vermont was cheered for his absolute defense of programs that he argues must not be sacrificed to the austerity demands of those who would toss working American off the “fiscal cliff.”  That Sanders is a hero to progressives, like those who gathered Monday night in New York for the annual event, is no secret, John Nichols blogged for The Nation. LINK

Republican Budget “Not only is what they are proposing absurd, I think they are crazy politically,” said Sen. Sanders in response to a GOP budget proposal that involved tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and deep spending cuts for everyone else. “I think when the people understand that they want to maintain tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, whose effective tax rate is very, very low and at the same time they want to balance the budget by cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, I think people all over this country are going to say, you guys are nuts, you’re really out of touch with what ordinary Americans are thinking and believing,” Sanders was recorded as saying in a transcript of an MSNBC interview with Al Sharpton posted by truthdig. VIDEO

Business and Seniors Businesses are trying to ward off a massive tax increase on investments by pressing the case that dividends are not just the province of the rich, but a source of financial security for seniors. Congressional liberals said the companies’ lobbying efforts amounted to little more than noise. “You’re going to hear a whole lot from the CEOs of major corporations about how worried they are about low-income seniors, I have no doubt,” Sen. Sanders told The Hill. LINK

Filibuster Reform The Senate’s Republican minority has used the filibuster 348 times in the past six years. Filibustering senators no longer have to stay on the floor and talk. The public’s perception – Jimmy Stewart giving a 24-hour uninterrupted, impassioned defense of his views – is just Hollywood fantasy. One worthy exception was when Sen. Sanders launched something like a real filibuster against the 2010 tax deal, delivering a stirring speech on behalf of working families. Fortunately, a group of senators has come out in support of modest reforms, Katrina vanden Heuvel blogged for The Washington Post. LINK

Fair Trade The International Brotherhood of Teamsters led a coalition of fair trade advocates in helping to gain support for a bipartisan letter signed by Sen. Sanders to President Obama on trade policy. The letter expresses support for negotiating strengthened labor rights and protections against outsourcing in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters wrote in a press release. LINK

Money in Politics President Obama should support Sen. Sanders’ Saving American Democracy legislation that will establish a constitutional amendment overturning the Citizens United decision. Policies that support big money in politics also support the Big Energy companies that have so much sway in dictating our energy policy, Craig Shields wrote for 2GreenEnergy. LINK

Progressives Many voters opted to elect progressive and minority candidates in the last election, rejecting Mitt Romney and other Republican candidates as too male, too pale and too stale, Ralph Scharnau wrote for the Blog for Iowa. Vermont’s progressive Sen. Sanders easily won re-election, the article noted. LINK

F-35s Demonstrators plan to protest at Sen. Patrick Leahy’s Vermont office next week in favor of a public hearing on the advisability of basing the new F-35A warplane at Burlington International Airport. Sen. Sanders, the Vermont delegation, Gov. Peter Shumlin and Mayor Miro Weinberger all support basing the F-35A in Burlington, the Burlington Free Press reported. LINK

TV Sen. John McCain was by far the most prominent senator on TV this month, according to National Journal’s monthly tally. McCain was interviewed 112 times on TV. Sen. Lindsey Graham made an inexplicable 43 TV appearances. Among members of the Democratic caucus, Majority Leader Harry Reid did four TV appearances, Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 leader, was on 35 times, and Sen. Charles Schumer was interviewed on 23 occasions. Sen. Sanders made 25 appearances. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy was on once. LINK


Egypt Egyptian riot police fired tear gas at tens of thousands of demonstrators converging on the presidential palace in Cairo to protest the country’s new draft constitution that was rushed to completion last week by an assembly dominated by Islamists. The huge scale of the protests dealt a blow to the legitimacy of the new charter, which goes before the country’s voters in a referendum scheduled for Dec. 15, The New York Times reported. LINK


Senate Republicans Defeat Disabilities Treaty Former Senator Bob Dole of Kansas sat slightly slumped in his wheelchair on the Senate floor on Tuesday, staring intently as Senator John Kerry gave his most impassioned speech all year, in defense of a United Nations treaty that would ban discrimination against people with disabilities. Then, after Dole’s wife, Elizabeth, rolled him off the floor, Republicans quietly voted down the treaty that the ailing Mr. Dole had longed to see passed, The New York Times reported. LINK

Senate Approves $631 Billion for Defense The Senate voted 98 to 0 on Tuesday to approve a $631 billion defense bill that calls for accelerating the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan and tightens sanctions on Iran. The legislation would authorize money for weapons, aircraft and ships and would provide a 1.7 percent pay raise for military personnel. The Obama administration has threatened to veto the measure, saying it places limits on the president’s authority to handle terrorism suspects. LINK

Obama Rejects GOP Proposal President Obama rejected a Republican proposal to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” through spending cuts and limiting tax deductions, insisting that he would agree to no deal that did not include an increase in marginal tax rates on the wealthy. “We’re going to have to see the rates on the top 2 percent go up,” Mr. Obama told Bloomberg Television in his first television interview since his re-election last month, “and we’re not going to be able to get a deal without it,” The New York Times reported. LINK

Immigration Push Grows Congressional Republicans and their allies, laying the groundwork for an immigration bill, are preparing to restart talks with Democrats in the House and are raising money to support GOP lawmakers who back changes to immigration laws in cooperation with like-minded Democrats, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK

Governors: Avoid ‘Fiscal Cliff’ A bipartisan group of governors came to Washington on Tuesday to urge President Obama and congressional leaders to act quickly to avert the “fiscal cliff,” warning that the series of budget cuts and tax increases set to take effect in January would rock their states. The impact could be particularly dramatic locally, where Virginia and Maryland are grappling with the prospect of a broad cut in defense and other federal spending, key to both states’ economies. LINK


Jobless Benefits Expiring Labor officials in Vermont say hundreds of people could lose their unemployment benefits if Congress fails to avert the so-called fiscal cliff. The federal unemployment insurance program that has been providing additional weeks of benefits to the long-term unemployed is set to expire, Vermont Public Radio reported. LINK

Shumlin Elected to Head Democratic Governors Just a month after being elected to his second term as Governor of Vermont, Peter Shumlin has been tapped to lead his party's national gubernatorial organization.Shumlin was elected as the next Chair of the Democratic Governors Association at the group's annual meeting in Los Angeles last night, according to VPR. LINK

Bottle Ban The University of Vermont is preparing to ban the sale of bottled water on its Burlington campus. The school on Wednesday will unveil a "monument to waste" eco sculpture made from 3,000 empty water bottles.The ban takes effect on Jan. 1. UVM says about 50 schools have imposed full or partial bottled water bans, AP reported. LINK

Mental Health Doc Exits The state mental health system has suffered another setback with the resignation of the medical director of the Vermont State Hospital. Medical Director Dr. Jay Batra was the lead clinician in charge of patient care. The system was already under strain. Now officials are concerned the resignation could delay the planned opening this month of a new residential treatment facility, VPR reported. LINK

Human Rights Chief Leaving The head of Vermont's state Human Rights Commission is stepping down. Robert Appel has been the commission's executive director since 2001, heading up various investigations of discrimination cases. He helped a mother challenge an airline that kicked her off a plane in Burlington for breast-feeding her child, and a lesbian couple challenge a Lyndonville inn's reluctance to host their wedding, AP reported. LINK

Moretown Landfill State officials have say the Moretown landfill is likely to close because it has not complied with state solid waste regulations. Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz said the landfill’s owners have one last chance Friday to convince her staff the facility can control off-site odors, the Burlington Free Press reported. LINK