The Week in Review

Washington geared up for the swearing-in of President Barack Obama for a second term. After Monday’s ceremony, a new session of Congress gets underway. Sen. Bernie Sanders said Wednesday he plans to introduce legislation to aggressively deal with global warming. As the incoming chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Sanders on Thursday laid out issues he will ask the president’s choice for defense secretary to address, including better coordination between the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs.

Global Warming 

Last year was among the 10 warmest on record worldwide, the government reported Tuesday. But in Congress, most Republicans believe global warming is a “hoax” and few are prepared to take action to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Where are the media watchdogs? Amazingly, all last year there was one six-second mention of global warming on NBC’s Meet the Press, according to Media Matters. ABC’s This Week had the most comprehensive coverage, relatively speaking, with about 5 minutes of global warming discussion. To Sanders, “the scientific evidence is clear that global warming is real and significantly caused by greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels.” In February, the senator will introduce the most sweeping global warming legislation in congressional history.

Read more about the senator’s proposal »
Read the Media Matters study »

Pentagon Priorities 

As the incoming chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Sanders said on Thursday that he hopes the next defense secretary improves ties between the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Sanders also said that curbing defense contractor fraud and ensuring fair treatment of women and gays in uniform are topics that he plans to discuss with Chuck Hagel before the Senate votes on whether to confirm President Obama’s nominee to run the Pentagon. 

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Gun Violence 

President Obama on Wednesday said he will propose legislation that would ban assault weapons, limit high-capacity ammunition magazines, expand background checks for gun buyers and strengthen laws on gun trafficking. “Congress must consider a comprehensive approach which includes a serious discussion about guns, the need for greatly expanded mental health services and ending gratuitous violence in the media,” Sanders said. 

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‘Misguided’ Social Security Reform 

As the next round of deficit reduction talks gets under way in Washington, President Obama’s administration seems determined to include a cut in cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security recipients in a new package of spending reductions, according to an editorial last Sunday in The New York Times. “Rather than using the issue as a bargaining ploy, the administration appears to have embraced it as a worthy end in itself,” the Times declared in an editorial. “Is it? In a word, no,” the editorial concluded. 

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Lessons from Europe

Families in the United States have struggled to afford adequate child care, especially in households where primary caregivers work outside the home. Are there lessons we can learn from other countries? Bernie asked Heather Gautney, a research fellow in his Senate office and an assistant professor at Fordham University, to take a closer look. 

Read ‘Lessons from Europe’ »