The Senate passed legislation to begin reining in rising gasoline prices and a farm bill that will help people struggling to afford groceries. It was none too soon. New Consumer Price Index data out on Wednesday showed food prices shot up by 0.9 percent in April, the biggest one-month gain in nearly two decades. Gasoline prices, continuing an unrelenting rise, shot up 5.6 percent. Not everything was up. The nation's industrial output plunged in April. As the news media glossed over those and other stories affecting the reality of a collapsing American middle class, the Senate formally disapproved a decision by government regulators to allow even more corporate media consolidation.
Farm Bill A $300 billion, five-year farm bill passed the Senate on Thursday. It would boost aid to Vermont's dairy farmers and help pay for the cleanup of Lake Champlain. The bill included a $410 million expansion of the $1.2 billion Milk Income Loss Contract program. More than two-thirds of the bill's spending is on nutrition programs. "This farm bill helps Vermont dairy farmers and provides a major step forward in addressing the growing crisis of hunger in America. It also provides increased funding for emergency food banks, and it takes significant steps forward in terms of moving us toward more sustainable energy," Senator Bernie Sanders said. The White House has threatened a veto, but the 81 to 15 vote in the Senate and a 318 to 106 vote the day before in the House were by wide enough martins to pass it over President Bush's objection To watch Sanders, Senator Patrick Leahy and Representative Patrick Welch discuss the dairy program at a Capitol press conference, click here.
Fuel Prices The Senate on Tuesday passed a measure cosponsored by Sanders to suspend deposits into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The House passed a companion measure that would increase supplies and lower prices for gasoline and other fuels. Sanders said the vote to suspend the shipments until the end of the year was a first step by Congress to confront the gasoline price crisis. "This is a small but important step forward in providing some relief to consumers who are paying record prices at the gas pump," Sanders said. Average gasoline prices in the U.S. have gone up for seven straight weeks to a record $3.72 a gallon, according to the U.S. Energy Department, 29 percent more than last year. After the Energy Department announced Friday that it would halt deliveries to the strategic oil reserves in July, oil prices eased a bit from pervious highs but still settled at a new closing record of $126.29 a barrel. And, as Sanders has often pointed out of late, our nation needs to get serious about its energy policies. "Long term," Sanders emphasized, "we must aggressively transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and foreign oil into energy efficiency and sustainable energy." In an email to Vermonters, Sanders asked them to tell him about their personal experiences with rising gasoline prices. To watch a message from the senator about gas prices and you, click here. To watch excerpts from the Capitol press conference, click here. To read an editorial in the Brattleboro Reformer, click .
Media Consolidation The Senate voted to stop the Federal Communications Commission from letting broadcasters in the nation's 20 largest media markets also own a newspaper. The "resolution of disapproval" - cosponsored by Sanders - would undo the FCC's new cross-ownership rules. If the House of Representatives follows suit, the resolution would override the commission decision to junk a 32-year-old ban intended to keep major media companies from monopolizing newspapers and broadcasters in the same market. "If the FCC had its way, fewer and fewer big media conglomerates will control what Americans see and hear and read," said Sanders. "We are not going to have the kind of vibrant democracy that we need unless we discuss serious issues facing the middle class and working families in this country, and I'm not sure the corporate media wants us to do that. The consequences of media consolidation go to the heart of the democratic process," he added. "In my view, it will be very dangerous for our country and communities around America when one company is able to own a local newspaper, television station and radio station. Opposing points of view won't be heard and our democracy will suffer."
The War in Iraq The Senate next week turns its attention to the war in Iraq, after a House vote Thursday on an additional $163 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan went down in a surprise, but probably temporary, defeat. Senator Sanders voted against going to war in Iraq. He favors bringing our troops home as soon as possible. What do you think? To take the poll on our Web site, click here.