The Week in Review

Flags on Capitol Hill, across Vermont and throughout America were lowered to half-staff on Friday after a mass murder at a Connecticut grade school.  It was a “horror show,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said. As a grandfather of seven children, he added, “our thoughts and prayers are with the families.” In Washington, congressional leaders and the White House continued negotiating a year-end deficit deal. Sanders held a news conference with seniors on Tuesday to oppose lower benefits for Medicare and Social Security. On Wednesday, when Sanders was tapped to chair the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, he said his first order of business would be to block a House Republican proposal to slash benefits for disabled veterans. Sanders has become what The New York Times  called “a thorn in the side” to those who want more tax breaks for the rich and less help for working families.

SaluteVeterans’ Affairs Committee 

Sanders on Wednesday was appointed chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Majority Leader Harry Reid made the announcement. Sanders said his first order of business is to block a proposal that would slash benefits for disabled veterans. A change in how cost-of-living adjustments are calculated would drastically reduce future benefits for veterans and their families. The largest cuts would impact young, permanently disabled veterans who were seriously wounded in combat. House Speaker John Boehner has advocated a switch to a so-called chained CPI. Under his proposal, a disabled veteran who started receiving benefits at age 30 would have their annual benefits reduced by $1,425 at age 45, $2,341 at age 55 and $3,231 at age 65. “It is morally and economically unacceptable that anyone in Congress would propose balancing our budget by making significant cuts for disabled veterans,” Sanders said. 

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Back Off Social SecurityDefending Social Security and Medicare 

At a Tuesday news conference in the Capitol, Sanders joined the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare to oppose cuts to the major retirement and health care programs for seniors. Coalition leader Max Richtman met with Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee members before delivering petitions signed by some 65,000 seniors to Sens. Sanders and Sherrod Brown. 

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Defending Social Security and Medicare 

White House economic adviser Gene Sperling heard from Sanders during a lunch meeting on Thursday with members of the Senate Democratic Caucus. Sanders told the White House aide to make sure that Social Security benefits aren’t cut and that Obama doesn’t raise the eligibility age for Medicare as part of any deficit-reduction deal. Did Sperling satisfactorily answer his concerns? “No,” the senator told Politico.

Counting CoinsDefending Social Security and Medicare 

Raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 is a “horrendously stupid idea,” Sanders told The Huffington Post in a television interview on Tuesday. He cited polls that show Americans overwhelmingly want deficit reduction without cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. “I know it’s a very radical idea that Congress listen to the American people rather than lobbyists or Wall Street, but that’s kind of what I think we might want to do,” Sanders said. 

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Unvarnished VoiceAn Unvarnished Voice 

Washington suffers from the problem “of people who have money not understanding what it’s like not to have money,” Sanders said. “Mr. Sanders intends to make people understand,” a New York Times profile declared. “Sanders represents the majority of our caucus” when he fights cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, Sen. Tom Harkin said in the article. 

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