Congress went home for the holidays after wrapping up a session that saw many successes despite attempts by Senate Republicans to throw up roadblocks. In the past week alone, they blocked votes on ending the war in Iraq and other issues. Before lawmakers left Washington they passed a $555 billion spending bill to fund government operations and passed an energy bill that Senator Bernie Sanders helped craft. He also teamed up with Senator Patrick Leahy and Congressman Peter Welch to press the National Football League to broadcast the December 29 Patriots Giants game.
Home for the Holidays Looking back at this year's session of Congress, Senator Bernie Sanders counted many successes despite unprecedented obstruction tactics by Republicans. "In the face of a record number of Republican filibusters and strong opposition from the White House, we certainly have not accomplished everything that I wanted, but we have made some real progress in significantly increasing funding for our veterans, in raising the minimum wage, in making college education more affordable and for beginning to transform our energy system." To read more, click here.
Corporate Media Concentration The Federal Communications Commission voted to let broadcasters in the nation's 20 largest media markets also own a newspaper. "The FCC has made a bad situation worse. Unless Congress overrules this ruling, fewer and fewer big media conglomerates will control what Americans see and hear and read," said Sanders. He was among 26 senators who put the FCC on notice that they will work to revoke the rule. To read more about the senator's view, click here. To read John Nichols insights in The Nation, click here.
Energy Congress approved legislation that will make American cars more fuel efficient and change the ways we heat and light our homes. The measure included provisions by Sanders to promote energy efficiency and to train workers for green-collar jobs. "Given the crisis we're facing in global warming, the passage of this energy bill is an important step forward," he said. "Much more has to be done in the future." To read more, click here.
EPA Decision President Bush's Environmental Protection Agency this week refused to grant California a waiver under the Clean Air Act, which would have allowed it to set more stringent tailpipe emissions standards. Under the Act, California is expressly granted the right to request to institute more stringent standards. Seventeen states, including Vermont, representing perhaps over one-half of all cars in the U.S., stand ready to implement the California standard, if California's request was approved. EPA Administrator Johnson claimed such a waiver would create a "patchwork of state rules." This is the same language used by the industry to distort the fact that this would create a simple two-tiered system, not by any definition "patchwork." Vermont and other states should be allowed to opt-in to more aggressive standards to further environmental protection. To read more, click here.
Hot as Hell A B-24 that World War II aviators named Hot as Hell was flying over the Himalayas and crashed into a mountainside in India. The lost crew included two Vermonters. A mountain climber last year discovered a portion of the plane's wing. He notified relatives, who sought help from the Pentagon and, when that failed, from Sanders. "How is it," the senator asked Defense Secretary Gates, "that the Department of Defense cannot send a recovery team to an ally's country to recover the remains of American servicemen?" To read The Burlington Free Press story of the downed plane, the Hot as Hell, click here.
Patriots vs. Giants Vermont's congressional delegation asked the NFL to broadcast the Dec. 29 Patriots vs. Giants game. The season finale may be seen in Boston and New York for free, but not in most of Vermont, where fans are caught in the middle of a fight between the football league and cable television industry. "What we now have are two very powerful and wealthy special interests, the NFL and the cable companies, squabbling over who is going to be making more money out of this game," Sanders said. To read more, click here.