News Dec. 11

Senator Sanders

Health Care - Senate The Senate halted formal debate on its health care legislation and planned a Saturday vote on an omnibus appropriations bill. When the health care debate resumes next week, one of the issues remaining involved concerns by Sen. Sanders and others that an excise tax on high-cost insurance policies will hurt middle-class families, The Washington Times and Bureau of National Affairs reported. LINK and LINK

Health Care - Chevy Plan Workers, labor leaders and Sen. Sanders denounced a proposed tax on so-called Cadillac health insurance plans arguing it would hurt middle-class Americans who gave up salary increases in exchange for better health benefits, The Associated Press, The Hill and WCAX reported. LINK, LINK and VIDEO

Health Care - Deal Cutting Sen. Sanders said he's frustrated by the secrecy and pace of Senate health care negotiations: "This whole process is frustrating," Sanders told ABC News' "Top Line." He said he is intrigued by a trade-off that would make Medicare available to those as young as 55. LINK and VIDEO

Health Care - Medicare After spending weeks accusing the Democrats of trying to destroy Medicare, Republicans are now attacking a proposal to expand it, saying it is a government takeover worse than the public option. The (New York) Daily News said Sen. Sanders took to the Senate floor to point out the irony. "Get your act together, my Republican friends." LINK

Health Care - Single Payer While Democratic leaders abandoned the public option on Thursday, Sen. Sanders reignited his push for an amendment that would allow states to test-pilot single-payer health insurance system, according to The Huffington Post. "We have got to give states the option, the flexibility to go forward with a single-payer system," Sanders said. LINK

Health Care - Public Option "One by one, congressional leaders who said they would not support a bill without a public option have come to the conclusion that...they actually will" Sen. Sanders is now arguing that a Medicare expansion "may be stronger than the very weak public options" in House and Senate bills, Arianna Huffington wrote on The Huffington Post. LINK

Wall St. Bonuses Two-thirds of Americans have an unfavorable view of financial executives, and more than half say big financial companies are only out to enrich themselves, according to a Bloomberg poll. The size of Goldman Sachs's pay has been criticized by politicians including Sens. Sanders and Jon Tester, Bloomberg reported.  LINK

Jobs With the Obama Administration struggling to create jobs, politicians are debating whether the visa program needs fundamental change. Sens. Sanders and Charles Grassley introduced a bill to bar major companies that lay off U.S. workers from hiring foreign labor through H-1B and other programs, BusinessWeek reported. LINK


Export-Import Bank The Ex-Im Bank has many friends in Washington because it promotes jobs around the country.  Critics who call it "corporate welfare" range from Rep. Ron Paul, a right-wing Texas Republicans, to Sen. Sanders, the only self-declared socialist in the senate, according to The Wall Street Journal. LINK

Afghanistan About 80 members of the Vermont National Guard based at the Bennington Armory began a year-long deployment Thursday. Sen. Bernie Sanders urged Vermonters to lend a hand to the families of deploying soldiers, the Bennington Banner reported. Altogether, about 350 members of the Guard from armories in St. Albans, Swanton, Enosburg, Newport, Lyndonville and Bennington will participate in a departure ceremony Friday in Burlington. LINK and LINK


Federal Reserve Primer If you've ever wondered how the Federal Reserve works, Stephen Colbert has the answer, according to a New York Times blog that linked to a Comedy Central video introducing Sen. Sanders. LINK


Blackwater Guards Tied to Secret Raids by the C.I.A. Private security guards from Blackwater Worldwide participated in some of the C.I.A.'s most sensitive activities - clandestine raids with agency officers against people suspected of being insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and the transporting of detainees, The New York Times revealed. LINK


Senate Tied in Knots Over Proposal to Allow Imported Drugs Debating an overhaul of the health care system, the Senate found itself tied in knots on Thursday over a bipartisan proposal to allow people to import lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada and certain other countries, according to The New York Times. LINK


Health Care Loophole A loophole in the Senate health care bill would let insurers place annual dollar limits on medical care for people struggling with costly illnesses such as cancer, prompting a rebuke from patient advocates, The Associated Press reported. LINK

High Premiums in Senate Democrats' Health Plan Senate Democrats have provided few details about their latest health care proposal, but this much seems clear: Anyone who wants to buy the same health benefits as members of Congress, or to buy coverage through Medicare, should be prepared to fork over a large chunk of cash, The New York Times reported. LINK


Pelosi Backs Medicare Buy-In House Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsed a proposal Thursday that would allow people in late middle age to buy insurance through Medicare, helping to sustain an idea that sprang unexpectedly from the Senate this week, according to The Washington Post. LINK


Senators Propose Greenhouse Gas Limits A trio of senators who are trying to write a bill to cap greenhouse gas emissions released a "framework" Thursday that they had agreed to, but The Washington Post said it showed they had not agreed to very much. LINK


Debt Ceiling With the national debt projected to soar by nearly $1.4 trillion this year, congressional Democrats are planning a year-end push to dramatically increase the legal debt limit so they don't have to revisit the politically uncomfortable issue before facing voters in November, The Washington Post reported. LINK


Leahy Secures Lake Funds A $447 billion spending bill approved Thursday by the U.S. House is expected to deliver $6.5 million for invasive species control, habitat restoration, and water quality improvements in the Lake Champlain Basin. The item was added at the behest of Sen. Patrick Leahy, The Burlington Free Press reported. LINK


Nursing Homes Shortfalls in Medicaid funding could severely impact the elderly Vermonters whose nursing-home care is funded by the program, according to a national study released Thursday. And unless the projected deficit is filled by the state and federal governments, local advocates say, seniors could see painful cuts in health-care services, the Vermont Press Bureau reported. LINK

Vermont Yankee Some Vermont Yankee opponents who want the state to block the nuclear power plant's re-licensing are planning to hit the road to make their point -- walking 122 miles from Brattleboro to Montpelier to buttonhole legislators at the Statehouse, The Associated Press reported. LINK