News July 1

Senator Sanders


Guard to Afghanistan Adj. General Michael Dubie told Vermont National Guard soldiers in an e-mail that the Defense Department secretary has signed a mobilization order that sets the stage for deployment of an estimated 1,800 guard members to Afghanistan at the end of this year, The Burlington Free Press and Vermont Press Bureau reported. "My office will continue to do everything we can to support the Vermont National Guard and all American soldiers who serve in Afghanistan," Sen. Bernard Sanders said. LINK and LINK


Senator Franken Norm Coleman conceded to Al Franken in the Minnesota Senate race. Hypothetically, Democrats could stop filibusters, provided all 58 plus independents Sanders and Lieberman stick together, Reuters and AP reported. Fox News said Sanders is “more than willing to buck the Democratic leadership when he doesn’t feel the liberal wing gets a fair shake.” Roll Call said “liberal Senators could be stumbling blocks,” noting that Feingold and Sanders voted against the war spending bill. LINK, LINK and LINK


Health Care Coalitions Senate Finance Chairman Baucus joined Republicans Grassley, Snowe, Enzi, and Hatch as well as nominal Democrats Conrad and Bingaman to form a “Coalition of the Willing” on health care reform. That “sounds a bit strange to me,” Sanders told The Washington Post. “You have a Democratic president and a Democratic majority in the House and 60 votes in the Senate, and the coalition that is determining health care policy is seven people, including four Republicans?” LINK


Health Care and Snowe Sen. Olympia Snowe is among the handful of Republicans who agree that private insurers haven't done a good enough job to be trusted with the provision of health insurance, but she supports a trigger option wherein if the private industry doesn't fulfill certain benchmarks (lowering costs, say), then and only then will a public option be introduced. “It would be nice if the debate over the public plan got a bit more specific,” Ezra Klein wished in his Washington Post blog, asking, “Why should consumers prefer her world over Bernie Sanders's world?” LINK


Health Care Fraud “Real health care reform must address the billions of dollars in fraud and abuse that comes from the major corporations in the health care industry,” Sanders wrote in a column posted on Op-Ed News and BuzzFlash. LINK and LINK


Oil Prices The Commodity Futures Trading Commission will use all of its regulatory power to ensure fair operations of futures markets for oil, agriculture, currencies and interest rates, the agency’s chairman, Gary Gensler, said in an interview yesterday with Bloomberg. Sen. Sanders introduced legislation that would make the CFTC invoke emergency authority to stop oil speculation. LINK


Fed Secrecy Ron Paul as of Tuesday had 245 cosponsors to a bill that would require a full-fledged audit of the Federal Reserve, according to Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced a bill similar to Paul's in the Senate in March, which so far has attracted just three co-sponsors -- DeMint and Republican Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana and Mike Crapo of Idaho.  LINK




Afghanistan National security adviser James L. Jones told U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan last week that the Obama administration wants to hold troop levels here flat for now, and focus instead on carrying out the previously approved strategy of increased economic development, improved governance and participation by the Afghan military and civilians in the conflict. The message seems designed to cap expectations that more troops might be coming, though the administration has not ruled out additional deployments in the future, The Washington Post reported. LINK




Consumer Protection The Obama administration sent a detailed legislation to Congress yesterday that would establish a Consumer Financial Protection Agency to guard Americans from the abusive lending practices that contributed to the financial crisis, The Washington Post reported.  An intense lobbying effort has already begun to win over the few undecided lawmakers who will be critical in deciding which details will be included in the final bill. Industry groups say they are forming a coalition to persuade members of Congress to scale back the bill. LINK


After Call From Senator's Office, Small Hawaii Bank Got U.S. Aid Sen. Daniel K. Inouye's staff contacted federal regulators last fall to ask about the bailout application of an ailing Hawaii bank that he had helped to establish and where he has invested the bulk of his personal wealth, The Washington Post reported. LINK




GI Bill Veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan can advance their education under stepped-up federal benefits provided by the Post-9/11 GI Bill — benefits that will be supplemented by many private colleges in a national campaign to make higher education fully affordable for veterans. That was the message delivered Tuesday by Rep Peter Welch and his guest for the day, Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth, to a receptive audience of educators and veterans at Champlain College, The Burlington Free Press and Rutland Herald reported. LINK


No Smoking A new law taking effect in Vermont makes smoking prohibited in all public buildings. Beginning Wednesday, workplaces can no longer set aside an area indoors where employees can smoke.

Previous ordinances, including the 1987 Smoking in the Workplace law and the Clean Indoor Air act of 1993, had permitted indoor segregated smoking areas. Sheri Lynn with the Vermont Department of Health says barns and other agricultural businesses are included under the new law, AP reported. LINK 


Clean Air Breathing in the air in Chittenden and Rutland counties slightly increases the risk of developing cancer compared to the rest of Vermont, according to the government’s latest snapshot of air pollution across the nation. The Environmental Protection Agency findings show residents of New York, Oregon and California faced the highest risk of developing cancer from breathing toxic chemicals; Vermonters are comparatively better off, but they’re still not entirely off the hook, The Burlington Free Press reported. LINK


New Top State Cop Col. Thomas L'Esperance, formerly commander of the state police criminal division, was installed Monday as director of the Vermont State Police, succeeding Col. James W. Baker, who's retiring after 31 years. The Burlington Free Press reported that L'Esperance took the oath of office from Public Safety Commissioner Thomas Tremblay at the Vermont Statehouse. LINK