News July 7

Senator Sanders


Health Care VPR Senator Bernie Sanders told Vermont Public Radio it will be very difficult to pass a meaningful health care reform bill this summer unless President Obama becomes a "forceful advocate" for the legislation. Sanders, a member of the Senate health committee, also said it is critical that the bill include a new public health plan that will compete with private insurance companies. LINK


Health Care MSNBC “What we can’t forget is what polls show. The last New York Times poll, 72 percent of the American people wanted a public option; 90 percent of the Democrats wanted a public option. I think about half the Republicans did. It is incomprehensible that there should be any question about whether we have that,” Sanders said on “The Ed Show” on MSNBC. VIDEO


Health Care Fox “The drug companies and the insurance companies and the health industry are spending over $1 million a day to make sure that we don't make the kinds of changes in this country that we need to provide every man, woman and child with quality comprehensive health care,” Sanders told Fox News, adding,  “They should be afraid…that they will not be able to compete against a strong Medicare-type public plan which treats people with dignity.” LINK and VIDEO


Health Care CNN Al Franken takes the oath of office today as the junior senator from Minnesota and 60th vote in the Democratic caucus. “It should be a game changer,” Sanders told CNN in a report broadcast by WCAX and affiliates nationwide. “At the very least, what we should be doing is saying to the Republicans ‘You cannot filibuster a strong health care bill to death.’”  VIDEO and AUDIO


Health Care Reformer “From 2007, the first year that Democrats took control of Congress, to the first three months of 2009, nearly $1.4 billion was spent on lobbying by the five sectors of the health care industry that have the most to lose in health care reform -- pharmaceuticals/health products, insurance, health services/HMOs, hospitals and nursing homes and health care professionals…If Peter Welch, Patrick Leahy and Bernard Sanders have enough backbone to stand up to the pressures of the medical industry, why can't the other men and women in Washington?” the Brattleboro Reformer asked in an editorial. LINK


Franken Al Franken arrived on Capitol Hill on Monday for the first time as a senator-elect, more than eight months after Minnesota voters went to the polls to choose between him and Republican Norm Coleman. Because two independents, Sens. Sanders and Joseph I. Lieberman, caucus with the Democrats, Franken's addition will give the party its first 60-vote "super majority" since 1978, Congressional Quarterly reported. LINK


Oil Prices U.S. regulators may clamp down on oil speculators by limiting the holdings of energy futures traders. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission announced it will hold hearings. Sen. Sanders called for action to avoid a repeat of last year’s run-up in crude oil prices. Oil has climbed 44 percent this year in New York Mercantile Exchange trading, even amid a drop in demand and high levels of fuel in storage, Bloomberg reported. LINK


Filibuster The Travel Promotion Act died after Republicans blocked consideration of a Sanders amendment, which would have required federal regulators to use emergency powers to prevent excessive speculation in oil markets. According to Roll Call, nine of the bill’s 11 GOP co-sponsors voted against cloture in “the sort of disciplined approach Minority Leader McConnell must be able to demonstrate to his caucus.” LINK


Fed Secrecy “Americans across the nation, regardless of their opinion on the bailout, want to know where the money has gone, exactly how much has been spent, and what collateral has been taken in return. That is why you see so much bipartisan support in the house in Bernie Sanders and Jim DeMint being on the same side in the Senate,” DeMint said in a floor speech on C-SPAN. VIDEO




Obama in Russia President Obama said Tuesday the United States and Russia are not "destined to be antagonists," The Associated Press reported. "The pursuit of power is no longer a zero-sum game," Obama said, speaking in the Russian capital to graduates of the New Economic School but also hoping to reach the whole nation. Obama used his speech to further define his view of the United States' place in the world and, specifically, to argue that his country shares compelling interests with Russia. LINK


China's Mob Violence Scattered mobs of Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese roamed the streets and beat passers-by Tuesday as the capital of China's Xinjiang region degenerated into communal violence, prompting the government to impose a curfew in the aftermath of a riot that killed at least 156 people. Members of the Muslim Uighur ethnic group attacked people near the Urumqi's railway station, and women in headscarves protested the arrests of husbands and sons in another part of the city, AP reported. LINK


Ousted Honduras Leader to Meet Clinton One day after the Honduran military prevented him from landing at his capital's airport, ousted President Manuel Zelaya said he would meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Washington -- then take another run at going home. The session with Clinton, scheduled for today, would be the highest-level contact by the Obama administration with the leftist leader, who was deposed in a coup just over a week ago, the Los Angeles Times reported. LINK




White House Open to Deal on Public Health Plan It is more important that health-care legislation inject stiff competition among insurance plans than it is for Congress to create a pure government-run option, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said Monday. "The goal is to have a means and a mechanism to keep the private insurers honest," he said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. "The goal is non-negotiable; the path is" negotiable. His comments came as the Senate Finance Committee pushed for a bipartisan deal. LINK


Hospitals Reach Deal With Administration The nation's hospitals agreed last night to contribute $155 billion over 10 years toward the cost of insuring the 47 million Americans without health coverage, according to two industry sources. The agreement that three hospital associations reached with White House officials and leaders of the Senate Finance Committee is the latest in a series of side deals that aim to reduce the cost of revamping the nation's health-care system and to neutralize influential industries that have historically opposed such reforms, The Washington Post reported. LINK


Senate May Recast Climate Bill President Obama's climate-change legislation begins a daunting march through the Senate this week, with supporters acknowledging they are as many as 15 votes shy of victory and well aware that deals to attract more votes could erode the bill's environment-friendly objectives. Senators will weigh a slew of potential compromises -- everything from allowing more offshore drilling for oil and natural gas to increasing funding for nuclear energy -- that they think would inch the package closer to passage, The Washington Post reported. LINK


Banks Stingy on Credit Cards Despite massive government efforts to bolster the credit market, banks are pulling back severely on card lending. In the first four months of the year — the latest data — banks issued 9.8 million new credit cards, a 38 percent drop from the same time last year, according to Equifax credit bureau data. Low-risk borrowers can still get credit, but they're getting less than before, USA Today reported. LINK


Obama Adviser Says U.S. Should Mull Second Stimulus The U.S. should consider drafting a second stimulus package focusing on infrastructure projects because the $787 billion approved in February was “a bit too small,” said Laura Tyson, an adviser to President Barack Obama. Tyson, speaking in Singapore today, said the current stimulus package will have a more pronounced impact in the third and fourth quarters, Bloomberg reported. LINK


Wood Pellets Catch Fire as Renewable Energy Source Some of the fastest growing sources of renewable energy in the world are the wind, the sun -- and the lowly wood pellet. European utilities are snapping up the small combustible pellets to burn alongside coal in existing power plants. Wood pellets -- cylinders of dried shredded wood that resemble large vitamins -- are the least expensive way to meet European renewable-energy mandates, utility executives and industry consultants say, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK




State Layoffs The administration of Gov. Douglas risks losing as much as $2.4 million of federal money through the recent layoffs of state workers, according to the union that represents many of those employees. The process of eliminating positions for about 123 workers over the last month would save about $6 million a year, but the fact that the federal government pays as much as three-quarters of the combined salaries for those workers means the process could be counter-productive, the Vermont Press Bureau reported. LINK


Budget Nightmare: 10 Most Broke States Compared to the other states, Vermont's $278 million shortfall might not seem like much. But then again, this tiny New England state doesn't really spend much, so the shortfall actually takes up a large portion of the budget. To come up with a list of the worst state budget situations, ABC News asked the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities to look at the budget gaps that states closed -- or still need to close -- as a percentage of their overall budgets. LINK


Milk Prices U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday he will soon announce a plan to make it easier for dairy farmers to take out new loans or keep up with their existing payments. Vilsack met privately with New Hampshire farmers and held a public forum at an apple orchard as part of a nationwide tour on strengthening rural America. He directed most of his remarks to dairy farmers, who have struggled to survive at a time when what they're paid for their milk doesn't cover the cost of production, AP reported. LINK


St. Patrick Sen. Patrick Leahy calls his Vermont home Drawbridge Farm for the shelter and solace it can offer him from the rigors of life in Washington, but its 300 acres is not enough to keep out the politics of Sonia Sotomayor’s upcoming confirmation hearings,” according to an Associated Press profile pegged to the hearings that begin next week. LINK