News June 1

Senator Sanders


Oil Prices Soar “There is mounting evidence that excessive speculation is the causing oil prices to soar,” Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote on Politico’s Arena. Oil prices rose to near $68 a barrel Monday, hitting a new high for the year. Sanders urged the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to protect consumers, the Times Argus and Congress Daily reported. Meanwhile, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin set a June 4 hearing to “explore needed regulatory reform of derivatives markets,” possibly including limits on speculation, the Bureau of National Affairs reported. LINK, LINK and LINK


Energy The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee appears on the verge of passing an energy bill that makes good on Democrats’ pledge to tilt the energy balance heavily in favor of renewables, but even supporters, including Sen. Sanders, complained that the plan was “woefully inadequate,” Roll Call reported. LINK


Federal Employees Gov. Douglas presented the Vermont Federal Employee of the Year award at a recognition event in Montpelier. The event was also attended by staff from the offices of Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, and Rep. Peter Welch. The Employee of the Year award went to a branch of a national financial office for the Department of Homeland Security located in Williston, The Burlington Free Press reported. LINK




Air France Jet Disappears An Air France passenger jet traveling from Rio de Janeiro to Paris disappeared during an electrical storm with heavy turbulence on Sunday evening, and officials said that a search had begun for the wreckage around a small island off the Brazilian coast. LINK




G.M. Files for Bankruptcy General Motors this morning filed for bankruptcy, becoming the country's second automaker after Chrysler to go under in just over a month. The bankruptcy, filed in New York, is a moment of reckoning for an industry that was once at the heart of the American economy, The New York Times reported. LINK


Banks Dig in for Fight Against Rules As the financial crisis entered one of its darkest phases in October, a handful of the nation’s largest banks began holding daily telephone sessions. Murmurs were already emanating from Washington about the need for a wide-ranging regulatory overhaul, and Wall Street executives girded for a fight. Atop the agenda during their calls: how to counter an expected attempt to rein in credit-default swaps and other derivatives, The New York Times reported. LINK


Congress Returns to a Full Plate Congress returns this week to face an agenda stuffed with difficult, high-profile issues that will test the ability of Democrats and the White House to deliver health care, energy and spending legislation while simultaneously contending with a Supreme Court nomination, The New York Times reported. LINK


Health Care First up as Congress returns from a weeklong recess: Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, partially sidelined by cancer, is convening his health committee's Democrats on Tuesday to begin weighing his proposals to extend health care to all. Later in the week, the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee meets behind closed doors to work on legislation to achieve the same goal. Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said "both committees are getting ready for what is expected to be one of the most important debates of this legislative session," AP reported. LINK


Senate Battle Goes to Minnesota Top Court After half a year of arguments and more than 19,000 pages of legal briefs, the battle over recounting election results for Minnesota’s vacant United States Senate seat reaches the state’s Supreme Court on Monday. The one-hour hearing before Minnesota’s top court marks a crucial and potentially final stage, according to The New York Times. LINK

Lawmakers Keep Expenses Off-Line Lawmakers have demanded greater openness from companies receiving government bailouts but have yet to release online or electronic versions of their own office expenditures -- including taxpayer-funded tabs for leased cars and staff retreats at hotels. House and Senate lawmakers are given an annual allowance of $1.3 million to $4.5 million to run their offices. Most is spent on staff salaries, but money is also used for official equipment, office supplies and travel, The Wall Street Journal reported, LINK




State Budget Democratic leaders in the Vermont House are taking a two-track approach to tomorrow's special legislative session on the state budget. They're working to persuade House members to override Gov. Jim Douglas' promised veto of the 2010 state budget. At the same time, they're trying to negotiate a last-minute agreement with the administration to avoid a veto showdown, The Associated Press reported. LINK


Heavy Winds Batter Northern Vermont Cleanup crews are busy around the northern half of Vermont, clearing away limbs and sometimes whole trees that fell during heavy winds on Sunday. Gusts that in at least one instance topped 60 miles an hour introduced a cold front from Ontario that brought sharply chillier weather to the region, with highs Monday forecast in the upper 50s, AP reported. LINK