News June 11

Senator Sanders


Oil Prices Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced legislation Wednesday to force federal regulators to invoke emergency powers to stop oil speculation, The Burlington Free Press, Reuters and WCAX reported.  Oil prices surged to a high for the year Wednesday, $71.33 a barrel. “There is strong evidence here that what we're seeing is not a supply and demand issue but excessive speculation on the part of Wall Street pushing up oil futures,” Sanders said. LINK, LINK, LINK and VIDEO


Fed Secrecy The Federal Reserve yesterday started disclosing a wider range of information about its lending programs, aiming to stanch growing concerns among lawmakers that it is too secretive.  Sen. Bernie Sanders, who sponsored a Senate resolution that urged the Fed to identify borrowers of more than $2 trillion, called Chairman Ben Bernanke’s latest effort “completely insufficient,” The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press, Bloomberg and the Bureau of National Affairs reported. LINK, LINK, LINK and LINK


Flood Maps The federal government is mapping out flood zones across the United States, and some Vermont homeowners who never had to carry flood insurance before may have to now. Sen. Sanders told WCAX the new map-making by FEMA is important to prevent unnecessary losses of lives and homes, but the process is not fair to everyone and that FEMA has made mistakes. LINK and VIDEO        


Health Care An ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that 62 percent of Americans would prefer a universal health insurance program, but Sen. Max Baucus, who chairs the Finance Committee, is not open to the idea. The Minneapolis-based noted that Sen. Sanders said on C-SPAN that Baucus wouldn't be open to a single-payer plan "in a million years." LINK


War Funding “Congress is now voting on funding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. As part of the spending bill, Senators Joseph Lieberman and Lindsey Graham added a provision that would ban the release of so-called torture photos …The Senate approved Lieberman and Graham's provision with just Republican Tom Coburn, Democrat Russ Feingold and Socialist Bernie Sanders opposing the funding bill,” Bill O’Reilly asserted on Fox News.


Shenanigans As Mayor Bob Kiss fights Democrats on the city council, Seven Days columnist Shay Totten said today’s “shenanigans” are reminiscent of a 1981 clash involving another Democratic-controlled council trying to block appointments by a new independent mayor. “Their power ploy catapulted Sanders all the way to the U.S. Senate,” Totten wrote. John Franco, Sanders’ city attorney, said history is repeating itself. “I’m watching the Democrats make the same mistakes now as they did then.” LINK


Sanders Alumna Bethany Kosmider is challenging 14-year Republican Supervisor Dale French for the job of Crown Point town supervisor. She was on the staff of Bernie Sanders when he was a U.S. congressman from Vermont, according to the Press Republican in upstate New York. LINK




Rallies Close Out Iranian Campaign President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged his supporters Wednesday not to resort to violence as Iran’s presidential election campaign wound to a close with massive, competing demonstrations in the streets of the capital, The Washington Post reported from Tehran.  LINK




Obama Takes Health Care Agenda on Road President Barack Obama, facing challenges to his ambitious health care overhaul from Congress, is visiting supporters outside the capital and turning to them to muster up momentum for one of his top legislative priorities. Obama on Thursday readied to fly to Green Bay, Wis., to talk directly with voters about his proposals to spend $1.5 trillion over the next decade to cover uninsured Americans, The Associated Press reported. LINK


Doctors’ Group Opposes Public Insurance Plan The American Medical Association is letting Congress know that it will oppose creation of a government-sponsored insurance plan, which President Obama and many other Democrats see as an essential element of legislation to remake the health care system. The opposition, which comes as Obama prepares to address the powerful doctors’ group on Monday in Chicago, could be a major hurdle for advocates of a public insurance plan, The New York Times reported. LINK


All Eyes on the CBO Since Douglas W. Elmendorf took the helm of the Congressional Budget Office in late January, he delivered a skeptical analysis of a stimulus package intended to rescue the U.S. economy, forecast bigger-than-expected losses from a $700 billion bailout of the U.S. financial system and poured ice water on President Obama's claims that his policies would stabilize the exploding national debt. Now Elmendorf faces the toughest task of his brief tenure: attaching a price to a monumental overhaul of the nation's health-care system, The Washington Post reported. LINK


Savings for Small Business in Health Plan Many small businesses are vehemently opposed to the idea of requiring employers to help pay for their workers’ medical coverage, but an analysis by the nonprofit Small Business Majority, to be released Thursday, concludes that the changes would be better for small employers than continuing the current system, which leaves many of those businesses struggling to afford health benefits for their workers, according to The New York Times. LINK



Treasury to Set Executives’ Pay at 7 Ailing Firms The Obama administration’s proposal to restrict executive pay is likely to be a humbling exercise for seven of the nation’s largest companies, which have received billions of dollars in federal assistance to survive the economic crisis, The New York Times reported. The Treasury Department appointed a well-known Washington lawyer, Kenneth R. Feinberg, to oversee the compensation of employees at the American International Group, Citigroup, Bank of America, General Motors, Chrysler and the financing arms of the two automakers. LINK


At a Monument of Sorrow, A Burst of Deadly Violence A man stepped through the doors of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, took two paces, lowered his rifle at a security guard and, before anyone could react, opened fire in a popular national landmark. The guard, who did not have time to draw his gun, fell bleeding and fatally wounded to the polished floor. Other guards fired back, cutting down the assailant, The Washington Post reported. LINK


Senate to Vote on Tobacco A tobacco control bill set to win Senate approval would give the federal government broad new powers to monitor and change a toxic substance that contributes to some 400,000 deaths every year. The legislation, heading for a vote Thursday, would for the first time give the Food and Drug Administration legal authority to regulate the sale, manufacturing and marketing of tobacco products, AP reported. LINK


Lawmakers Invested in Bailed-Out Firms Top House lawmakers had considerable holdings in major financial institutions that took billions of dollars in taxpayer bailouts at the end of last year, according to annual financial disclosure reports released yesterday. From stock holdings to retirement funds to mortgages, more than 20 House leaders and members of the House Financial Services Committee had large personal stakes in the Wall Street powerhouses whose collapse last year led to an unprecedented government intervention in the marketplace, The Washington Post reported. LINK




Trade Stimulus The U.S. Department of Labor released more than $450 million -- including $558,082 for Vermont -- in trade adjustment assistance to help displaced workers whose jobs were lost because of outsourcing and foreign competition. New Hampshire will get more than $1.3 million, and Maine more than $3 million in funding under the federal stimulus package. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said the money will enable workers to upgrade existing skills or retrain for new careers in industries that have potential for growth, AP reported. LINK


Schools Stimulus Leaders from area schools have begun to apply for federal grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, The Rutland Herald reported. At Otter Valley Union High School, stimulus funding of approximately $926,000 could extend the school day and year for students who voluntarily signed on for more academic help. In Rutland, the district is applying for roughly $1.7 million in stimulus money to better educate low-income and special-needs students. LINK


Green Jobs A new national study says jobs in Vermont's green energy economy are growing faster than other employment sectors in the state, and are easily outpacing the national average for growth in green jobs. The Pew Charitable Trusts study found that between 1998 and 2007, Vermont's green energy economy saw 15.3 percent growth, versus overall job growth in the state of 7.4 percent. Growth in green jobs nationwide was put at 9.1 percent. It says 38 states and the District of Columbia reported faster job growth in the green energy sector than job growth overall, AP reported. LINK


Sales Tax Holidays Vermont business owners are hoping that two upcoming sales-tax holidays will entice buyers to shop at their stores and boost sales. Gov. Douglas signed a bill Tuesday that establishes two sales-tax holidays in August of this year and March 2010, AP reported. LINK