News June 18

Senator Sanders


Health Care The battle lines are clear as senators continue working to overhaul the nation's health care system. For Sen. Bernard Sanders, having the government provide health insurance could prevent thousands of needless deaths, The Associated Press reported. ''The fight for comprehensive, universal health care is the civil rights struggle of the moment,'' Sanders said in The New York Times. "Our job must be to wring out the incredible profiteering and inefficiencies that 1,300 private health insurance companies create," Sanders said on WCAX. LINK, LINK, LINK and VIDEO


Sign the Petition “I signed your petition Senator Sanders as soon as I got the e-mail from you. You are a national treasure with all the great things you at least try to do.,” a Huffington Post reader wrote. Other sites promoting the petition for health care reform include OpEd News and BuzzFlash. “In one day, we had 15,000 signers,” Sanders told The Bill Press Show. LINK, LINK


Energy Bill The Senate energy committee voted to require utilities to get as much as 15 percent of their power from renewable sources. "This is an extraordinary weak bill," Sanders said, according to The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times online, The Associated Press, Reuters and Grist. He wants the renewable energy requirement to be 25 percent. Sanders added a provision to the bill designed to discourage speculators from running up oil prices by hoarding oil in offshore tankers, Bloomberg reported. LINK, LINK , LINK and LINK


Green Jobs Moving from fossil fuels to sustainable and more efficient energy use is the "issue of the moment," Sen. Sanders said during a summit on green jobs held Wednesday by Senate Democrats. "In our state, we can create many, many thousands of more jobs, making our homes, our plants, our offices, our schools more energy efficient," he said. Sanders was chosen in February to chair a new Senate subcommittee on green jobs. He said in a June 3 interview that his first hearing possibly could happen within the month, but no date has been set, The Burlington Free Press reported. LINK


Financial Regulations In a move to thwart risky practices that plunged the country into economic crisis, President Obama on Wednesday proposed a sweeping overhaul of financial regulations. Sen. Sanders called the plan “a step in the right direction,” but not enough, according to The New York Times. “For starters, we need to enact a national usury law so that big banks can’t charge outrageous interest rates...” he said. “We also have…to stop Wall Street speculators from manipulating the price of oil...” he added, according to Agence France-Presse. LINK and LINK


Fed Powers The Obama administration's financial regulatory reform package recommends a council to aid the Federal Reserve in monitoring threats to the U.S. financial system. It also calls for a broad review of the Federal Reserve System structure. Skepticism of the Fed runs high in Congress. Even as experts laud the Fed for launching unprecedented programs to stem the worst financial crisis in decades, lawmakers such as Sen. Bernard Sanders, argued that the Fed should disclose the names of the companies that have benefited from its lending programs, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK


Bankers Howl The U.S. banking industry rang alarms Wednesday about a proposed consumer protection agency that it said would insert itself into Americans' financial decisions, large and small. Banking lobbyists described the proposal as the most troublesome for their industry and consumers in the administration's entire 88-page plan for overhauling financial rules. Meanwhile, the administration didn't go far enough for some lawmakers. Sen. Bernie Sanders praised the proposed consumer agency, but lamented that the administration didn't back a national interest-rate cap, Dow Jones Newswire reported. LINK


Defense Contractors Lawmakers today will hold a hearing on civilian contract workers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. The hearing follows a joint investigation by ProPublica, ABC News, and the Los Angeles Times, which found that AIG and other insurance carriers were routinely denying claims by injured civilians for medical care and disability benefits under a federally financed workers' compensation program. Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Sen. Bernie Sanders will lead the questioning.  LINK


Digital Television Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon has introduced a bill that would put another $700 million into the DTV transition over the next two years. The bill, The Digital TV Transition Fairness Act, is the House version of a bill introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders last December, according to the trade publication Broadcasting & Cable. LINK


Oil Prices “I have been a commissioner at the Commodity Futures Trading Commissioner for almost two years, and have been at the forefront trying to address issues relating to excessive speculation in energy markets…Recently, Sen. Bernie Sanders proposed legislation regarding the CFTC's use of emergency authority to address excessive speculation in energy markets,” Commissioner Bart Chilton wrote in The (Raleigh, N.C.) News & Observer, The (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) Sun News. LINK, LINK




Iran Braces for More Protest  Iran braced for a fourth day of massive protests Thursday by opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in open defiance of the country's supreme leader, who has urged the nation to unite behind the Islamic state. Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi urged supporters to wear black Thursday to the planned rally in mourning for the alleged election fraud during Friday's vote and lives lost during this week's protests, The Associated Press reported. LINK




Historic Overhaul of Finance Rules President Obama urged policy makers to rewrite the rules governing U.S. finance, unveiling far-reaching proposals that would affect nearly every aspect of banking and markets. The White House hopes Congress can complete work on the plan by year's end, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK


Delays, Disputes Slow Health Care Bill Delays and disputes bogged down a Senate panel considering the details of remaking the nation's $2.5 trillion health care system. The first formal drafting and voting session on Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's sweeping legislation was given over Wednesday to six hours of speechmaking by senators. Nothing was accomplished on the bill itself, and there were suggestions that a goal of completing committee action before the congressional recess July 4 might not be met, AP reported. LINK


Senate GOP Still Saying ‘No’ Though Senate Democrats have handed them defeat after legislative defeat this year, Republicans say they plan to continue trying to slow down the Democratic agenda on the Senate floor as much as possible. Majority Leader Harry Reid has filed motions to cut off attempted filibusters 17 times so far this year, but Republicans have only won one of the those votes — to block the nomination of David Hayes to be a deputy Interior secretary, according to Roll Call. LINK


Older Recruits Challenge Army and Vice Versa In the three years since the Army raised its age limit for enlisting to 42, from 35, a steady stream of older recruits has joined the ranks. While the number of such recruits, more than 3,800, is small by Army standards, the pace of over-35 enlistment jumped sharply in the first months of this year. Motives vary, but rising unemployment is also a major reason, The New York Times reported. LINK


Number of VA Claims Poised to Hit 1 Million The Veterans Affairs Department appears poised to hit a milestone it would rather avoid: 1 million claims to process. The milestone approaches as the agency scrambles to hire and train new claims processors, which can take two years. VA officials are working with the Pentagon under orders from President Barack Obama to create by 2012 a system that will allow the two agencies to electronically exchange records, a process now done manually on paper, AP reported. LINK




Welch Wants Cheaper Fuel Rep. Peter Welch wants the country to switch to cheaper crude oil for its emergency oil supply. The Vermont Democrat introduced a bill Wednesday that would require the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to sell and replace 70 million barrels of light sweet crude oil with the less expensive heavy crude oil, according to the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus. LINK


Dean Backs Public Health Choice Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean says there can be no meaningful health care overhaul in America without a public option for individuals not now covered. Dean, a medical doctor and former chairman of the Democratic Party, said in an interview on NBC's "Today" show that he can't imagine any health care overhaul without a government-funded option, asking "why would you put a trillion dollars into something that hasn't worked," AP reported. LINK


Richmond Bridge The Bridge Street bridge in Richmond will open to cars at noon Friday, the first time since March the bridge will serve vehicular traffic. The pedestrian walk will remain closed until further notice. Starting Monday, travel will be reduced to one-way traffic across the bridge during work hours throughout the completion of the bridge project, The Burlington Free Press reported. LINK