News June 19

Senator Sanders


War Contractors Lawmakers on Thursday sharply criticized a federal program that relies on private insurance companies to provide medical care and benefits to civilians injured while working in support of the U.S. military effort in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sen. Bernie Sanders said he was outraged by evidence that insurers made windfall profits. Chicago-based CNA Financial Corp. earned as much as 50 percent profit on some of its war-zone policies, according to company records submitted to the subcommittee. "There has been huge wartime profiteering," Sanders told the Los Angeles Times. LINK


War Funding Congress on Thursday sent President Barack Obama a massive spending bill aimed at ensuring that the military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan won't run out of money in the coming months. Sanders and four other senators voted no, The Associated Press reported. LINK


Oil Prices Asked why Obama's regulatory reforms this week did not include changes to deal with speculation in oil markets, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the proposals focused on stabilizing financial markets. Sen. Sanders introduced legislation last week that would order the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to use its emergency powers to stop market speculators from pushing up oil prices, Reuters, The Boston Globe and BNA reported. LINK


‘She Impresses Me’ Senator Bernie Sanders had his 20-minute sit-down with Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor on Thursday and came away from the meeting with what he said were "good positive feelings."  Sanders said, "At this point, she impresses me as someone who is a strong advocate for constitutional rights and the rule of law. I wanted to get her views on how you protect constitutional rights while you are fighting terrorism. That's a tough balance," The Burlington Free Press reported. LINK and LINK


Health Care “Understanding that current federal health care reform plans would not solve the problem, our own senator, Bernie Sanders, introduced a bill to help states like Vermont set up their own single-payer system. Once seen as a long shot, this bill, which would grant the needed federal waivers automatically, is gaining more momentum as the national single-payer movement grows and pressures President Obama,” James  Haslam wrote in the Brattleboro Reformer. LINK


Health Care “Tom Daschle is dead wrong on the public option in health care. Dropping it from the health care plan is not a minor issue, and doing it will not help get health care reform passed. In fact, it will almost certainly make the bill die a quick death,” Mike Lux wrote for The Huffington Post. The Progressive Caucus in the House, and Senators like Bernie Sanders and Russ Feingold, have all said they would vote no on a health care bill with no public option. The Democrats in the Senate need to stay on board with the president's plan, and resist this siren call of avoid a fight with the insurance industry. LINK


Fed Secrecy Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke faces a rising tide of congressional scrutiny and growing concerns that the once-untouchable Fed is becoming an out-of-control financial Frankenstein with $2.2 trillion in loans on its books.  “I just think it will be very hard for members of Congress to go back to their constituents and say, “I’ve got $2.2 trillion of your money at risk and I don’t know where it’s going,’” Sanders told Politico. Bernanke and top Fed officials have bridled at detailed congressional oversight of their monetary policy. LINK




Supreme Leader: Iran Vote was ‘Definitive Victory’ Iran's supreme leader said Friday that there was "definitive victory" and no rigging in disputed presidential elections, offering no concession to protesters demanding the vote be canceled and held again. In his first public address since demonstrators flooded the streets, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said protests should cease and the opposition must pursue its complaints within the confines of the cleric-led ruling system, The Associated Press reported. LINK




Democrats Scramble to Cut Costs From Health Plan The high cost of securing health insurance for all Americans, the top domestic priority of President Obama, has Congressional Democrats scrambling to scale back their proposals or find ways to trim tens of billions of dollars a year from existing health programs, The New York Times reported. LINK


CEOs of Bailed-Out Banks Flew to Resorts on Firms' Jets Flight records show numerous occasions when banks receiving federal money have flown corporate jets to destinations near resorts or executives' vacation homes, including spots in Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean, south Florida and Aspen, Colo. The Wall Street Journal identified 14 federally aided banks that register planes under their own names and reviewed flight records fom October, when the bank aid program began, through mid-March, the latest information the Journal was able to examine. LINK


Lawmakers Balk As Administration Tries to Redefine Central Bank's Role The Federal Reserve  is now on the hot seat, with a debate on Capitol Hill emerging over its responsibility for the crisis and its proper role in preventing such events in the future. Lawmakers are simultaneously annoyed that the Fed did not do more to rein in the bad lending and other financial excesses that led to the financial crisis and recession, and wary of the Fed's aggressive steps over the past two years to combat them, The Washington Post reported. LINK




Foreclosures Up Vermont foreclosure rates were up for the first five months of this year, but a state official says the state fared better than most others. Through May, there have been 801 Vermont properties that have been part of foreclosure proceedings. That's up about 10 percent from the 730 through May one year ago. Despite the increase, Vermont is faring better in several surveys, The Associated Press reported. LINK


Vermont Yankee The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will notify the owners of 26 nuclear plants Friday that they are not saving enough money to dismantle the reactors once they're no longer operating. In a memo obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday, the agency told congressional offices it would make a formal announcement of its findings on Friday. The plants deemed coming up short range from the Vermont Yankee station near Brattleboro to the three Browns Ferry reactors near Decatur, Ala. LINK


Memorial for Paramedic A memorial service for Dale R. Long, a Bennington Rescue Squad paramedic who died Monday, will take place Saturday at the Southern Vermont College. Beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the Brewster Funeral Home in Manchester, a procession of more than 70 emergency service vehicles will travel about 24 miles to Bennington, for the 10 a.m. service, the Bennington Banner reported. LINK