News June 23

Senator Sanders


Oil Prices A bill to promote U.S. tourism was derailed in the Senate Monday after lawmakers were unable to resolve a dispute about a series of votes.  The Wall Street Journal, Congressional Quarterly and Bureau of National Affairs reported that Republican leaders opposed allowing a vote on a measure by Sen. Bernie Sanders that would have given the federal government authority to limit speculation in the oil markets if gasoline prices rise again this summer.  "What are they afraid of?" Sanders said. "Who are they trying to protect?" LINK and LINK


Health Care The New York Times-CBS poll showed that 72 percent of Americans favored a government run health plan.  When Sen. Sanders recently arranged for five prominent advocates of national health insurance to have a courtesy meeting with Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus, the story was newsworthy because the political elite usually pretends that this viewpoint doesn't exist, much less that it represents the desires of two Americans in three, wrote Robert Kuttner wrote on The Huffington PostLINK


A Leahy Profile  Sen. Patrick Leahy is banking on his bipartisan reputation as he prepares to shepherd President Obama's first Supreme Court nominee through Senate hearings in a few weeks...In his 35 years representing Vermont, he has developed close relationships with many prominent state figures, including one of the men he beat for Senate in 1974, Bernie Sanders. "He's a friend of mine; he has a very good sense of humor; he is a very strong family man," Sanders told The Washington Times. "Every other word out of his mouth is about his wife, about his kids and his grandchildren." LINK


Bats A year more of research may be needed to find a cause for white nose syndrome, a disease that has wiped out bats by the thousands in caves in Vermont, New York and other states, a state biologist told a local conservation commission recently. Nearly all of the 30 caves monitored in Vermont have the disease present, according to the Rutland Herald and Times Argus. Pressing the Department of Interior for quick assistance, Sens. Sanders and Leahy have joined in seeking $5 million from the Senate Appropriations Committee for the next fiscal year for the problem nationwide. LINK and LINK




Iran Iran’s most powerful oversight council has refused to nullify the contested presidential election just one day after it announced that the number of votes recorded in 50 cities exceeded the number of eligible voters there by three million, Iranian state television said Tuesday, further tarnishing a presidential election that has set off the most sustained challenge to Iran’s leadership in 30 years, The New York Times reported. LINK




Health Care House Democrats are pushing forward with a partisan health care bill even as a key Senate Democrat labors to achieve an elusive bipartisan compromise on President Barack Obama's top legislative priority. The action on both sides of the Capitol comes with lawmakers mindful of next week's July 4 congressional recess, The Associated Press reported. Most will return home to face constituents with plenty of questions about their plans to overhaul the nation's costly health care system. A sweeping bill unveiled in the Democratic-controlled House last week is to be weighed in hearings beginning Tuesday. LINK


Drug Prices The White House on Monday hailed what it described as a “historic agreement to lower drugs costs” for older Americans, but The New York Times said it was not immediately clear how much the government would reap in savings that could be used to pay for coverage of the uninsured. As part of the agreement, pharmaceutical companies promised to help narrow a gap in Medicare coverage of prescription drugs that is known as the doughnut hole. LINK


Obama Press Conference President Barack Obama will hold his first Rose Garden news conference Tuesday. A White House spokesman says Obama will open the afternoon event with remarks on health care reform, energy legislation and Iran's disputed elections. Later the White House will mark the 37th anniversary of Title IX, the federal law that requires schools to offer equal athletic opportunities to men and women. LINK


Occasional Smoker Signs Tobacco Bill President Obama does not discuss the fact that he still occasionally smokes, a habit he very publicly tried to kick during his race for the White House. But there he was on Monday, talking about cigarettes. As he signed legislation bringing tobacco products under federal control for the first time, the president conceded that the new law, aimed at keeping children from starting to smoke, could have helped him three decades ago, according to The New York Times. LINK


Voting Rights Act Upheld A key part of the landmark Voting Rights Act survived a constitutional challenge yesterday in the Supreme Court, but justices made it clear that a law forged in the darkest days of the nation's civil rights struggles may no longer be appropriate in a new era of American racial politics. The Washington Post said a surprisingly unified court found a compromise that allowed it to sidestep questions about whether the key provision of the law is constitutional, thus avoiding a divisive showdown with Congress, which just three years ago found that the 1965 act was still needed. LINK


Court Rules on Funding Special Ed The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a victory to parents of children with disabilities who seek reimbursement for private-school tuition at public expense. School systems warned the decision could drain millions of dollars from tight education budgets. In a 6-3 ruling, the high court said the family of an Oregon high-school student could receive a private education at taxpayers' expense without having first received special-education services in public schools, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK


Bernanke Reappointment Debate Begins Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke will defend his unprecedented actions to prevent a financial collapse as debate on whether he should be reappointed begins. Bernanke, whose term expires Jan. 31, faces lawmakers at a hearing this week. President Barack Obama has said the Fed chief has done an “extraordinary job” without committing to reappoint him, Bloomberg reported. LINK


Death on the Red Line Federal investigators are looking for recorders or other devices that could tell them how fast a Washington subway train was going when it plowed into another train, killing at least seven and injuring scores of others during the height of Monday's afternoon rush hour. National Transportation Safety Board officials said Tuesday the train may have a recording device that would give its speed at the time of the crash and whether it was being operated manually or automatically when it hit the other train Monday in the nation's capital. LINK




Organic Food Pact The U.S. Department of Agriculture last week signed an agreement with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency allowing certified organic products from either country to be sold on the other side of the border with the organic label. Sen. Leahy, who helped write the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act and is the senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said the agreement will strengthen the organic industry across the country and will also help Vermont farmers who trade with Canada, the Brattleboro Reformer reported. LINK


Lake Monsters The field used by the Vermont Lake Monsters minor league baseball team is inadequate and the team's owner says he might have to find another park. For several years Major League Baseball has provided waivers for Centennial Field in Burlington because it doesn't meet minimum standards for a minor league facility. A report by Major League Baseball obtained by The Burlington Free Press shows the playing field, lighting, dugouts, bullpens and both clubhouses don't meet the standards for single-A ball. LINK


GM Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell is joining with attorneys general from nine other states to object to some provisions of General Motors' bankruptcy plan. Sorrell told the Times Argus the state opposes a provision that would relieve GM of liability for prior manufacturing problems.  It also opposes a provision that would allow the post-bankruptcy GM to modify or terminate contracts with franchise owners, forcing them to take on new cars they don't want and barring them from carrying other makes. LINK


Burlington Firm in Colombia An international development organization headquartered in Vermont has come under scrutiny for its work in Colombia. According to The Nation, U.S. aid money administered by Burlington-based ARD was used to support palm-oil cultivation on stolen land in northwest Colombia by groups involved in paramilitary abuses and narcotics trafficking. ARD Inc., founded in Burlington in 1977, was working under contract with the U.S. Agency for International Development. LINK