News June 24

Senator Sanders


Health Care Inching forward on its markup of a massive health care reform draft, the Senate health committee on Tuesday approved a 10-year $80 billion fund to foster wellness programs and better chronic illness management. The afternoon opened with approval of an amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders adding oral health to the list of services provided by school clinics. The vote was 22 to 1, with only Sen. Tom Coburn dissenting, Congress Daily reported. LINK


Health Care Gov. Douglas is scheduled to discuss health care reform with President Obama and several other governors this afternoon at the White House. Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch are on committees that are hashing out health care legislation. Both said they want to include measures they’ve seen work in Vermont, The Burlington Free Press reported. LINK


Health Care Rep. Peter Welch’s telephone town hall meeting on health care reform Tuesday was attended by more than 5,000 Vermonters. One caller said Welch should be as vocal as Sen. Sanders in supporting a single-payer health care plan, the Vermont Press Bureau reported. The Bennington Banner said Sanders considers a public plan is his fall-back position if a single-payer, government-run system cannot be implemented.  LINK and LINK


Oil Prices An amendment designed to curtail oil speculation failed in the U.S. Senate on Monday after Republicans blocked a vote, Sen. Bernie Sanders said Tuesday, adding the political maneuvering has emboldened him. "What the Republicans are telling me is: They think it would win," Sanders told The Burlington Free Press. On WCAX, Sanders said “there is mounting evidence that the run up in oil and gas prices…has everything to do with the excessive speculation by some of the same Wall Street firms that received the largest taxpayer bailout in the history of the world. They're back again!" LINK and VIDEO


Fed Secrecy Interviewed on Fox News, Sen. Jim Demint discussed legislation to make the Federal Reserve reveal more information about what financial institutions received more than $2 trillion in loans. “The current law apparently does not give us the authority, our controller general, to actually audit their books. That's what Ron Paul has introduced in the House and I have introduced in the Senate along with Bernie Sanders, of all people…We need to know what they're up to, and so Ron Paul, Bernie Sanders, they got the right idea.” VIDEO


Island Pond Van A new bus service begins today linking Island Pond and Newport. The new 12-passenger bus, exclusively for seniors and disabled people, is equipped with a wheelchair lift. It will be run by Sunrise Manor Senior Center and Island Pond Community Services.  The bus was paid for by a federal grant secured by Senator Bernie Sanders, WCAX reported. LINK and VIDEO


Veterans Northeast Kingdom veterans will get a chance to talk about their health care needs and how to expand access to veteran services. The veterans’ liaison for Sen. Bernie Sanders, and local health care and veterans affairs officials will meet with area veterans at 1 p.m. today at the American Legion Hall in Newport, The Associated Press reported. LINK


Good Samaritan Farmers Sen. Dick Lugar reintroduced the Good Samaritan Hunger Relief Tax Incentive Extension Act to make permanent provisions that allow farmers and small business owners to receive a tax deduction for donating food products to food banks, pantries and homeless shelters. Sen. Sanders is among the cosponsors, The Kokomo Perspective reported. LINK


Sister Cities Since the 1981 election of Bernie Sanders, Burlington has forged sister-city relationships with Puerto Cabezas in Nicaragua, Yaroslavl in Russia and Bethlehem and Arad in the Middle East. The three long-running initiatives were all forged by local activists expressing passionate dissent from national policies. Twenty-five years after the launch, all three relationships have survived, Seven Days reported. LINK


The Insurgents Sen. Sanders continues to make his presence known in the U.S. Senate. Earlier this year, the Independent made national news when he told Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, “If an organization is too big to fail, it is too big to exist.” Last week’s issue of Newsweek profiled Sanders and five other senators who are pushing back against some of Pres. Barack Obama’s economic reforms, Seven Days noted. LINK


Top Line Watch the ABC News Webcast 'Top Line' at noon Wednesday, when Sen. Bernie Sanders will discuss health care reform and Air America Correspondent Ana Marie Cox will discuss the latest political headlines.




Obama Condemns Iran’s Iron Fist President Obama hardened his tone toward Iran on Tuesday, condemning the government for its crackdown against election protesters and accusing Iran’s leaders of fabricating charges against the United States. In what The New York Times called his strongest comments since the crisis erupted 10 days ago, Mr. Obama used unambiguous language to assail the Iranian government during a news conference at the White House, calling himself “appalled and outraged by the threats, beatings and imprisonments of the past few days.” LINK




Obama: Government Health Coverage Plan Would Not Hurt Private Insurers President Obama made a detailed case on Tuesday for a new government-administered health insurance plan, but he did not rule out signing a bill that lacks such an option if he cannot win enough support from Democrats in Congress. In a White House news conference, Obama dismissed as “not logical” the suggestion that a public plan would undermine the private insurance market, according to The New York Times. LINK


'Public Option' Highest Hurdle in Senate Even as senators make strides in reducing the emerging legislation's overall cost, the notion of disrupting the private insurance market by injecting federal competition has stoked passions on both sides and created the kind of wedge that President Obama and Democratic leaders had sought to avoid in the debate, according to The Washington Post. LINK


Most Want Health Reform A majority of Americans see government action as critical to controlling runaway health-care costs, but there is broad public anxiety about the potential impact of reform legislation and conflicting views about the types of fixes being proposed on Capitol Hill, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Most respondents are "very concerned" that health-care reform would lead to higher costs, lower quality, fewer choices, a bigger deficit, diminished insurance coverage and more government bureaucracy. LINK


Baucus Grabs Pacesetter Role As President Obama’s effort to overhaul the health care system seems to hit one roadblock after another in Congress, he is counting on Senator Max Baucus, a political shape-shifter and crafty deal maker who is not fully trusted by either party, to help him clinch his top domestic priority, The New York Times reported.  LINK


Dodd Turns to Kennedy for Help His accent is unmistakable, but his voice sounds frail, less robust, and his face looks drawn. Senator Edward M. Kennedy has seldom appeared in public lately as he battles brain cancer. But he is now appearing in an unusual ad for perhaps his closest friend in the Senate, Christopher J. Dodd, a fellow Democrat whose stumbles have left voters in his home state, Connecticut, unsure whether they want him to return for a sixth term in office. The commercial underscores the gravity with which Dodd and his allies view his predicament, The New York Times reported. LINK


Pelosi Flexes Muscle on Energy Speaker Pelosi has shown repeatedly that she can rally her troops on tough votes, but she faces her toughest test yet this week in passing her signature cap-and-trade energy package. Pelosi laid down the gauntlet late Monday, announcing plans to bring the 1,200-plus-page bill to the floor on Friday, Roll Call reported. LINK


Bill Seeks to End Delays in Veterans’ Care The House approved legislation on Tuesday that is intended to prevent delays in federal financing for veterans’ health care programs, a problem that has disrupted services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs for decades, officials say. The New York Times said the bill, which has been a major lobbying priority of veterans’ organizations in Washington, would allow Congress to appropriate funds for health care programs one year in advance. LINK


Citigroup to Fatten Salaries After all those losses and bailouts, rank-and-file employees of Citigroup are getting some good news: their salaries are going up. The troubled banking giant, which to many symbolizes the troubles in the nation’s financial industry, intends to raise workers’ base salaries by as much as 50 percent this year to offset smaller annual bonuses, according to The New York Times.  The shift means that most Citigroup employees will make as much money as they did in 2008. LINK




Storm Permits After years of resisting, the state of Vermont has put about 400 Chittenden County property owners on notice that they will be required to obtain federal stormwater permits within the next 180 days, according to The Burlington Free Press. LINK


Rx Drugs So-called data-mining companies that collect information about the drugs doctors prescribe asked an appeals court Tuesday to stop Vermont from enacting a law next week restricting their work. Attorney Thomas Julin told a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that it would violate the First Amendment rights of the companies if the law is enacted on July 1, AP reported. LINK


Power Rates Customers of the Burlington Electric Department will see their rates go up 11.33 percent at the end of the week. The Vermont Public Service Board has ordered an investigation of the "justness and reasonableness" of the increase. The Burlington Free Press says the Department of Public Service recommended the investigation from its position as a "ratepayer advocate." LINK


Bishop to Head Chamber Betsy Bishop, who late last year moved from the governor's office to head the Economic Development Department, is leaving state government to head the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, The Burlington Free Press reported. LINK