News June 26

Senator Sanders


Health Care Senators negotiating how to overhaul the nation's health care system broke off formal talks Thursday until after the July Fourth holiday, saying they lack consensus on how to pay for the $1 trillion or more that the changes could cost over the next decade. There's talk of taxing at least a portion of employer benefits or charitable contributions from the wealthy, or perhaps cutting the tax deduction for medical expenses. Sen. Bernard Sanders objected to taxing health care benefits, telling the Miami Herald, "I don't want to support regressive taxation," he said. LINK


Health Care Partisan tensions are on the rise in Congress just as lawmakers prepare to take up a health care overhaul, climate change legislation and a Supreme Court nomination on their return from the July Fourth recess. Sanders told Congressional Quarterly that completing a comprehensive health care bill is more important than winning bipartisan approval. Sanders said he would like to win Republican votes on the health care legislation but it’s not essential. “What’s more important is delivering a product rather than sitting around holding hands.” LINK


Health Care Worried that health care reform is falling apart, more than 130 Vermont lawmakers urged President Obama and members of Congress to pass meaningful health care reform. If the federal government is unwilling to support a public health insurance option, House Speaker Shap Smith told the Vermont Press Bureau he hopes a proposal by Sanders allowing states to enter into a single-payer health care model goes forward. "There is a lot of support among the American public for this," Sanders said, "but there are also a lot of lobbyists who are fighting this." LINK


Oil Prices The U.S. Senate could take up legislation to give federal regulators authority to crack down on speculation in the oil markets if gasoline prices spike this summer as they did last year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday. Dow Jones added that Sen. Sanders has introduced legislation that would give the Commodity Futures Trading Commission authority to take action against rampant speculation. LINK  


The Sausage Factory With Republicans attempting to throw roadblocks in front of almost every piece of Senate business these days, Democratic leaders say they are willing to keep the chamber in session into late fall if necessary to complete their ambitious agenda. Republican objections to a Sanders amendment on oil speculation was cited by Roll Call as an example of obstruction tactics by a handful of conservative Republicans who “have used time-consuming Senate rules to their advantage this year.” LINK


First Responders Vermont's two U.S. senators are looking to name a federal law providing benefits for rescue personnel who are killed or disabled in the line of duty after a local paramedic killed last week in an ambulance crash. The legislation introduced Thursday also would extend the federal Public Safety Officers Benefits program to paramedics employed by nonprofit organizations and ambulance services. Sen. Sanders said he cosponsored the bill because all EMS responders deserve the benefits, the Bennington Banner reported. LINK


Health Care Letter “I attended a meeting on [health care] hosted by Sen.Sanders, and the message was clear: We are the only industrialized nation in the world that does not provide health care to all of our citizens. Our current health care system is based on a wasteful, for-profit bureaucracy that makes our health care system…the most expensive in the world,” Harriet Piche of Colchester wrote to The Burlington Free Press. LINK


Digital TV Letter “Sen. Sanders has proposed a no-frills cable or satellite TV service, nationally, at $10 a month for people who have lost their formerly free TV signals,” Richard Logan of Port St. Joe, Fla., wrote to the Panama City News Herald. Describing himself as one of the 30 million or 40 million TV viewers who have lost the local TV signals they were getting from outdoor antennas, Logan said “something needs to be done for all of us who are in the dark.” LINK




Iraq Withdrawal Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has taken to calling the withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq’s cities by next Tuesday a “great victory,” a repulsion of foreign occupiers he compares to the rebellion against British troops in 1920. And the Americans are going along with it, symbolically and substantively. American commanders have hewed far more closely to the June 30 deadline for withdrawing combat forces from Iraq’s cities than expected only a few weeks ago, according to American and Iraqi officials, The New York Times reported. LINK




Health Care Senate health-care negotiators said yesterday they were closing in on a $1 trillion health-care bill that would be fully funded by tax increases, Medicare cuts and new penalties for employers who do not offer health insurance. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said members of the panel would consider a menu of policy and financing options over the Fourth of July recess, with the goal of producing a deficit-neutral 10-year bill shortly after Congress returns July 6, The Washington Post reported. LINK


Global Warming House Democrats grew increasingly confident Thursday that they have the votes to deliver on one of President Obama's highest priorities -- a landmark effort to fight global warming and boost alternatives to fossil fuels. With the vote coming as early as today, House leaders said they were closing in on majority support but had not locked it down yet, the Los Angeles Times reported. LINK


Income Up The income of Americans rose in May because of the government's economic stimulus, leading them to increase spending modestly and boost the saving rate to the highest in 15 years.

Personal income rose at a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.4 percent compared to the month before, the Commerce Department said Friday. The jump reflected reduced taxes and increased social benefit payments unleashed by the stimulus package, according to The Wall Street Journal. LINK


Stimulus Slowdown Federal spending meant to jump-start the economy slowed last week, two weeks after President Obama vowed to "ramp up" the pace of that aid. Last week, federal agencies allocated about $5.2billion in new stimulus aid for projects across the country, according to disclosure reports the agencies released Thursday. That's less than at any point in the previous month and less than the roughly $8.6 billion the government has spent, on average, in every previous week since Obama signed the massive spending and tax relief package in February, USA Today reported. LINK


Obama Veto Threat The U.S. House of Representatives was poised to approve on Thursday a $550.4 billion defense authorization bill for fiscal 2010 that has drawn a veto threat from President Barack Obama because it contains money for fighter jets he does not want. The bill also authorizes $130 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the fiscal year that begins October 1, Reuters reported. LINK




Ethan Allen Layoffs Ethan Allen Interiors Inc. is laying off 238 workers at a plant near the Canadian border, but will keep a sawmill and dimension mill operating at the site where Vermont, New Hampshire and Quebec meet. The layoffs in Beecher Falls are a huge blow to the region that for generations has made its living from the vast stretches of forest in Vermont and New Hampshire, The Associated Press reported. LINK


Bennington College Cuts Pay The recession is forcing Bennington College to close its Early Childhood Center as part of a series of budget cuts. In addition to closing the center, the college cut $1.1 million from its operating budget and froze salaries for faculty and staff. The Rutland Herald says the childhood center opened more than 75 years ago as a nursery school for staff. LINK