News June 3

Senator Sanders


Health Care Aides to Sen. Ted Kennedy gave some details of his upcoming health care plan in a closed-door meeting Tuesday with Democratic members of the Senate health committee. Most of the juicy details were not discussed, Investor’s Business Daily reported. According to Sen. Bernie Sanders, "We just talked about preventive care today” Congressional Quarterly said some are pushing for a public plan that would compete with private insurers  “I think you’re going to find [Obama] supportive of it, as he has been in the past,” said Sanders. LINK and LINK


Single-Payer Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus, with a push from Sanders, plans to meet Wednesday with single-payer activists, The Associated Press, Reuters the San Francisco Chronicle, CQ and Huffington Post reported. Sanders told WAMU, "If we move to a single-payer system, we can provide quality, comprehensive health care to every man, woman and child in this country without spending a nickel more than we’re currently spending…[W]e’re going to try to get it on the table." Said Baucus, “Oh, I’ll listen to anybody.” LINK, LINK, LINK and LINK


Single-Payer Supporters of national health insurance for all citizens are holding rallies in six Montana cities Friday, to urge Sen. Baucus to consider it as a possible reform. Baucus staffers met last week in Montana with four single-payer advocates, who asked that Baucus become a co-sponsor of a single-payer bill introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Billings Gazette, Helena Independent Record, Great Falls Tribune and the Missoulian reported. A Baucus spokesman told the the senator won't be co-sponsoring Sanders' bill. LINK, LINK, LINK and LINK


Clean Water Sen. Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch were at the St. Albans Bay Park Monday to announce $39 million in stimulus funds for clean water projects in Vermont.  One of the major goals of the stimulus funds is to repair crumbling infrastructure, Sanders said, noting that more money will be spent on roads and bridges this year than any time in the past 30 years. Lake Champlain, Sanders said, is the most valuable natural resource the state has, the St. Albans Messenger reported. LINK


Credit Cards Sen. Bernie Sanders suggests credit reform does not go far enough. Then he hypocritically states: "We need serious and major regulatory reform over these institutions, or they will continue to rip off people in every way imaginable…Congress is our problem, not banks. We can choose to avoid banks, but how can we avoid Congress?” John W. Wehmeier of Muskego, Wis, wrote in a letter to the editor of USA Today. LINK




Obama Visits Saudi King President Obama is beginning his latest bid to open a dialogue with the Muslim world by paying a call on Saudi King Abdullah, guardian of Islam's sacred sites in Mecca and Medina. The monarch of Saudi Arabia plans to greet Obama at Riyadh's main airport with coffee and ceremony when he arrives Wednesday after an overnight flight from Washington, The Associated Press reported. LINK




Obama Urges Quick Action on Insurance President Obama on Tuesday affirmed his support for the creation of a government-sponsored health insurance plan, but he acknowledged that such a plan would sharply reduce the chances for Republican support of legislation to overhaul the health care system, Democratic senators said. The senators, who met with Mr. Obama at the White House, said he also set forth a timeline, calling on Congress to send him a comprehensive health care bill by October, The New York Times reported. LINK


President Pivots on Taxing Benefits President Obama, in a pivot from some of his harshest campaign rhetoric, told Democratic senators yesterday that he is willing to consider taxing employer-sponsored health benefits to help pay for a broad expansion of coverage, according to The Washington Post. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said Obama expressed a willingness to consider changing the existing tax exclusion. LINK


Health Insurers Balk at Some Changes The insurance industry says it wholeheartedly embraces a health care overhaul, promising Congress and the president that it will make it much easier for individuals to buy insurance on their own. Insurers, for example, have agreed to sell policies even to people with pre-existing medical conditions, and to stop basing prices on how healthy or sick someone is…but so far, the industry has made no such promises about the market for small employers, The New York Times reported. LINK


U.S. Releases Secret List of Nuclear Sites Accidentally The federal government mistakenly made public a 266-page report, its pages marked “highly confidential,” that gives detailed information about hundreds of the nation’s civilian nuclear sites and programs, including maps showing the precise locations of stockpiles of fuel for nuclear weapons. The publication set off a debate among nuclear experts about what dangers, if any, the disclosures posed, The New York Times reported. LINK


Congress Helped Banks Defang Key Rule Not long after the bottom fell out of the market for mortgage securities last fall, a group of financial firms took aim at an accounting rule that forced them to report billions of dollars of losses on those assets. Marshalling a multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign, these firms persuaded key members of Congress to pressure the accounting industry to change the rule in April. The payoff is likely to be fatter bottom lines in the second quarter, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK


Senate Reviews Car Dealer Closings Top executives from General Motors and Chrysler face tough questions from lawmakers about sweeping plans to close hundreds of car dealerships as the auto companies undergo government-led bankruptcies. The executives will appear before a Senate committee Wednesday to talk about their dealership plans, AP reported. LINK


Bill Proposes Immigration Rights for Gay Couples Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, the powerful chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has offered a bill that would allow American citizens and legal immigrants to seek residency in the United States for their same-sex partners, just as spouses now petition for foreign-born husbands and wives, according to The New York Times. The senator has said the bill should be part of any broad immigration legislation that Congress considers. LINK


Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor is racing through a crucial set of meetings with senators on Capitol Hill, working to reassure Republicans who worry she'd bring ethnic and gender bias to her decisions. Sotomayor, who would be the high court's first Hispanic and third woman, is telling senators in both parties that while her background has shaped her worldview, she believes in following the law and wouldn't let her life experiences inappropriately influence her judging, AP reported. LINK




Student Loans The Obama administration has proposed a major revamping of federal student loans. At issue is whether the government should do away with Federal Family Education Loans offered by private lenders and public nonprofits such as the Vermont Student Assistance Corp. and replace them with direct loans. The Burlington Free Press reported that members of the Vermont congressional delegation supported efforts to make college more accessible, but they also say they want to protect funding for VSAC and other state nonprofits. LINK


Douglas Budget Veto Overridden One day after Gov. Jim Douglas became the first Vermont chief executive to veto a state budget bill, state legislators voted to override him. The House rebuffed Douglas by the narrowest possible margin, 100-50, with supporters of the override including all 95 Democrats and five Progressive Party members. The Senate later voted to override much more easily, 23-5, putting in place a $4.5 billion spending plan to take effect as fiscal 2010 begins in about a month, The Associated Press reported. LINK


Swine Flu The Vermont Health Department says another student has tested positive for swine flu. The most recent case of novel H1N1 influenza was confirmed in a child who attends Allen Brook School in Williston. Vermont health officials have confirmed eight cases of swine flu in the state. All the patients have recovered, AP reported. LINK