News June 4

Senator Sanders


Sanders Pushes Single Payer Sen. Bernie Sanders has aligned himself with a health-care reform proposal that isn’t getting much traction in Washington, but outside the Capital Beltway, the notion of a single-payer health-care system is gaining momentum, Sanders told The Burlington Free Press. In the Senate, Sanders is the single-payer advocates’ best ally, Congressional Quarterly reported. “While health care costs are soaring, the private health insurance companies are making huge profits,” Sanders told Ed Schultz on MSNBC. LINK, LINK and VIDEO


Baucus Meets Single Payer Supporters Chairman Baucus told advocates of a government-financed health care system that he made a mistake by not giving their proposals more consideration, according to the participants in a meeting Wednesday, The Huffington Post, OpEd News and DailyKos blogged. Politico reported that the session was arranged by Sanders, who told Fox News and Congress Daily that state-administered plans may be a way to demonstrate the effectiveness of a single payer. LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK and VIDEO


White House Health Care President Barack Obama called the next few months a “make-or-break period” for health-care legislation in Congress, as his aides left the door open to a tax on benefits to pay for overhauling the U.S. system. Bloomberg reported that Sen. Sanders said Obama expressed support for a public option. “He understands that in order to at least police the private insurance companies we need a strong public plan,” Sanders said. LINK


Renewable Energy The Senate energy committee today is expected to approve legislation establishing a national renewable electricity standard. When the bill reaches the Senate floor, amendments could include one by Sanders that would allow the energy secretary to increase the renewable electricity standard, the Bureau of National Affairs reported. Sanders may try to boost the requirement up to 25 percent, Congressional Quarterly reported. The Vermont-based Clean Energy Group is lobbying lawmakers hard to increase the mandate. LINK


Fed Secrecy “Sanders…has challenged the secrecy of the Federal Reserve System with regard to which private banks have collected the more than $2 trillion it has doled out to them during the current financial crisis. ‘I think most senators, most Americans, find it hard to believe that $2.2 trillion could be put at risk and you don't know who's getting it,’ he says. ‘I think there is growing support from both the left and the right on this - that we need transparency at the Fed, which operates with more secrecy than any other institution.’ The senator is right,” concluded an editorial in The (Madison, Wis.) Capital Times. LINK




Obama Seeks ‘New Beginning’ With Muslims President Obama called for a "new beginning between the United States and Muslims" Thursday and said together, they could confront violent extremism across the globe and advance the timeless search for peace in the Middle East. "This cycle of suspicion and discord must end," Obama said in a widely anticipated speech in Cairo, Egypt, one of the world's largest Muslim countries. The speech was designed to reframe relations after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the U.S.-led war in Iraq, The Associated Press reported. LINK


Tiananmen Anniversary Brings New Repression Chinese police aggressively deterred dissent on Thursday's 20th anniversary of the crackdown on democracy activists in Tiananmen Square. Foreign journalists were barred from the vast square as uniformed and plainclothes police stood guard across the area which was the epicenter of the student-led movement that was crushed by the military on the night of June 4. Security officials checking passports also blocked foreign TV camera operators and photographers from entering the square to cover the raising of China's national flag, AP reported. LINK




Jobless Benefit Rolls Fall, Initial Claims Dip The number of people on the unemployment insurance rolls fell slightly for the first time in 20 weeks, while the tally of new jobless claims also dipped, the government said Thursday. The Labor Department report provides a glimmer of good news for job seekers, though both drops were small and the figures remain significantly above the levels associated with a healthy economy, The Associated Press reported. LINK


A Move Toward Requiring Health Coverage President Obama indicated yesterday a new openness toward a nationwide requirement that every American have health coverage. Obama previewed what could be the outlines of a compromise on two of the thorniest issues confronting Congress. He said he could support mandates on both individuals and employers to contribute to the cost of health insurance if the bill provides protections to certain small businesses and poor people, The Washington Post reported. LINK


Medical Bills Underlie 60 percent of U.S. Bankruptcies Medical bills are involved in more than 60 percent of U.S. personal bankruptcies, an increase of 50 percent in just six years, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday. More than 75 percent of these bankrupt families had health insurance but still were overwhelmed by their medical debts, the team at Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School and Ohio University reported in the American Journal of Medicine, Reuters reported. LINK


Oil Prices Up Oil prices rose to above $67 a barrel Thursday, resuming a three-month rally after a jump in U.S. crude inventories triggered a sharp pullback a day earlier. Oil soared to seven-month highs earlier this week — double the price in March — on investor expectations that a dismal U.S. economy could be stabilizing, AP reported. LINK


F.D.A. Chief Lauds Food Safety Bill Margaret A. Hamburg, the new commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, plunged on Wednesday into the contentious debate over how to fix the nation’s food safety system. In her first appearance before Congress as commissioner, Dr. Hamburg told the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health that a safety overhaul sponsored by several leading Democrats was “a major step in the right direction,” but that her agency would need more money to carry it out, The New York Times reported. LINK


Leach to Lead Humanities Endowment President Obama intends to nominate Jim Leach, a former Republican congressman from Iowa who is now a professor at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, as the next chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the White House said on Wednesday, The New York Times reported. LINK


House Lifts Lid On Its Expenses The House will begin posting representatives' expense reports online, giving the public easy access to records of the millions of dollars lawmakers spend on staff and items such as catering, cars, computers and TVs. Speaker Pelosi ordered the postings Wednesday. The move followed recent stories in The Wall Street Journal examining lawmakers' office expenditures that are kept in voluminous paper records on Capitol Hill. LINK




Gas Tax Gasoline prices historically rise during the summer months, but Vermont just added an extra 3.3 cents per gallon with a new tax assessed to distributors. The tax quietly took effect Monday. Gov. Jim Douglas signed the $540 million transportation budget into law last week, The Associated Press reported. LINK


Bartlett Running for Governor  The Democratic chairwoman of the Vermont Senate Appropriations Committee says she's running for governor. Sen. Susan Bartlett of Lamoille County had indicated she was considering a run, but wouldn't decide until the 2010 state budget had been finished, The Associated Press reported. LINK