News July 24

Senator Sanders

Veterans Back Funding for VA Doctors The nation’s major veterans groups on Wednesday called on Congress to stop penny-pinching and back increased funding for more doctors, nurses and space at VA facilities, The Associated Press, Roll Call and The Hill reported. Sen. Bernie Sanders said a the House and Senate should include some of the department’s requested funds in a bill to increase health care capacity at VA facilities, Military Times and WCAX-TV reported. LINK, LINK, LINKLINK, LINK, VIDEO

House Veterans Chairman at Odds with Veterans Sen. Sanders, the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee chairman, supports the VA’s funding proposal while his counterpart, House Veterans Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller, opposes doing so. "We urge Congress to expeditiously approve supplemental funding that fully addresses the critical needs outlined by Secretary Gibson either prior to, or at the same time as, any compromise legislation that may be reported out of the House-Senate Conference Committee," the joint letter reads, according to Congressional Quarterly. LINK

Sanders: Failure to Fund VA a ‘Disgrace’ Disputes over long-term funding may prevent action on a VA reform bill before the recess next month. Sen Sanders said that would be a disgrace, CBS Radio News reported. AUDIO

McCain: Gridlock on VA ‘Unconscionable’ and ‘Embarrassing’ When Sen. John McCain joined Sen. Sanders in crafting a bill to restructure the Department of Veterans Affairs, he pleaded with his colleagues to not derail the compromise.The Senate quickly passed the Sanders-McCain bill with bipartisan support. Now, nearly 45 days later, the squabbling that McCain warned about has come to pass. “It is unconscionable,” McCain told The Huffington Post “It is embarrassing. Embarrassing is a better word.” LINK

Veterans Panel Recommends New VA Secretary The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to approve Robert McDonalds’s nomination to be the next secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, The Associated Press, Bloomberg, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Cincinnati Inquirer, The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, Dayton (Ohio) Daily News, the Las-Vegas Review Journal, The Arizona Republic, National Journal, Politico, The Hill and CBS Radio News reported. Chairman Sanders said after the 14-0 vote that he expects the full Senate to confirm McDonald as secretary of the department within days, Reuters reported. LINKLINK, LINKLINKLINK, LINK, LINKLINKLINKLINK, LINK, LINK, VIDEO

TBI Program Faces Axe Congress is running out of time to extend a federal program that currently supports over 100 veterans nationwide that have experienced moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries, The Hill reported. Both leaders of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Chairman, Sen. Sanders and Ranking Member Richard Burr, have supported efforts to extend the program. LINK  

Global Warming Deniers Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy issued a strong defense of controversial new curbs on carbon emissions from power plants at a Senate hearing Wednesday, The Washington Times and McClatchy reported. Sen. Sanders said the debate over global warming "is very similar to a debate that took place 50 or 60 years ago right here in Congress. Tobacco causing cancer? Oh no, that can't be the case. And they brought doctors in here, guys who were smoking Kool's. Finally the truth won out, and the truth will win out on this debate as well,” The Washington Examiner reported. LINKLINKLINK

Republicans Accuse EPA of Catering to Lobbyists Republicans on Wednesday accused the Environmental Protection Agency of letting the Natural Resources Defense Council dictate its rules, saying the agency had deferred to the group’s “powerful, wealthy, Washington lawyers and lobbyists,” National Journal reported. Sen. Sanders fired back that it was "remarkable that my Republican colleagues would dare to raise the issue of campaign finance" before ticking down a list of figures on campaign donations from the fossil fuel industry. LINK  

Hospital CEOs Absent from Discussion Hospital representatives were nowhere to be found as Sen. Sanders led a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions subcommittee on the issue of medical mistakes at hospitals, Rosemary Gibson wrote in a blog for The Huffington Post. Gibson said hospital CEOs should be held accountable for medical errors that lead to as many as 440,000 deaths per year. LINK

Israel-Palestine The Senate last week passed a resolution without a formal roll call vote by unanimous consent supporting Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas. Writing for Salon, David Palumbo-Liu noted that Sen. Sanders “voted” for the resolution which actually passed without a vote. LINK

World

Ukrainian Military Jets Shot Down Two Ukrainian military fighter jets were reportedly shot down over eastern Ukraine on Wednesday, and U.S. and Ukrainian sources say Russian weaponry has been pouring in to separatists following the downing of Malaysian Flight 17 last week, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK

Potential War Crimes in Gaza Fight The United Nation’s top human rights official, Navi Pillay, said Wednesday that there was a “strong possibility” that Israel and Hamas have committed war crimes with their indiscriminate attacks on civilians, The New York Times reported. LINK

Plane Crash in Taiwan Dozens of people aboard a plane flying to an island off Taiwan were killed on Wednesday when the plane crashed in bad weather during an emergency landing, The New York Times reported. LINK

Terrorists' Bombs Kill 75 in Nigeria Two bombs suspected to be the work of Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram killed about 75 people in northern Nigeria Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported.  LINK

National

House Republican Plan on VA: Choke Off Funding “The VA is steeped in a culture of ambivalence coupled with a lack of accountability and no amount of funding can fix those problems,” Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the incoming House majority leader, wrote in a column for Florida Today. LINK

Senate Sets Vote for Highway Funds as Clock Ticks Senate leaders agreed to vote next week on a bill to replenish the fund that covers the federal share of highway and mass-transit spending, a timetable that would leave just days to spare before the money is expected to run dry. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday said the Senate will take up a $10.8 billion bill the House passed earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK

Obama Signs New Job-Training Law President Obama, citing a “skills gap” that prevents many unemployed workers from qualifying for new jobs, signed legislation on Tuesday to bolster federal job-training programs, The New York Times reported. LINK

Senate and House Offer Competing Border Plans The Senate and House are poised to act separately on emergency border security plans, igniting a fierce fight on Capitol Hill that is unlikely to be resolved before Congress adjourns for August recess, The Washington Post reported. LINK

Train Safety Rules Spurred by a boom in oil-carrying trains and several recent tragic accidents, the Obama administration proposed stricter rules Wednesday for rail cars that transport flammable fuels, USA Today reported. LINK

Vermont

Protecting Kids A special legislative committee seeking solutions to a child protection crisis in Vermont heard from a number of key players on Wednesday, including the heads of the child welfare department, the state police, police chiefs and prosecutors, after two recent toddler deaths, AP reported. LINK

Burlington Telecom Under questioning by the Vermont Public Service Board in Montpelier, Burlington officials today outlined what they believe is the best possible scenario for the lease and sale of Burlington Telecom, the Burlington Free Press reported.  LINK