News July 28

Senator Sanders

Deal Reached on VA Reform The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs committees have reached a tentative agreement on a plan to improve veterans' health care. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Jeff Miller have scheduled a news conference on Monday to talk about their compromise plan, The Associated Press and Reuters reported. LINK, LINK

Weekend Negotiations ‘Made Significant Progress’ Sen. Sanders and Rep. Miller continued negotiating over the weekend. Aides said they "made significant progress" on legislation to overhaul the VA and provide funding to hire more doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, Reuters, Bloomberg, Congressional Quarterly/Roll Call, Politico and reported. LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK  

Restoring VA’s Reputation While the VA enjoys a generally good reputation for the quality of its health care, a combination of factors — including a shortage of doctors and nurses, unrealistic goals to see patients within 14 days, and perverse performance and bonus incentives for managers — led to the widespread manipulation of patient wait-time data, which blew up into a national scandal this spring and was a motivating force behind the compromise legislation by Sen. Sanders and Rep. Miller, The New York Times reported. LINK

Compromise Addresses VA Treatment Delays Sen. Sanders said the compromise will address short- and long-term needs of the Department of Veterans Affairs, which has been under intense criticism after delayed treatment at VA hospitals, The CBS Evening News, CBS Morning News reported. The controversy, as CNN first reported, involves delayed care with potentially fatal consequences. NPR's Ron Elving on Morning Edition said an unanswered question is how Congress would pay for this. VIDEO, VIDEO, LINK, LINK

Veterans Organizations React Louis Celli, legislative director for the American Legion, the nation's largest veterans group, said the deal would provide crucial help to veterans who have been waiting months or even years for VA health care. Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told AP the agreement was good news — although several months late. "It's about time they're doing their jobs," he said of Sanders, Miller and other members of Congress. "You don't get a medal for doing your job." LINK

News Conference Monday is Set Sen. Sanders scheduled a news conference for Monday to talk about a compromise plan to fix a veterans’ health program, according to reports in the Burlington Free Press, Rutland Herald, Times Argus, Brattleboro Reformer, Valley News and WCAX-TV. LINK, LINK, VIDEO


Obama, Netanyahu Discuss Gaza President Barack Obama reaffirmed the U.S.'s support for Israel and criticism of Hamas in a telephone call Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a United Nations-brokered cease fire broke down in the Gaza Strip, The Wall Street Journal reported. "The President underscored the United States' strong condemnation of Hamas' rocket and tunnel attacks against Israel and reaffirmed Israel's right to defend itself," the White House said in a statement released Sunday after the call. "The President also reiterated the United States' serious and growing concern about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives, as well as the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza." LINK


Congress’ Unfinished Agenda With just a week left before the start of a  five-week August recess, it is increasingly likely that Congress will wrap up for the summer without addressing a list of expiring laws and a pileup of potential national crises. The two chambers, for example, haven't figured out how to respond to the surge of Central American families crossing the southern border. Lawmakers also struggled over a bill aimed at mitigating mismanagement and long wait times at Veterans Affairs hospitals, though spokesmen for the top negotiators said Sunday that a deal had been reached, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK 

Outside Money Drives a Deluge of Political Ads An explosion of spending on political advertising on television — set to break $2 billion in congressional races, with overall spots up nearly 70 percent since the 2010 midterm election — is accelerating the rise of moneyed interests and wresting control from the candidates’ own efforts to reach voters. “They have become a shadow party that’s effectively impossible to dislodge, and they will shape, if not control, the dialogue in key races and therefore nationally,” Sheila Krumholz, the executive director for the Center for Responsive Politics, told The New York Times. LINK

Fast-Food Workers Intensify Fight for $15 an Hour As labor gatherings go, this one was highly unusual — 68 workers arrived on charter buses from St. Louis, 100 from New York City and 180 from Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas. Fifty flew in from Los Angeles and two dozen from Seattle. These were not well-paid carpenters or autoworkers heading to their annual convention, hoping to sneak in a round of golf. Rather they were fast-food workers — 1,200 of them — from McDonald’s, Burger King and other chains, eager to pursue their ambitious goal of creating a $15-an-hour wage floor for the nation’s four million fast-food workers. Crowding over the weekend into an expo center in this suburb west of Chicago, many wore boldly lettered T-shirts proclaiming “We Are Worth More” and “Raise Up for $15,” The New York Times reported. LINK


FairPoint Strike Possible The International Brotherhood of Electrical workers represents about 1,800 FairPoint employees in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.The union says members have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if necessary, Vermont Public Radio reported. LINK