News July 29

Senator Sanders

Deal Reached on VA Bill House and Senate negotiators announced agreement Monday on legislation that would allocate about $17 billion to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs, The New York Times reported. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Senate committee chairman, likened the spending to important national security funding. '”Planes and tanks and guns are a cost of war,” Sanders said. “'So is taking care of the men and women who use those weapons and fight our battles.” the bill is likely to pass this week, Sanders said on PBS. It would be a “total disgrace" not to pass the bill, he added on MSNBC. VIDEO, VIDEO, LINK, LINK

Congressional Passage Likely Soon The sweeping proposal to revamp the Department of Veterans Affairs and the nation's medical care for military veterans should have enough support to pass the House and Senate this week before lawmakers leave town for a summer recess, according to The Washington Post. “Whether you're a conservative Republican or a progressive, people understand that this issue should and must go beyond politics,” Sanders said. “We have people who have put their lives on the line who have come back with a whole lot of problems, and it would be an absolute disgrace to this country if we did not address them.” “This bill should and must go beyond politics,” Sanders said on The NBC Nightly News. LINK, LINK

VA Reform Package The agreement includes $5 billion for strengthening the VA, $10 billion to help veterans access care from non-VA providers if they are unable to readily schedule appointments or don't live near VA facilities and about $2 billion more for additional veterans benefits, The Associated Press, Burlington Free Press, Times Argus, Bennington Banner, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, CBS NewsNational Journal, CNN, MSNBC, BBC, Military Times,, The Christian Science Monitor, Bloomberg Businessweek , International Business TimesPittsburgh Post-GazetteTampa Bay Times, WCAX-TV , WPTZ-TV, WVNY-TV, WCBS-AM, WTVD-TV in Durham, North Carolina, Talk Radio News Service, Government Executive, The Business JournalWashington Examiner, RTT News and Latin Post reported. LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, VIDEO, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, VIDEO, LINK, LINK, LINK, VIDEO, VIDEO, VIDEO, AUDIO, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK

The Dealmaker As chairman of the Senate veterans committee, Sanders embraced his role as a legislative dealmaker, navigating negotiations with Sen. John McCain and Rep. Miller on bipartisan bills to address problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Roll Call reported. Sanders’ “tenacity and passion on behalf of America’s veterans cannot be questioned,” McCain said. LINK

‘A Coup for Sanders’ At a time when Congress is seemingly unable to agree on even the most basic policies, the VA breakthrough surprised even the most cynical on Capitol Hill and gave hope that Congress can compromise on big issues if the consequences are steep enough and time is running out. The deal “presents a coup for Sanders … a fiery liberal who is contemplating a bid for president in 2016, has demonstrated his bare-knuckle brand of politics can bring … bipartisan accomplishments,” according to Politico. LINK 

More Clinics The deal authorizes $1.5 billion to lease space for 27 medical clinics in 18 states, including Lafayette and Lake Charles, Louisiana, according to The (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) Advocate. The plan also makes room for a new VA clinic in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The facility there had previously been taken off the list of new facilities to be built around the country, KRMG-TV in Tulsa, Oklahoma, reported. LINKLINK, VIDEO

Help for Sexual Assault Victims Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman helped ensure that sexual assault provisions made it into the bill, The Denver Post reported. LINK

Power to Fire VA Execs The Sanders-Miller plan won praise from many of the nation’s top veterans groups but senior-executive advocates strongly oppose a proposal they say would roll back civil-service protections and discourage talented professionals from joining the VA, according to an online report in The Washington Post. LINK

Gridlock Broken on VA Just three days remain until the August recess, but Congress has lots of work left to do. The two sides have actually made some progress. The biggest breakthrough came when Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Joe Miller reached an agreement on a bill to address the Veterans Affairs scandal, The New Republic reported. LINK

Editorial “Our do-nothing Congress has a chance to get something vital accomplished before going on yet another vacation. At long last, a bipartisan deal emerged Monday to start fixing the scandalous health care system for veterans … Sanders and Miller are right that while the bill is costly, it is necessary,” The (California) Sacramento Bee said in an editorial. LINK

Medical Mistakes A Senate subcommittee heard testimony that a study published by the Journal of Patient Safety found a whopping 440,000 people die each year from preventable medical errors in hospitals, the Bennington Banner said in an editorial.  “Medical harm is a major cause of suffering, disability, and death — as well as a huge financial cost to our nation,” Sanders said at the hearing. LINK

Rutland Airport Gets $8.1 Million The airport that serves Rutland has received an $8.1 million grant to make safety improvements. In a joint statement, Sens. Patrick Leahy and Sanders and Rep Peter Welch say the upgrades will improve both the safety and the viability of the airport for the long term. LINK


US Says Russia Violated Arms Treaty The United States has concluded that Russia violated a landmark arms control treaty by testing a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile, according to senior American officials, a finding that was conveyed by President Obama to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin in a letter on Monday, The New York Times reported. LINK

Europe and US to Escalate Russia Sanctions The United States and Europe put aside their differences and agreed on Monday to sharply escalate economic sanctions against Russia in a set of coordinated actions driven by the conclusion that Moscow has taken a more direct role in the war in Ukraine, according to The New York Times. LINK


Social Security The Social Security disability-insurance program will be able to pay only 81 percent of benefits starting in late 2016 unless Congress intervenes, according to the annual report card from the trustees, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK

White House Backs Senate Plan on Border The Obama administration Monday formally endorsed the Senate Democratic version of an emergency spending measure that would provide an additional $2.7 billion in funding for the crisis on the Texas border. The legislation by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski also includes funding to battle wildfires and $225 million for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. It omits changes to a 2008 trafficking law that had come under heightened scrutiny, since the law had made it effectively more difficult to deport children who were not from Mexico or Canada. President Barack Obama had initially called for those changes, but backed off amid criticism from Democratic lawmakers and immigrant advocates, Politico reported. LINK

Sky High Fares as Airline Profits Soar The top American airlines are making more money than ever — but don’t expect it to mean lower prices for passengers. American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Air Lines all reported record profits for the second quarter. American, which merged with US Airways in December, said it would boost its pension contributions and pay a quarterly dividend to its shareholders. American and United also said they would launch $1 billion share-buyback programs, following the lead of Delta, which renewed its dividend and share buybacks programs last year. There was no sign, however, that consumers would see any financial benefits. Ttrends point toward sustained and even higher prices for consumers, The Washington Post reported. LINK


Manufacturing Comeback There are signs that after years of decline, manufacturing is making a comeback in the United States. One global company based in the Upper Valley has been adding so many workers so fast that it’s had to create its own on-site academy, Vermont Public Radio reported. LINK

Leahy Bill on NSA Surveillance Sen. Leahy said he will introduce a bill to protect Americans from unbridled searches of their electronic and phone data by the National Security Agency for anti-terrorism purposes. "We're going to finally put some real controls on what can be searched in your records, your phone calls," Leahy said Monday morning in Burlington before returning to Washington, D.C. "This will stop the bulk collection without warrants," the Burlington Free Press reported. LINK

Obama Honors Vermont Author Vermont author Julia Alvarez of Weybridge received the 2013 National Medal of Arts on Monday during a White House ceremony. President Obama presented the highest award the federal government gives for the arts to the author of books including "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents" and "In the Time of the Butterflies," the Burlington Free Press reported.  LINK

Vaccination Study Thousands of Vermont parents could be hearing from medical professionals this week who will be asking about the vaccination histories of their children. It's part of a study being done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Vermont Health Department that is seeking to determine if the whooping cough vaccine isn't as effective against a new strain of the disease. The researchers are examining the records of people who contracted whooping cough from late 2011 to early 2013 and about 2,500 people in parts of Vermont who did not get sick, AP reported.