News September 8

Senator Sanders

‘A Pivotal Movement’ The Senate scheduled a Monday vote to cut off debate on taking up a proposal to amend the Constitution to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which threw out limits on campaign spending. In a statement Sunday, Sen. Bernard Sanders, an amendment backer, called the Monday vote a pivotal moment in American history, Congressional Quarterly, Roll Call and The Hill reported. The Senate debate has the potential to get millions of additional Americans engaged with what Sanders refers to as "the major issue of our time—whether the United States of America retains its democratic foundation or whether we devolve into an oligarchic form of society where a handful of billionaires are able to control our political process by spending hundreds of millions of dollars to elect candidates who represent their interests,” John Nichols blogged for The Nation. LINK, LINK, LINK

A Threat to American Democracy “When the Supreme Court says, for purposes of the First Amendment, that corporations are people, that writing checks from the company’s bank account is constitutionally protected speech and that attempts to impose reasonable restrictions on campaign ads are unconstitutional, our democracy is in grave danger. Americans’ right to free speech should not be proportionate to their bank accounts,” Sens. Sanders and Tom Udall wrote in a column published Monday by Politico. LINK

America’s Priorities Overturning the “disastrous” Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United is among Sanders’ top priorities, he told the Burlington Free Press and USA Today. Other priorities include: addressing wealth and income inequality with a “massive federal jobs program” to rebuild crumbling infrastructure, an increased minimum wage, affordable higher education, a reformed trade policy to prevent corporations from shipping jobs overseas and a reformed tax system so profitable corporations can’t avoid paying them and wealthy individuals pay more, focusing on the “crisis” of climate change and the need to move away from fossil fuels, and creating a single-payer national health care system, also known as “Medicare for all.” “These are the issues,” he said. “This is what is important.” LINK, LINK

Fighting Bob Fest America’s democratic heritage is at stake as the billionaire class grabs control of our economy and government. Sanders worries about what he calls an oligarchy. Robert M. La Follette used the word “monopoly.” The message is the same, John Nichols wrote in The (Madison, Wisconsin) Capital Times. The fight La Follette waged in his presidential campaign in 1924 is the fight Sanders wages today, which is why the senator from Vermont will keynote Fighting Bob Fest next Saturda. LINK

Congress and Crises Political action these days is mostly the result of crisis situations. After major deficiencies were revealed at the VA, Senate Veterans Affairs Chairman Sanders forged a comprehensive bill that was signed by President Obama. Now the American public is agitated over events in Ferguson, Missouri, where an unarmed 18-year-old was fatally shot by police. Both Republicans and Democrats are being pushed to take action but I worry that by the time legislators get back to work the important issues surrounding Ferguson will have been forgotten, Jasper Craven said in a Vermont Public Radio commentary. LINK

Senate ’14 In Kansas, three-term Republican incumbent Pat Roberts now faces a one-on-one contest against wealthy independent candidate Greg Orman, who is seeking to appeal to voters who dislike both parties. Roberts and Orman will joust over immigration, health care and the federal debt. Another national issue in the Kansas race: Party control of the U.S. Senate. Democrats currently have a 55-45 advantage in the Senate, including two independents — Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine — who caucus with them, USA Today reported. LINK

Ben & Jerry’s Home state snacks are a mainstay in congressional office lobbies, alongside district maps, hometown magazines and displays of local tchotchkes. For Sen. Sanders, the natural choice would likely be local Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Alas, none can be found in the Vermont Independent’s office. “We can only dream,” quipped a staffer, who noted that the office has one bottle of maple syrup on display and Ben & Jerry’s did donate the life-size dairy cow cut out that’s prominently displayed against the wall in the front office. The cow’s name is Norma and she’s wearing a scarf, Politico reported. LINK

This Day in History In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt declared a "limited national emergency" in response to the outbreak of war in Europe. In 1944, Nazi Germany fired the first of its V-2 rockets into London. In 1974, President Ford granted a "full, free, and absolute pardon" to former President. In 1941, Sen. Sanders was born in Brooklyn, New York, according to an Associated Press feature in The Boston Globe and other newspapers. LINK


Returning Lawmakers to Weigh Funds for Syria For weeks, lawmakers have been pushing President Barack Obama to present them with his vision for combating a militant Islamic group, saying the president must lay out his strategy and objectives in the Middle East after a month of airstrikes and the retaliatory beheadings of two Americans. Now, as lawmakers return to the Capitol after a five-week recess, they will engage directly with the administration on the topic, starting with a meeting with the top four leaders on Tuesday in which the president is expected to reveal his strategy, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK

Destroying ISIS May Take Years, U.S. Officials Say The Obama administration is preparing to carry out a campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria that may take three years to complete, requiring a sustained effort that could last until after President Obama has left office, according to senior administration officials. The first phase, an air campaign with nearly 145 airstrikes in the past month, is already underway, The New York Times reported. LINK  

U.S. Military to Help Battle Ebola in Africa President Obama said Sunday that the U.S. military will begin aiding what has been a chaotic and ineffective response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, arguing that it represents a serious national security concern. The move significantly ramps up the U.S. response and comes as the already strained military is likely to be called upon further to address militant threats in the Middle East, according to The Washington Post. LINK


Congress Faces Tight Time Frame to Act on Issues Lawmakers returning to Capitol Hill on Monday hope to quickly deal with a government funding measure and several other must-address items before decamping to the campaign trail ahead of November's midterm elections. After a five-week summer break, legislators have given themselves a tight window to pass a stopgap measure to keep the government running beyond Sept. 30, as well as decide how to handle other-deadline driven issues such as the U.S. Export-Import Bank and a long-standing moratorium on Internet access taxes. Still, there is likely to be pressure on Congress to address high-profile matters, such as the militarization of police forces following law enforcement's response to violent protests in Ferguson, Missouri, last month after the shooting death of an unarmed 18-year-old by an officer. Additionally, some members are pushing for curbs on corporate inversions, the practice in which U.S. firms merge with overseas companies to lower their tax bills. Some Democrats already are working on legislation to curtail the practice. The most pressing challenge for House and Senate leaders will be shepherding a short-term funding measure to keep the government open without snags, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK

Obama Aims to Shift Immigration Debate to 2016 President Barack Obama's decision to delay executive action on deportations pushes the issue into the 2016 presidential race, when Hispanic voters will be far more important than in November's midterm elections, while removing a troublesome issue for Democrats for now, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK


School for Deaf Closing The Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing plans to close by the end of September. The center’s trustees made the decision at an emergency meeting late last week, citing ongoing financial problems as the cause. The center provides a wide range of services for the deaf and hard of hearing. It’s headquartered on the sprawling campus of the Austine School in Brattleboro. The 100-year-old residential school has been under the center’s umbrella since 1998, Vermont Public Radio reported. LINK

State Wants to Rethink Gas Pipeline State regulators want to reconsider their approval of a controversial natural gas pipeline after Vermont Gas Systems revealed a 41 percent cost increase for Phase 1. The Public Service Board is asking the Vermont Supreme Court to remand — or send back to the board — its original approval for the first stage of the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project, which would extend the pipeline from Chittenden County south to Middlebury, the Times Argus reported. LINK

Fall Foliage The state of Vermont on Wednesday will offer the first of weekly reports about where to find the best displays of fall foliage that can turn mountainsides into broad swaths of red and orange. Vermont has the highest percentage of maples trees in New England, one-third of which are sugar and red maples responsible for producing intense red hues. Foliage usually begins to show in the higher elevation of the Northeast Kingdom and works its way south, AP reported.