News September 9

Senator Sanders

Senate Takes Up Amendment to Rein in Campaign Cash The debate about the pull wealthy donors have in politics is taking center stage in the Senate this week as Democrats push a constitutional amendment that would give lawmakers more leverage to restrict campaign financing and spending.  Sen. Bernard Sanders said overhauling of the nation's campaign finance system is "the most important issue" facing the country and failing to reverse the Supreme Court decision would risk moving the country "into an oligarchic form of government where a billionaire class can buy elections," he told The Washington Post. “They have an agenda of the very wealthy, for the very wealthy,” Sanders said on Talk Radio News Service. LINK, LINK

Constitutional Amendment Advances, But … In a tactic designed to delay key votes on women’s pay equity and raising the minimum wage, some Senate Republicans voted on Monday to take up and debate the constitutional amendment on campaign spending but they plan to block the proposal later in the week. “They know we’re getting out of here fairly shortly and they want to prevent discussion on other very important issues,” said Sen. Sanders. “I would love to be proven wrong. If by the end of this week we end up getting 67 votes, you can tell me I was too cynical,” he told Politico. LINK

Sanders Proposes Wealth Tax The American billionaire class does not pay its fair share of taxes, Sen. Sanders wrote Monday in a column for The Huffington Post. He has proposed a progressive estate tax to address increasing wealth inequality. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich called Sanders’ proposal a “welcome step,” according to PJ Media. LINK, LINK, VIDEO   

Obama Makes Case Against ISIS Militants President Obama on Tuesday will begin laying out his case for an expanded military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria when he faces congressional leaders who are averse to taking an election-year stand but are being pushed by lawmakers who want a say in matters of war. "Do I think the president has the right to use airstrikes in the way he's using it right now? Yeah, I do,” said Sen. Sanders. “But I am very strongly opposed to the use of ground troops. And before ground troops are used, there most certainly has to be a vote," The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Hill reported. LINK, LINK, LINK,  

Health Care Cliff The U.S. is expected to need 52,000 more primary care physicians by 2025 but the doctor shortage could become worse unless Congress renews support for community health centers that care for 22 million Americans. The funding authority expires on Oct. 1, 2015, according to an editorial published by the Brattleboro Reformer. LINK

Lola Aiken, 102 The widow of former Vermont Sen. George Aiken died Monday. Lola Aiken was a fixture in Montpelier after the death of her husband in 1984. “Jane and I were saddened to learn of the passing of Lola Aiken. She and her husband were important partners in life, in politics and in their strong commitment to the state of Vermont,” Sen. Sanders said in the Bennington Banner. LINK

House ’14 A group of citizens from a New York congressional district last winter advertised on Craigslist for someone to run for Congress as an "economic populist who thinks and talks along the line of Pope Francis, Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren,”  the Massena, New York, Daily Courier-Observer reported. It turns out that neither Democratic candidate Aaron G. Woolf nor Green Party candidate Matthew J. Funiciello submitted resumes to the group, but their qualifications satisfied the members. LINK

Senate History Sen. Sanders' seat is the only one in the Senate never to have been held by a Democrat, according to a Washington Post analysis. Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii holds the only seat to never have been held by a Republican. LINK

Energy Letter “My thanks to John McClaughry whose commentary spurred my contacting the Vermont congressional delegation to express my support for the renewal of federal incentives to support renewable energy,” Kathleen Ross wrote in a letter to the editor of the Rutland Herald. LINK


EU Tightens Russia Sanctions The European Union is expanding sanctions against Russia as reports of new fighting in Ukraine threaten a fragile cease-fire agreement. The new measures are expected to go into effect in the coming days if the cease-fire fails to hold, The Associated Press said. LINK

US Courts Arab Allies for ISIS Fight The United States this week will court skeptical Gulf Arab allies to join the fight against Islamic State militants, Reuters said. Administration officials and top lawmakers are also expected to explore options for expanding the training and arming of moderate Syrian rebels to lead the fight against the jihadists inside of Syria. LINK

Iraq Forms New Government Iraq swore in a new government on Monday, but key positions, including the defense and interior chiefs, were left open amid controversy over who would fill the roles. LINK


VA Announces Action Plan, Hiring Spree Robert McDonald, the newly appointed Secretary of Veterans Affairs, on Monday announced a 90-day reform plan to “rebuild trust with veterans” by making benefits easier to access, The Washington Post reported. McDonald said the department will need to recruit “tens of thousands of new doctors, new nurses, new clinicians,” in order to meet patient expectations for health care wait times, The New York Times reported. LINK

Corporate Deserters Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said on Monday that a decision would be made “in the very near future” on regulatory action to close some tax loopholes and reduce incentives for multinational corporations to avoid United States taxes by moving their headquarters overseas, The New York Times reported. LINK

Virginia Governor Reduces Medicaid Expansion Goals After fuming at state lawmakers and threatening unilateral action, Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia took only modest steps on Monday to extend health care to the poor and disabled. McAuliffe announced that only 25,000 uninsured Virginians would be receiving coverage, far fewer than the 400,000 he has said are eligible if the state expands Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The retreat was a bow to the reality that the governor was politically hemmed in after Republicans took control of both houses of the General Assembly following the surprise resignation of a Democratic senator in June, The New York Times reported. LINK

Health Care Costs Advanced countries with a larger public share of spending on health care end up spending less on health care per capita, according to a Washington Post analysis from Jared Bernstein. LINK

Virus Hits Children Nationwide A rare virus that threatens respiratory systems has sickened hundreds children across the nation and could be responsible for cases in about a dozen states, national health officials told the Los Angeles Times Monday. LINK


Delinquent Taxpayers The Vermont Department of Taxes, under a new law, will start issuing lists of the 100 individuals and 100 businesses with the highest amounts of unpaid tax debt, the Rutland Herald reported Monday. The department will notify taxpayers of their potential list placement and offer them a final chance to settle their outstanding tax debts.  LINK

Statehouse ’14 Gov. Peter Shumlin is going to kick off his re-election campaign with an event in Burlington on Tuesday. He will be joined at the event near the Lake Champlain waterfront by Former Gov. Madeleine Kunin and Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger. Shumlin, a Democrat, is being challenged by Republican Scott Milne and a number of independent candidates, AP reported.