News September 10

Senator Sanders

Obama to Detail Plans on Islamic State President Barack Obama prepared to address the nation Wednesday night on his strategy to deal with the Islamic State terrorist group “There appears to be support across the political spectrum to use military force to confront the group from Sens. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, to John McCain, the Arizona Republican,” according to The Boston Globe. Sanders voted against the war in Iraq and opposes ground troops but lent his support to other military intervention, according to the New York Daily News. “Do I think the President has the right to use air strikes in the way he’s using it right now? Yeah, I do.” LINK, LINK

Senate Debates Big Money in Politics Senators this week are considering a constitutional amendment cosponsored by Sen. Sanders that would overturn the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision,  The debate will determine “whether or not we retain a strong democracy,” Sanders said at a Capitol Hill rally shown on WFFF-TV and WVNY-TV. Republican voters support the amendment by a 2-1 margin, PR Watch said. The Washington Free Beacon called the amendment a “showboating effort to repeal the First Amendment.” VIDEOVIDEO, LINK, LINK 

Phoenix VA Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald told a Senate panel Tuesday that his department's response to allegations of lengthy wait times and scheduling manipulations at VA health facilities was "well underway," but that the department still required "tens of thousands" of more medical staff to meet demand. Veterans Committee Chairman Sanders called the hearing on a watchdog report into allegations of wrongdoing at the Phoenix VA, Congressional Quarterly reported. "I don't believe that anybody joins the VA in order to manipulate data," Sanders said. "How did it happen? What were the causes? How do we make sure that this never happens again?" LINK

VA Health Care A Department of Veterans Affairs watchdog on Tuesday stood by his assertion that deaths of veterans could not be blamed on long waits for health care at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities, The Hill reported. Richard Griffin, acting VA inspector general, told Sen. Sanders at a Senate hearing that his report was not influenced by VA officials. The IG report described what Sanders called "inexcusable" practices in Phoenix, CNN reported. LINK, LINK, LINK 

Wealth Tax The American billionaire class does not pay its fair share of taxes, Sen. Sanders wrote Monday in a column for TruthDig, Green Mountain Daily and Daily Kos. Sanders has proposed a progressive estate tax on the wealthiest Americans, calling it the “fairest way to reduce wealth inequality.” On Fox Business, KT McFarland asserted that Sanders’ idea “has been tried and rejected." LINK, LINK, LINKVIDEO 

United We Stand In Wednesday’s Des Moines Register, Sen. Sanders wrote that Americans overwhelmingly believe our democracy is undermined by billionaires spending unlimited amounts to influence elections; that we need to make college more affordable; that unemployment is too high and that the federal government should create decent-paying jobs rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges, railroads and water systems; that growing wealth and income inequality poses a serious threat; that global warming endangers our planet; and that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans’ benefits should not be cut. “We should build on that unity, not let powerful special interests divide us,” Sanders wrote. LINK

Senate ’14, Kansas Independent U.S. Senate candidate Greg Orman, if triumphant over incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, would join Sens. Sanders and Angus King as the Senate's only independents, USA Today reported. Charles Wheelan wrote for US News & World Report that the race represents "the beginning of the end of traditional politics in America." LINKLINK 


Obama Ready to Authorize Airstrikes on ISIS in Syria President Obama is prepared to authorize airstrikes in Syria, a senior administration official said on Tuesday, taking the military campaign against the Sunni militant group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, into new and unpredictable terrain. But Obama is still wrestling with a series of challenges, including how to train and equip a viable ground force to fight ISIS inside Syria, how to intervene without aiding President Bashar al-Assad, and how to enlist potentially reluctant partners like Turkey and Saudi Arabia, The New York Times reporte. LINK

Iraq Helped by the United States, Kurdish forces and Shi’ite militia are finally beating back Islamic State militants in northern and central Iraq, Reuters reported. But the aftermath illustrates the unintended consequences of the U.S. air campaign as Shi’ites and Kurds use the strikes for their own advantage in Iraq’s sectarian and ethnic conflicts. The fallout also risks worsening grievances that helped Islamic State find support amongst Iraq's Sunnis, and allows the militant group to portray the U.S. strikes as targeting their minority sect. LINK

Climate Change Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide rose three parts per million last year, the largest single jump since the World Meteorological Organization started measuring the greenhouse gas, according to a new United Nations report cited by The Washington Post. LINK


Senate Looks at Ferguson Police The wounds of last month’s shooting death of Michael Brown in a St. Louis suburb were reopened on Tuesday, first in a national forum and then a local one. The militarization of local law enforcement agencies, fueled in large part by federal equipment and funds, received a congressional trial midday, the first such hearing since a national outcry over how police in Ferguson, Missouri, responded to protests over the fatal shooting of the unarmed black teenager last month, The Washington Post reported. LINK

Highway Infrastructure The Obama administration on Tuesday announced a series of measures intended to address what the White House says is a $1 trillion gap in infrastructure funding, according to Reuters. LINK

House Short-Term Plan to Avert Shutdown House Republican leaders Tuesday unveiled a temporary government funding bill that includes a short-term extension of a trade-promotion agency that has been targeted by conservative activists, eliminating a key sticking point in the effort to avoid a government shutdown. The bill would keep the government running on this year’s budget levels from the start of the new fiscal year, Oct. 1, until Dec. 11, The Washington Post reported. LINK

Ex-Im Bank House Republicans moved closer Tuesday to a temporary extension for the controversial Export-Import Bank, a U.S. government institution which lends credit to domestic companies looking to export products, according to Reuters. The bank's critics, who would prefer to see it run out of funding at the end of the month, claim that it only helps big businesses at the expense of American taxpayers. LINK

House Condemns Obama for Prisoner Swap The Republican-led House has voted to condemn President Barack Obama for failing to give 30-day notice to Congress about the exchange of American prisoner Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban leaders, The Associated Press reported.

Senate ’14 Voter sourness toward President Obama and unease over the country's future are dimming the Democrats' chances of retaining the Senate in the November midterm elections. A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found a larger share of Americans think the country is on the wrong track than at any previous midterm election in the past 20 years. Obama's approval rating—40 percent—is lower than that of former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton at this stage of their own midterm meltdowns in 2006 and 1994, when both suffered significant losses in Congress.  LINK

Statehouse ’14, New York N Gov. Andrew Cuomo has defeated liberal challenger Zephyr Teachout in the state's Democratic Primary, turning back an energetic longshot bid by liberals who have criticized his pragmatic, centrist approach, AP reported. LINK


Hospital Agreement Reached The University of Vermont received zoning permission to demolish three "shoebox" dormitory buildings and replace them with a Fletcher Allen Health Care hospital building, the Burlington Free Press reported.  LINK

Vermont Yankee State officials have named six members to a new panel that will oversee the decommissioning of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. The 19-member panel was created to help assure transparency, communication and citizen involvement as Vermont Yankee is dismantled. The nuclear plant is scheduled to stop operating in December, Vermont Public Radio reported. LINK

Lake Monsters Extension The Burlington-based Vermont Lake Monsters have extended their partnership with MLB-affiliate Oakland Athletics through 2016, the Burlington Free Press reported. "The support by the Vermont ownership and the Burlington community has been ouitstanding," said A's president and general manager Billy Beane.  LINK