News December 10

Senator Sanders

Sanders Introduces Single-Payer Bill in Senate Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday introduced the American Health Security Act, which would require each state to set up a single-payer health care system and undo the private insurance exchanges that have plagued Obamacare. Meanwhile, state-led efforts in Vermont, Massachusetts and elsewhere could sweep the country statehouse by statehouse as soon as lawmakers see the advantage of a single-payer system.  “As the president fully understands, the rollout has been a disaster, the website has been a disaster,” said Sanders. “But the truth is, even if all of those problems were corrected tomorrow and if the Affordable Care Act did all that it was supposed to do, it would be only a modest step forward to dealing with the dysfunction of the American health care system,” Sanders told The Daily Beast. LINK

Unemployment Insurance in Jeopardy Unemployment insurance benefits for 1.3 million long-term unemployed Americans will expire at the end of the month if Congress fails to pass an extension. “We have got to create millions of jobs and we have got to pass legislation to protect the long-term unemployed,” Sen. Sanders said Monday on MSNBCVIDEO

Raise the Minimum Wage Calling for passage of a bill he cosponsored to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, Sen. Sanders disputed opponents’ claims that employers would slash payrolls. “They’re just factually wrong. In my state of Vermont, our minimum wage is $8.60 compared to the national minimum wage of $7.25. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in America. You have states where there is virtually no minimum wage at all, and their unemployment rate is much higher. The facts just don’t bear it out. The reality is that if we raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour about 30 million Americans would get a pay raise, and 88 percent of them are adults. These are not kids. These are working families struggling to keep their heads above water. They need a pay raise. We’ve gotta pass it,” Sanders said on MSNBC. VIDEO

Sanders Fighting for Vermonters Sen. Sanders heard from low-income Vermonters, including Head Start Policy Council parents, on Thursday in St. Johnsbury, Vt. Topics covered included the impact of sequestration on Head Start, Early Head Start, LIHEAP, HUD, dental, health care, food stamps, and other programs. Participants told the senator that although they were working or trying to find work, it was getting harder to make ends meet. Sanders said low-income people are the victims of a "ferocious ideological" battle going on in Congress but said he was doing his best to mitigate these essential program reductions. "You are not alone in this," he said, according to The Caledonian-Record. LINK

Tax Breaks for Corporations States are increasingly offering lucrative tax breaks to big corporations in interstate competition for jobs. Sen. Sanders would block so-called "megadeals" given to major transnational corporations at the federal level, The Thom Hartmann Program reported. LINK

Iran Sanctions Sen. Sanders “ought to think twice before lining up with those in the Senate who are considering new economic sanctions as a way to prod Iran toward new concessions on its nuclear program … If Sanders is tempted to do some bad-cop posturing, however, he ought to consider whether adding new threats to the U.S.’ arsenal of threats would be likely to drive Iran away from the bargaining table altogether,” a Rutland Herald and Times Argus editorial asserted. LINK

T.J. Donovan Chittenden County attorney T.J. Donovan may choose to run for political office again, according to the Burlington Free Press. Donovan, who ran against eight-term incumbent state Attorney General Bill Sorrell in 2012, said he knows he cannot afford to lose a second time. Other Vermont politicians including Gov. Peter Shumlin, Rep. Peter Welch, and Sen. Sanders have lost elections before running a successful campaign. LINK

White House ’16 Sen. Elizabeth Warren rolled her eyes at the idea of running for president, immediately sparking Internet interest, according TrendPo, a D.C.-based political analytics startup. Among potential 2016 hopefuls, Warren is suddenly part of the top crop in terms of online buzz, coming in this week behind Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Sen. Sanders buzzed brightly last week and then fizzled. Sanders was ranked No. 4 in the overall TrendPo ranking and first among 2016 hopefuls after openly talking about running for president. Now he's back to 5,406 place, according to U.S. News & World Report. LINK


Obama at Mandela Memorial President Obama eulogized Nelson Mandela as "the last great liberator of the 20th Century'' as tens of thousands of South Africans, joyously cheering and singing despite a cold rain, mourned the passing and celebrated the life of the father of their modern nation. Obama, speaking in an open soccer stadium and before a gathering of global leaders, likened Mandela to historic giants of the past century, such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., and said that like them Mandela willingly "suffered the consequences of his actions'' in standing up to powerful oppressors, USA Today reported. LINK

US Aids African Mission Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced U.S. military transport assistance for Burundian troops headed to the Central African Republic to assist French troops in disarming local rebels, The Guardian reported. Around 1,600 French soldiers have been deployed to halt violent reprisals between religious factions that have left at least 459 people dead since last Thursday, according to the Red Cross. LINK

Riot Police Surround Protesters in Ukraine Riot police encircled central Kiev on Monday night, raising fears the authorities were preparing a crackdown on anti-government protesters just hours after Ukraine’s president said he was prepared to hold talks with opposition leaders, The Financial Times reported. “If Yanukovich storms the protesters tonight…then it is a sign that he has chosen to turn the country into a police state,” an opposition leader warned. LINK

Iran: Sanctions Would Kill Nuke Deal Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif in an interview with Time Magazine said any new sanctions passed by the United States Congress would kill the pending nuclear deal. LINK


Senate Passes Legislation on Guns Congress approved an extension of a 25-year-old gun safety law on Monday, hours before it was slated to expire at midnight. The Senate adopted a House-passed 10-year extension of the Undetectable Firearms Act and sent the law to President Obama’s desk. The legislation is the most prominent gun-related bill to clear Congress this year, as efforts to expand background checks failed in the Senate this spring, Politico reported. LINK

Congress Nears Budget Deal Congressional leaders seeking a budget deal look likely to include a measure doubling a tax on U.S. airline passengers, drawing protests from the industry and consumer groups. Commercial fliers in the U.S. typically pay $2.50 a flight for a "September 11th security fee." Any budget deal will almost certainly increase that fee, according to officials close to congressional negotiations. The budget deal is still in flux, so the fee increase and how much money it would raise aren't yet clear, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK

Defense Authorization Agreement Reached House and Senate negotiators reached final agreement Monday on a Pentagon policy bill that would strengthen protections for military victims of sexual assault and keep the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, open over President Obama’s strenuous objections, as Congress rushed to wrap up work for the year. While the proposed legislation includes what many on Capitol Hill see as expansive changes to laws governing sexual assault, it stops well short of the more far-reaching changes advocated by many victims and Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, who sought to remove military commanders from overseeing the cases and brought considerable attention to the issue this year, The New York Times reported. LINK

Tech Companies Take on Surveillance Programs A coalition that includes Google, Apple, Yahoo, Facebook and Microsoft lashed out at the U.S. government in an open letter printed Monday in major newspapers and a new website over government surveillance programs, The Washington Post reported. Major technology companies argue these surveillance programs, which vacuum personal information off the internet, threaten the technology industry’s financial livelihood. LINK

Paying Rent The number of low-income people who cannot afford their rent is at a record high, according to a new Harvard report cited by Think ProgressLINK

Volcker Rule An updated Volcker Rule will put in place new hurdles for banks that buy and sell securities on behalf of clients and will restrict compensation arrangements that incentivize risky trading, according to The Wall Street Journal.  Regulators will release the long-awaited final version of the Volcker rule, part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, on Tuesday. LINK

Airline Merger The American Airlines and U.S. Airways merger became official Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported. The union creates the world's largest airline. LINK

Podesta Returns to White House With his approval ratings flagging and his health care law at risk, President Obama is bringing on board the Democratic advisor who helped guide President Clinton through the darkest days of his presidency. John Podesta, the former White House chief of staff from the Clinton impeachment period, has agreed to join Obama for a year as he tries to right his ship, according to the Chicago Tribune. LINK


Anti-Pollution Action Eight Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states petitioned the federal government Monday to require nine upwind states to cut down air pollution emissions, The Associated Press reported. States filing the petition are Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. LINK

Medicare to Improve Long-Term Care Coverage A federal lawsuit brought in Vermont is bringing about a change in national Medicare practices that advocates say will improve coverage for people in long-term care. Vermont resident Glenda Jimmo was lead plaintiff in the case that challenged what some providers perceived as Medicare’s requirement that patients being treated in settings ranging from nursing homes to home health had to be improving in order for their coverage to continue. Several national advocacy groups went to bat for Jimmo in a lawsuit that sought a new standard clarifying that care could continue even if was only geared toward preventing the patient’s condition from getting worse. Now the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have issued new rules following a court settlement approved by Vermont U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss, The Associated Press reported. LINK

Home Heating A statewide program administered by Community Action Agencies across Vermont, including Burlington’s Champlain Valley Office for Economic Opportunity relies on donations to help others keep the heat on. It has an average annual budget of about $100,000. Last year donors provided $259,418 for the program. The program targets the working poor who may not be eligible for federal and state fuel assistance or food stamps but still need some help, the Burlington Free Press reported. LINK 

Kristin Carlson Kristin Carlson, senior political reporter at WCAX, is leaving the television station to become Green Mountain Power’s director of media starting Jan. 6, the Burlington Free Press reported. LINK