A spunky family physician from Canada was the star witness at a Tuesday hearing about how other countries provide health care at less cost and get better outcomes than the United States. Sen. Bernie Sanders chaired the hearing. The White House would be required to submit a plan for reducing childhood poverty in the U.S. under a Sanders provision added to a bill that passed the Senate on Thursday. President Obama set the gears in place for millions more workers to get overtime pay. And senators began the week by keeping the Senate in session for an all-night talk-a-thon on global warming.
Health Care Experts from around the world testified on Tuesday about health care systems in Canada, France, Denmark and Taiwan that are more effective and efficient than the United States’ model. At a hearing chaired by Sanders, Dr. Danielle Martin, a physician from Toronto, sparred with Sen. Richard Burr. And in what Canada’s CBC News called “some political theatre,” Sanders asked if Canada’s current prime minister is a socialist. “No sir, our prime minister is quite conservative,” Dr. Martin said. “So obviously,” Sanders said tongue in cheek, “as a conservative he wants to implement the American health-care system. I gather that is the first thing he did when he took power, is that right?” the senator continued. “Not exactly,” the Toronto physician replied. “Support for single-payer Medicare in Canada goes across all political stripes.” Watch highlights
Childhood Poverty The Senate on Thursday voted to renew programs providing health care and food assistance to children. The measure includes Sanders’ provision calling on the White House to submit a five-year plan to reduce the childhood poverty rate in the United States. “Unfortunately, despite our great wealth, more of our citizens are living in poverty than ever before and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country in the industrialized world,” Sanders said. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives, Watch the speech
Overtime Pay President Obama ordered the Labor Department on Thursday to revise federal rules on overtime pay to make millions more workers eligible for extra pay when they work more than 40 hours a week. Sanders said he hopes the overtime threshold, now $455 a week, will be updated to at least account for inflation and cover workers making less than $1,000 per week. Sanders said the move by the president is part of a welcome shift in focus by the White House to address the nation’s most pressing problem – high levels of income and wealth inequality.
Long-Term Jobless Unemployment benefits would be restored for those without jobs for six months or more under an agreement that a rump group of five Senate Republicans reached with agreed on Thursday to vote. Under the deal, the handful of Republican senators would join with the 55 Senate Democrats and independents to renew the benefits and give retroactive assistance to more than 2 million Americans whose benefits expired late last year. The legislation could pass the Senate in late March, but its fate in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives was unclear. Speaker John Boehner has opposed other Senate plans to help the unemployed.
CIA Torture Cover-Up Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Intelligence Committee, on Tuesday accused the Central Intelligence Agency of spying on congressional staffers as they investigated the agency’s illegal detention and interrogation programs under President George W. Bush. To Sanders, the revelation was “another sign that our intelligence community is out of control and that there must be greater oversight by Congress.” Earlier this year, in response to a question from Sanders, the National Security Agency did not expressly deny spying on Congress.
Global Warming All-Nighter In a dramatic gesture calling for action on climate change, Sanders was among some two dozen senators who staged an all-night Senate session from Monday night through Tuesday morning. “What we're trying to do is to make the American people aware that the debate about climate change really is over, that the scientific community is virtually unanimous in agreeing that climate change is real, that it is caused by human activity, that it is already causing devastating problems in the United States and around the world,” Sanders said. He also discussed legislation he introduced with Sen. Barbara Boxer, the environment committee chairman, to tax the carbon and methane emissions that cause global warming. It's been called the "gold standard" of climate legislation.
Koch Brothers Exposed Sanders welcomed Majority Leader Harry Reid’s effort to expose the influence of Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who have bankrolled Republican candidates and conservative causes. The brothers want to abolish Social Security, eliminate minimum wage laws, block emergency unemployment benefits, put private insurance companies back in charge of your health care, and give even more tax breaks for themselves.