As the cherry blossoms bloomed in Washington, Sen. Bernie Sanders this week went to the Canadian border to announce federal support for innovative energy and education programs in the town of Highgate Center, Vt. He also drove to Rutland, Vt. to discuss more stimulus funds for energy projects as well as grants to repair and rebuild six of the regions senior centers. Meanwhile, people across the county began to analyze the real benefits people will enjoy under the recently-enacted health care reform bill. With that legislation finally signed into law, the U.S. Senate looked to address the greed and recklessness of Wall Street. Sanders pledged to fight for strong consumer protections while looking for more transparency from the Fed. As Congress returns to Washington next week, they will also begin to address the pending retirement of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
Financial Regulation When the Senate returns from recess next week, financial reform legislation is expected to be near the top of the agenda. This week, former Federal Reserve chairman defended his record leading up to the worse economic crisis the nation has faced since the Great Depression. Sen. Sanders told MSNBC on Friday, "I found that amazing that Alan Greenspan denied responsibility and he said ‘who could have predicted this?' Well, you know what, people like me and many others back in 1999 when deregulation was being discussed we said that if you give Wall Street the opportunity to act with excessive greed that is exactly what they will do. Right now, as financial reform hits the floor of the Senate, we have to be strong in making sure that consumers have the protection that they need."
Health Care Americans are still learning what the health care overhaul law will mean for them in terms of reducing the cost of health care for the middle class, enhancing health care for seniors, and providing tax credits to small businesses and individuals. While reducing the cost of health coverage, the new law also will reduce the deficit by $143 billion over the next 10 years. To read about some of the benefits for Vermont, click here.
Energy Grants Sen. Sanders went to Highgate and Rutland, Vt. this week to announce federal support for innovative grassroots efforts by these communities as they try to improve their energy efficiency and to conserve energy. This stimulus funding was distributed through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program that was created by legislation Sanders authored. "We want and need the thinking of people at the local level as to how they can move their cities and towns forward in this area because they know the needs of their towns, schools and public buildings better than anyone else - and this program gives them the flexibility to prioritize how these federal funds should be spent," Sanders said. To read more about the Rutland County funding, click here.
Support for Schools Sanders secured $25,000 to expand the "Crossroads After School" program at Highgate Elementary School. The program will use the funding to provide more choices for children, expanded anti-bullying initiatives, incentives for more adults to lead before- and after-school groups, greater support for at-risk children, and greater resources for improving numeracy and literacy skills for K-6 students. "Most parents know that these are tough times in which to raise kids. We worry about drugs, we worry about kids dropping out of school or doing poorly, we worry about kids getting involved in criminal activities," said Sanders. "Obviously, there are a lot of ways to respond to these concerns, but what I have always believed is that we take a giant step forward when we provide young people with constructive activities." To read about the education and energy funding for Highgate, click here.
Justice Stevens Justice John Paul Stevens, the longest-serving member of the Supreme Court, informed President Obama on Friday that he will retire at the end of the current term. Asked on MSNBC if he thought Senate Republicans were preparing to filibuster any nominee from President Obama to the high court, Sen. Sanders said, "Based on everything that's happened in the last year, I wouldn't be surprised. They are the party of no. They have been waging a record number of filibusters on every issue that you can think of so I would be surprised if that wasn't the case." The senator said there was reason to be optimistic following the nomination fight over Justice Sotomayor that a few Republicans would cross over to support the president's nominee.
Voting for Peace Sen. Bernie Sanders was one of only two senators to receive a 100 percent rating from Peace Action when the foreign policy organization "selected ten key votes from the first session of the 111th Congress related to Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Gaza, weapons spending and human rights." Sanders vocally questioned the administration's decision to send 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan. "I agree with President Obama that it would be a setback for democracy and stability if the Taliban regained power, but I have serious concerns," Sanders said at the time. "My nightmare is that we may get caught in a quagmire situation from which there will be no successful exit." To review the report, click here.