Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked consideration of a bill that would boost the federal minimum wage. Sen. Bernie Sanders was disappointed but not surprised. A proposal before the Federal Communications Commission to let service providers sell fast lanes on the Internet has drawn more than 14,000 comments, mostly critical, since it was first posted Tuesday evening on Sanders’ website. On the court beat, the Supreme Court on Tuesday handed an important victory to the Environmental Protection Agency, former Justice John Paul Stevens testified in favor of a constitutional amendment to undo a decision that struck down campaign funding laws, and a federal judge in Wisconsin breathed life into the Voting Rights Act.
Minimum Wage The legislation would have raised the current $7.25 hourly minimum to $10.10 over a period of 30 months. Future annual increases pegged to inflation would have been automatic. By 2016, the minimum pay would have gone up enough to push a family of three above the federal poverty line. Only one Republican voted to even consider the measure. But there’s still hope. Bernie met last weekend in Charlotte, N.C., with fast-food restaurant employees who are part of a growing grassroots movement for a minimum wage increase. “What you are doing is extraordinarily important and brave,” he told the young workers. “You are saying that you are tired of being exploited.” Watch the meeting with the fast-food workers, Watch Sanders and NBC News correspondent Chris Jansing discuss the Senate vote
Don’t Break the Internet For years, net neutrality has prohibited big Internet corporations from favoring or blocking certain viewpoints or websites. Our free and open Internet has made invaluable contributions to democracy both here in the United States and around the world. Federal Communications Commissioner Tom Wheeler now reportedly plans to vote on a rule change that would undermine the principles of net neutrality and let companies like Comcast and Verizon divide the Internet into fast and slow lanes. Concerned Americans must tell the FCC to protect the openness of the internet, Sanders said.
Health Care Success: A Republican Nightmare Republicans offered nothing to help 40 million uninsured Americans during all of President George W. Bush’s eight years in office. Now Republican governors in more than 20 states are rejecting an opportunity to provide their citizens with Medicaid coverage – at no cost to the states – under the Affordable Care Act. “We have got to tell every governor out there who was denying people the right to have health care that they`re doing a terrible, terrible thing,” Sanders told Rev. Al Sharpton in an interview on Monday. Democrats should stop being defensive about the Affordable Care Act and call out Republicans for believing it’s a “terrible thing” that millions more Americans now have health insurance under the new law. Watch Rev. Al interview Sanders on MSNBC
Alternative Health Care for Veterans With chronic pain affecting more than half of all veterans eligible for VA health care, Sanders on Wednesday heard from administration officials on efforts to increase access to therapies like acupuncture and yoga as alternatives to addictive narcotics. “I commend VA for its efforts to make complementary and alternative medicine more widely available to veterans and their families,” Sanders said, “but more must be done.” Department of Veterans Affairs officials testified that there are evidence-based non-pharmaceutical ways to treat veterans with chronic emotional and physical pain. These treatments can dramatically reduce narcotic abuse. Comprehensive legislation by Sanders to expand health care, education and other benefits for veterans included a provision to expand access at VA hospitals and clinics to alternative treatments for chronic pain and mental health diagnoses.
On the Road Sanders last weekend took his fight for progressive politics to stops in South Carolina, North Carolina and Minnesota. In Charleston, S.C., on Friday, he spoke to a packed meeting at the College of Charleston about the high cost of college education and student indebtedness, the need for a national health care system guaranteeing health care for all and how income and wealth inequality are moving our country toward an oligarchic form of government. That evening, he spoke to another large crowd in Charleston at the Longshoreman's union hall about the need for a massive federal jobs program to address the unemployment crisis. He also called for a significant increase in the minimum wage. In Charlotte, N.C. on Saturday, Sanders met with more than 50 young workers from throughout the South who work at fast-food restaurants. Organized by the SEIU, the workers are fighting for increased wages and better working conditions. Later on Saturday, Sanders addressed a large gathering of students and faculty at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C. In Minneapolis, Minn., on Sunday, Sanders joined Rep. Keith Ellison, co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, for a well-attended meeting at the SEIU Hall. Among other issues, Sanders spoke about the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, the need for a constitutional amendment to overturn that decision and for the public funding of elections.
Supreme Court Upholds EPA Crackdown on Polluters A Supreme Court decision on Tuesday upholding the rules curbing air pollution that floats across state lines was a boost for the Environmental Protection Agency's upcoming plan to crack down on carbon emissions from power plants. The top court backed a federal regulation requiring 28 Midwestern and Appalachian states that cause smog and soot-forming emissions to limit pollution from their smoke stacks before it wafts downwind, mostly to eastern states. The D.C. Circuit Court in 2012 had sided with the industry and certain states that said the EPA exceeded its authority by issuing a national plan. But the Supreme Court voted 6-2 that the EPA acted within its authority under the Clean Air Act.
Citizens United Former Justice John Paul Stevens appeared before the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday. A dissenter in the 2010 Citizens United case, the retired justice articulated why a narrow majority on the court was wrong to allow corporations and wealthy Americans to spend unlimited and undisclosed sums of money to sway elections. “While money is used to finance speech, money is not speech. Speech is only one of the activities that are financed by campaign contributions and expenditures. Those financial activities should not receive the same constitutional protection as speech itself. After all, campaign funds were used to finance the Watergate burglaries — actions that clearly were not protected by the First Amendment,” Stevens testified. Sen. Chuck Schumer, the committee chairman, said the Senate will vote this year on a constitutional amendment that would undo the court ruling.
Voting Rights For the first time since the Supreme Court last June gutted the core provision of the Voting Rights Act, a federal court has used what’s left of the law to strike down a law in Wisconsin. U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman in Milwaukee invalidated Wisconsin’s voter-ID law passed by a Republican-controlled state legislature in 2011. It required a government-issued photo ID, like a driver’s license or passport, in order to vote. The laws are ostensibly designed to stop polling place fraud. In fact, voter fraud is all but nonexistent and the real purpose of the voter ID laws is to keep minorities, students and poor people, who often support Democrats, away from the polls.