President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to improve international diplomacy and to rid the world of nuclear weapons. “Americans should be proud that we have a president who is restoring respect for our country around the globe,” Senator Bernie Sanders said. “This well-deserved prize is an inspiration for the president and for rest of us to do some really hard thinking about how we create a more peaceful and just world – including our role in Afghanistan.” The war is the topic of this week’s Web video Senator Sanders Unfiltered called “War and Peace.”
Peace Prize In bestowing the award, the Norwegian Nobel Committee praised President Obama’s "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." It singled out Obama's call for a world free of nuclear weapons. At the White House, Obama said he was ‘’surprised and deeply humbled.” Describing the award as an “affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations,” he said he would accept it as “a call to action.”
War in Afghanistan The war that began after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States entered its ninth year. At the White House and on Capitol Hill, there was a debate over whether to send 40,000 or more U.S. troops into the country. “We have lost more than 800 troops. We have spent more than $200 billion. What do we hope to accomplish in Afghanistan?” Sanders asked. “What is our exit strategy? What is the best way of protecting the American people from al-Qaeda and from terrorist threats? What is the most effective way of opposing the Taliban, an extremely reactionary group? How do we relate to the government in Afghanistan which is widely believed to be corrupt? How does the situation in Afghanistan relate to Pakistan – a nation with nuclear weapons? These are a few of the questions that have to be dealt with before we continue pouring more troops and money into Afghanistan. The time is now for a real national discussion about Afghanistan – including real debate in Congress. It is long overdue.” By a margin of five to one, those who have taken our online survey think the number of U.S. military in Afghanistan should be decreased. To take the poll, click here. To watch the senator on C-SPAN, click here.
Defense Contract Fraud The Senate on Tuesday approved a Department of Defense appropriations bill that contains a provision by Sanders that would require the Pentagon to tally how much money goes to defense contractors that repeatedly defrauded the government and suggest ways to punish them. "We agree with Sanders that if conservatives in Congress want to hammer ACORN for its misdeeds, that same standard ought to be applied to every other government contractor," the Brattleboro Reformer editorialized on Friday. To watch Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC interview on the Sanders Amendment, click here.
Dairy Crisis By a vote of 76 to 22, the Senate on Thursday passed and sent to President Obama legislation to provide $350 million in emergency assistance for hard-pressed dairy farmers. The bill includes $290 million for direct support to dairy farmers using guidelines to be determined by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack under an expedited process. Another $60 million would be used to purchase cheese and other dairy products for food banks and nutrition programs. Prices for raw dairy products would be raised by drawing down supplies. “I am glad the bill was approved,” Sanders said. “My hope now is that Secretary Vilsack will move as rapidly as possible and get support out to dairy farmers who are in desperate need,” said Sanders. He sponsored the amendment in the Senate tacking the dairy funds onto the Department of Agriculture appropriations bill.”
Vermont Workers Sanders welcomed a U.S. Labor Department ruling that will result in an additional $1.45 million in back wages for federal contract workers in St. Albans and Essex Junction. The ruling affects 237 contract workers employed at the Vermont Service Center of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from November of 2005 to December of 2007. The settlement announced on Thursday comes on the heels of last week’s labor victory involving more than $1.5 million in back wages to 272 Vermont Service Center workers employed by SI International. Altogether, more than 500 workers will receive more than $3 million in back wages as a result of the two settlements. “These are tough economic times for a whole lot of people and the least we should expect is that federal contractors like CSC pay their workers what they are legally entitled to receive. This is an issue that we’ve been working on with the employees at the Vermont Service Center for several years now, and I’m very happy that the workers there are finally getting what they’re owed,” Sanders said.
Energy Grants Seven more Vermont counties were awarded economic stimulus funding for energy efficiency and conservation projects. The money comes from a block grant program created in legislation by Sanders. The State of Vermont and its cities and towns also were awarded $10.3 million in March under the same program. “The $1.6 million in grants to counties around the state, on top of the $10.3 million that Vermont has already received, gives us a great opportunity to create good paying jobs as we break our dependency on fossil fuels and move to energy efficiency and sustainable energy,” Sanders said. To read more, click here.
Firefighters Participating in a groundbreaking ceremony on Monday for a new firefighter training building at Vermont Technical College, Sanders called the facility a major step forward in assuring high-quality training for firefighters across the state. He secured $406,962 for the project, which includes a live-burn building. “The new training facility will give firefighters the opportunity to learn scenarios they will likely see when responding to live emergency situations,” Sanders said. “It will be centrally located and will greatly enhance the quality of training while reducing travel time and expenses incurred by many firefighters, especially volunteers.” To see pictures from the groundbreaking ceremony, click here.