Global Warming Senator Frank Lautenberg and Sanders released a set of global warming principles in anticipation of a compromise measure offered by Senators Joseph Lieberman and John Warner. "This is no time for timidity" and "dealing with scientific reality is more important than cutting deals," Sanders said. "I hope we can work together, but I think we have a distance to go to make that legislation better, stronger, more consistent with the science that's out there," Congress Daily reported. In a Senate floor statement, Sanders added: "The problem is even worse than many have previously suggested. If anything, the legislation Senator Boxer and I introduced in January, the strongest legislation introduced in Congress to address global warming, is probably too conservative to address the problem. It is likely that we should be even more aggressive in our targets and timetables for mandatory reduction of greenhouse gas emissions." In a Times Argus op-ed, Drew Hudson of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group wrote: "When Congress acts, it must act to pass a strong bill with the reductions in global warming pollution that science tells us are necessary to prevent catastrophic effects of global warming. Luckily, Sanders is at the table right now developing the legislation that the Senate is expected to consider this fall. Sanders has been a leading advocate for meeting the challenge of global warming with a strong, science-based response. Now more than ever we're counting on Sen. Sanders to ensure that the United States takes bold action, starting now." To read the column, click here. To read the Sanders-Lautenberg principles, click here. To watch the senator's floor statement, click here.
Intelligence Surveillance Senator Sanders said he would oppose legislation on intelligence surveillance in the United States that would grant telecommunications companies immunity from lawsuits over privacy rights violations. A bill approved on Thursday by the Senate Intelligence Committee would give telephone companies immunity from about 40 pending lawsuits over their role in a Bush administration surveillance program instituted after September 2001. "Of course we have to do everything we can to protect the American people, but we must fight international terrorism in a way that is consistent with our Constitution and the Bill of Rights," Sanders said. In Vermont, the Public Service Board is considering a probe into whether Verizon Vermont and AT&T gave the National Security Agency access to Vermont residents' phone records as part of a surveillance program. In July, a federal judge in California refused to dismiss legal requests by Vermont and four other states for information on the program.
Blackwater USA In Iraq alone, there are roughly 180,000 private contractors working for American government agencies, including about 30,000 heavily-armed guards. The most notorious contractor, Blackwater USA, has been embroiled in controversy over the deaths last month of 17 Iraqis. A State Department contract with the private security firm, which escorts U.S. diplomats traveling outside the heavily protected Green Zone in Baghdad, expires in May. The contract should not be renewed, Sanders said. "The Bush administration has made radical and dangerous changes in the structure of our military, and Congress needs to take a very hard look at that. To my mind, it is wrong and unacceptable for companies like Blackwater to operate outside of the chain of command of the United States military and United States government in Iraq. I also find it troubling when personnel employed by a company like Blackwater are paid far more than soldiers in the U.S. military who are putting their lives on the line every day." Click here to listen to the senators' comments.
Prescription Drugs Legislation was introduced by Sanders on Friday that would eliminate market exclusivity for new drugs, but give developers large cash rewards from a "Medical Innovation Prize Fund" when products improved health outcomes. By eliminating monopolies and allowing generic competition, prices on drugs would fall dramatically, saving taxpayers, employers and consumers more than $200 billion per year. Under the proposal, the current patent system would still be used, but patent owners would no longer be given monopoly rights to control the manufacturing and sale of products. Instead, patents would be used to establish who "owns" the right to the cash rewards given for new inventions. Drugs developed without patents would also be eligible for the prizes. "As health-care costs continue to spiral, our nation must focus debate on why prescription drugs cost so much. Unfortunately, Congress has never delved into why the process that brings new drugs to market is so insanely expensive, inefficient, and ineffective. Senator Sanders' bill, 'The Medical Innovation Prize Act of 2007,' could at long last begin that debate," said Bill Vaughan of Consumers Union. To read what other experts have to say about the bill, click here.
Children's Health In the battle of Bush vs. the children, the children lost when the House on Thursday upheld the president's veto of a bill to provide health insurance to 10 million children. Bipartisan supporters of the measure vowed to send it back to him next month, with minor changes. "For now, the insurance vote stands as the latest example of how Mr. Bush can still get his way on Capitol Hill…through artful use of veto threats and his veto pen," The New York Times reported.