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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a member of the Senate Budget Committee, issued the following statement today on President Barack Obama’s speech on the budget deficit:

“The very serious deficit crisis that we are in today is the result of the severe recession caused by Wall Street greed, two unpaid-for wars, huge tax breaks for the rich, the bailout of giant banks, and an unfunded Medicare Part D prescription drug program written by the insurance and drug companies.

“Meanwhile, while the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations are doing extremely well, the Republicans want more giant tax breaks for the very rich as they move to balance the budget on the backs of the sick, the elderly, the children and by cutting environmental protection and infrastructure. This is morally unacceptable and very bad economics.

“President Obama is right in suggesting that any serious effort toward deficit reduction should require shared sacrifice and that the pain should not simply be felt by working families and the most vulnerable people in our society.

“During the coming weeks I will be working with members of the Senate and the House on a deficit reduction proposal which cuts spending in those areas of government which are wasteful and unnecessary, while at the same time asking the wealthiest people in this country and the most profitable corporations to start paying their fair share of taxes.  I am especially interested in ending those loopholes which allow corporations and the wealthy to shelter income in tax havens overseas, costing the U.S. Treasury an estimated $100 billion a year in revenue.”

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The following is a news release from the office of Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent - Vermont):

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said today he will vote against a bill that cuts more than $38 billion from programs that help working families without calling for shared sacrifice by the wealthiest Americans.

Bush-era tax breaks for the very rich were extended last December - driving up the deficit. "Today, in order to reduce deficits that Republicans helped create, they now are slashing programs of enormous importance to working families, the elderly, the sick and children," Sanders said. "At a time when the gap between the very rich and everybody else is growing wider, this budget is Robin Hood in reverse. It takes from struggling working families and gives to multi-millionaires. This is obscene."

While it is too soon to determine the exact impact the cuts will have on Vermont, Sanders, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, said "there can be no doubt that these cuts will be devastating to working families in Vermont and throughout the country."

At a time of soaring fuel prices, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) would be cut by $390 million.

At a time when college education has become unaffordable for many, Pell grants would be reduced by an estimated $35 billion over 10 years, including a nearly $500 million cut this year.

At a time when 50 million Americans have no health insurance, community health centers would be cut by $600 million and the Children's Health Insurance Program would be cut by $3.5 billion.

At a time when poverty is increasing, the Women Infant and Children (WIC) nutrition program for low-income pregnant women would be cut by $504 million.

At a time when we have to put Americans to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, federal funding for high-speed rail would be eliminated, representing a cut of $2.9 billion. Public transportation would be cut by nearly $1 billion, a 20 percent reduction.

At a time when police departments are struggling with inadequate budgets, local law enforcement funding would be cut by $296 million.

At a time when homelessness is increasing, public housing would be cut by $605 million.

"This budget moves America in exactly the wrong direction," Sanders said. "While there is no question that we must reduce soaring deficits, it must be done in a way that is fair, which protects the most vulnerable people in our country, and which requires shared sacrifice. I will not support a budget that will cut programs for struggling working families, the elderly, children and the poor while expanding tax breaks for billionaires, maintaining corporate tax loopholes and increasing military spending. That is just plain wrong."

In the coming weeks, Sanders said he will work with colleagues in the Senate and House on a deficit-reduction package that is fair to all, and does not balance the budget only on the backs of working families.

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The following is an April 6th news release from "The Kloppenburg for Justice Committee," the campaign organization for JoAnne Kloppenburg:

With 100% of Wisconsin precincts reporting according to the Associated Press, Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg has won Tuesday's Supreme Court race.

The Associated Press tally shows Kloppenburg received 740,090 votes to 739,886 votes for the incumbent David Prosser, a margin of 204 votes.

"We owe Justice Prosser our gratitude for his more than 30 years of public service," Kloppenburg said. "Wisconsin voters have spoken and I am grateful for, and humbled by, their confidence and trust. I will be independent and impartial and I will decide cases based on the facts and the law. As I have traveled the State, people tell me they believe partisan politics do not belong in our Courts. I look forward to bringing new blood to the Supreme Court and focusing my energy on the important work Wisconsin residents elect Supreme Court justices to do."

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Public Senate Hearing Shows Overwhelming Support For Universal Healthcare

Montpelier, VT -- Statehouse -- Vermonters from all over the state turned out for a major public hearing on Vermont's new universal healthcare bill, H.202. The Vermont Senate Health & Welfare Committee held the hearing on the bill in the main chamber of the Statehouse one week after H.202 passed in the Vermont House of Representatives by a 92 - 49 vote. Over fifty Vermonters testified overwhelmingly in support of the bill and demanded bold action to begin treating healthcare as a human right, provided as a public good.  

Peg Franzen, President of the Vermont Workers' Center, testified at the event saying:

"As we go down this road, we must be guided by the plight of Vermonters who pay for the failures of this market-based system with their health - their physical and financial health. Human rights principles offer that guidance, and they are included in this bill as the foundation of our new healthcare system. Human rights principles will enable us to ensure that each step we take towards a new system is a step in the right direction, the direction of a universal, equitable healthcare system that works for all of us."

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In a March 31st statement, Senator Bernie Sanders (Vermont-I) questioned why the Federal Reserve provided more than $26 billion in credit to an Arab intermediary for the Central Bank of Libya.

The total includes at least $3.2 billion in loans that the Fed was forced to make public today in addition to earlier revelations under a Sanders provision in the Wall Street reform law.

Sanders also asked why the Libyan-owned bank and two of its branches in New York, N.Y., were exempted from sanctions that the United States this month slapped on other Libyan businesses to pressure Col. Moammar Gadhafi's government.

"It is incomprehensible to me that while creditworthy small businesses in Vermont and throughout the country could not receive affordable loans, the Federal Reserve was providing tens of billions of dollars in credit to a bank that is substantially owned by the Central Bank of Libya," Sanders said.

In a letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and others, Sanders asked why the central bank made at least 46 emergency, low-interest loans to the Arab Banking Corp., in which the Central Bank of Libya owns a 59 percent stake.

In the same letter, Sanders asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner why the Treasury Department on March 4 let the Libya-controlled bank skirt the economic sanctions against Libya.

The senator also questioned why the Bahrain-based Arab Banking Corp. is even allowed to operate branches inside United States. "Why would the U.S. government allow a bank that is predominantly owned by the Central Bank of Libya - an institution on which the U.S. has imposed strict economic sanctions -to operate two banking branches within our own borders?" Sanders asked.

The Fed transactions were made public earlier this year as a result of a Sanders provision in the Wall Street reform law that forced the U.S. central bank to reveal which financial institutions it bailed out during the financial crisis from 2007 to 2010.

In another dubious twist, the Fed loans, at interest rates as low as 0.25 percent, relied on U.S. Treasury securities as collateral.  In other words, at the same time that the Arab Banking Corp. was borrowing money at almost zero interest from one arm of the government, the Fed, it was lending money at a higher interest rate to another arm of the U.S. government, the Treasury Department.

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The following is a news release from the office of Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vermont-I)

While hard working Americans fill out their income tax returns this tax season, General Electric and other giant profitable corporations are avoiding U.S. taxes altogether.

With Congress returning to Capitol Hill on Monday to debate steep spending cuts, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said the wealthiest Americans and most profitable corporations must do their share to help bring down our record-breaking deficit.

Sanders renewed his call for shared sacrifice after it was reported that General Electric and other major corporations paid no U.S. taxes after posting huge profits. Sanders said it is grossly unfair for congressional Republicans to propose major cuts to Head Start, Pell Grants, the Social Security Administration, nutrition grants for pregnant low-income women and the Environmental Protection Agency while ignoring the reality that some of the most profitable corporations pay nothing or almost nothing in federal income taxes.

Sanders compiled a list of some of some of the 10 worst corporate income tax avoiders:

1)      Exxon Mobil made $19 billion in profits in 2009.  Exxon not only paid no federal income taxes, it actually received a $156 million rebate from the IRS, according to its SEC filings.

2)      Bank of America received a $1.9 billion tax refund from the IRS last year, although it made $4.4 billion in profits and received a bailout from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department of nearly $1 trillion.

3)      Over the past five years, while General Electric made $26 billion in profits in the United States, it received a $4.1 billion refund from the IRS.

4)      Chevron received a $19 million refund from the IRS last year after it made $10 billion in profits in 2009.

5)      Boeing, which received a $30 billion contract from the Pentagon to build 179 airborne tankers, got a $124 million refund from the IRS last year.

6)      Valero Energy, the 25th largest company in America with $68 billion in sales last year received a $157 million tax refund check from the IRS and, over the past three years, it received a $134 million tax break from the oil and gas manufacturing tax deduction.

7)      Goldman Sachs in 2008 only paid 1.1 percent of its income in taxes even though it earned a profit of $2.3 billion and received an almost $800 billion from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury Department.

8)      Citigroup last year made more than $4 billion in profits but paid no federal income taxes. It received a $2.5 trillion bailout from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury.

9)      ConocoPhillips, the fifth largest oil company in the United States, made $16 billion in profits from 2007 through 2009, but received $451 million in tax breaks through the oil and gas manufacturing deduction.

10)  Over the past five years, Carnival Cruise Lines made more than $11 billion in profits, but its federal income tax rate during those years was just 1.1 percent.

Sanders has called for closing corporate tax loopholes and eliminating tax breaks for oil and gas companies. He also introduced legislation to impose a 5.4 percent surtax on millionaires that would yield up to $50 billion a year. The senator has said that spending cuts must be paired with new revenue so the federal budget is not balanced solely on the backs of working families.

"We have a deficit problem. It has to be addressed," Sanders said, "but it cannot be addressed on the backs of the sick, the elderly, the poor, young people, the most vulnerable in this country.  The wealthiest people and the largest corporations in this country have got to contribute. We've got to talk about shared sacrifice."

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Montpelier, VT -- Statehouse -- On Wednesday, March 23, members of the grassroots Healthcare Is a Human Right Campaign cheered on as the Vermont House of Representatives voted 92 - 49 to pass the universal healthcare bill, H.202.  The House bill passed as a result of thousands of Vermonters speaking out and demanding that healthcare be treated as a human right and provided as a public good.  

"This bill puts Vermont on a path to a system in which every Vermonter can get the healthcare they need when they need it, and the financing of that system is shared equitably by all.  This is a huge step forward," says Peg Franzen, President of the Vermont Workers' Center.

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Statement of Tyson Slocum, Director, Public Citizen's Energy Program

A $10 million line of credit provided to the Democratic National Committee by nuclear power company Duke Energy should be rejected by President Barack Obama. As the administration formulates its response to the Japanese nuclear crisis, it should not be accepting support from nuclear power interests, particularly since this significant corporate loan to the president's re-election convention committee undermines the president's recent convention financing cleanup efforts.

During the 2008 election campaign, then-Sen. Obama qualified his response to nuclear power expansion with a long list of issues that would need to be resolved - including safety and waste storage - before he would fully endorse the technology. But while the Japanese continue to contend with the threat of significant releases of radioactivity from its damaged reactors, and U.S. reactor and spent fuel storage vulnerabilities come in to question, the Obama administration continues to profess its commitment to use taxpayer money to build new reactors.

On March 12, the media reported that Duke Energy was providing the Democratic convention host committee with a $10 million line of credit for the party's 2012 national convention to re-elect Obama. The money will be paid back, but the president's re-election campaign should not be relying on loan guarantees from the nuclear industry at a time when the industry's future is contingent on obtaining loan guarantees from the U.S. government.

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The following is a news release from the office of Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent-Vermont):

In the aftermath of the nuclear disaster in Japan, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders urged the White House to form a presidential commission on nuclear safety in the United States as part of a five-point crisis response.

In a letter to President Barack Obama, Sanders (I-Vt.) also asked for a moratorium on license renewals by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He said the White House should withdraw a request for $36 billion to bankroll building new nuclear plants. He questioned why taxpayers - not nuclear plant owners - are on the hook for damages in the event of a meltdown or other accident at a private power plant. And he said states should get more say on plant safety.

Sanders serves on the Senate committee that oversees the NRC, the federal agency that regulates commercial nuclear reactors in this country.

One day before the massive earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, the NRC authorized a 20-year extension for the Vermont Yankee reactor in Vernon, Vt., after its 40-year operating license runs out next year. Days later, at a committee briefing on the Japan crisis, Sanders urged NRC Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko to reconsider that decision.

 At the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee briefing and in his letter to Obama, Sanders said it is disturbing that 23 reactors in the United States, including Vermont Yankee, are virtually identical in design to the crippled reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan. Federal safety officials have criticized the General Electric design and warned as long ago as 1972 that if the cooling systems ever failed and fuel rods overheated then the containment vessel surrounding the reactor probably would burst, spewing dangerous radiation into the environment.

Sanders' letter to Obama called for:

  • An independent review by a special presidential commission with broad authority and a mandate to independently review the safety of every existing nuclear reactor and waste site in the United States, in light of the lessons that may be learned from the situation in Japan.
  • A moratorium on all licensing and re-licensing decisions by the NRC. China already is conducting a full review of safety at its nuclear plants and halted new construction. Germany closed seven reactors to review safety. In this country, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to shut down the Indian Point nuclear plant, which is operated by Entergy, the same company that runs Vermont Yankee.
  • Repealing a federal law that indemnifies the nuclear industry. "In the event of a nuclear tragedy in the United States, should the taxpayers of this country be asked to provide billions of dollars in compensation to the victims of such a tragedy or, in a free-enterprise society such as ours, should the nuclear industry itself take full responsibility to secure insurance in the private market for all consequences of such an unthinkable tragedy?" he asked.
  • Withdrawal of an Obama administration request for $36 billion in new lending authority to build more nuclear power plants. Instead, Sanders said existing nuclear loan guarantee funds should be redirected to enhance energy efficiency and to develop safer, more cost-effective energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal.
  • Giving states a say on the safety of nuclear plants. "It will be people who live in the vicinity of nuclear power plants who will have to bear the burden of any tragedy that might occur, and for this reason alone they should play a meaningful role in deciding whether or not the safety risk is acceptable," Sanders wrote.

Sanders commended Obama for providing assistance to Japan as it grapples with the consequences of the natural disaster and nuclear crisis. "It is clear that at the same time we do everything we can to provide such assistance, we have an obligation to learn from this catastrophe and respond accordingly. The proposals I have put forward would ensure that the United States begins a long-needed, thoughtful and critical reconsideration of the safety of our nuclear reactors, and the wisdom of moving forward with a spate of new reactors."

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WASHINGTON, March 15 - Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today introduced legislation that would safeguard Social Security by requiring extraordinary majorities in Congress to approve any reduction in benefits. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) introduced the same measure in the House.

Senators who joined Sanders and Weiner at a press conference today in support of the legislation were Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

Their legislation would give Social Security the same parliamentary protection that others in Congress want to put in place in order to make it harder for Congress to increase spending, raise taxes or add earmarks to legislation.

Sanders said, "Congress should not be able to cut the hard-earned Social Security benefits of current or future eligible recipients without a two-thirds vote by the Senate and the House.  Our legislation does not prohibit Congress from cutting Social Security benefits, raising the retirement age or privatizing this important program.  It simply ensures that a supermajority would be needed before Congress could take any of these actions."

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