U.S. Politics

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Shumlin: Repealing Obamacare Would Be a ‘Disaster’ for Vermont

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2016 at 3:33 PM

Gov. Peter Shumlin speaking Tuesday - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Terri Hallenbeck
  • Gov. Peter Shumlin speaking Tuesday
If Republican president-elect Donald Trump makes good on his pledge to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, it will be a “disaster” for Vermont, Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin said Tuesday.

In 2010, 8.6 percent of Vermonters lacked health insurance. Last year, the number had dropped to 2.7 percent, the governor said. Vermont has the second lowest rate of uninsured people in the country overall, according to his office.

Vermonters who receive subsidies for their health coverage get a median of $300 per person per month, said Sean Sheehan, director of outreach and education at the Department of Vermont Health Access.

If Trump eliminates the health insurance programs enacted under President Barack Obama, as he has said he will, Vermonters would lose at least $100 million a year in subsidies, Shumlin said.

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U.S. Attorney’s Office Adds a Civil Rights Prosecutor

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2016 at 12:37 PM

U.S. Attorney Eric Miller, at podium - FILE: MARK DAVIS
  • FIle: Mark Davis
  • U.S. Attorney Eric Miller, at podium
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Burlington has hired a new prosecutor who will focus on enforcing civil rights laws.

Julia Torti, a Vermont native who worked as a civil rights attorney in New York, is one of 34 new assistant U.S. attorneys that the U.S. Department of Justice is hiring across the country to enforce laws against discrimination.

The Vermont office said it secured one of the positions through a competitive application process.

“Aggressive protection of the civil rights of the residents of Vermont is a top priority for the Department of Justice,” U.S. Attorney Eric Miller said in a prepared statement. “The Department and this U.S. Attorney’s Office are committed to a level playing field for all Vermont residents, promoting equal opportunity for Vermonters, and educating the public about their rights and responsibilities under federal civil rights laws.”

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

At Burlington Book Tour Stop, Sanders Soothes Supporters

Posted By on Tue, Nov 22, 2016 at 11:35 PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders at a book tour event in Burlington Tuesday night - ALICIA FREESE
  • Alicia Freese
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders at a book tour event in Burlington Tuesday night
Several hundred Vermonters assembled at the Church of Bernie on Tuesday night.

The hymn books at the First Unitarian Universalist Society Meeting House where they gathered went unopened. Instead, people in the pews paged through hardback copies of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) hefty new book, Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In, waiting for the man himself to appear at the pulpit. It proved a fitting setting for a former presidential candidate who’s now famous for his political proselytizing.

Hosted by Phoenix Books and held in Sanders’ hometown of Burlington, the event was one of several sold-out stops on his nationwide book tour. Sanders announced his Senate campaign at the same church in 2006 and some of his most zealous fans attended Tuesday night’s sermon.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sanders on Trump: ‘We’re Going to Hold Him Accountable’

Posted By on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 at 9:08 PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaking Wednesday at George Washington University - VIDEO SCREENSHOT
  • Video screenshot
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaking Wednesday at George Washington University
In what he billed as a major speech, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) pledged Wednesday night to hold president-elect Donald Trump to some of the promises he made while also standing up to any racism, sexism and bigotry that Trump may condone.

The speech was delivered at George Washington University and streamed live online.

Sanders, who nearly snared the Democratic presidential nomination before campaigning for nominee Hillary Clinton, read a snippet from his new book, Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In. In it, he declared, “We set the agenda for the America of tomorrow.”

His speech offered an indication of the new role the 75-year-old senator expects to play during a Trump presidency: speaking out early, often and loudly against any transgressions. Earlier Wednesday, the Senate Democratic leadership appointed Sanders to a new role — chair of outreach — that could give him a bigger stage from which to speak.

“What you will see on Capitol Hill is, many Democrats will be prepared to work with Mr. Trump if he turns out to be sincere about the promises he made during the campaign,” Sanders told the GWU crowd. “If those promises turn out to be hollow, if they were nothing more than campaign rhetoric, we will not only oppose his economic policies, we will expose that hypocrisy.”

Sanders cherry-picked all the Trump campaign promises he could support, challenging Trump to come through in standing up for the middle class and elderly, for raising the minimum wage and ending “disastrous” trade policies.

“He was saying he was going to be the champion of the middle class,” Sanders said of Trump. “We’re going to hold him accountable.”

“Mr. Trump said, unlike many Republicans — the vast majority of Republicans — he said he will not cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,” Sanders said. “Pay attention to see what he does.”

Trump talked about a $10-an-hour federal minimum wage, Sanders said. “We will hold him to those words,” he pledged.

Then Sanders shifted to the agendas he doesn’t want to see Trump pursue.

“We will not be involved in the expansion of bigotry, of racism, of sexism,” Sanders said, to thunderous applause. “I know I speak for millions of fellow Americans. Mr. Trump, we are not going backward in terms of bigotry. We are going to go forward in creating a nondiscriminatory society.”

Earlier Wednesday, Sanders had called on Trump to rescind the appointment of Steve Bannon as his chief strategist and senior counsel, echoing the rest of the Vermont congressional delegation and many congressional Democrats. “The president of the United States should not have a racist at his side,” Sanders said Wednesday night.

He then called on Trump to pay attention to science, not the chief executive officers of the fossil-fuel industry, when it comes to climate change. “Climate change is not a hoax,” Sanders said. “Millions of us have got to stand up and tell Mr. Trump to read a little bit about science.”

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Leahy Takes Appropriations Post, Sanders Joins Dem Leadership

Posted By on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 at 1:35 PM

Sen. Patrick Leahy - FILE: CALEB KENNA
  • File: Caleb Kenna
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy
An earlier version of this story was first posted at 9:50 a.m.

When president-elect Donald Trump takes office in January, Vermont’s two U.S. senators will play new roles in the opposition.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced Wednesday morning that he will vacate his position as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee in order to serve as the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Hours later, the Senate Democratic caucus named Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to a party leadership post — chair of outreach — and reappointed him ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee.

Both developments were striking, but for different reasons.

Leahy has served as the top Democrat on Judiciary since 1997, when then-senator Joe Biden relinquished the role. He turned down an opportunity to chair Appropriations in December 2012 when the late Hawaiian senator Daniel Inouye’s death made him the most senior member of the Senate. The position went, instead, to Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who is now retiring.

At the time, Leahy explained that with Democrats in the majority and President Barack Obama in the White House, he would be able to represent Vermonters best with the Judiciary gavel. In a statement Wednesday, the Vermont senator said that Trump’s election had changed that calculus.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Rutland Mayor: Refugee Plan Unchanged by Trump's Election

Posted By on Tue, Nov 15, 2016 at 12:08 PM

Rutland Mayor Chris Louras - CALEB KENNA
  • caleb kenna
  • Rutland Mayor Chris Louras
Rutland Mayor Chris Louras has risked his political career on a controversial proposal to welcome 100 Syrian refugees to his long-struggling city, and spent most of the past year beating back fierce opposition and nativist rhetoric from his critics.

Despite president-elect Donald Trump's victory after a campaign in which he vowed to bar Muslim immigrants from entering America, Louras said he and his allies are proceeding apace.

Louras is coordinating with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program and a local volunteer group, Rutland Welcomes, to prepare for the initial wave of refugees from war-torn Syria. They are expected to arrive in mid-December or January. The bulk of the refugees are expected in the spring and summer, Louras said.

"All of us are continuing as if there's been no change," Louras, a Republican-turned-independent, said. "We've got no indications that the New Americans will not be arriving. We're absolutely cognizant of the fact that things could change, but it's not impacting things [now]."

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Friday, November 11, 2016

At Mosque Sermon, Imam Urges Muslims to Remain Steadfast

Posted By on Fri, Nov 11, 2016 at 5:53 PM

Letter and gifts from community members to the Islamic Society of Vermont - KYMELYA SARI
  • Kymelya Sari
  • Letter and gifts from community members to the Islamic Society of Vermont
The message in Imam Islam Hassan's sermon during Friday's midday prayer at the Islamic Society of Vermont's mosque in Colchester was unequivocal.

"Do not leave your country out of fear of someone so insignificant," he told his multiethnic congregation days after Donald Trump won the presidential election. Instead, he said, turn to Allah and continue to be productive and contributing citizens.

"Brothers and sisters, this is the time we get together and excel in everything you are doing," the community leader said.

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Howard Dean to Seek Democratic National Committee Chairmanship

Posted By on Thu, Nov 10, 2016 at 7:24 PM

Former governor Howard Dean addresses Vermont delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last July. - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Former governor Howard Dean addresses Vermont delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last July.
Updated at 11:48 p.m.

Former Vermont governor Howard Dean announced Thursday that he hopes to reclaim the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee.

“The dems need organization and focus on the young,” he wrote on Twitter. “Need a fifty State strategy and tech rehab. I am in for chairman again.”

Dean served as chairman of the DNC once before — from February 2005 through January 2009 — following his 2004 bid for the presidency. During his time at the helm, he pursued a “50-state strategy” focused on rebuilding state parties in regions that had been written off as reliably Republican.

In an interview with Seven Days Thursday evening, Dean said he hoped to revive that strategy and convince young voters to become more engaged.

“They understand politics does matter. They’re in shock. They’re largely demoralized. We need to harness their energy and get them back in the saddle,” the 67-year-old said. “It’s basically going to be a youth movement.”

Key to that, he said, was to articulate “a coherent message.”

“I think we need to provide a real alternative to Donald Trump,” he said. “We can’t be Republican-lite.”

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UVM Students Fear a Future With Trump at the Helm

Posted By on Thu, Nov 10, 2016 at 12:01 PM

UVM seniors Caroline Bick and Hayley Wheelwright - ALICIA FREESE
  • Alicia Freese
  • UVM seniors Caroline Bick and Hayley Wheelwright
Caroline Bick, an art major from Chicago, and Hayley Wheelwright, an English major from Massachusetts, walked down College Street after class, trying to make sense of the night before. It was Wednesday afternoon, and like many of their peers, the University of Vermont seniors were stunned by Donald Trump’s victory.

“We’re just shocked and really deeply saddened and confused and kind of feel like this is the first real tragedy that we’ve been old enough to understand ...” Wheelwright said. “We were kind of too young to really grasp 9/11 and what it meant for the country, and now we’re faced with a similar situation of just feeling really lost.”

Said Bick: “I came late to my class and there were very few people there and I don’t think I’m going to make it to my next class.”

At least one professor preemptively canceled class.

Do either of them know any Trump supporters? “I saw someone on Facebook and I unfriended them,” said Wheelwright.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Patrick Leahy Defeats Scott Milne, Wins Historic Eighth Term

Posted By on Tue, Nov 8, 2016 at 7:08 PM

Sen. Patrick Leahy - FILE: CALEB KENNA
  • File: Caleb Kenna
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Tuesday became the fifth person in United States history to win an eighth six-year term in the U.S. Senate.

The Middlesex Democrat, who first won office in the post-Watergate year of 1974, defeated Pomfret Republican Scott Milne 60 to 33 percent. The AP called the race at 6:59 p.m., just a moment before polls closed in Vermont.

Around 8:20 p.m., Leahy, wife Marcelle and several of their grandchildren took to the stage of the Hilton Burlington as the Grateful Dead’s “Truckin’” played on the P.A.

“It has been a long strange trip, to quote Jerry Garcia,” the senator told a crowd of jubilant Democrats.

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