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Friday, September 22, 2017

Trump Nominates Prosecutor Nolan for Vermont U.S. Attorney

Posted By on Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 5:39 PM

Donald Trump in Burlington last year - FILE: JAMES BUCK
  • File: James Buck
  • Donald Trump in Burlington last year
President Donald Trump on Friday nominated Assistant U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan to serve as Vermont's U.S. Attorney.

Nolan, a native Vermonter who graduated from the University of Vermont and Boston College Law School, would become the first woman to hold the top federal prosecutor's job in Vermont if the U.S. Senate confirms her.

Both U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Republican Gov. Phil Scott recommended Nolan in June, calling her a "fair and tough" prosecutor.
In a joint statement Friday, Leahy and Scott pledged to advocate for her confirmation.

"Christina is a tough and well-respected prosecutor who is uniquely familiar with the challenges of our state’s opioid crisis," they said. "We were both impressed by Christina’s passion for the state of Vermont and for the mission of a prosecutor — to seek justice and improve our communities — as well as her thoughtfulness and leadership."

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

On a Big Stage, Sanders Counters Trump on Foreign Policy

Posted By on Thu, Sep 21, 2017 at 3:03 PM

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) delivers his foreign policy speech at Westminster College Thursday. - YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT
  • Youtube screenshot
  • U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) delivers his foreign policy speech at Westminster College Thursday.
Two days after President Donald Trump promoted an every-country-for-itself approach in a speech at the United Nations, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called for international collaboration.

Sanders, who studiously avoided discussing foreign policy during his presidential campaign, chose a high profile and historically significant venue to address the topic Thursday. He made his remarks during same event at which Winston Churchill gave his famous Iron Curtain speech — at the John Findley Green Foundation lecture at Westminster College in Missouri.

Widely considered a potential presidential candidate in 2020, Sanders has cemented his role as a foil to Trump; last week, he grabbed headlines after unveiling his Medicare-for-all health care proposal.

“The goal is not for the United States to dominate the world. Nor, on the other hand, is our goal to withdraw from the international community and shirk our responsibilities under the banner of ‘America first,’” Sanders told an audience of students and faculty. “Our goal should be global engagement based on partnership, rather than dominance.”

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

During Harvard Event, Shumlin Analyzes His Single-Payer Failure

Posted By on Tue, Sep 19, 2017 at 11:44 PM

Former governor Peter Shumlin (left) with top health care staffers, Robin Lunge and Lawrence Miller - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Former governor Peter Shumlin (left) with top health care staffers, Robin Lunge and Lawrence Miller
Peter Shumlin told a group of Harvard University scholars Tuesday that he didn’t have the political capital to pass single-payer health care in Vermont.

The three-term Democratic former Vermont governor revisited his signature political failure during a live-streamed interview with Harvard public health professor John McDonough.

“Was that a policy decision or was that a political decision, do you think?” asked McDonough, referring to Shumlin’s decision to pull the plug on single-payer.

“They’re always both,” Shumlin responded. “There was no way I was gonna get the votes in either the House or the Senate to pass the single-payer plan that I wanted to pass ... I had Progressive senators coming to me saying, ‘What if we just slowed down?’”

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Walters: Welch on DACA, 'Surreal Atmosphere' of Trump Meeting

Posted By on Thu, Sep 14, 2017 at 1:18 PM

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) speaks at a press conference at the Burlington International Airport. - FILE: ALICIA FREESE
  • FIle: Alicia Freese
  • Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) speaks at a press conference at the Burlington International Airport.
Uncertainty is in the air over Washington, D.C., as top congressional Democrats say they have a deal on enacting into law the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program while President Donald Trump insists otherwise. For Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.), it's just the latest example of what he calls "an improvisational president. He goes from meeting to meeting, and whatever happens in that meeting is the news of the moment."

Welch attended a meeting on Wednesday that included Trump and 14 members of Congress, split equally between Republicans and Democrats. Welch describes "a quite surreal atmosphere" in which the president talked of bipartisan action while congressional Republicans continue to freeze out the Democrats.

"The president indicated support for the Dreamers [those early arrivals who face deportation unless DACA is extended], but also mentioned security issues," Welch says. "I urged the president to not link security issues with the treatment of the Dreamers, and said that this calls for a Lincolnesque moment in presidential leadership, where we do the right thing because it’s the right thing."

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Friday, September 8, 2017

Walters: Federal Budget Deal Eases Strain on Vermont

Posted By on Fri, Sep 8, 2017 at 5:45 PM

Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (left) and House Speaker Mitzi Johnson - FILE: TERRI HALLENBECK
  • File: Terri Hallenbeck
  • Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (left) and House Speaker Mitzi Johnson
In rapid-fire sequence, the U.S. Senate and House this week passed a bill providing assistance for those affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and postponed an imminent deadline on raising the federal debt limit. The bill maintains federal spending at roughly current levels and allows the government to continue functioning until December 8.

As a consequence, Vermont legislative leaders plan to cancel an October special session that was scheduled in anticipation of significant federal budget cuts.

“As soon as the president signs [the bill], we will cancel the October session,” said House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero). Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) will also hold off on officially canceling the session until the bill becomes law, although he said “it looks 99 percent certain.”

“This takes the immediate pressure off,” said Finance Commissioner Adam Greshin. “It means a continuation of the status quo. Under the circumstances, that’s good news.”

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Welch: Trump's DACA Decision Puts 42 Vermonters at Risk

Posted By on Tue, Sep 5, 2017 at 3:10 PM

Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) speaks to the media Tuesday at Burlington International Airport. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Terri Hallenbeck
  • Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) speaks to the media Tuesday at Burlington International Airport.
Forty-two Vermonters’ immigration status is uncertain now that President Donald Trump has vowed to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, according to Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.).

Speaking at Burlington International Airport on Tuesday before he boarded a flight to Washington, D.C., Welch said he plans to urge his colleagues to restore the program. Vermont’s two senators said this week they agree that Congress should take action, as did Gov. Phil Scott.

DACA, enacted by president Barack Obama in 2012, has given legal protections to nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

“This is the height of cruelty,” Welch said of Trump’s promise to phase out the program. “The only country they’ve ever known … is right here in the United States of America.”

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Monday, August 14, 2017

No, Neo-Nazi Website the Daily Stormer Is Not Based in Burlington

Posted By on Mon, Aug 14, 2017 at 9:18 PM

The hate map - SPLC
  • Splc
  • The hate map
Burlington likely has little in common with cities such as Cullman, Ala., or Mountain View, Calif.

But the three locales share a dark designation: They’re among dozens on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “hate map,” which tracks hate-group activity across the U.S.

Various places on the map are marked with insignias associated with racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic groups. The map drew renewed attention after the weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Va., during a rally of white supremacists.

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Bernie Sanders Talks Health Care, Cows During Franklin County Visit

Posted By on Mon, Aug 14, 2017 at 8:08 PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders talks with dairy farmers in East Fairfield. - ALICIA FREESE
  • Alicia Freese
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders talks with dairy farmers in East Fairfield.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) seemed comfortable Monday during a swing through Franklin County to meet with core constituents, including health care professionals, senior citizens and dairy farmers. At all three stops, Vermont’s junior senator discussed his “Medicare-for-all” proposal — but he refused to address questions about how hard he’ll push Democrats to back the plan.

In the morning, Sanders toured the Northern Tier Center for Health clinic in Richford, where he peppered staff with questions about the opiate epidemic and access to dental care.

From there, he traveled to the Franklin County Senior Center in St. Albans and pitched his proposed legislation that would allow anyone to receive Medicare, the federal health insurance program currently available only to people over 65.

“We’re taking on the whole world to make this happen,” he told a crowd of more than 50.

Residents dined on strawberry shortcake and listened intently as Sanders decried the “outrageous” cost of prescription drugs. He compared the U.S. health care system unfavorably to Canada’s, which provides universal coverage.

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Walters: Leahy Channels PAC Money Through His Very Own PAC

Posted By on Sun, Aug 6, 2017 at 4:07 AM

Sen. Patrick Leahy - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) won another six-year term last November and doesn't face reelection until the year 2022, but his fundraising operation continues to function smoothly.

Not so much for his own reelection fund, but for another organization he controls: the Green Mountain Political Action Committee. It's a so-called "leadership PAC," a vehicle for political spending not directly related to a candidate's own campaign. In Leahy's case, much of the proceeds go to help fellow Democrats across the country.

It also serves another purpose: The Green Mountain PAC is a catchment for the special-interest money that flows freely in Washington, D.C. It allows Leahy to collect and spend big bucks — in part, to maintain his year-round political apparatus — without tainting his traditional reelection fund.

Here's how. On July 15, Leahy's reelection committee filed its quarterly finance report. Leahy for Senate collected $32,000 in donations, only $3,000 of which came from PACs. Pocket change by senatorial standards.

On July 31, the Green Mountain PAC reported contributions totaling $253,000 in the first six months of this year. Nearly half of that came from corporate and special interest PACs. And when you scan through the contributions from individuals, nearly half of that total came from the D.C. area, mostly from lobbyists, attorneys and others who seek to influence lawmaking and regulatory processes.

In short, Leahy's PAC benefits greatly from the senator's position of power, swelling its coffers with top-dollar gifts from special interests and wealthy donors.

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Walters: Welch Defends Consensus Building in the Age of Trump

Posted By on Thu, Aug 3, 2017 at 12:40 PM

  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Rep. Peter Welch
Remember the joke about the young boy and the pile of horse manure? The one where the boy began digging furiously through the fertilizer, exclaiming "With all this manure, there's got to be a horse in here somewhere!"

Well, that little boy is Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and the manure pile is — need I say — President Donald Trump's Washington.

Welch is doing his best to ignore the noise, the chaos, the tweetstorms and that whole Russia thing so he can focus on actual lawmaking.

"This is a very volatile time with this president," says Welch. "But all of us have to do our best to advocate for policies that are going to be beneficial to the American people."

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