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Vermont to receive $1.1 billion for highway projects

WASHINGTON – Vermont will see a significant increase in the money it receives for road and bridge work as part of the first long-term federal highway bill in a decade. Congress has approved a 5-year, $305-billion bill that includes $1.1 billion for Vermont, an increase of $95 million, as well as increases for public transportation and charging stations for electric vehicles. “While this legislation does not have everything I would have hoped for, I am pleased it includes more than $1 billion for Vermont’s roads and bridges in the coming years,” said U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who serves on the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which has primary jurisdiction over federal road and bridge programs.

Vermont will see a 5-percent increase in federal funding during the first year and a 15-percent increase over a five-year period. U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, who has been a long-time advocate of passing a long-term highway bill, said the bill will allow officials at the state level to better plan their infrastructure projects. “This is going to give greater stability and security to our Agency of Transportation, and give them the critical confidence they need to plan their projects,” Welch said. Continue Reading →

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Vermont senators seek Social Security boost

MONTPELIER — Vermont Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders have joined with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and 17 other Democrats in seeking a cost-of-living increase for seniors on Social Security. The Seniors and Veterans Emergency Benefits Act, introduced by Warren, a first-term Democrat, seeks to boost payments to about 70 million seniors, veterans and people with disabilities with a bonus payment of just under $600. It was determined in October by the Social Security Administration that there will be no increase on Jan. 1 for beneficiaries. Continue Reading →

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Welch responds to attack ad

BARRE — Congressman Peter Welch responding is to a television ad attacking him for his stance on ethanol in gasoline. This weekend, local television stations in Vermont aired an ad from ethanol-advocacy group known as Fuels America, which attacks Welch for being signatory to a letter to Environmental Protection Agency questioning whether the percentage of ethanol in gasoline should be increased. The ad criticizes Welch for “circulating a plan written by oil industry lobbyists” and concludes by asking viewers to “remind Peter Welch to stand up for Vermont values, not oil companies and climate deniers.”

“I understand why they’re doing it,” Welch said of the ad. “The mandate is a moneymaker for the corn ethanol industry.”

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 mandates an ever-increasing volume of ethanol to enter the nation’s motor vehicle fuel supply. At the time, the Energy Information Administration projected demand for gasoline would continue to rise through 2022. Continue Reading →

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Welch seeks Congressional debate on war in Syria

BARRE — Vermont’s lone congressman said it’s time for Congress to debate if the U.S. should go to war in Syria. U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., said Monday that, in light of recent attacks by ISIS that claimed the lives of nearly 200 people in Beirut and Paris, Congress needs to discuss what role the United States should play in response. “Congress has to debate an authorization to use military force,” Welch said. “We’ve been on the sidelines, and I’ve been advocating for a Congressional debate to take place and I think this is going to intensify the urgency of Congress doing that.”

Welch asserted any debate will be belated, given the fact the United States is already engaged in military action in Syria, a failed state seen by most as the home of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS. “The fact is, we have been engaged in what we can call a war,” Welch said. Continue Reading →

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Legislation looks to curb Medicaid fraud

BARRE — Vermont’s lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives is proposing legislation intended to reduce Medicaid fraud. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. is one of three sponsors of a bipartisan bill that calls for states who convict health care providers of Medicaid fraud to report that information to the federal government, which will then share the information with other states. “There are a number of bad actors that provide fraudulent Medicaid reimbursement bills, and a failure at the federal level to jump on this and get that information out to other states where Medicaid providers might be ripping off the taxpayer,” Welch said during a stop Monday morning at Capstone Community Action, which provides social services to the neediest of Washington County area residents. One of the results of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — commonly referred to as Obamacare — has been an increase in the number of people who are enrolled in Medicaid, which is funded through federal and state dollars. Continue Reading →

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Leahy reaches rare voting milestone

WASHINGTON — Vermont’s senior senator reached a milestone Tuesday achieved by only five others in U.S. history. Shortly before noon, Sen. Patrick Leahy cast his 15,000th vote in the U.S. Senate, joining a small collection of long-serving lawmakers, and received tributes from his fellow senators. “His entire career in public service has been history-making,” said Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Senate minority leader, who noted both Leahy’s service in the Senate and as Vermont’s youngest state’s attorney. “Sen. Leahy has proven that the people of Vermont were wise in electing him.”

First elected to the U.S. Senate 41 years ago in 1974, Leahy is currently its longest-serving member. He is also the only Democrat to be elected to the U.S. Senate from Vermont. Continue Reading →

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Sanders nabs second congressional endorsement

MONTPELIER — Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign announced its second congressional endorsement Monday — Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison. “Keith Ellison is one of the great progressive leaders in the country leading the fight for the rights of working families and the environment,” Sanders said in a statement. “I look forward to working with him to create a government which represents all Americans and not just the billionaires.”
Ellison, in the statement distributed by Sanders’ campaign, said he chose to endorse Sanders because of his ability to attract new voters into the political process. “I’m endorsing Bernie because he is talking about the issues that are important to American families,” Ellison said. “His candidacy is important for many reasons, but I believe the most important part of his candidacy is that it has the ability to create a renaissance in voter participation, which was at its lowest in decades this past election cycle. Continue Reading →

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Welch, Minter seek long-term transportation funds

EAST MONTPELIER — U.S. Rep. Peter Welch and Vermont Agency of Transportation Secretary Sue Minter are urging Congress to pass a long-term transportation spending plan before federal spending authorization expires on July 31, which would put dozens of Vermont projects at risk. Welch and Minter held a news conference Tuesday at a Route 14 bridge in East Montpelier that intersects with Route 2. The bridge has been deemed structurally deficient and has visible signs of degradation, including at least one hole in the deck offering a view of the water below. “We in Vermont have bridges that are crumbling,” Welch said. “This bridge next to us is falling apart, and I hate to say that because I don’t want to scare the driving public, but the driving public knows how bad our roads and bridges are.”

In the recent past Congress has passed short-term spending resolutions to keep transportation and infrastructure projects around the country funded. Continue Reading →

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Welch declines bid for governor

This story was updated at 12:35 p.m.

MONTPELIER — Congressman Peter Welch said Friday he will seek re-election to the U.S. House in 2016, ending speculation that he might instead return to Vermont and run for governor. Welch, a Democrat, openly flirted with the notion of running for governor after Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin announced earlier this month he would not run for a fourth, two-year. But after two weeks of consideration, Welch said Friday that he can best serve Vermonters in Congress and would not run for the “distinct honor” of being governor. “Congress these days is not highly regarded by the American people, but strange as it may seem, I really continue to love my job,” Welch told reporters on a conference call from Washington, D.C., Friday morning. “I’ve been here in the Tea Party Congress where it’s much tougher going, for sure, but where I’ve been able … to do things that have been a major benefit to Vermont.”

Welch, 68, has a long track record as a legislator. Continue Reading →

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