U.S. Congress

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Leahy joins filibuster effort against SCOTUS nominee

MONTPELIER — Sen. Patrick Leahy joined with most of his fellow Democrats in the Senate Monday and announced he will support a filibuster against President Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. The Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Leahy is a senior member, voted 11-9 along party lines Monday to send Judge Neil Gorsuch’s name to the full Senate for confirmation later this week. But Leahy, and several other Democrats, announced their intention Monday to oppose what’s known as a cloture vote in the Senate. A cloture vote requires a threshold of at least 60 votes to end debate and move to a confirmation vote on the Senate floor. At least 41 Democratic senators now say they will not vote for cloture, meaning majority Republicans will not be able to confirm Gorsuch in the traditional manner. Continue Reading →

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Revised immigration order still draws criticism

MONTPELIER— Republican President Donald Trump’s revised executive order on immigration has failed to win over Vermont’s congressional delegation, while Gov. Phil Scott says he is encouraged that it is more narrowly crafted but remains concerned with other elements of Trump’s immigration policy. The president signed a new executive order at the White House on Monday without fanfare — or the press — that replaces another one signed in late January that was part of a series of orders dealing with immigration and border security. The original executive order prevented citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days and prevented all refugees from entering for a period of 120 days. The original order singled out Syrians for an indefinite ban. That original order was challenged in federal court and stayed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, essentially preventing the administration from carrying out the goals of the order. Continue Reading →

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Delegation vows to fight refugee ban

MONTPELIER — Vermont’s congressional delegation is promising to stand up to a presidential executive order that will halt the arrival of Syrian refugees in Vermont and stop people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for at least 90 days. President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday afternoon indefinitely barring Syrians from entering the country and suspends all immigrants from entering the country for 120 days. Meanwhile, citizens of seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen are forbidden to the enter the U.S. for 90 days. People from those countries, as well as students, tourists and even those with legal permanent status in the U.S., were stopped at airports beginning Friday and prevented from entering the country. Some were sent back overseas. Continue Reading →

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Leahy chooses leadership role in Appropriations

MONTPELIER — U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy is giving up his ranking member status on the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of a leadership role on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Leahy, currently the Senate’s longest-serving member, announced his decision to his staff Wednesday morning, according to spokesman David Carle. “The results of this election have reshaped the policymaking landscape in Washington and show the need for checks and balances, now that one party controls the White House as well as both houses of Congress,” Leahy said in a statement. “There are many challenges ahead. Against this new backdrop, I have decided that I will best be able to represent Vermonters’ voices, and reflect Vermont values and ideals, as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.”

Leahy turned down an opportunity in 2012 to become chairmen of the Appropriations Committee after the death of Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye, but chose to remain at the helm of Judiciary. Continue Reading →

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Sanders launches final push to derail Senate GMO bill

MONTPELIER — Sen. Bernie Sanders is launching a final push to derail legislation in the U.S. Senate that would nullify Vermont’s landmark GMO labeling law and replace it with a national law that opponents say undermines efforts to mandate the labeling of genetically modified foods. Sanders distributed a letter Thursday to his Democratic colleagues in the Senate outlining why the legislation crafted by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, is insufficient. He is also appealing to the full Senate membership to support an amendment that would replace the Senate bill with Vermont’s law on a national scale. “The Roberts-Stabenow bill will undermine the strong GMO labeling law that went into effect on July 1st in Vermont. It will also undermine the efforts of other states to label GMOs. Continue Reading →

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Senators reach bipartisan deal on national GMO labeling law

MONTPELIER — A bipartisan deal has been reached by two key members of the U.S. Senate’s Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee on a national GMO labeling law that would nullify Vermont’s labeling law set to take effect on July 1. The compromise bill was announced by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., the Agriculture Committee’s ranking member, and its chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas. The legislation would create the first mandatory, nationwide label for food products containing genetically modified organisms that are commonly referred to as GMOs. “This bipartisan agreement is an important path forward that represents a true compromise. Since time is of the essence, we urge our colleagues to move swiftly to support this bill,” the two lawmakers said in a joint statement. Continue Reading →

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U.S. Senate fails to block Vermont food labeling law

MONTPELIER — Vermont lawmakers, both here and in the nation’s capital, are celebrating a failed attempt at the federal level to nullify the state’s food labeling bill. On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate failed to come up with enough votes for a bill that would prohibit state’s such as Vermont from enacting laws requiring food manufacturers to disclose ingredients that include genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who led the charge against the proposed federal legislation, celebrated the vote. “This was a hard-fought victory for Vermont, on our state’s right to honor Vermonters’ right to know what’s in the food they buy,” Leahy said. “Our defense of Vermont’s law has been fought with skill and determination in the courts, under the leadership of Governor Shumlin and others, and in the Congress.”

Leahy was joined by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Continue Reading →

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Vermont’s congressional delegation backs SCOTUS nominee

MONTPELIER — Vermont’s congressional delegation is strongly backing President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee and urging the GOP to abandon its promise to prevent the confirmation process from taking place. Obama announced the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, chief judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, at the White House Wednesday. Garland, 63, is seen as a moderate, consensus pick, but faces extreme opposition from Republicans in the Senate who believe the next president should be the one to nominate a justice. The president did his best Wednesday to undermine the Republican position. “I have fulfilled my constitutional duty. Continue Reading →

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Sanders reverses position on gun liability

MONTPELIER — Sen. Bernie Sanders plans to co-sponsor legislation in the Senate that would remove blanket immunity for gun makers, a reversal from Sanders’ original vote in Congress that his Democratic presidential primary rival Hillary Clinton has used against him. Sanders, who is running neck-and-neck with Clinton in Iowa and leading her in New Hampshire, voted for a law in 2005 that shields gun manufacturers from liability in gun deaths. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., introduced legislation this week to repeal that blanket immunity and allow shooting victims to sue. Sanders’ Senate office confirmed Thursday that he will co-sponsor the bill. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Four Years After Irene, Renewal In Waterbury

his past August, we marked the four year anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene. Memories of communities besieged by flood waters, houses knocked from their foundations and families forever changed are still fresh for each of us, and for so many other Vermonters. But just as Vermont rebuilt from the historic 1927 floods, Vermonters have pulled together to build back stronger, smarter and better after Irene. This has required new and creative thinking, and significant collaboration between communities, the State of Vermont and the federal government. Nowhere in Vermont is that story better told than in Waterbury. Continue Reading →

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