U.S. Congress

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Commentary: Our Enemy Is ISIS, Not Refugees Fleeing ISIS


ast Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to make it almost impossible for people from Syria and Iraq, fleeing the brutality of ISIS and Bashar al-Assad, to find refuge in the United States. It is worth reflecting on what this means for our country. Just a few weeks ago the world came together, stunned and heartbroken over the image of a three-year-old Syrian child’s lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach. His tragic death focused our attention on the desperate plight of so many Syrians who have fled the horror of ISIS and Assad’s army. We called it the humanitarian issue of our day. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Welch’s Stance Against Corn Ethanol


hen a Washington-based lobbying outfit started airing television ads in Vermont that attack Rep. Peter Welch because he wants to scale back federal support for corn ethanol, the erstwhile Vermonter in me took offense. It has been a few years since I lived in Vermont, but I was born in Burlington, grew up in Essex Junction, and graduated from Essex High. I now live near Boston, but I’ll probably always consider myself a Vermonter and I think I still have a working sense of what Vermonters value. Related:

Welch responds to attack ad

Vermonters value follow-through, which partly explains Rep. Welch’s skepticism about the Renewable Fuel Standard, a federal law that effectively requires Americans to put billions of gallons of biofuel into our cars each year. The policy is sustained mainly by Iowa’s peculiar role in presidential politics and by the corn ethanol lobby, which has a history of big claims and poor follow-through. 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

From left, Rep. Peter Welch, Attorney General William Sorrell and Human Services Secretary Hal Cohen.

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

Sen. Patrick Leahy sits inside the Pro Tem's office in the Capitol in this April 2013 photo. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

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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Scott, Lisman oppose efforts to defund Planned Parenthood

Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, reacts after she was called for a rules violation during her filibusters of an abortion bill, Tuesday, June 25, 2013, in Austin, Texas. Davis was given a second warning for breaking filibuster rules. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

MONTPELIER — The two Republicans facing off in a 2016 primary for the GOP’s gubernatorial nomination say they do not stand with Republicans in Washington seeking to nix federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, the state’s only statewide, elected Republican official, said he did not follow Tuesday’s congressional hearing led by House Republicans with Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards but is aware of Republican-led efforts to defund the national organization. Scott said Wednesday he supports the health services the group provides to women. “I’m pro-choice. I always have been and I believe that Planned Parenthood provides very important health services that go far beyond abortions for women,” he said. Continue Reading →

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Trailing Bernie: Endorsements, Black Lives and helicopters


ermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has lost out on a key endorsement in Iowa to rival Hillary Clinton. Former liberal Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin announced his support for Clinton, the former first lady, secretary of state and New York senator, in an op-ed published Thursday by the Des Moines Register. As The Associated Press reported, Harkin called Clinton a “fighter who has a record of getting things done.” He went on to note that Clinton “has devoted her career to championing the needs of children” and been a “tireless advocate for women and families.”
The Harkin endorsement of Clinton comes as Sanders’ surge in Iowa has appeared to slow. An average of recent Iowa polls calculated by realclearpolitics.com shows Clinton’s support in Iowa at 55 percent. Sanders, meanwhile, is averaging 19.4 percent. Continue Reading →

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Trailing Bernie: In defense of the nation state


zra Klein, the liberal blogger of Vox, recently had one of the more complete and telling interviews with Sen. Bernie Sanders. Vox posted the lengthy transcript online earlier this week. (It can be read at bit.ly/1JrYY7O). One exchange is getting a lot of media attention. Ezra Klein: You said being a democratic socialist means a more international view. 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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