U.S. Congress

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Leahy chooses leadership role in Appropriations

Sen. Patrick Leahy

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

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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

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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

Judge Merrick Garland, chief judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, speaks at the White House Wednesday after he was announced as President Barack Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court. (Photo courtesy of Sen. Patrick Leahy)

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

Sen. Bernie Sanders

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

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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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Welch calls for debate on war authorization

Rep. Peter Welch

WASHINGTON — Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., has introduced bipartisan legislation to authorize military force against the so-called Islamic State. The legislation from Welch and co-sponsor Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., would pave the way for the United States to send troops into Syria and Iraq. Welch has long said Congress should debate the issue, rather than leaving it up to the White House alone. “Under the U.S. Constitution, it is the responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force,” Welch said Thursday. “Since August 8, 2014, when military action against ISIL began, Congress has been absent. Continue Reading →

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Food industry pushing to thwart GMO labeling by end of year

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Food companies are mounting an aggressive year-end push to head off mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods. The food industry wants the labeling to be voluntary, and it hopes to get a provision in a massive spending bill that Republicans and Democrats want to wrap up this week. If that becomes law, states could not require companies to disclose whether their products contain genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. The House passed similar legislation earlier this year, but the Senate has not yet acted. Even so, food companies and farm groups say Congress must step in before Vermont becomes the first state to require GMO labels next summer. Continue Reading →

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Vermont to receive $1.1 billion for highway projects

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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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