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State officials: GOP health plan could have dire consequences

MONTPELIER — Vermont’s top health care officials on Friday detailed dire consequences, including the loss of as much as $200 million in annual federal funding, if the Republican health care plan proposed in Congress is enacted. Agency of Human Services Secretary Al Gobeille, along with Department of Vermont Health Access Commissioner Cory Gustafson and Director of Health Care Reform Mary Kate Mohlman briefed reporters on the impact the American Health Care Act, or Trumpcare, as some have taken to calling it, will have on Vermonters. Gobeille said the trio were not advocating for or against the proposal, but they had few positive points to make about the GOP proposal. President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress campaigned heavily in last fall’s election on repealing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The plan introduced earlier this week by Republicans in Congress seeks to do that. Continue Reading →

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Welch pitches prescription bill to Trump

MONTPELIER — Rep. Peter Welch met with President Donald Trump Wednesday to pitch legislation aimed at lower prescription drug prices. The Oval Office meeting inside the White House was attended by Welch, Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Dr. Redonda G. Miller, president of the Johns Hopkins Hospital. The trio met with Trump to pitch a bill that would allow the secretary of the Agency of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare Part D beneficiaries. Current law prohibits the federal government from doing so under a provision known as the “non-interference clause.”

Welch, a Democrat, said the legislation would eliminate the non-interference clause and direct the secretary to negotiate lower prices with drug manufacturers and create a formulary to further leverage the purchasing power of the federal government. “President Trump promised lower drug prices for Americans getting crushed by unjustifiable and exorbitant increases in the price of prescription drugs,” Welch said following the White House meeting. Continue Reading →

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Scott administration concerned with GOP health care bill in Washington

MONTPELIER — Vermont’s top health care official says the Scott administration is working quickly to assess the impact a GOP health care plan in Washington would have on the state if enacted. Agency of Human Services Secretary Al Gobeille said his team is reviewing the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare. At first glance, Gobeille said, the plan could have significant negative impacts on Vermonters. After years of failed attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare during former Democratic President Barack Obama’s tenure, the GOP now controls both chambers in Congress and the presidency. President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress campaigned on dumping the sweeping health care reform law Democrats enacted early in Obama’s presidency, and now the GOP has put forth a plan to do so. Continue Reading →

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Vermont delegation pressures Sessions

MONTPELIER — Vermont’s congressional delegation joined a growing chorus of Democratic voices Thursday raising questions about U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session’s meetings with a Russian diplomat during last year’s presidential campaign. Sessions, a former senator from Alabama, told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year during his confirmation hearings that he did not have contact with any Russian government officials. But Sessions has since acknowledged meeting with the Russian ambassador to the United States twice during the presidential campaign when he served as a surrogate and adviser to President Donald Trump. Sessions was already under fire from Democrats over his refusal to recuse himself from a Department of Justice probe into Russian meddling in the presidential election between Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Late Thursday afternoon, after top Republican lawmakers joined the call for recusal, the attorney general complied. Continue Reading →

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Welch to bring Iraqi interpreter to Trump’s address to Congress

MONTPELIER — U.S. Rep. Peter Welch is planning to bring an Iraqi national who served as an interpreter for the U.S. military to Republican President Donald Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday. Trump will deliver his first address to Congress — and the nation — inside the U.S. Capitol Tuesday night as his immigration policies continue to reverberate in Washington and across the country. Welch, a Democrat, has invited Ahmed Alsaeedi, an Iraqi from Baghdad who served as an interpreter for the U.S Army and now lives in Burlington, to be his personal guest at the speech. Many of Welch’s colleagues in Congress are also extending invitations to former interpreters and others who assisted the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan. Welch said he thought to invite Alsaeedi after a recent meeting they had and “my horror at the executive order, including in its original form, that it would have cut off access to safety” for people like Alsaeedi. Continue Reading →

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Milne ad: Leahy has a sickness

MONTPELIER — Republican Scott Milne has released his first video ad against longtime U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, but the ad will only run online and not on television. Milne, the Republican who nearly toppled Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin in the 2014 gubernatorial race, has struggled to gain traction against Leahy, who is seeking his eighth term in Washington. Milne’s campaign has largely focused his campaign on attacking Leahy for being a “career politician.” Until this week he did not even have an issues section on his campaign website. In the 30-second video ad, Milne continues his assault on Leahy’s longevity in Washington. “Career Politician Patrick Leahy has caught the bug. Continue Reading →

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Minter, Leahy launch general election ads

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 1:15 p.m.

MONTPELIER — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sue Minter is on the airwaves with her first general election television ad, while Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy has launched his first two television ads of the Senate campaign. Minter, a former secretary of the Agency of Transportation, launched an ad Tuesday that looks to highlight her management skills. It focuses on her work helping the state recover from Tropical Storm Irene and and serving on President Barack Obama’s Climate Preparedness and Resilience Task Force. A narrator lays out what Minter’s goals as governor will be. “As Governor, Sue Minter will make sure our children can stay and succeed here in Vermont with affordable education and livable wage jobs, a governor who will put Vermont families first,” the narrator says. 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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