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Welch makes DACA case to Trump

MONTPELIER — Vermont Rep. Peter Welch said he believes Republican President Donald Trump wants to ensure there is protected legal status for Dreamers after taking part in a bipartisan meeting with him Wednesday afternoon. Welch, a Democrat, met with Trump, senior staff and about 14 members of Congress Wednesday afternoon in the Cabinet Room inside the White House. The conversation was largely focused on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. The president recently rescinded an executive order issued by former Democratic President Barack Obama that protected from deportation young immigrants, known as Dreamers, who were brought into the country by their parents or guardians as children. Welch said he was able to share a personal moment with Trump after the meeting and shared the story of a University of Vermont medical student who has dedicated his life to cancer research in other of his mother, who died of cancer. Continue Reading →

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Vermont joins multi-state suit to preserve DACA

MONTPELIER — Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan has joined a multi-state suit that seeks to prevent President Donald Trump from rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that has protected young immigrants from deportation. The lawsuit, led by New York Attorney General Schneiderman, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York Wednesday afternoon. “We are going to continue to protect all Vermonters, including the 42 DREAMers here in this state,” Donovan said. The Republican president announced his intention to rescind the program, known as DACA, on Tuesday. It was created through an executive order by former President Barack Obama. Continue Reading →

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Vermont delegation wants legislation to protect DACA recipients

MONTPELIER — Vermont’s congressional delegation and the state’s Republican governor are condemning President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind an Obama-era program that protects young immigrants from deportation, and hoping Congress will act to keep them in the U.S.

The program was created through an executive order signed by former President Barack Obama in 2012. Until Tuesday, Trump went back and forth as a candidate and then as president on whether he would continue the program. The policy change initiated by Trump means that nearly 800,000 young immigrants who have been allowed to remain in the U.S. under the program, including 42 Vermonters, could face deportation after March 5, 2018. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Trump “has revealed he is as heartless as he is uninformed.”

“We live in an unprecedented time when our president seeks to divide us, not to unite us,” Leahy said in a statement. “He rallies his dwindling supporters by exploiting fear and resentment, marginalizing those who are vulnerable and even those who risk their lives for our country and communities. Continue Reading →

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Scott: State won’t seek armored vehicles, high-powered weapons from U.S. military

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott said the Vermont State Police will not be seeking any armored vehicles or other heavy-duty equipment from the U.S. military after President Donald Trump eased restrictions on police departments earlier this week. The Republican president signed an executive order Monday to fully reinstate a program that allows police departments to obtain surplus military gear from the Pentagon. The so-called 1033 Program was substantially scaled back by President Barack Obama in January 2015 after police in Ferguson, Missouri, responded to civil unrest with military-style gear in 2014. The Obama administration created a list of prohibited military equipment that police could no longer receive, including armored vehicles on tracks and other weaponized vehicles, rifles and ammunition of .50-caliber or higher, and grenade launchers. Another list of controlled equipment, such as aircraft, explosives and riot gear, required police agencies to show a specific need before it was handed over. Continue Reading →

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Trump signs disaster declaration

MONTPELIER — President Donald Trump has signed a major disaster declaration for Vermont following significant flooding earlier this year, qualifying the state for federal aid in recovery efforts, Gov. Phil Scott said Thursday. The public assistance disaster declaration by the Federal Emergency Management Agency will allow communities and public utilities in affected areas to receive 75 percent reimbursement from the federal government for storm response and recovery efforts, including debris removal and repairs to public infrastructure. The disaster declaration covers Addison, Bennington, Caledonia, Orange, Rutland, Washington and Windsor Counties. Significant flooding occurred following a period of heavy rain between June 29 and July 1. Scott asked FEMA to assess damage caused by the flooding on July 6. Continue Reading →

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AG Donovan reviewing request for voter information

MONTPELIER — Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan says his office is reviewing a request from President Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to determine if Secretary of State Jim Condos is required to provide information sought by the commission. The president launched the commission earlier this year after losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes to Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. Trump claimed that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally in the election, although that unsubstantiated claim has been widely panned by experts. Last week the commission requested personal voter information from all 50 states, including birthdates, drivers license numbers, parts of Social Security numbers and information about criminal records and military service. Condos initially said he would provide limited information that is already public record. Continue Reading →

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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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Scott signs immigration bill into law as Trump administration cracks down

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott, flanked by Democratic Attorney General T.J. Donovan and Democratic lawmakers, signed into law Tuesday a bill aimed at curbing the impacts of executive orders signed by President Donald Trump in January. The signing comes just a day after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced at the daily White House briefing a crackdown by the Trump administration on jurisdictions that do not honor requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain people they may want to take custody of. Such jurisdictions have been commonly referred to as sanctuary cities or states, but there is no legal definition of a sanctuary jurisdiction. The bill signed into law Tuesday, S.79, grants Scott as governor the sole authority to enter into agreements with the federal government to deputize local, county or state law enforcement personnel to enforce federal immigration law. Scott said the law is necessary because the president’s executive orders indicate “a shift in federal policy in the areas of immigration and border security.”

“The executive orders indicate the federal government will seek agreements and engage with the states to perform immigration enforcement functions that are the responsibility of the federal government. Continue Reading →

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Immigration issue splits House GOP caucus

MONTPELIER — The Vermont House advanced legislation aimed at preventing local law enforcement from participating in federal immigration enforcement in a vote that split the Republican caucus with half going against a popular governor from their own party. The bill, S.79, has been pushed by Republican Gov. Phil Scott, Democratic Attorney General T.J. Donovan and a tripartisan group of lawmakers in response to executive orders signed by President Donald Trump dealing with immigration and border security. It received preliminary approval in the House Tuesday on a 110-24 vote, with 24 Republicans voting against it. The bill originated in the Senate where it passed 30-0 and was unchanged by the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Chip Conquest, D-Newfane, the vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told his colleagues the legislation is “not about immigration” at the state level. 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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