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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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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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Donovan offers advice on immigration issues

MONTPELIER— Vermont Attorney General T. J. Donovan issued guidance to local municipalities Monday aimed at helping them address legal issues regarding immigration that have emerged since Republican President Donald Trump issued a series of executive orders dealing with immigration and border security earlier this year. The memo to Vermont cities and towns released by Donovan on Monday provides background information on existing state and federal laws and explains the consequences of violating them. A number of towns across the state will consider new immigration policies Tuesday at their Town Meeting Day gatherings. Adopting so-called sanctuary status, meaning local communities would flout federal immigration law, could have consequences, he said. One of the president’s January executive orders threatens to eliminate federal money for localities that violate federal immigration law. 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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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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Scott: Trump looking to tone down immigration rhetoric

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott said he believes Republican President Donald Trump is looking to walk back his rhetoric on immigration after attending meetings with the president on Sunday and Monday. Scott was in Washington, D.C., over the weekend and into Monday for a National Governors Association meeting. Scott attended the annual Governor’s Ball at the White House on Sunday evening, as well as a meeting at the White House with the president Monday morning. The White House events were a first for Scott, who told reporters last week that he had never before visited the famed building, even as a tourist. Scott has emerged as one of the president’s most vocal critics when it comes to immigration policy among the Republican governors. Continue Reading →

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