Hectic week for Sanders in Washington

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(Host) It’s been a hectic week for Senator elect Bernie Sanders and Congressman elect Peter Welch in Washington.

Both individuals are attending numerous meetings as part of Congress’s orientation session for new members.

In the first of two reports, Bob Kinzel looks at how the week has gone for Bernie Sanders.

(Kinzel) Usually as Vermont’s sole member of the U.S. House, Bernie Sanders schedule in Washington is quite busy. But his aides say they’ve never seen anything like this week.

Sanders has two major focuses this week. The first is his work in the House. Sanders is closely following a number of key bills during this lame duck session including a bill to expand wilderness areas in the Green Mountain National Forest.

The second focus is a crowded series of meetings that are part of the formal orientation process for new members of the Senate.

(Sanders) “It is quite crazy because on one hand I’m still a United States Congressman and I have to among other things pay attention to this Wilderness bill and the other responsibilities that go with being in Congress. But right now we have gone to a number of orientation meetings in a wide variety of areas just learning how the Senate functions which is not quite so simple as people might think.”

(Kinzel) Sanders says one of the biggest differences between the House and the Senate is the ability of an individual Senator to offer an amendment on any bill.

In the House, the Rules Committee must approve all amendments and there were many times when the committee rejected an effort by Sanders to amend a particular piece of legislation:

(Sanders) “Any senator can play a role on any piece of legislation, which is very different from the House. And right now in the next 6 weeks, I and my staff are going to be learning everything that we can in order to become as effective as we can. But there’s just an enormous amount to learn.”

(Kinzel) When the House considered the wilderness bill on Wednesday and gave its strong support to the bill, Sanders rushed back to floor to urge his colleagues to vote for the plan.

(Sanders) “Mr. Speaker I can tell you throughout the whole undertaking one message was very clear: designating wilderness areas in the state of Vermont has the overwhelming support of the vast majority of the people in my state.”

(Kinzel) One of Sanders’ colleagues, West Virginia Rep. Nick Rahall, took the opportunity to tease Sanders about his election to the Senate.

(Rahal) “Mr. Speaker I now yield such time as he may consume to our distinguished colleague from New Hampshire and again Vermont I’m sorry and again congratulate him on his descent I mean ascension into the other body the gentlemen from Vermont is recognized for as much time as he may consume.”

(Kinzel) Sanders will be formally sworn into office at the beginning of January.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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