ThinkFast: January 30, 2009

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"ThinkFast: January 30, 2009"

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President Obama chastised Wall Street executives yesterday for distributing over $18 billion in bonuses in 2008. “That is the height of irresponsibility. … There will be time for them to make profits, and there will be time for them to make bonuses. Now is not that time,” Obama said.

In a USA Today op-ed, Vice President Biden announced that he will “lead a task force on the middle class” that will make sure that the benefits of economic growth “reach the people responsible for it.” Working with the Education, Commerce, Labor and HHS secretaries, Biden’s task force will examine ways “to raise the living standards of middle-class families.”

Today, Exxon Mobil “reported a profit of $45.2 billion for 2008, breaking its own record for a U.S. company, even as its fourth-quarter earnings fell 33 percent from a year ago.” Exxon’s previous record was $40.6 billion in 2007.

President Obama has approached Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) about becoming commerce secretary, “a step that could open the way to significant shift in the balance of power in Congress” as New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, would most likely to pick a Democrat to replace Gregg. Though Gregg refused to comment on the discussions, his office confirmed that he had been approached.

In a 66-32 vote yesterday, the Senate voted to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program by $32.8 billion over the next 4 1/2 years. As the AP notes, “Nine Republicans joined 57 Democrats in voting for the bill. No Democrat voted against it.” The bill now heads to the House.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) has said he will “use all legal means available to confiscate Wall Street bonuses paid out at the end of last year.” Dodd said the bonuses “are unacceptable at a time when the government is pouring tens of billions of dollars into banks to shore up the ailing financial market.”

The chief judge at the Guantanamo Bay war court declined President Obama’s request to freeze military commissions, “saying he would go forward with next month’s arraignment of an alleged USS Cole bomber in a capital terror case.” The other two Gitmo war court judges had granted military prosecutors “four-month delays so the new administration could study detainees’ files and its legal options.”

After voting for the economic recovery package, Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) “said he was concerned about the bill’s inclusion of an extra $20 billion for food stamps.” Progress Illinois reminds Lipinski of the stimulative effect of food stamps.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland yesterday Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan “stormed off a stage” after criticizing Israeli President Shimon Peres for his country’s invasion of Gaza. Peres blamed the violence on Hamas while Erdogan accused Israel of “turning Gaza into a prison and killing 1,300 Palestinians.”

Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen said defense budget cuts may target spending on weapons. Mullen said he expects the entire federal government will come under pressure for budget cuts and “the Department of Defense is going to have to do its share. … It’s important for all of us in defense to look realistically at what our requirements are.”

And finally: President Obama plans to have a bipartisan congressional get-together for Super Bowl Sunday. Invitees include Steelers fan Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA) — who’s going to bring some “Eat’n Park Cookies” — and Arlen Specter (R-PA) — who’s still deciding whether or not he can come. Obama also invited Cardinals fans Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who have both declined.

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