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ThinkFast: February 25, 2009

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"ThinkFast: February 25, 2009"

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Today, Republicans in Congress “are expected to deliver a daylong rant…against Democratic spending legislation.” However, “the bill is loaded with thousands of pet projects that Republican lawmakers inserted,” such as $142,500 for emergency repairs for a museum in Austin and $1.425 million for Nevada “statewide bus facilities.” The top two Republicans appropriators “also inserted local projects.”

A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll conducted last night found that 68 percent of those who watched President Obama’s speech to Congress “had a very positive reaction, with 24 percent indicating that they had a somewhat positive response and 8 percent indicating that they had a negative reaction.”

Despite the fact that the Employee Free Choice Act has not been introduced yet, labor groups are still confident they can pass the measure. The Chamber of Commerce, however, believes its efforts to block or slow the legislation are paying off. A spokesperson for the group said yesterday the delay “definitely represents a major loss of momentum in this legislation.”

Right-wing activists are launching a “preemptive campaign” against Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) for HHS Secretary. The group, named Operation Rescue, says that Sebelius, a Roman Catholic, is “the most rabidly pro-abortion governor” in the country.

Yesterday, Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, told a House subcommittee that the taxpayer bailout “is vulnerable to fraud that could potentially cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars. … He also said fewer than 5% of banks receiving government aid have responded to a request about what they have done with their bailout money.”

Captain Chesley Sullenberger, the “hero of the Hudson,” told Congress yesterday, “My pay has been cut 40%, my pension, like most airline pensions, has been terminated.” “I am worried that the airline piloting profession will not be able to continue to attract the best and the brightest,” he said.

The housing crisis is hitting military families particularly hard, according to real estate agents and service member advocacy groups.” Soldiers who bought homes during the boom, but must relocate because of new orders are “faced with selling their homes at a big loss,” which is “leaving some families facing options including renting at a loss, separation from their loved ones or, in some cases, foreclosure.”

“More than 770 companies and interest groups hired an estimated 2,340 lobbyists to influence federal policy on climate change in the past year,” according to an analysis of Senate lobbying forms by the Center for Public Integrity. That number represents a 300 percent increase in the number of global warming lobbyists since 2003.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court “affirmed federal efforts to bar those convicted of crimes involving domestic violence from owning guns.” In a 7 to 2 decision, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained that “Congress might have been inartful in drafting the 1996 law, but its intentions and underlying concerns were clear: ‘Firearms and domestic strife are a potentially deadly combination nationwide.’”

And finally: Lawmakers were a-Twitter last night during President Obama’s address to the Joint Session of Congress. One of the most curious came from Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX). Dana Milbank notes that “at about the time the president spoke of the need to pull the country together,” Barton wrote, “Aggie basketball game is about to start on espn2 for those of you that aren’t going to bother watching pelosi smirk for the next hour.” A few minutes later, however, another message went out: “Disregard that last Tweet from a staffer.”

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