ThinkFast: April 21, 2009


Congress is launching the “mother of all climate weeks” today, where 54 witnesses will “testify on climate change legislation in three full days before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.” Among the witnesses set to testify are former Vice President Al Gore, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The debate over health care reform is intensifying as liberals are warning their Democratic allies to resist caving. Recently, more than 70 House Democrats “warned party leaders that they will not support a broad health reform bill that does not offer consumers a government-sponsored policy, and two unions withdrew from a high-profile health coalition because it would not endorse a public plan.”

A new poll released yesterday found that 67 percent of Cuban-Americans “now support the removal of all restrictions for travel to Cuba, an 18-point increase from three years ago, when the same question was asked.” Despite the community’s “reputation for loyalty to Republicans, the poll found widespread approval for Mr. Obama,” with 67 percent having a favorable or somewhat favorable opinion.

House leaders in both parties were publicly mum” in the wake of a CQ report yesterday alleging that Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) “engaged in a quid pro quo with a suspected Israeli agent to advance her stature in Congress.” Further, “the Republican messaging machine, usually quick to churn out e-mails alerting reporters to every alleged ethical misstep by a Congressional Democrat, stayed silent on the news.”

Three Bush administration lawyers who signed the OLC torture memos — John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Steven Bradbury — “are the subjects of a coming report by the Justice Department’s ethics office that officials say is sharply critical of their work.” The office has the “power to recommend disbarment or other professional penalties or, less likely, to refer cases for criminal prosecution.”

As of 8 am ET this morning, more than 3,000 of you have taken action to urge the House Judiciary Committee to begin impeachment hearings against Jay Bybee. Please join our campaign by clicking here.

CongressDaily reports that, “despite criticism of earmarks by House Republican leaders during completion of the FY09 appropriations process,” many are still requesting them. Reps. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and Bill Young (R-FL) are among those in the Republican leadership still asking for and receiving millions in earmarks.

Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for the “speedy release” of Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, who has been convicted of spying by a court in Tehran. Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi has agreed to take up Saberi’s defense, and the head of Iran’s judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, has spoken out calling for a fair trial.

On Thursday, President Obama will meet with credit card executives “to tell them to support strict measures that curb lending abuses or face the wrath of angry consumers and a determined Congress.” Lawmakers are launching efforts “to crack down on credit card companies for such practices as arbitrarily raising interest rates on existing balances…and charging interest on debt that was paid on time.”

A TARP watchdog report said “the Treasury should take steps to better manage its financial-rescue effort so that taxpayer dollars are safeguarded and programs are more fraud-resistant, accountable and transparent.” The report also said the total bailout price tag could reach $3 trillion “when Federal Reserve loans, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. guarantees and private money are factored in.”

And finally: George W. Bush has “gone from commander-in-chief to chief pooper-scooper.” Speaking to an audience in China on Saturday, Bush recounted how he recently took his beloved Scottish terrier Barney on a walk — and brought along his own baggies to clean up the mess. “I was picking up what I had been dodging for eight years,” Bush said, “scoring laughs” from the crowd.

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