ThinkFast: May 7, 2009

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"ThinkFast: May 7, 2009"

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The White House will announce a plan to cut 121 government programs amounting to a savings of $17 billion from the federal budget. Budget analysts predicted the cuts will be a tough sell. “Even if you got all of those things, it would be saving pennies, not dollars. And you’re not going to begin to get all of them,” said Brookings Institution economist Isabel Sawhill.

After Maine became the fifth state to legalize marriage equality yesterday, RNC chairman Michael Steele released this statement: “I believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman and strongly disagree with Maine’s decision to legalize gay marriage.” His comments put him at odds with Maine’s two Republican senators, who believe the issue should be left up to the states.

Following a series of gay rights victories in the states, President Obama “is under pressure to engage on a variety of gay issues that are coming to the fore amid a dizzying pace of social, political, legal and legislative change.” On Monday, some gay rights leaders met with top White House officials, “to plot legislative strategy on the hate crimes bill as well as ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.'”

“Democratic centrists are pressing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to set aside” climate change legislation in order to focus on health care reform, which they think is “a more achievable goal.” But people close to Pelosi told The Hill that “she is charging forward on cap-and-trade legislation, despite the potential defections of Democrats.”

A new poll from Hays Research in Anchorage, Alaska says Gov. Sarah Palin (R) now has 54 percent positive rating in her state. That’s down from 86 percent a year ago and 59.8 percent on March 24.

[T]he big bailouts for the banks may be over,” as the results from the government’s stress tests “so far seem to suggest that the 19 institutions that underwent these exams will need less than $100 billion in additional equity to cope with a deep recession, far less than some investors had feared.”

Though Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) has suggested limiting the tax break for employee health benefits — which tend to skew to people with the highest incomes — Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) said there was “no way” he would agree with such a move. But as the New York Times notes, Rangel “did not suggest any specific way to finance coverage for more than 45 million people now uninsured.”

Speaking to Marines in Afghanistan yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that there are “no plans to deploy U.S. ground troops to Pakistan.” As Gates put it, the troops don’t have to “worry about going to Pakistan.”

In an interview with the Washington Times, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Daniel Inouye (D-HI) “vowed to restore funding President Obama requested to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.” “It’s going to be in the bill,” Inouye said, adding, “Something like this should be resolved in the conference.”

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) sent a letter this week to Attorney General Eric Holder to “name a special prosecutor or an independent commission to investigate torture.” Schakowsky wrote, “There is mounting evidence that the Bush Administration systematically implemented, from the top down, detainee interrogation policies that constitute torture or otherwise violate the law.”

And finally: Yesterday, “America’s Next Top Model” judge and photographer Nigel Barker interviewed Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) for a “documentary he’s filming with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.” Before the interview, Lowey reportedly asked the crew “not to film her tennis shoes, which she feared weren’t especially fashion-forward. But Barker disagreed, telling Lowey that ‘they look like Prada.'” Barker later told Roll Call that the all-black shoes were “all the rage in Europe,” and she could “bring the look to Congress.”

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