ThinkFast: September 29, 2009

Sens. John Kerry, Chuck Schumer, and Charles Grassley

The Senate Finance Committee will be voting on at least three versions of a public option as it reconvenes today. “The Senate floor is more favorable to the public option than the Finance Committee,” admitted Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), adding, “But we certainly want to begin the debate. … The more focus there is on the public option, the better it does.”

The New York Times reports on the “tenthers” –- “a small but growing group” of state lawmakers who are claiming that a federal requirement that nearly everyone buy insurance or pay a penalty is an intrusion on states’ rights. But, as former Senate Republican leader Bill Frist writes, the individual mandate is a critical element of health reform that would benefit all and achieve fairness.

“Abortion opponents in both the House and the Senate are seeking to block the millions of middle- and lower-income people who might receive federal insurance subsidies to help them buy health coverage from using the money on plans that cover abortion.” Abortion-rights supporters say proposed restrictions “would all but eliminate from the marketplace private plans that cover the procedure.”

Highlighting the work of ThinkProgress, Politico reports that “liberal allies of President Barack Obama” are hitting conservatives where it counts: their pockets. After resigning from his high-paying lobbying job following revelations of ties between his corporate clients and FreedomWorks, Dick Armey complains, “It was the best-paying job I ever had.”

“The recession has hit middle-income and poor families hardest, widening the economic gap between the richest and poorest Americans,” according to newly released Census figures. The wealthiest 10 percent of Americans “earned 11.4 times the roughly $12,000 made by those living near or below the poverty line in 2008.”

“The Obama administration is laying plans to cut Iran’s economic links to the rest of the world if talks this week over the country’s nuclear ambitions founder.” Though the White House is hopeful Iran will open its nuclear program for inspection, “they are prepared by year’s end to make it increasingly difficult for Iranian companies to ship goods around the world.”

Former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker told PBS’s Charlie Rose in an interview that the rise of China shows the decline of economic and intellectual leadership in the U.S. He also highlighted the danger of allowing China to own so much U.S. debt: “You cannot be dependent upon these countries for three to four trillion dollars of your debt and think that they’re going to be passive observers of whatever you do.”

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin “has finished her memoir just four months after the book deal was announced.” The 400-page book is titled “Going Rogue: An American Life.” “It’s her words, her life, and it’s all there in full and fascinating detail,” said the book publisher.

The proposed $626 billion Senate defense appropriations bill includes more than $2.65 billion in earmarks. Although the President Obama has pledged to fight “contractors and entrenched interests,” the Washington Post reports that the White House sent “a generally supportive message” to the Senate about the bill, “virtually ensuring that the earmarks will win final congressional approval.”

And finally: Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay made it to his second week on “Dancing with the Stars,” where he and partner Cheryl Burke took up the tango. DeLay received 18 out of 30 points, even though he nearly dropped Burke during the final dip. Watch it here.

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