Politics

ThinkFast: October 26, 2009

President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Following reports that President Obama was “actively discouraging Senate Democrats in their effort to include a public insurance option with a state opt-out clause as part of health care reform,” White House Deputy Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer wrote on the White House blog that “those rumors are absolutely false.” “President Obama completely supports” the Democratic leadership’s efforts, Pfeiffer wrote.

A new report from Thomson Reuters has found that the U.S. health care system wastes up to $800 billion ever year. “The average U.S. hospital spends one-quarter of its budget on billing and administration, nearly twice the average in Canada,” the report notes.

Democrats are discussing ways to speed up key benefits in the health reform bill to 2010, “eager to give the party something to show taxpayers for their $900 billion investment in an election year.” “We want to be able, within the cost framework and the implementation framework, to have as much start as early as possible, even though we know all of it can’t,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

Congress and the Obama administration are getting ready to address the issue of banking institutions that are “too big to fail.” A measure that could be introduced this week “would make it easier for the government to seize control of troubled financial institutions, throw out management, wipe out the shareholders and change the terms of existing loans held by the institution.”

Sen. Russ Feingold said Sunday during an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he is working with his colleagues to block any increase in U.S. troops levels in Afghanistan. “There will be resistance to [a troop increase] if necessary…We will do what we can to prevent this mistake,” the senator told host Bob Schieffer.

Abdullah Abdullah, the challenger to Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, “is considering boycotting the upcoming runoff if his demands are not met to remove the leaders of Afghanistan’s election commission who he believes are biased against him.” An Abdullah pull-out “could create a new political crisis and throw the legitimacy of any new government into question.”

Twin car bombs “devastated three government buildings,” killed at least 160 people, and wounded at least 540 more on Sunday in Baghdad, marking the deadliest attacks in Iraq since 2007. The blows were “aimed at destroying faith in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s ability to secure the country as the United States withdraws” ahead of January’s elections.

The Denver Post reports that simply by checking the “female” box when buying health insurance “is likely to cost extra — perhaps up to 50 percent more than a man would pay for the same coverage.” Federal health reform legislation would ban gender-rating and require maternity coverage.

The American Energy Alliance, a corporate-funded front group for Big Oil, is running ads against Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) because he has indicated support for clean energy legislation. Graham accused the AEA of lying. “People can say what they want to say,” Graham told McClatchy. “It’s a free country, but they can’t make stuff up.”

And finally: First Lady Michelle Obama went on The Jay Leno Show on Friday, where the host asked her about the President’s annoying habits. “He has no annoying habits, right Jay, none. He’s perfect,” Mrs. Obama said with a laugh. “But you know what, when he beats me in tennis that gets to be pretty annoying, and he beats me quite often.” Leno also asked her to name all the Brady Bunch children in under 10 seconds, which she did in eight.

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