ThinkFast: December 9, 2009

Cantor and Boehner

The House GOP leadership “met with more than 100 lobbyists at the Capitol Visitors Center” yesterday to strategize about how to kill financial reform legislation. One lobbyist who attended the meeting told the press that “the message was…the Democratic majority are ruining America, ruining capitalism.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said yesterday there is “broad agreement” regarding the dispute over the public option. The plan reportedly “would sideline but not kill the ‘public option.'” The Office of Personnel Management “would negotiate with insurance companies to offer national health benefit plans” but the government would offer a plan if the private plans are not affordable.

In testimony before Congress, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, predicted the surge would “absolutely” bring success. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry was more measured in his predictions. “In spite of everything we do, Afghanistan may struggle to take over the essential task of governance and security on a timely basis,” he said.

President Hamid Karzai said yesterday that “Afghanistan would not be able to pay for its own security until at least 2024,” highlighting his government’s long-term financial dependence on the U.S. and NATO, “even as President Obama has pledged to begin withdrawing American troops in 2011.” “It will be some time before Afghanistan is able to sustain its security forces entirely on its own,” Karzai said. 

Despite signs of recovery, “Americans have grown gloomier about both the economy and the nation’s direction over the past three months,” a new poll shows. “Half the country” said they are “planning to spend less on gifts than last year,” and “few buyers [are] willing to run up credit-card debt for Christmas.”

The United Kingdom’s chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistar Darling, is expected to announce a new tax on bank bonuses today. The “tax represents the most direct attack on bank bonuses anywhere in the world.”

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley “easily captured the Democratic nomination for the US Senate last night,” setting up a showdown with state Senator Scott P. Brown, who won the Republican nomination, to fill the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s seat. Coakley is the first woman nominated by a major party for the US Senate in Massachusetts.

Yesterday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood revealed details of the Obama administration’s “plan to take over safety regulation of the nation’s subway and light-rail systems, a proposal that would give federal authorities the power to bring lawsuits and seek criminal sentences.” The plan is expected to cost “well under” $100 million and could triple or quadruple the number of safety monitors across the nation.

Yesterday, the Senate rejected Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D-NE) amendment that would have strengthened restrictions for federal funding of abortions. Nelson “had indicated that he could support a Republican filibuster of the healthcare reform bill if the abortion language were not added to it.”

And finally: Celebrate the “Eight Days of Hanukkah” with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

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