ThinkFast: December 11, 2009

Sen. Ben Nelson

A small group of Senate moderates are vocally questioning a proposed expansion of Medicare, “complicating Majority Leader Harry Reid’s hopes of putting together a filibuster-proof majority for the legislation in the coming days.” “I wouldn’t be surprised if this thing does not become a viable option,” said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE). “I think it is going to be the lesser of the popular things, but I am keeping an open mind.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) endorsed the Medicare buy-in proposal, but “stopped short of embracing the broader contours” of a public option compromise worked out in the Senate earlier this week. Pelosi “reiterated that she would prefer” a robust public option, but said there is a “great deal of appeal” to expanding Medicare.

Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) yesterday released a “framework” for a bill to cap greenhouse gas emissions. While no specifics were outlined, the announcement “was intended to send a message to delegates in Copenhagen for international climate talks.”

The Chamber of Commerce “will hold up a controversial amendment slated for House debate on Thursday as a banner issue for its organization.” The amendment, proposed by Rep. Walt Minnick (D-ID), would cut the Consumer Financial Protection Agency from financial reform legislation and “replace it with a council of existing regulators.”

“Bowing to intense public pressure,” Goldman Sachs yesterday “scaled back plans to distribute at least $16 billion in year-end bonuses, stripping cash awards from members of its 30-person management committee in favor of restricted stock.” The executives will have to wait five years to sell the stock, and may have to relinquish it if they “if they engage in improper risk analysis.”

“Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the government is unlikely to recoup its investments” in American International Group, General Motors and Chrysler. While Geithner, testifying before the Congressional Oversight Panel, said conditions have improved, he warned the economy still faces “significant headwinds.”

Blackwater Worldwide’s private security guards participated in some of the CIA’s “most sensitive activities — clandestine raids with agency officers against people suspected of being insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and the transporting of detainees.” Former Blackwater guards said operations were so routine, the lines dividing the company and the CIA and U.S. military became blurred.

A U.N. sanctions committee expressed “grave concern” yesterday “about what it called apparent Iranian violations of a U.N. ban on arms exports, triggering a renewed threat” of sanctions against Tehran. “Iran has now been caught breaking the rules,” said Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “Such violations are unacceptable.”

The oil lobby which was caught photoshopping pictures of minorities into its anti-clean energy pamphlet is downsizing. The American Petroleum Institute plans to let go 15 percent of its 250-person staff,” replacing “those whose ‘skill sets’ are no longer in line with API’s mission with more technology-savvy staffers.”

And finally: The story behind Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) Chanukah song.

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