ThinkFast: February 19, 2010

Kathleen Sebelius

Eighteen Democratic senators have signed onto a letter urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to pass the public option through reconciliation. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that, if the Senate decides to bring the matter up for a vote, the administration would back the effort.

The New York Times reports that “virtually every state” is considering making deep cuts to Medicaid to deal with their respective budget crises. “For most states, the fiscal situation is still dire, and the Medicaid cuts are significant,” said Scott D. Pattison, executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers.

A new government report on our “broken health care system” details how “insurance companies prosper” as “Americans suffer,” underscoring the urgency of reform. Profits for the 10 largest insurance companies “increased 250 percent between 2000 and 2009, ten times faster than inflation,” and “the CEOs of America’s five largest insurers were each compensated up to $24 million in 2008.”

U.N. nuclear inspectors publicly suggested for the first time yesterday that Iran “is actively seeking to develop a weapons capability.” The report, which “also confirmed that Iran has increased the enrichment level of some of its uranium,” puts the watchdog agency “nearly in sync with Western intelligence agencies that think Iran has restarted secret warhead research that had been halted in 2003.”

North Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham is “seeking to make reform of the filibuster an issue in his campaign.” In an e-mail to supporters, Cunningham decried how the filibuster “empowers a few dozen obstructionists” to “effectively guarantee the special interest groups get their way.” “It’s time to end the filibuster in its current form,” wrote Cunningham.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told the press yesterday that Democrats have been unable to get any Republican support for their Senate jobs bill. “I don’t think anyone has committed to voting for the package, but there are a number of people who say they are interested in looking at it,” said Schumer.

President Obama will reportedly announce a new housing initiative during an appearance in Las Vegas today on behalf of Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). Senior administration officials tell the New York Times that the White House will use $1.5 billion from bank bailout funds to aid homeowners in five states.

Florida’s controversial law banning adoptions by gay couples has been receiving increased scrutiny as state child-welfare administrators are challenging a lesbian’s “adoption of a relative taken into foster care shortly after his birth.” “Instead of leaving this family alone, [the state] wants to break it up and is spending taxpayer dollars trying to do so,” said the woman’s attorney.

And finally: With Sarah Palin back in the spotlight, Tina Fey says that she will “try” to reprise her famous role as the former Alaska governor for Saturday Night Live. “We’ll see if it makes it to air,” she added.

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