ThinkFast: February 24, 2010

Van Jones is returning to the Center for American Progress as a Senior Fellow and leader of the new Green Opportunity Initiative. Jones — the target of an ongoing Glenn-Beck led smear campaign — resigned as the White House adviser on green jobs last September. Separately, the NAACP has announced that it will be presenting Jones with its President’s Award this Friday for his environmental justice work.

“Commercial banks and high-flying investment firms have shifted their political contributions toward Republicans in recent months amid harsh rhetoric from Democrats about fat bank profits, generous bonuses and stingy lending policies on Wall Street.” Commercial banks and their employees, for example, “returned to their traditional tilt in favor of the GOP after a brief dalliance with Democrats.”

Though he’s open to passing “good legislation” if “necessary” through the budget reconciliation process, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) “criticized a new White House provision that would give the federal government powers to hold down insurance premiums, saying that should be up to the states.” “I don’t think there’s a need for the federal government to step in on this,” Nelson told the Wall Street Journal.

Using reconciliation to pass health reform in the Senate “is gaining acceptance among moderate Democrats who have resisted the strategy but now say GOP opposition may force their hands.” There is also “growing momentum” in the House to coalesce around President Obama’s reform proposal with the view that “passing a flawed bill is better than passing none at all.”

A new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll has found that 67 percent of Americans think the GOP isn’t doing enough to cooperate with President Obama. 52 percent also say that Obama isn’t doing enough to encourage bipartisanship with the GOP.

Nearly a quarter of all mortgage borrowers were “underwater, meaning they owe more on their loans than their homes are worth.” 11.3 million homeowners — or 24 percent — were underwater by the end of 2009, up from 10.7 million three month earlier. In Nevada, 70 percent of all mortgaged properties were underwater.

The Senate is expected to scrap President Obama’s plan to preclude commercial banks from certain risky trading activities. The move to table the proposal — dubbed the “Volcker Rule” after former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker — marks “a setback for the administration’s bid to limit the size and scope of the largest U.S. banks.”

Senate Democrats “are pushing for a short-term extension of key provisions in the Patriot Act as part of a package of must-pass measures.” Republicans have thus far opposed “placing any new restrictions on the executive counter-terrorism powers and have blocked the Judiciary Committee’s version of the bill.”

With President Obama “largely silent on the issue,” states “are engaged in a new and largely successful push for expanded gun rights, even passing measures that have been rejected in the past.” For example, the Virginia General Assembly “approved a bill last week that allows people to carry concealed weapons in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.”

And finally: “Glee” is coming to the White House. First Lady Michelle Obama has invited the cast of the show “to perform at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday, April 5 — and, barring any last-minute glitches, they’re gonna do it!”

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