ThinkFast: March 22, 2010

Tens of thousands of people rallied in Washington, DC yesterday to push for comprehensive immigration reform. Immigrants and activists “filled five lengthy blocks of the Washington Mall,” where huge video screens displayed a videotaped message from President Obama pledging to “be your partner as we work to fix our broken immigration system.” View videos of the march here and here.

Because of tax credits included in last year’s stimulus package, more Americans will claim a larger tax refund from the federal government this year. “The average income tax refund is up nearly 10% from a year ago,” USA Today reports. “The Recovery Act is a major factor behind these larger, record refunds,” IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman said.

Speaking at a discussion during the opening day of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) said that sanctions against Iran to prevent it from seeking nuclear weapons are “unlikely to work” and that “we have to contemplate” using force against the country. “In the long run, you have to do what you have to do,” the senator said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will ask Israel to make “difficult but necessary choices” in order to establish a just peace with its Palestinian neighbors at the AIPAC conference. The Israeli leadership has refused to relent on American demands to end settlement expansion. “Building in Jerusalem is like building in Tel Aviv,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet yesterday.

Senate Republicans are planning “a wide assault” on Sen. Chris Dodd’s (D-CT) financial reform bill today when the Senate Banking Committee convenes to discuss the legislation. Reuters reports that “about 300 amendments from Republicans will seek to weaken or kill key provisions of legislation.”

Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke urged policy makers to address the “insidious” problem of “too big to fail” financial firms. “It is unconscionable that the fate of the world economy should be so closely tied to the fortunes of a relatively small number of giant financial firms,” Bernanke said at a community banking conference Saturday.

President Obama “plans to hit the road this week to start aggressively selling the benefits of the health care overhaul and give nervous Democratic lawmakers some political cover across the country,” CNN reports. “We’re certainly going to be out there,” said a Democratic official. “We think this is a tremendous step forward for individuals and small businesses. We want them to know what comes next.”

“In the jittery days” following the election of Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) urged President Obama to continue pushing for comprehensive health reform, in lieu of a trimmed down “piecemeal” approach favored by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, which she dubbed “Kiddie Care.”

Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) said that the health care bill passed last night is “the best tribute” that his father, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), “could ever have.” “I’m just proud to have been part of it,” said Kennedy. He also praised House Speaker Pelosi, saying “her voice was heard loud and clear when the votes were on the board.”

And finally: President Clinton threw punchy one-liners to the crowd of journalists at the annual Gridiron dinner in Washington, DC last night, poking fun at Al Gore, Dick Cheney, and even himself. Of Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, Clinton said, “I found Rahm. I created him. I made him what he is today. I am so sorry.”

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