ThinkFast: July 1, 2010

The Obama administration launched a new health care reform website yesterday that provides information to the public on “the full range of public and private health insurance plans” that fits their specific circumstances. Mandated by the health reform law, the site will show users how their options “will change in coming years” as the law takes effect.

For the third time in as many weeks, Senate Republicans yesterday “successfully filibustered a bill to continue providing unemployment checks to millions of people who have been collecting benefits for more than six months.” While two Republicans voted for the measure, Democrats were one vote short of the 60 needed to end the filibuster. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) was the lone Democrat to vote against the bill.

NATO and coalition forces killed in Afghanistan reached 102 in June, “the war’s highest monthly toll and approaching some of the deadliest months in the Iraq war.” The deaths included a record 59 Americans. The Pentagon attributed the increase to expanded military operations against the Taliban. “My sense is that the tough fighting will continue,” top commander Gen. David Petraeus said.

“The Senate on Wednesday unanimously confirmed Gen. David Petraeus as the new commander of the Afghanistan war,” following Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s resignation. “Gen. Petraeus is a pivotal part of our effort to succeed in Afghanistan — and in our broader effort to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaida — and he has my full confidence,” said Obama of Petraeus.

The House voted 237-192 to pass Congress’s financial regulatory reform bill last night, with only three Republicans voting to support it. “It’s about diminishing the free-enterprise system,” said Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) of the reforms. “It’s about creating larger government that will encroach upon every single one of us and ultimately crush us.”

BP has been trying to shut down an internal safety watchdog agency it set up under congressional pressure four years ago,” CNN reports. The Ombudsman Program “was set up to hear BP workers’ safety concerns,” but sources tell CNN that “BP doesn’t like having independent investigators pursuing those complaints.” A union representative said “some workers who complained have faced retaliation.”

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) told The Hill that “he would ‘absolutely’ seek to keep greenhouse gas limits alive in a House-Senate conference if the Senate approves energy legislation this summer that omits carbon provisions.” “It would be open in conference to consider because our bill has it,” said Waxman. “I would hope we can put a price on carbon.”

“A bipartisan contingent of freshman and sophomore lawmakers is pushing House appropriators to cut the salaries of lawmakers” by 5 percent — or $8,700 — each next year. The effort, led by Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), would “save taxpayers $4.7 million” and “comes more than a month after Congress voted and President Barack Obama signed a measure to freeze congressional pay for 2011.”

President Obama will try to “rally new momentum” behind a push for comprehensive immigration reform in a speech today at American University School of International Service, his first on the issue while in office. The address follows “back-to-back meetings Obama had with advocates and lawmakers at the White House this week.”

And finally: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) questions Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan on the “famous case of Edward v. Jacob, or The Vampire v. The Werewolf.”

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