ThinkFast: July 28, 2010

The House voted 308-114 yesterday to approve “a major war-funding increase of $33 billion to pay for his surge in Afghanistan.” Twelve Republicans and 102 Democrats opposed the measure; last year, “32 Democrats opposed a similar midyear spending bill.” The vote came after the leak of classified documents on the Afghanistan war and now heads to President Obama for his signature.

800,000 gallons of oil have spilled “into a creek and flowed into the Kalamazoo River in southern Michigan, coating wildlife,” following a leak from a pipeline that goes from Indiana to Ontario. Rep. Mark Schauer (D-MI) said the spill is a “public health crisis” and plans to hold hearings on the issue.

A new Natural Resources Defense Council report has found that BP’s Gulf oil spill has not impacted the vast majority of the area’s beaches but is still keeping tourists away. Beach closures have been mainly limited to three areas of Louisiana while “[c]losures or advisories have been issued for 49 of 253 monitored beach sites in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.”

Ignoring a White House veto threat, the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee voted to add $450 million to the defense budget for a second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. Pat Garofalo notes, “Congress’ insistence on funding the wasteful program comes at the same time that deficit hysteria is preventing any and all measures to combat the Great Recession from easily moving on Capitol Hill.”

Two “leading economists wielding complex quantitative models” say they have “empirically proved” that government economic interventions under Presidents Bush and Obama saved the economy. In a new paper, they argue that without the Wall Street bailout, Federal Reserve lending, and Obama’s stimulus package, “the nation’s gross domestic product would be about 6.5 percent lower this year.”

The new financial regulation law contains a little-noticed provision that “grants the federal government broad new powers to compel financial firms to hire more women and minorities.” The precedent-setting diversity promotion effort is “drawing fire from Republicans who say it could lead to de facto hiring quotas.”

The Massachusetts Legislature approved a new bill yesterday “to bypass the Electoral College system” and ensure that the president-elect is “determined by the national popular vote.” Under the bill, which passed by 28 to 9, all of Massachusetts’ 12 electoral votes “would be awarded to the candidate who receives the most votes nationally.”

Yesterday, the Senate failed to invoke cloture on the DISCLOSE Act, a campaign finance reform bill that would “require more disclosure of the role of corporations, unions and other special interests in bankrolling political advertisements.” With a 57 to 41 vote, Democrats “failed to persuade even one Republican” to get the “60 votes needed to defeat a Republican filibuster.”

Democratic senators are downplaying the likelihood of passing legislation that would establish a new bank tax, with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D) saying “it’s becoming more remote as the session comes to an end.” When asked about possible plans to discuss such a tax on his Senate Finance Committee, chairman Max Baucus (D) replied, “Not soon.”

And finally: Do Americans miss President Bush? It appears that they don’t.

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