ThinkFast: December 8, 2010

Unhappy with Obama’s tax cut deal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) signaled yesterday that Democratic leaders “will try to draw the line” at the estate tax provision, giving a lower tax rate to those bequeathing more than $5 million to heirs. Pelosi called the provision “a bridge too far” because it shifts the balance in the agreement to the GOP and “ends any kind of symmetry between the two sides.”

A poll conducted before, during, and after the tax negotiations found that Americans “don’t approve of keeping the breaks for upper-income taxpayers” in Obama’s deal. While two-thirds favor a permanent extension middle-class tax cuts, only a third support keeping the lower rates for highest earners and more than a fourth say all the tax cuts should expire on Dec. 31, as scheduled.

A new Survey USA poll finds that 74 percent of those who contributed to Obama’s presidential campaign are against his tax cut deal. The poll also finds that 57 percent of contributors are less likely to donate to Democrats who support the deal, and 51 percent are less likely to donate to Obama in 2012 because of the deal.

“Business groups were generally pleased” with the tax compromise struck by the White House and Republicans because it will preserve tax cuts for the wealthy and give workers a cut in payroll taxes. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the National Association of Manufacturers all support the deal.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is trying to use the tax cut package President Obama brokered with Republicans to legalize online poker. Reid’s proposal could complicate the tax deal’s passage while exposing himself to charges that he is using his Senate leadership position to repay big casino interests that helped him win reelection last month.

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) signaled yesterday during an interview on MSNBC that he would vote for the New START arms control treat with Russia if it comes up for a vote in the lame duck session. “START is an important issue. It should be fully debated. I am leaning towards supporting it,” he said, adding that Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) “has some reservations, but I believe many of those reservations are being addressed.”

The U.S. “has given up its effort to persuade the Israeli government to freeze construction of Jewish settlements for 90 days,” according to a senior administration official. The move is a sign of faltering peace talks and comes as a number of Latin American countries — Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay — have decided to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state rather than wait for negotiations.

About one in four detainees released from Guantanamo are suspected or confirmed to be involved in terrorism activities, the Obama administration said yesterday. Most of the problematic ex-detainees were released during the Bush administration; the Obama administration has transferred 66 prisoners, of whom 5 are confirmed or suspected of post-detention terrorist activity.

And finally: Despite the fact that it destroyed his political career, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) said his affair with an Argentine woman helped him govern the state better. “A lot of people at times would push against certain things based on their fear that my political star was climbing,” Sanford said in an interview with a local TV station. But after the affair, Sanford said, “I was less the issue, and the issue was more the issue.”

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