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ThinkFast: December 13, 2010

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"ThinkFast: December 13, 2010"

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Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has reportedly told the U.S.’s top two officials in his country (Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry) that America is one of his three “main enemies.” “If I had to choose sides today, I’d choose the Taliban,” he fumed.

The war in Afghanistan cannot be won unless Pakistan roots out militants on its side of the border, according to two new National Intelligence Estimates that will be released soon. The reports could complicate President Obama’s message that the war has turned a corner, but senior U.S. military commanders are said to disagree with the reports’ findings.

Bloomberg reports that, following the government bailout, Wall Street’s biggest banks “are set to complete their best two years in investment banking and trading, buoyed by 2010 results likely to be the second-highest ever.” According to a Bloomberg poll, more than 70 percent of Americans say big bonuses should be banned this year at Wall Street firms that took taxpayer bailouts.

The tax cut deal set to pass the Senate today has defenders of Social Security worried that the payroll tax cut “could jeopardize the retirement program’s finances.” Rep. Earl Pomeroy, (D-ND), said that “[w]hen you start to signal that the (Social Security) tax levels are negotiable, you end up in long-term trouble, I think, in terms of making absolutely certain that the entitlement funding streams are secure.”

Incoming House Republican chairmen raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars from special-interest groups shortly before the November election, as it became apparent their party would take over,” USA Today found. PACs gave nearly $1.2 million to seven future GOP chairmen in the final month of the election, and their total PAC haul was 40 percent larger than in the 2008 election cycle.

Virginia District Judge Henry E. Hudson will rule today on whether the health reform law’s individual mandate violates the constitution by requiring Americans to carry health insurance or pay a fee. While two federal judges have already ruled in favor of the law, the GOP-appointed Hudson has “shown sympathy” to the state’s case and his ruling “is perhaps the most significant so far” of the 20 state-based lawsuits.

RNC chair Michael Steele will announce his reelection plans tonight. Politico reports that “key supporters expect him to drop out of the hotly contested race.” Steele has not built any known reelection team but his allies said “the chairman has been nothing if not unpredictable.”

Political group No Labels launches in New York today with the aim to find nonpartisan policy solutions for the next Congress. With Sens. Evan Bayh (D-IN), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) and Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL) backing the effort, No Labels plans to “create a space where ideas can be judged on the merits, not their conformity to pre-fabricated stereotypes.”

Kentucky state senate Republicans said they will introduce legislation similar to the controversial Arizona law that allows local police to enforce federal immigration law. GOP Senate President David Williams — who plans to run for governor in the spring — announced the plan Friday after the state’s Republican caucus met to hash out its legislative agenda.

And finally: Sen.-elect Rand Paul (R-KY) and his father Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) will be roommates when Rand comes to Washington next month, sharing the elder Paul’s Virginia condo. “I told him as long as he didn’t expect me to cook,” Ron told the New York Times. “I’m not going to take care of him the way his mother did.”

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The WonkLine: December 13, 2010 ›

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