ThinkFast: January 5, 2011

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"ThinkFast: January 5, 2011"

“Republican leaders are scaling back” their campaign pledge to seek $100 billion in budget cuts, claiming that “because the current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, will be nearly half over before spending cuts could become law.” The cuts they seek will now be in the range of $50-60 billion.

President Obama is reportedly considering naming JP Morgan Chase VP William Daley as his new chief of staff. Daley opposed the Democrats’ recent push for health care reform and the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. While working for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2007, he championed financial deregulation and headed up JP Morgan Chase’s lobbying against financial reform.

According to ABC News, Tea Party maven Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is “seriously weighing whether to seek Republican nomination for president in 2012.” Bachmann will travel to Iowa to meet with “political forces” and “party elders close to the caucus process” before making her final decision.

President Obama will likely not issue a signing statement asserting his constitutional authority to bypass a recent congressional action barring him from bringing Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. for trial. Instead, Obama will strongly criticize the ban, but stop short of setting up a bypass, which would be an unprecedented assertion of executive authority over the Congress.

House GOP leaders are drawing fire from their political ally, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, over their intention to cut highway and mass-transit programs. With $41 billion a year at stake, the Chamber said in a letter last week “that subjecting highway spending to the uncertainty of annual budget cuts would lead to more job losses in the battered industry.”

A small group of “unusually energized” hedge fund executives dumped $10 million into defeating Democrats before November’s elections, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity and NBC News. The Wall Street moguls were able to escape initial public notice by funneling money through various third-party groups and other obscure organizations.

The Obama administration “will revise a Medicare regulation to delete references to end-of-life planning” included in the new health care law, an abrupt change because the new rule just took effect January 1. The New York Times notes that, while “administration officials cited procedural reasons for changing the rule, it was clear that political concerns were also a factor.”

An immigration bill filed by Kentucky Republicans yesterday is even stricter than Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 bill, which has been challenged in federal court by President Obama. Kentucky’s bill, which Republicans hope to pass by the end of the week, includes a provision that would allow law enforcement to arrest illegal immigrants for trespassing.

And finally: Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Tim Murray (D) is being hailed as a hero after he rescued two kids from a burning minivan, but his actions almost got him punched in the face. Murray was driving through his hometown of Worcester when he noticed smoke, called 911, and rushed to save two kids trapped in the car. However, the children’s grandmother originally thought Murray was trying to kidnap them, and said she almost punched him.

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