ThinkFast: January 18, 2011

House Republicans are set to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act this week, arguing in part that it is a “job killing” law. But McClatchy reports that “independent experts say that such a conclusion is at least premature, if not unfounded.” “The claim has no justification,” said the New America Foundation’s Micah Weinberg.

Up to 129 million Americans have pre-existing medical conditions which make it difficult to obtain health insurance, according to a new study from the Department of Health and Human Services. President Obama’s health law will protect all of these people, but Republicans want to repeal it, which could prevent these Americans from obtaining insurance or force them to pay higher premiums.

President Obama will mandate “a government-wide review” of U.S. regulations to remove or overhaul those “that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive.” Announced in a Wall Street Journal op-ed today, he said the initiative is part of an executive order he’ll sign today codifying a “balanced” approach to regulation.

In an interview Friday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) “delivered a stern message that the debt ceiling will eventually have to be raised to keep government from defaulting.” But because “the president needs us,” he promised to use the Republicans’ “leverage moment” to accomplish their agenda on spending.

Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) said he believes the expired assault weapons ban should be renewed. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) recently said that it would be difficult to get the votes for gun control legislation. Meanwhile, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) said “he is willing to work to make sure the mentally ill cannot get and use a gun.”

According to former Vice President Dick Cheney, President Obama has “learned from experience” that Bush administration terror policies were necessary and correct, pointing to increased drone strikes by the Obama administration and a failure to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. “I think he’s learned that what we did was far more appropriate than he ever gave us credit for while he was a candidate,” Cheney said.

President Obama will meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao today, and American officials say Obama will take a far more assertive stance against America’s biggest global economic rival. In the past two weeks, cabinet officials have been dispatched to challenge China — for example, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner pressed China last week to open its domestic market to American products.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak left his Labor Party yesterday to form a new centrist party in the governing coalition, “splitting the party he had led and leaving Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with a smaller but more stable parliamentary majority.” The move cut him loose from left-leaning Labor Party figures who criticized Barak’s leadership and failure to push harder for progress on peace with the Palestinians.

And finally: While many Britons may think their ship of state is sinking, the rats haven’t abandoned ship yet. Last night, as a BBC correspondent reported from 10 Downing Street, “a large rat scurr[ied] across the step just below the famous black door” at the executive mansion in the background of the shot.

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