ThinkFast: March 3, 2011

The Ohio state senate approved a bill that would severely curb the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. The bill would prohibit workers “from bargaining over health benefits and pensions, while also eliminating the right to strike.”

At a town hall meeting yesterday, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) exclaimed “I love collective bargaining” and insisted that the Garden State is very different from Wisconsin or Ohio. While Christie’s relationship with state unions “has in the past been icy,” he now wants to work with them now, adding “get me out of the cage” and “let me at them.”

Anti-government rebels repelled an attack by forces loyal to Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi yesterday in the strategic oil city of Brega. The battle was the pro-Qaddafi forces’ first attack in the rebel-held eastern Libya. The rebels fought through artillery fire and air power throughout the day and forced the government forces to flee by night fall.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates poured some cold water on the idea of establishing a no-flight zone over Libya yesterday, telling Congress it would be “a big operation in a big country” that would have to begin with an attack on the country’s air defenses. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) also expressed concern about the idea.

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that “less than a quarter of Americans support making significant cuts to Social Security or Medicare to tackle the country’s deficit.” Eighty-one percent said that placing a surtax on millionaires is either a “totally” or “mostly” acceptable way in which to reduce the deficit.

President Obama signed a bill yesterday extending federal government funding for two weeks and called for high-level negotiations to bridge budgetary differences between Republicans and Democrats in Congress. “Living with the threat of a shutdown every few weeks is not responsible, and it puts our economic progress in jeopardy,” Obama said.

Obama has arranged a meeting between Congressional leaders and Vice President Biden aimed at solving the federal budget impasse — but Republican leaders may not attend. A GOP aide told Roll Call “such a meeting would be more productive if Democrats had a plan for cutting Washington spending.”

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said yesterday that House Republicans’ spending plan would likely cost “a couple hundred thousand jobs,” a number he called “not trivial.”

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) announced that he will not be running for re-election in 2012. “It was a very difficult decision for me,” he said. “However, I feel that the end of this Congress is the right time for me to step aside.”

And finally: Cleveland may rock, but actor and Price Is Right host Drew Carey “doesn’t appear willing to ‘come on down’ into the Ohio Senate race.” “Carey’s libertarian-conservative philosophy and recent weight loss” have made him an attractive candidate for some Republican activists, but his publicist told Politico that “Drew does not plan to run for office.”