"ThinkFast: March 28, 2011"
With less than two weeks left to avoid a government shutdown, the White House and Democrats are assembling a proposal for roughly $20 billion in additional cuts to the $10 billion already enacted. But it “isn’t clear that would be enough to satisfy Republicans” who initially sought $61 billion in cuts and are preparing a 2012 budget resolution that would “make major spending reductions” in Medicare and Medicaid.
President Obama said he stands by General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt as the head of his jobs council, despite revelations last week that GE didn’t pay any corporate taxes last year. “Americans, I’m sure, who read that story and heard about it, are wondering how this could be,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. “And one of the reasons why it could be…is part of the problem of the corporate tax structure.”
Politico writes of the emerging battle to “define” the arch-conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, and says the brothers “have never received the scrutiny of shareholders or Wall Street.” But “[t]ogether with allies in the conservative media, they have launched a counter-offensive to cast the brothers as victims of a confused and emotional explosion of liberal hatred.”
In the “most important test of a campaign finance reform law” since Citizens United, the U.S. Supreme Court will examine today the constitutionality of an Arizona statute guaranteeing federal funds for candidates to match private funds raised by opposing candidates. The central issue is “whether the law punishes speech by privately funded candidates or merely enhances speech by candidates who accept only public funding.”
The Supreme Court will also begin hearing arguments Tuesday in a sex discrimination case involving Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer. Walmart is appealing a lower court’s decision to let the case proceed after a judge ruled that lawyers had presented “significant proof of a corporate policy of discrimination” against women.
Aided by allied air strikes, rebels in Libya made significant advances against the forces of dictator Muammar Qaddafi, closing in on his hometown after taking the key towns of Ras Lanuf and Adjabiya this weekend. “Their swift successes, recapturing two important oil refineries and a strategic port within 20 hours, set the stage for a battle in Surt that could help decide the war.”
Leaked water sampled from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan had 100,000 times the radioactivity of normal background levels. The radiation levels are posing “immense challenges” for the several hundred power plant workers engaged “in a desperate battle to restart the critical cooling systems.”
And finally: Trapped in the closet! A member of Vice President Biden’s staff confined a reporter to a closet of a Florida home and stood guard outside to prevent him from mingling with the guest of a fundraiser at the home.