ThinkFast: May 13, 2011

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee killed an amendment by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) that would have closed the so-called “terror gap” — preventing firearm sales to suspected terrorists. GOP members want to protect the right of people on the FBI’s terrorist watch list to purchase firearms, arguing that preventing sales would “steal the Second Amendment rights of those placed on the list by mistake.”

In testimony before a U.S. Senate committee, the head of Exxon Mobil said that, based on supply and demand, oil should actually be currently priced at between $60 to $70 a barrel. “When we look at it, it’s going to be somewhere in the $60 to $70 range if you said: ‘If I had access to the next marketable barrel, what would it cost,” said Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson.

The IRS is beginning to crack down on nonprofit advocacy groups that play a big role in American politics, the New York Times reports. Billionaires like David Koch and George Soros could owe millions in “gift taxes” if their political contributions exceeded tax limits. However, it’s unclear how much impact these IRS investigation will really have given the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United.

In a “surprise move” yesterday, President Obama asked Congress to allow Robert S. Mueller III to remain the FBI director for two more years. The FBI Director is currently term-limited to 10 years. Obama’s proposal — which was endorsed by “leading lawmakers of both parties” — would keep Mueller on past his current end date of Sept. 4 without going through a new confirmation process.

A new poll finds 48 percent of global investors rate Obama as “stronger than Bush on terrorism.” “The Obama administration improved the reputation of the U.S.A — i.e., the soft power of America — which will make it more difficult for terrorists to recruit new terrorists,” said one respondent, adding “That is probably, in the long term, the most efficient way to fight terrorism.”

The conservative National Review slammed potential president candidate Mitt Romney’sIllogical, Terrible Health-Care Address” in a blog post yesterday, writing he “gave a more articulate defense of Obamacare than President Obama ever has.” The magazine followed up with an editorial today attacking the former governor, even though it had endorsed Romney in 2008.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) yesterday demanded “significant” changes to Medicare in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, but he will not insist on the Medicare overhaul proposed in the House GOP budget. Instead, McConnell said any deal must include benefit reductions and tighter Medicare eligibility requirements.

The South Carolina Senate yesterday passed a restrictive voter ID bill, drawing the condemnation of civil liberties and civil rights groups. “We hope that Gov. Haley will veto this bill and tell South Carolina lawmakers that we should be seeking ways to encourage more voters, not inventing excuses to deny voters the ability to cast their ballots,” said South Carolina ACLU Executive Director Victoria Middleton.

And finally: Somewhere in New Hampshire a child is crying because Donald Trump stole their vacation. “Trump chipped in $100 for raffle tickets for the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce and ended up winning the contest’s grand prize: a trip to the Bahamas.” Trump actually donated the trip, but the “ironic twist” prompted one man to quip, “The guy probably owns an island in the Bahamas somewhere.”

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