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ThinkFast: May 25, 2011

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"ThinkFast: May 25, 2011"

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House Democrats plan to call for large troop reductions, and possibly a complete withdrawal, from Afghanistan during floor debate on the Pentagon’s 2012 budget this week. Progressive members have already filed multiple amendments on the defense authorization bill calling for troop reductions.

Top Congressional Democrats are joining Republicans in challenging President Obama’s Israel policy. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (R-MD) appear to think Obama is giving away too much, as they seemingly rejected Obama’s calls that negotiations begin around the 1967 borders.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, is threatening to hold up all of President Obama’s nominations until he gets more answers on a controversial Justice Department program that led to drug cartels acquiring more than 1,300 firearms from the U.S. “At worst, our own government knowingly participated in arming criminals,” Grassley said.

The Justice Department will indict former Sen. John Edwards on charges that he violated campaign finance laws to cover up his extramarital affair during the 2004 presidential campaign. A source close to the investigation said Edwards is aware of the investigation and “could try to arrange a plea deal to avoid a trial.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) is facing pushback from his own caucus after he said yesterday that any aid to tornado-ravaged Missouri must be offset by spending cuts. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), who represented the hard-hit city of Joplin when he was in the House, challenged Cantor, saying “This needs to be a priority,” and Congress should act immediately to help his state.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) said yesterday that she is “going to vote ‘no’” on Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget. Joining GOP Sens. Susan Collins (ME) and Scott Brown (MA) in voting no, Snowe said she has “deep and abiding concerns about the approach on Medicare, which is essentially to privatize it.”

Vice President Biden and congressional leaders left a meeting on the debt limit yesterday saying they were “confident” they would find $1 trillion in cuts before the U.S. faces default in early August. Biden has been leading the latest round of budget talks, which seem to be proceeding better than other rounds. He said tax increases have not been discussed yet.

And finally: President Obama and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron teamed up to play ping pong against a pair of teenage students at a school in south London yesterday, only to lose “spectacularly.” “For two men who pride themselves on their sporting abilities, the thought of taking on two schoolchildren at table tennis might have seemed like shooting fish in a barrel,” — “but no amount of back-slapping, ‘high-fives’ and competitive banter could prevent a trouncing.”

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