ThinkFast: May 27, 2011

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) defended his involvement in the cover up of disgraced former Sen. John Ensign’s (R-NV) affair, telling CSPAN yesterday that he was “proud” of the way he handled the situation. Coburn’s name was mentioned repeatedly in the Senate Ethics Committee’s damning 75-page report on the scandal, saying Coburn acted as a go-between to try to keep Ensign’s mistress quiet.

President Obama signed an extension of the Patriot Act into law late last night. The law almost lapsed as the debate in Congress was more heated than usual, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) defecting and voting against the bill.

GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty said yesterday that he would sign the Medicare-ending Republican budget into law if elected president. “If that was the only bill that came to my desk, and I wasn’t able to pass my own plan, I would sign it,” he said of the hugely unpopular plan.

The Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) Ellen Weintraub said that the agency has been noticeably less aggressive in enforcing the nation’s campaign finance laws. “The notion that we are a fierce investigative agency that people are quaking in their boots about is probably not the case. If it ever was the case, it certainly is not today,” she said.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave a major speech in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage yesterday. “I see the pain that the status quo is causing, and I cannot defend it,” he said, calling on New York state legislators vote in favor of marriage equality.

Senate Republicans are using a procedural move to prevent Obama from being able to make recess appointments next week when the chamber is out for Memorial Day recess. The Senate will be in a “pro forma session” during which no business will be conducted, but it blocks Obama from appointing Elizabeth Warren to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Today President Obama and the other leaders of the G8 declared their support for the Arab Spring, pledging up to $20 billion to assist to the political and economic transformation in the Middle East and North Africa. In a statement, the leaders compared the Arab Spring to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Republicans in both chambers introduced legislation yesterday to counteract President Obama’s draft executive order that would require government contractors disclose their political contributions. The legislation comes after the House passed an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would block the draft order.

And finally: While he may not be doing well in the real race, presidential hopeful “Newton Leroy Gingrich” is the clear winner in yearbook race. The Atlantic complied the yearbook photos of the entire 2012 Republican field, revealing an unflattering picture of a bespectacled Gingrich, accompanied by a rather mysterious quote: “Specialization may produce success, but greatness is acquired only through generalization.” A close runner up: Rick Santorum.