ThinkFast: August 18, 2009

Leading Democrats are objecting to signals from the Obama administration that it may back away from the public option in health care reform. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) said that “without a public option, I don’t see how we will bring real change to a system.” Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV) said that a public option is “a must.”

Blue Dog Democrat Allen Boyd (FL) declared at a town hall yesterday that “the public option is off the table.” “We’re not going to have any additional government-run insurance plans,” said Boyd, who also said that he thought it would be “an excellent idea” to “scrap everything” and start over on health care reform.

Yesterday, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) sent a letter to PhRMA CEO Billy Tauzin accusing him of “appeasement” for agreeing with the White House to support reform legislation in exchange for certain profit protections. In the letter, Boehner accuses Tauzin of cutting a “deal with [a] bully.”

Immigration officials said “they discovered records of 10 previously unreported deaths of detainees in government custody, prompting a review by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency ‘to ensure the integrity of ICE’s records on detainee deaths.’” Eight died of natural causes, one suicide and no cause was listed for the last detainee. Since October, 2003, 104 detainees have died in ICE custody.


While visiting Israel, former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee bashed Obama’s policies on settlement construction. “It concerns me that some in the U.S. tell Israelis they can’t live where they want in their own country,” he said.

The Iraqi government is backing a referendum that will allow voters to decide whether U.S. troops should withdraw a year ahead of schedule, by the beginning of 2011. The U.S. government has “quietly lobbied against the plebiscite,” with commanders “concerned about rising violence in the country’s north.”

Bloomberg reports that “the highest-earning Americans accounted for the biggest share ever of the nation’s income in 2007 as the U.S. headed toward recession.” The wealthiest 15,000 households, those making more than $11.5 million a year, got a record 6.04 percent of the nation’s $8.7 trillion in income.

Anti-war protesters at the University of California, Berkeley called for the firing yesterday of law professor John Yoo, who wrote memos authorizing torture for the Bush administration. Yoo mostly ignored the demonstrators while he waited for police to remove them from his classroom. Campus police arrested at least four people.

In recent months, the enrollment rate has doubled for COBRA, “a federal subsidy designed to make health insurance more affordable for laid-off workers.” The enrollment rate from March through June of this year reached 38 percent. As part of the economic stimulus package, the federal government now “subsidizes 65% of COBRA premiums for some recipients.”


And finally: On NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” this weekend, Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) revealed that he’s a big fan of First Lady Michelle Obama’s guns. He said that he even commented on her “buff” arms at a recent White House picnic. “I had some guests there that I brought with [me] that wanted their picture taken with her. And so I said ‘Hello’ to her,” recounted Shock. “And we, you know, I chit-chatted. And I said, ‘You’re looking good.’ And she just kind of laughed at me. And I said, ‘Seriously.’ I said, ‘Those are some arms.’ And she said, well, she made a nice compliment about myself, and then she moved on.”