ThinkFast: January 27, 2010

“Democratic leaders in Congress effectively slammed the brakes” on health care reform yesterday, “saying they no longer felt pressure to move quickly on a health bill after eight months of setting deadlines and missing them.” “We’re not on health care now,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to reporters. “We’ve talked a lot about it in the past” and “there is no rush,” said Reid.

House progressives are pushing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to support the passage a public insurance option via a health care reconciliation bill. “I think [losing] the public option from the Senate bill really hurt the Democrats’ prospects in the Senate [race], because they were seen as…caving to insurance companies,” Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) told the Huffington Post.

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In his State of the Union address tonight, President Obama “will announce an increase of up to $4 billion in federal education spending.” The new funding will include an increase of $1.35 billion for the “Race to the Top” grant program and $1 billion targeted at overhauling the No Child Left Behind Act.

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has found that just 28 percent of Americans believe the federal government is “working well” or even works “okay,” while 70 percent say it is “unhealthy,” “stagnant,” or needs reform. Ninety-three percent say there is too much partisan infighting; 84 percent say special interests have too much influence; and 75 percent say Wall Street needs more regulation.

In response to protests over CBS’s approval of a Focus on the Family ad set to air during the Super Bowl, the network has announced that it is open to accepting other “responsibly produced” advocacy ads. “We have for some time moderated our approach to advocacy submissions after it became apparent that our stance did not reflect public sentiment or industry norms,” spokesman Dana McClintock said.

Six Republican senators co-sponsored, and then voted against, a plan endorsed by President Obama that would have formed a task force to tackle the deficit. The plan failed by seven votes. Asked for an explanation, several of the senators said they were concerned the task force would lead to tax increases.

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Earlier this week, the Army Times reported that veterans who are seeking to inquire about G.I. Bill benefits are having difficulty connecting to a call center. Almost 90 percent of calls to a Muskogee, OK, center “never connected between October and December.” At a congressional hearing, Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) said she found this unacceptable.

According to senior Obama administration officials, “U.S. military teams and intelligence agencies are deeply involved in secret joint operations with Yemeni troops,” who have killed “scores of people,” including six top regional al Qaeda affiliate leaders. The clandestine U.S. forces “do not take part in raids in Yemen, but help plan missions, develop tactics and provide weapons and munitions.”

Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke said today that the U.S. “will support a plan to reintegrate Taliban fighters set to be announced by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.” ‘’The overwhelming majority of these people are not ideological supporters of Mullah Omar (the fugitive Taliban leader) and al-Qaida,’’ Holbrooke said.

And finally: What color tie will President Obama wear for the State of the Union tonight? (Online) bets are on red. According to the online betting site Paddy Power, odds are good that Obama will say “health care reform,” but “life is like a box of chocolates” and “let’s get ready to rumble” are longshots.

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