ThinkFast: January 28, 2009

House Democrats are stripping funding for the National Mall from the recovery legislation, after a wave of right-wing criticism. The move came after President Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel “hosted eleven relatively moderate House Republicans…hoping to secure their support.” Family planning funding was also stripped from the bill earlier this week.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) say they want “100 percent” opposition to the recovery package. In a House GOP meeting yesterday, no Republicans “spoke up in disagreement when urged to oppose the legislation by their leaders.”

The economic stimulus plan “would shower the nation’s school districts, child care centers and university campuses with $150 billion in new federal spending, a vast two-year investment that would more than double the Department of Education’s current budget.” The expenditures “amount to the largest increase in federal aid since Washington began to spend significantly on education after World War II.”

A new report from the American Society of Civil Engineers has “assigned an overall D grade to the nation’s infrastructure and estimated that it would take a $2.2 trillion investment from all levels of government over the next five years to bring it into a state of good repair.”


Congress gave final approval yesterday to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which will give women and minorities “powerful new tools to challenge pay discrimination in the workplace.” The bill is expected to be the first significant legislation signed by President Obama.

Al Gore will testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and urge Congress “not to be sidetracked by the current financial crisis and to take ‘decisive action’ this year to reduce the heat-trapping gases responsible for global warming.” “It starts with the passage of President Barack Obama’s stimulus bill in its entirety,” Gore told the AP. “And then, secondly, we need to put a price on carbon by passing cap and trade legislation.”

After forcing Senate Democrats to delay Attorney General nominee Eric Holder’s confirmation vote, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) announced yesterday he would support Holder’s nomination. “I think that Mr. Holder is entitled to the benefit of the doubt in the context of the excellent record he has,” Specter said.

The U.N.’s International Labor Organization warned that up to “51 million jobs worldwide could disappear by the end of this year as a result of the…global employment crisis,” driving worldwide unemployment to 7.1 percent. Even under the most optimistic scenario, the U.N. panel expects at least 18 million people to loose their jobs by the end of 2009, with developing countries suffering the most.

President Obama plans to “adopt a tougher line toward Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, as part of a new American approach to Afghanistan that will put more emphasis on waging war than on development.” The new strategy will include “provincial leaders as an alternative to the central government” and leave “nation-building increasingly to European allies.”


And finally: First the Jonas Brothers, now Harry Potter. In an interview with the Daily Beast, British actor Daniel Radcliffe says that he is “so proud and happy” for this country because President Obama is “everything the rest of the world liked about America and now likes again.” He later extends a special offer: a “public invitation to the Obamas that if their daughters would like a private tour of the Harry Potter set, I would be honored to be their personal tour guide.”

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