ThinkFast: June 18, 2009

Although Senate Republicans continue to block dozens of key Obama nominees, the President has no plans to give them recess appointments. By bottling up these nominees, Republicans are attempting to delay action on key administration priorities like health care and climate change legislation by consuming precious floor time.

Last night, the Senate passed by unanimous consent a bill that would prevent the release of controversial photos of alleged U.S. abuse of prisoners and detainees. The bill, sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), was proposed as standalone legislation after it was stripped from a war funding supplemental bill by House Democrats.

Iran braced for a fourth day of massive protests Thursday by opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in open defiance of the country’s supreme leader, who has urged the nation to unite behind the Islamic state.” Meanwhile, Iran’s Guardian Council announced that it will convene the three major presidential candidates to discuss their grievances.

“A Senate energy bill was voted out of committee yesterday, but not before losing the support of two Democrats and a dozen leading environmental organizations.” Environmental groups dislike the offshore drilling allowances and a weak renewable electricity standard that allows too many exemptions. The bill also subsidizes nuclear power and would “ease restrictions on the federal government’s use of petroleum from Canadian tar sands.”


The American Medical Association ended their annual conference by “signaling they won’t close the door” on one of Obama’s key proposals, a public health insurance plan to compete with private insurers. “The AMA did not close doors. The AMA said we will evaluate all proposals in light of our principles,” said outgoing AMA President Nancy Nielsen.

“President Obama’s push for a bipartisan healthcare overhaul suffered a double blow on Wednesday when Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) announced he would cut $600 billion from his measure while Republicans derided a Democratic markup of an alternative bill as a ‘joke.’” When asked if his massive cuts could mean delaying the bill until after the July 4th recess, Baucus replied, “I hope not, but I can’t guarantee it.”

Former Sens. Bob Dole (R-KS) and Tom Daschle (D-ND) have “launched a bipartisan push for healthcare reform, but they took issue with a central feature of the President’s plan, a public, government-run health insurance program.” “If you want to stop this thing dead in its tracks, or dead on arrival, in my view, you put the public plan in it,” Dole said. Daschle said the public option probably needs to be scrapped.”

President Obama’s special envoy to Sudan, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, said yesterday that “the Sudanese government is no longer engaging in a ‘coordinated’ campaign of mass murder in Darfur, marking a shift in the U.S. characterization of the violence there as an ‘ongoing genocide.’” “What we see is the remnants of genocide,” Gration said.

The White House told members of the President’s Council on Bioethics last week that “their services were no longer needed” and they should cancel future meetings. The council, which was formed by President Bush to be “a philosophically leaning advisory group,” will be replaced by a new bioethics commission with a new mandate to offer “practical policy options.”


And finally: Earlier this week, the State Department stepped in and asked Twitter to delay its planned maintenance, which would “avoid disrupting communications among tech-savvy Iranian citizens as they took to the streets to protest” the country’s election results. Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented on the move, saying, “We promote the right of free expression. I wouldn’t know a twitter from a tweeter but apparently it is very important.”

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