ThinkFast: March 10, 2009

“I don’t want him to fail in his mission of restoring our economy,” says Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in an interview with Politico. “These are terrible, perilous times, so I will seek ways to work with the president of the United States.”

Key Senate Democrats “are wavering in their support” of the Employee Free Choice Act which is expected to be introduced today. Six Democratic senators and one Republican who have voted to move forward with the legislation “now say they are opposed or not sure — an indication that Senate Democratic leaders are short of the 60 votes they need for approval.”

Democratic leaders in Congress are beginning to take a knife to President Obama’s “audacious budget,” with the “apparent first casualty” being the plan to limit tax deductions for the wealthiest 1.2 percent of taxpayers in order to pay for health care reform. The chairmen of the House and Senate tax-writing committees, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), have objected to the proposal.

“Republican infighting escalated Monday” at the RNC, after chairman Michael Steele issued $1 million checks to the campaign committees — checks some tell The Hill were slashed from the $3 million promised by former chairman Mike Duncan. “That is a ‘lie,’ says the RNC — and so another round of recrimination begins.”

In a speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce today, President Obama will outline an education plan that would institute merit-based pay for teachers. Obama’s recommendation has previously upset the teachers’ unions. “The White House plan also includes new incentives for states to boost quality in their preschool programs, to raise standards for student achievement and to reduce the high school drop-out rate.”

In a new report sponsored by Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA), the National Center on Family Homelessness estimates that one in 50 children in America — about 1.5 million — are homeless each year. The study uses statistics from 2005–06; the numbers for 2008 are likely to be even worse.

In an interview with the Washington Times yesterday, Howard Dean said that Republicans would likely suffer in the 2010 election cycle if they attempted to block health care reform or demonize universal coverage as “socialized medicine.” “If they want to filibuster this to death, be my guest and let’s see how they do in 2010,” Dean said. Dean would not comment on what he would do if he was offered the role of Surgeon General by Obama.

Yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder hosted the first Cabinet-level meeting of President Obama’s Guantanamo task force to discuss how to close the detention facility. The group, which included Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, Leon Panetta and Robert Mueller, “discussed standards for reviewing detainee cases, which detainee decisions will get priority, and what has been done to date.”

In a 5–4 vote yesterday, the Supreme Court limited the scope of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The court’s conservative majority ruled that only election districts “in which minorities make up at least half of the voting-age population are entitled to the protections.” Justice David Souter, who wrote the principal dissent, concluded that the ruling may “force the states to perpetuate racially concentrated districts.”

The Obama administration has chosen Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Van Jones to be a special adviser for green jobs, enterprise, and innovation. Jones will reportedly “direct the administration’s efforts to create jobs and help the environment,” with a focus on “vulnerable communities.” He is the author of “The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems,” and has blogged over at The Wonk Room.

And finally: Former White House press secretary Dana Perino is back after a six-week vacation with her husband; two of those weeks she spent at an AIDS center in South Africa. “I feel good about the office I ran and I think over time history will be a better judge than people can be in contemporary times,” she told the Hill. Fresh from her trip, she gave her first post-administration paid speech yesterday, to the National Apartment Association. “It was fun to be behind a podium and not feeling like I was going to be beat up,” Perino said to Politico.

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