ThinkFast: March 2, 2010

Former Tennessee congressman Harold Ford has decided not to challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in the New York Democratic Senate primary. In a New York Times op-ed today, Ford writes that he chose not to run to avoid a “brutal and highly negative Democratic primary” that would have increased the chances of a Republican win in the general election.

In the current Congress, Senate Republicans are using the filibuster “at a record-setting pace.” Last year, “there were a record 112 cloture votes. In the first two months of 2010, the number already exceeds 40,” meaning that “with 10 months left to run in the 111th Congress, Republicans have turned to the filibuster or threatened its use at a pace that will more than triple the old record.”

Goldman Sachs revealed yesterday in a regulatory filing that its board had rejected shareholder demands on reining in executive compensation and reforming pay practices. The firm “reported a record profit in 2009 and was on pace to pay more than $20 billion in compensation heading into the fourth quarter. But facing public ire, it capped compensation expenses at $16.2 billion for the year.”

The vice chairman of the Federal Reserve said Monday that he will retire, “opening a third seat on what may be the world’s most powerful economic body and giving President Obama a historic opportunity to reshape the central bank.” Vice Chairman Donald L. Kohn will step down in June.


Sen. Jim Bunning’s (R-KY) one-man blockage of legislation meant to keep numerous federal programs afloat has also “triggered a 21 percent cut in Medicare fees to doctors.” Because of Bunning’s hold, the administration “is ordering Medicare billing contractors not to pay any claims from doctors for the first 10 business days of March.”

This week, President Obama will lay out his plan for passing health care reform legislation. Obama is expected to announce that he is prepared to use reconciliation to move the bill forward. Yesterday, Business Roundtable president John Castellani said the group believes overhauling the heath care system should be “a national priority.”

According to the New York Times, Gov. David Paterson (D-NY) “personally directed two state employees to contact” a woman who had accused one of his top aides of physically assaulting her. The accounts by two people with “direct knowledge of the governor’s actions” give the “first evidence” that Paterson “helped direct an effort to influence the accuser.”

Speaking to the AFL-CIO executive council in Orlando, Fla. yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden sought “to soothe over raw feelings with union members who have grown frustrated with the lack of progress” on key labor priorities. Biden also defended the administration’s efforts to rescue the economy. “Had we not done those unpopular things…we wouldn’t have any shot, any shot at all,” said Biden.

In an effort to “avoid offering benefits to same-sex partners of its workers,” Catholic Charities said yesterday that it “will not offer benefits to spouses of new employees or to spouses of current employees who are not already enrolled in the plan.” The move is “the latest fallout” from a row between Washington, D.C. officials and the Archdiocese of Washington over the legalization of gay marriage in the District.


And finally: Make way for the Coffee Party, for people who are “[f]ed up with government gridlock, but put off by the flavor of the Tea Party.”