ThinkFast: May 20, 2009

Yesterday, Senate Democrats “rejected President Obama’s request for funding to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and vowed to withhold federal dollars until the president decides the fate of the facility’s 240 detainees.” “The feeling was at this point we were defending the unknown,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said. “We were asked to defend the plan that hasn’t been announced.”

In a 22-page decision last night, a federal judge “rejected aspects of the Obama administration’s definition of who can legally be held as a prisoner in the war on terror.” U.S. District Court Judge John Bates ruled that while members of al Qaeda or the Taliban could be detained, “mere support for Al Qaeda activities is not a sufficient basis for the government to hold prisoners at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere.”

More than one in four of President Bush’s Cabinet “have landed jobs with consulting or lobbying firms in which they can help clients navigate the departments they once oversaw.” Ten of the 34 Cabinet secretaries that served under Bush — including Michael Chertoff, John Ashcroft, Tom Ridge, and Gale Norton — “have registered as lobbyists or joined consulting or lobbying firms” or “sit on the boards or work for industries they regulated.”

An RNC showdown over a resolution calling on Democrats to rename themselves the “Democrat Socialist party” may be avoided. Chairman Michael Steele has said it is “not an appropriate way to express our views on the issues of the day.” One of the sponsors of the resolution said that the “language is being changed so that the proposers and chairman Steele are on the same page.”


Aides to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) “held a private meeting on Monday with a bloc of prominent Democratic lobbyists, warning them to hold their fire or be left out of negotiations” on how the health care plan would be structured.

In a new “strategy memo,” GOP staffers on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works say they will try to make the argument that Democrats are coddling Big Business. Democrats are embracing “Wall Street traders,” “polluters” and “others in corporate America” who are “guilty of manipulating national climate policy to increase profits on the backs of consumers,” the memo states.

“Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has announced only one formal change” from Bush administration policy on immigration: limiting workplace raids. Under the new policy, investigators “must give priority to prosecuting employers” instead of targeting employees. “Obama advisers say more changes are coming to Bush’s immigration policies.”

“Advocates of gun rights are poised to win a Congressional victory that eluded them under a Republican president,” as President Obama is poised to sign legislation allowing loaded and concealed weapons in national parks. The provision was attached to a popular credit card reform bill that passed the Senate 90–5 yesterday.

A congressional investigation has found that the U.S. Army “paid ‘tens of millions of dollars in bonuses’ to KBR Inc, its biggest contractor in Iraq, even after it concluded the firm’s electrical work had put U.S. soldiers at risk.” KBR “has been linked to at least two, and as many as five, electrocution deaths of U.S. soldiers and contractors in Iraq due to ‘shoddy work.’”


And finally: Tomorrow, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be at the White House to meet with President Obama, but linebacker James Harrison won’t be joining his team. According to a “well-placed source,” Harrison “has a fear of flying and is a ‘wreck’ whenever he must take team flights.” “Hey, James ain’t changed,” Harrison responded. “I guess my profile did but I didn’t change. I’m not going because I don’t want to go.” He also jokingly added that he heard the White House is in a “bad neighborhood.”

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