ThinkFast: May 23, 2011

In an op-ed in Politico today, Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) announced that he “cannot support” the House Republican plan to privatize Medicare, because he (correctly) fears that health care costs will grow faster than the vouchers the plan provides. But Just two weeks ago, Brown told constituents of the plan, “I will vote for it.”

In an effort to limit tax increases on businesses, a number of states are cutting unemployment benefits, reducing the maximum number of weeks that those without jobs can claim benefits. The states are hoping for increased help from the federal government, which looks unlikely given congressional Republican’s repeated opposition to providing more funds for these programs.

Most “Americans say they don’t believe Medicare has to be cut to balance the federal budget,” according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. Three out of 5 respondents to the poll said “the two programs are vital to their basic financial security as they age.”

President Obama challenged Israel to “make the hard choices necessary” to achieve peace with Palestine in his speech Sunday at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Former Israeli peace negotiator Daniel Levy said of the speech, “He basically said, ‘I can continue defending you to the hilt, but if you give me nothing to work with, even America can’t save you.’”


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said “there will have to be a deal” to raise the nation’s debt ceiling before August, when the United States would begin defaulting on its debt. But any deal that doesn’t include “something significant” on spending cuts won’t get his vote. That “means Medicare and Medicaid,” McConnell said.

“A defiant Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh backed away from his promise to sign an Arab-brokered deal” that would’ve had him step down. Meanwhile, an “armed mob” of pro-Saleh gunmen “laid siege” to the United Arab Emirates’ embassy in protest of Gulf countries’ efforts to push the leader out of power.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels (R) announced he would not seek the Republican nomination for president, becoming the third high-profile Republican in eight days to do so.

President Obama arrived in Europe today, kicking-off a six-day trip to seek “more resources to promote and support the pro-democracy movements in the Middle East and North Africa.” Obama will address the U.K. Parliament on Wednesday to “reaffirm and refine the trans-Atlantic alliance amid economic and political upheaval.”

And finally: Most people go to a bar to get beer, but President Obama will bring his own beer to a pub he’s visiting today in the Irish town of Moneygall, “where it is believed his great-great-great grandfather grew up.” Because of security concerns, Obama will not drink any beverage provided to him by the pub, but rather a White House home brew, brought along by the Secret Service, IrishCentral reports.