The WonkLine: February 5, 2009

Welcome to The WonkLine, a daily 10 a.m. roundup of the latest news about health care, the economy, national security and climate policy. This is what we’re reading. Tell us what you found in the comments section below.




The Senate has agreed “to soften a ‘Buy American’ provision in its economic stimulus package, clarifying that the clause will not override existing U.S. trade treaties.”

The Inspector General of the financial bailout warned that “a $200 billion government program to encourage consumer lending is at risk of significant fraud, and the Treasury Department should not participate in the plan until proper safeguards are put in place.”

Daniel Gros discusses “bad banks”: “To avoid the ‘market for lemons’ problem, the bad bank should be big, and banks should be forced to transfer their entire portfolio of toxic assets.”

Health Care

Physician-owned hospitals are celebrating the passage of SCHIP, the WSJ Health Blog reports. The bill Congress sent to the President stripped language that would have “curbed expansion of these hospitals by prohibiting Medicare payments to new ones and restricting expansion of existing ones.”

On his last day in office, Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) increased Medicaid payments to specialists treating sick children.

Jonathan Cohn makes the case against Gov. Phil Bredesen (D-TN) for HHS secretary.

National Security

Spencer Ackerman has a guide to what to expect during CIA director-designate Leon Panetta’s confirmation hearings today. “As something of a cipher on intelligence matters, Panetta can expect a tough hearing,” Ackerman writes.

David Ignatius nominates Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft as President Obama’s emissaries to Iran, in part because both believe that the Bush administration’s policy of isolating Iran has “been a mistake.”

Small Wars Journal has ten questions with national security strategist Thomas P.M. Barnett.


Yesterday, the Obama administration “canceled 77 leases its predecessor sold to oil and gas companies that wanted to explore beneath the red rock country of Utah” and “filed a clean air lawsuit against Westar Energy” for violating the Clean Air Act.

Reps. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Todd Platts (R-PA) “introduced a renewable electricity standard that would ensure that America is generating a quarter of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2025.”

Six people were hurt, one critically, by a coal-dust explosion at the We Energies coal-fired power plant in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.