The WonkLine: March 4, 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.




In a videotaped address before the AFL-CIO, President Obama said that the Employee Free Choice Act will pass, “signaling his full backing for legislation that makes union organizing easier.”

According to a new report, “twenty percent of all U.S. residential properties that had a mortgage on them were underwater at the end of December”; 8.3 million homeowners ended 2008 owing more than their home was worth.

Michael Tomasky on Obama’s meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown: “It wasn’t exactly showbiz, but by comparison with the Blair-Bush routines, the Obama-Brown meeting was at least rational.”

National Security

The U.S. “is moving quickly to revive relations with Syria, sending two senior officials to Damascus this weekend to explore how the two countries can move beyond years of bitterness.”

The Obama administration “is preparing a wide-ranging set of initiatives designed to put shaky relations between the United States and Russia on a more solid footing.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “says the United States will press for a two-state solution to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” which “may put the Obama administration at odds with Israel’s new leadership.”

Health Care

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) “told a meeting of the Federation of American Hospitals any new system would include a significant role for private insurance but would work best with ‘creative tension‘ between public and private insurers.”

Speaking about the looming health care debate, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) suggested, “Everything has to be on the table. Everything… Keep open minds. Don’t say no to anything… for at least five or 10 minutes.”

Robert Laszewski analyzes the health care provisions in President Obama’s budget proposals and concludes, “President Obama hasn’t made anywhere near the hard decisions that need to be made.”


Before leaving office, President Bush told federal officials “they did not have to bother getting the advice of wildlife experts before taking actions that might harm plants or animals…On Tuesday, President Obama said that, in effect, they did.”

“For the United States to play a leadership role crafting a global warming treaty, negotiators say Congress and the Obama administration must enact limits this year to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.”

Cisco and NASA “launched a partnership Tuesday to develop new online tools to measure and analyze climate change.”