The WonkLine: June 25, 2009

Welcome to The WonkLine, a daily 10 a.m. roundup of the latest news about health care, the economy, national security, immigration and climate policy. This is what we’re reading. Tell us what you found in the comments section below, and subscribe to the RSS feed. Also, you can now follow The Wonk Room on Twitter.




Rising tides and storms are washing away a Cape Cod town, as scientists and officials raise concerns about global warming’s threat to Nebraska’s irrigated agriculture and Tennessee’s native fish, fowl, and animals.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member James Inhofe (R-OK) “made a surprise appearance on the House floor last night,” speaking about the prospects of action on the climate issue in the Senate, E&E News reports. “I was allaying the concerns of a lot of them who didn’t know what was going to happen in the Senate on cap and trade and what I felt,” Inhofe said. “Or, it’s better said what was not going to happen in the Senate. There’s no way they can get the votes to pass it.”

Former Vice President Al Gore will meet with House Democrats” today at 1 p.m. to discuss the urgency of climate action.


President Obama will host a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the House and Senate at the White House today to discuss immigration reform. President Obama and Congressional leaders have said that they intend on addressing immigration reform as early as this fall.

As Senate Democrats outlined their plans for immigration reform in advance of the White House summit, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) “said a national system to verify work documents is necessary.” Schumer proposed requiring workers to verify their status through fingerprints or an eye scan.

A bill that would require “Arizona schools to collect and report data on students who are not able to prove legal U.S. residence,” withholding state funding for school districts that refuse, passed an initial hurdle yesterday when it was advanced out of a state senate committee.


House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) is questioning “whether a proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency should have responsibility over administering the Community Reinvestment Act.” Frank may suggest the agency only “give advice on CRA.”

California state controller John Chiang warned yesterday “that if legislators and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fail to come up with a budget-balancing package in the next week, he would begin paying California’s bills with IOUs on July 2.”

According to a new survey, “the greatest fear among hedge fund managers and executives, who have seen their industry shrink in the financial crisis, is neither the flight of wealthy investors nor ill-functioning markets but regulation.”

National Security

The Obama administration sent a formal letter to the Chinese government protesting its plan to force all computers sold in China to come with software, known as Green Dam-Youth Escort, that blocks access to certain Web sites.

After Obama’s strong statement on Iran on Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad compared Obama to George Bush and suggested that Obama “avoid interfering in Iran’s affairs and express your regret in a way that the Iranian nation is informed of it.”

Gen. Stanley McChrystal is expected to release new combat rules aimed at reducing the number of civilian deaths. Speaking to Marines, McChrystal said that US and Nato troops must make a “cultural shift” from conventional warfare to protecting Afghan civilians.

Health Care

The Hill reports that House Democrats will save $285 billion on their health care bill by not applying the “pay-as-you-go” budget procedure and permanently raising Medicare payments to doctors, instead of passing it on an annual basis.

Yesterday, former Cigna senior executive Wendell Potter testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation saying that insurance companies “confuse their customers and dump the sick, all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors.”

In last night’s ABC town hall, televised from the White House, President Obama said he wouldn’t rule out taxing health care benefits, saying “There is going to have to be some compromise.”