The WonkLine: July 31, 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.




Dairy farmers, worried about possible crackdowns, are pushing Congress to pass immigration reform that will legalize their workforce after a recent dairy industry study found that immigrants make up over 40 percent of the dairy work force and produce at least two-thirds of U.S. milk.

Supporters of immigrant rights, frustrated that the White House has not made immigration reform a higher legislative priority, are “trying to yank the issue off the back burner by pressing ahead with lobbying and legislation plans they hope will reinvigorate reform efforts.”

After Immigration and Customs Enforcement dismissed a report complaining about conditions at its immigrant detention centers, a group of over 60 detainees in Louisiana have begun “rotating 72-hour hunger strikes” to protest poor conditions.

Health Care

“Sen. Chuck Grassley, the senior Republican on the Finance Committee, has assured his GOP colleagues that he will not sell them out and strike a private deal with Democrats on healthcare reform, according to Republican senators.”

Kaiser Health News is reporting that Governors are objecting to the portion of the Blue Dog health care compromise that would require states to fund 7 percent of the Medicaid expansion.

Congressional Quarterly is speculating that delay to pass anything out of the Senate Finance Committee “means that Obama is unlikely to sign any overhaul into law by October, as he had hoped. It will be almost impossible for Democratic leaders to shepherd the bill through Finance, pass it in both chambers, reconcile House and Senate differences in a conference committee, and clear the measure between Labor Day and Oct. 1″

Climate Change

A new study shows that the “annual mean area burned in the western United States is to increase by 54%” by 2050 with “the forests of the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountains experiencing the greatest increases of 78% and 175% respectively” due to increases in temperature due to climate change.

India has announced that “will spend some $200 million to protect its forests and will announce how much carbon emission is being captured by its green cover” as part of an emerging U.N. scheme called REDD, in which “developing nations could potentially earn billions of dollars by setting aside and rehabilitating their forests.”

The U.S. government is suspending the “cash for clunkers” program after it proved so popular that it ran through its $1 billion allotment in six days.


The U.S. economy shrank at an annualized rate of one percent in the second quarter of this year, after shrinking at 6.4 percent in the first quarter. The change signals that the economic downturn “is abating as government efforts to revive lending and President Barack Obama’s stimulus gain traction.”

Panama’s moves to cut down on banking secrecy may test the Obama administration and Congress, because Panama’s image as a leading tax haven “has become the latest hurdle for a pending U.S. trade deal, which has languished” since 2007.

Steven Pearlstein writes that “even as the cleanup crew is carting away the debris left by the last financial crisis, the investment banks, hedge funds and exchanges are busy working on the next one,” this time with high-frequency trading as the tool of choice.

National Security

Reuters reports that “Six bombs exploded within minutes near Shi’ite mosques across Baghdad on Friday, killing at least 26 people and wounding scores of others…The blasts, which appeared to target Shi’ite Muslims taking part in Friday prayers, was a reminder of the capability of militants in Iraq despite an overall drop in violence in the country over the last 18 months.”

The Washington Post reports that “Britain launched an independent inquiry into its role in the Iraq war, with the panel’s chairman confirming that former prime minister Tony Blair will be among the witnesses and that it would not ‘shy away from making criticism.'”

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh “threatened Friday to boycott reconciliation talks with the rival Fatah group unless his supporters detained in the West Bank were released. The two dominant Palestinian groups accuse each other of carrying out political arrests that have crippled Egyptian efforts to broker a deal to restore political unity and boost prospects for a resumption of peace-making with Israel.”