The WonkLine: August 4, 2009

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Yesterday, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME), the authors of an early version of “cash for clunkers” that would have required bigger improvements in mileage, expressed support “for extending the current version of the program.”

CNN Money reports that federal agents, acting on search warrants issued by the office of Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, “raided two banks that last week scuttled a deal that would have qualified one of them for federal bailout funds.”

Bank of America has “agreed to pay $33 million to settle a civil lawsuit alleging that it misled shareholders about billions of dollars in bonuses promised to Merrill Lynch & Co. employees when it bought the troubled firm at the height of the financial crisis last year.”


The administration’s expansion of tough immigration enforcement, like the audits of employee paperwork at hundreds of businesses, has antagonized many of Obama’s Hispanic supporters. According to the New York Times, Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, said in an interview, “We are expanding enforcement, but I think in the right way.”

The Palm Beach Post reports that a sheriff’s deputy in Florida, who used his station to intimidate at least eight men into performing sex acts with him during traffic stops, has been charged with sexual battery. The victims nearly refused to report the incident because they were all illegal immigrants who feared the consequences.

A new study shows that older immigrants, instead of being a drain on society, are some of the greatest contributors to communities.

Climate Change

Manik Roy, a vice president at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, said that no attempt should be made to strengthen climate legislation in the Senate: “If [the Environment and Public Works committee] moves a bill to the left of the House bill, in the best case, the bill will be less influential on the Senate floor than it should be.”

The Environmental Defense Fund “launched a hard-hitting new campaign targeting members of Congress who opposed the American Clean Energy and Security Act,” criticizing Mark Souder (R-IN), Tim Holden (D-PA), and Patrick Tiberi (R-OH) for “caving in to special interests.”

Thousands of coal mining supporters rallied in eastern Kentucky over the weekend to protest an energy bill they say would hurt the industry,” saying they fear a carbon cap-and-trade system would “would penalize states that burn coal and increase energy costs.”

National Security

Former President Clinton met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il today in North Korea, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, citing North Korean state-run media reports. Clinton is in Pyongyang trying to negotiate the release of two American journalists, according to the White House.

Iranian authorities are questioning three American nationals who strayed across the border into Iran from Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region last week, Iranian state media reported today. The deputy governor of Iran’s Kordestan province said that the three were still being held in the border town of Marivan, after being arrested Friday.

At the opening of Fatah’s sixth general assembly, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that his people must persist with peace negotiations with Israel “as long as there is a tiny bit of hope.” He added that Palestinians must not mar their “legitimate struggle with terror.”

Health Care

The Hill is reporting that “House liberals are offended that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) mocked their threats to oppose a Democratic healthcare bill, saying leaders are underestimating their frustration over a deal cut with centrist Blue Dogs.”

Kaiser Health News asks, “will emphasis on prevention bring health costs down?”

Health insurers are objecting to the attacks coming from Congress and the White House. “The strategy is being adopted in the Congress and elsewhere is the same old politics. Find a target, go to work. The problems are much too great for that old style strategy to be followed,” Karen Ignagni — the President and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans — said on Friday.