The WonkLine: August 11, 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.



National Security

Burmese dissident Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her work promoting democracy, was convicted today of “violating the terms of her house arrest” and sentenced to 18 more months of home confinement in the villa where she has been imprisoned by Myanmar’s ruling junta for 14 of the past 20 years.

General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, will ask the Obama Administration for a “civilian surge” in Afghanistan, requesting that the U.S. double the number of civilians stationed in the country.

Meeting with the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Secretary of State Clinton called upon the Congolese government and the international community to do more to ensure mineral resources do not fuel conflict by funding militia groups.

Climate Change

At the second annual National Clean Energy Summit, “heavy hitters,” including former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and Center for American Progress CEO John Podesta, issued a “call to arms,” saying that grassroots support is essential to advancing climate change legislation through the Senate.

The New York Times profiles two “critical fence sitters on major climate legislation,” Indiana’s Dick Lugar and Evan Bayh, the two coal-state senators have both raised concerns about the House bill but have not ruled out eventually voting for a bill.

The Washington Post details efforts to develop carbon capture technology, a “technique that promoters say will make coal ‘clean’ and critics say is an expensive pipe dream.”


Yesterday, at a press briefing in Mexico, President Obama announced that he expects Congress to draft immigration reform legislation this year, but that lawmakers won’t be able to seriously debate the issue until 2010 — when they’re done with health care, energy and financial regulation.

Indians are the fastest growing group of undocumented immigrants, with 270,000 undocumented Indians living in the US today – a 125% jump since 2000, according to a DHS report.

The Los Angeles Times featured a Q&A session with DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in which she reiterated her support of comprehensive immigration reform and defended her agency’s highly criticized “smart” and “very effective” enforcement measures.


According to a report released yesterday, “U.S. banks will collect a record $38.5 billion in overdraft fees this year, with nearly all the revenue paid by just 10% of customers.” The amount is nearly double the $19.9 billion that banks collected in 2000.

The Wall Street Journal reports that “executive pay at government contractors is drawing scrutiny from federal auditors, who have questioned some companies about compensation and pensions they have charged taxpayers.”

According to the latest Zillow Real Estate Market Report, “the value of U.S. homes fell by 12.1 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, but the rate of decline shrank for the first time since prices began to fall in 2007.”

Health Care

“Three leading Republican governors on Monday defended the heated exchanges and vigorous protests taking place at health care town hall events across the country,” POLITICO reports. “I think you see a heightened emotion and passion and, you say anger, because people are scared,” said Hawaii GOP Gov. Linda Lingle, during a conference call with reporters organized by the Republican Governors Association.

“House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) encouraged his whip team Monday to continue to go after Blue Dog Democrats on health care reform to try to make it harder for them to vote with their leadership in September.”

President Obama will “spend the week trying to convince Americans with health insurance that legislation in Congress would benefit them, holding three town-hall meetings, a venue where Democrats have faced loud complaints.”