The WonkLine: August 26, 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.



Health care

Edward M. Kennedy, the “liberal lion” of American politics, passed away this morning after serving in the U.S. Senate for nearly 50 years. President Obama said that the country had lost “the greatest United States Senator of our time.”

Republicans are using the higher deficit projections to argue for a smaller health care reform package. Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), the ranking Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, declared that “if the House Democrats’ unaffordable $1 trillion health care bill wasn’t dead before, it should be now.”

Jonathan Cohn explains the White House’s deal with PhRMA.

Climate Change

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) attacks climate legislation even though “record-breaking heat in parts of Texas is causing electricity bills to soar.”

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) is “still reserving judgment” on whether global warming is “manmade or natural,” and wants to require a 67-vote margin in the Senate for any climate agreement.

Rajendra Pachauri, the UN’s top climate scientist, said that he supports a 350 ppm limit for greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, much stronger than the 450 ppm set as an international goal: “as a human being I am fully supportive of that goal.”


Reuters reports that some banks are adding “pay czar clauses” to their employee contracts “that let them void compensation agreements if they are challenged by the U.S. government.”

Ben Protess at Huffington Post asks, “Is Bank of America, the nation’s largest bank, tracking how it spends $45 billion in taxpayer funds? That depends on which Bank of America statement you believe.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that “high-school students’ performance last year on the SAT college-entrance exam fell slightly, and the score gap generally widened between lower-performing minority groups and white and Asian-American students.”


USA Today credits Sen. Edward Kennedy with having “fashioned the modern day” immigration system, starting with the elimination of the ethnically biased quota system in 1965 and ending with immigration reform legislation that, despite its failure, “laid the groundwork” for a better bill to pass next year.

Ruben Navarrette of the San Francisco Chronicle warns that the “immigration uproar will upstage health care debate.”

US immigration authorities have suspended all non-emergency visa services in Honduras in an effort to put pressure on the country to reinstate its ousted president.

National Security

Pakistani helicopters stepped up attacks on Taliban positions yesterday, “a day after militants confirmed that their leader was dead and announced his successor.”

Bloomberg reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “agreed with U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell that Israelis and Palestinians need to take practical steps to advance peace and said he hopes to restart negotiations shortly. Talks could begin in the next few weeks.”

Reidar Visser at Iraq and Gulf Analysis writes that “After a long battle with lung cancer, Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), has died in Tehran. More than anything, through his political career, Hakim became a symbol of the chaos, the contradictions and the opportunism that have characterised Iraq in the post-2003 period.”