The WonkLine: September 23, 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. We are live Twittering the Clinton Global Initiative Conference and the Senate Finance Committee mark-up.



National Security

The BBC reports that “the Chinese President, Hu Jintao has announced his intention to achieve a significant reduction in the growth of his country’s C02 emissions over the next decade.”

CNN reports that “Brazil wants an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss the situation at its embassy in Honduras, where the ousted Honduran president has been holed up since returning to his country, the official Brazilian news agency reported.”

The Christian Science Monitor reports that “the US embassy in Tshwane (Pretoria) and US consulates in Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg remained closed Wednesday, following information that US officials say indicated a specific terror threat against US government targets in South Africa.”


The Washington Post is reporting that “leaders of the Federal Reserve are debating the best strategy for ending their aggressive efforts at supporting the economy, seeking to wind down programs on a timeline that neither stops the recovery in its tracks nor leads to a burst of inflation.”

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) plans to release “a pared-back proposal to create a dedicated agency to oversee financial products offered to consumers, addressing some of the top concerns raised by business groups and lawmakers.”

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner “will urge a key Congressional committee to push ahead with his plan for financial regulatory reform, which is being assailed by banks, regulators and politicians.”

Health Care

The White House has released a new report demonstrating how health care reform will strengthen the Medicare system. During yesterday’s mark-up of the Senate Finance Committee bill, Congressional Budget Office head Douglas Elmendorf said that “seniors in Medicare’s managed care plans would see reduced benefits.”

Politico explains that “the Finance Committee seemed to come very close to passing an amendment Tuesday that would have violated the White House deal with the pharmaceutical industry.” During the debate Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said, “you ought to be embarrassed of your president” for agreeing to the deal.

Steve Benen asks why Republicans are defending Humana for distributing misinformation about Medicare Advantage.


The Obama administration has launched a new Citizenship and Immigration Services web site with goal of making “citizenship and other immigration services more accessible.”

The border was closed at the San Ysidro crossing for several hours yesterday following what authorities speculate may have been smugglers “storm[ing] the border.

President Obama has nominated former federal prosecutor Alan Bersin to be commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, a position which will charge him with leading an agency that “helps keep terrorists and their weapons out of the country while securing and facilitating travel and trade as it enforces hundreds of regulations, including export and import controls, immigration and drug laws.”

Climate Change

China and Japan earned praise from environmental groups for their “impressive” leadership during the UN Summit on Climate Change. Japan publicly pledged to cut reduce its “emissions by 25 percent by 2020.” China announced it would implement its National Climate Change Program and dedicate itself “to cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product by a notable margin by 2020, from the 2005 level.”

Pacific Gas and Electric announced that it was quitting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce due to “irreconcilable differences” over the organization’s “extreme position on climate change.”

President Obama gave a speech to the U.N. Summit on Climate Change yesterday, declaring that “difficulty is no excuse for complacency. Unease is no excuse for inaction.” The President claimed that steps taken by his administration “represent an historic recognition on behalf of the American people and their government. We understand the gravity of the climate threat. We are determined to act. And we will meet our responsibility to future generations.”