The WonkLine: September 29, 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.




Drought for a fifth year running is driving more than 23 million east Africans in seven countries” — Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Uganda are worst hit — “towards severe hunger and destitution, international aid agency Oxfam said on Tuesday.”

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) says Exelon’s decision to leave the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is “a sign at least some in the business community are anxious to see us provide some leadership on climate change.”

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) blasted cap-and-trade energy reform, Grassley saying the legislation is “dead for this year” and Hutchison saying it “puts our companies at a disadvantage.”


Today, the FDIC is expected to propose “that the bulk of the banking industry prepay three years’ worth of fees to replenish the fund that insures trillions of dollars of customers’ deposits.” Prepayment for 2010, 2011 and 2012 “could bring between $36 billion and $54 billion to the government agency.”

Arnold Kling takes on the “widespread presumption that government policy, if not all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, should be aimed at putting securitization together again.”

Satyajit Dat breaks down the brewing fight over regulation of derivatives: “The industry will argue for self-regulation, which bears the same relationship to regulation that self importance does to importance.”

Health Care

“Two members of the Senate Finance Committee plan to put their Democratic colleagues on the spot on Tuesday by offering amendments on whether to give uninsured Americans the opportunity to join a government insurance program.” The amendments are largely expected to fail.

A new Kaiser Health Tracking Poll “finds that public support for health reform ended its summer slide, reversed course and moved modestly upwards in September.”

“[A] small but growing group of lawmakers is pressing for state constitutional amendments that would outlaw a crucial element of the health care plans under discussion in Washington: the requirement that nearly everyone buy insurance or pay a penalty,” the New York Times reports.


The Miami Herald reports that Latino rights organizations are concerned about amendments laid out by the Senate Finance Committee that would force legal immigrants to buy health insurance like the rest of the population, but in some cases they would not reap the same advantages.

Medical experts in South Florida warn that excluding undocumented immigrants from the benefits of health-care reform could jeopardize public health, leave costly gaps in insurance coverage, and impair attempts to prevent the spread of infectious disease.

A Virginia woman who reported to police that a violent Mexican smuggling cartel had her brother and was demanding thousands of dollars for his release helped save eleven undocumented immigrants who were also being held hostage.

National Security

The New York Times reports that “an intercity bus crowded with passengers struck a roadside bomb in the contested southern province of Kandahar [Afghanistan] on Tuesday and exploded, killing 30 civilians and wounding 39 others.”

The Washington Post reports that “the Obama administration is laying plans to cut Iran’s economic links to the rest of the world if talks this week over the country’s nuclear ambitions founder.” “While officials stress that they hope Iran will agree to open its nuclear program to inspection, they are prepared by year’s end to make it increasingly difficult for Iranian companies to ship goods around the world.”

The interim Honduran government “has closed two news broadcasters and suspended some constitutional rights in response to the country’s ongoing political crisis. In Tegucigalpa, officials say they are concerned that supporters of ousted President Manuel Zelaya, who has taken refuge in the Brazilian embassy, might seek to destabilize the country.”