The WonkLine: October 7, 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

In a meeting with Congressional leaders yesterday, President Obama said “that he would not substantially reduce American forces in Afghanistan or shift the mission to just hunting terrorists there, but he indicated that he remained undecided about the major troop buildup proposed by his commanding general.”

New disclosures about confidential voter turnout data from the disputed Afghan election “show that in some provinces the official vote count exceeded the estimated number of voters by 100,000 or more, providing further indication that the contest was marred by fraud.”

During a press conference yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder signaled that the “Obama administration is close to settling on a U.S. site to imprison terror suspects currently held at Guantanamo Bay prison.” Holder also said he believed that “Congress will support the move despite a series of votes against such transfers.”


The Obama administration “is putting a new emphasis on revitalizing U.S. cities with a coordinated effort that involves stimulus funding and getting multiple agencies to work together to improve schools, housing and neighborhoods.” Local officials “credit the administration for quietly beginning the most ambitious new policy for the nation’s cities since the Great Society.”

A new report from the National Consumer Law Center claims that reverse mortgages — which enable owners to “essentially sell back their home over time to a lender in return for a steady stream of money” — are simply “subprime revisited.”

Simon Johnson writes that “the last few weeks of dollar depreciation is an amazing stroke of luck for the Obama administration…If it lasts — and they need some more luck — this could save the midterm elections for the Democrats.”

Health Care

As the health care reform bill moves to the Senate floor, a key bloc of moderate Senate Democrats is insisting that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) “post legislative text and CBO scores online 72 hours before the first floor vote.”

Some patient advocates worry that lowering premiums for some people who take advantage of wellness incentives “means raising them for others and that those others are usually sicker people.”

“The latest Associated Press-GfK poll has found that opposition to Obama’s health care remake dropped dramatically in just a matter of weeks. Still, Americans remain divided over complex legislation that Democrats are advancing in Congress.”


The Miami Herald claims that despite DHS’ recently announced reforms of the US immigration detention system, “the devil is in the details and there’s an urgent need for more immediate relief.”

A 20-member panel, set up by the Brookings Institution and Duke University’s Kenan Institute for Ethics recommends that the US cut back on the admission of immigrants who are extended-family members of US citizens and permanent residents to make room for more skilled workers.

All six of the Nobel Prize winners announced so far are US citizens and four of those six are naturalized immigrants — a “dynamic [that] neatly summarizes the current state of our innovation economy,” writes Chris O’Brien.

Climate Change

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue, who last year called for more “scientific inquiry” into climate science, today rebuked Apple for leaving his organization, claiming they did not understand the Chamber’s “21st century approach to climate change.”

Fernando Tudela, head of the Mexican climate delegation, says that the United States delegation is “increasingly identified as a stumbling block for the negotiations and it’s up to them to dispel this perception and to show the real leadership we’re expecting from them,” although he recognizes ” they are in an uncomfortable position since they cannot put on the table any figures unless the Congress process is clearer.”

Byron Dorgan (D-ND) attacked clean energy jobs legislation yesterday, saying “I think standing in a deep economic hole is a difficult time to do big policy things that cause uncertainty,” but Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) disagrees, supporting clean energy investment to rebuild the economy.