The WonkLine: November 12, 2009

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The Obama administration is considering setting aside an unused portion of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) for debt reduction. The Treasury Department estimates that about $210 billion in TARP funds remains unspent, “including about $70 billion returned from financial institutions.”

Bloomberg News notes that Sen. Dodd’s (D-CT) financial regulation overhaul “may do little” in terms of reining in executive compensation. “For the most part it’s pretty hollow, a toothless tiger,” said Paul Dorf, managing director of Compensation Resources Inc.

Foreclosures filings in October fell three percent from September, but still surpassed 300,000 for an eighth straight month.


Last night, CNN anchor Lou Dobbs announced that he is leaving the network and seemed to hint at a possible run for elected office.

A new study shows that thousands of refugees who are fleeing persecution in their home countries and pose no threat to the US have had their asylum applications denied or indefinitely delayed due to the stringent application of U.S. anti-terrorism laws.

A Salvadoran immigrant is suing the sheriff’s office in Frederick County, Maryland claiming that she was unconstitutionally interrogated about her immigration status by deputies who had no probable cause and then detained for five weeks without charges.

Health Care

The Hill points out that “the House could be in session until nearly Christmas Eve to try to win final passage on a healthcare bill.”

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) “is considering a plan for higher payroll taxes on the upper-income earners to help finance health care legislation he intends to introduce in the Senate in the next several days, numerous Democratic officials said Wednesday.”

Inside Health Policy is reporting that some are considering a “compromise that would tie adoption of health information technology — a key White House project — to liability protections.” The compromise “encourages electronic health records and does not include such controversial measures as capping non-economic damages or limiting lawyer fees.”

Climate Change

We’ve failed our primary task of preventing harm,” said IPCC lead author Saleemul Huq. “Now we are going to be tasked with protecting those most vulnerable to harm. And soon we are going to be confronted with globally catastrophic harm.”

“It’s common understanding that climate-change legislation will not be brought up on the Senate floor and pass the Senate this year,” Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus told reporters.

“An array of West Virginia’s top political leaders stood shoulder-to-shoulder Tuesday with executives from the state’s top coal producers, vowing to form a united front in the face of what they call mixed signals and heavy-handedness from federal mining regulators.”

National Security

The current Ambassador and former top US military commander in Afghanistan, retired General Karl Eikenberry, “has expressed in writing his reservations about deploying additional troops to the country.” “He wants to know where the off-ramps are,” one official said.

As the President departs for Asia, Reuters reports, “Japan will reassure the United States that their alliance is in good shape, Tokyo said on Thursday, as a feud over a Marine base strains relations ahead of a visit by President Barack Obama.”

“Iran’s president on Wednesday called for international cooperation on nuclear technology in a prime-time television appearance filled with conciliatory language toward the world community, in stark contrast with the dismissive tone of other senior Iranian officials toward a United Nations-backed proposal,” according to the Los Angeles Times.