The WonkLine: November 19, 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.




The House Financial Services Committee yesterday approved an amendment proposed by Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-PA) that allows the government to preemptively break up “too big to fail” firms. The measure passed 38-29, with three Democrats voting against.

A new report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy finds that “most state tax systems are regressive”: “Nearly every state and local tax system takes a much greater share of income from middle- and low-income families than from the wealthy.”

Noam Scheiber looks at why President Obama wasn’t more assertive with China.


The Daily Show introduced guest Lou Dobbs with mariachi music yesterday, but “avoided a discussion of immigration policy when challenging the ex-CNN pundit’s political positions.”

The Migration Policy Institute has found that immigrants in the U.S are suffering more than native-born workers from the economic downturn.

A Local Colorado station reports that thousands of families, activists and politicians in Colorado and around the nation gathered at house parties to participate in a conference call and hear plans from congressional leaders about passing immigration reform.

Climate Change

Cal Dooley, the CEO of the American Chemistry Council, argues Congress should block the EPA from regulating global warming pollution while it dithers: “The best action here is for Congress to give EPA a ‘time out’ from proceeding with its rulemaking affecting stationary sources and have time to pass its own effective emissions reduction policies.”

Slicing and dicing isn’t going to work,” White House climate advisor Carol Browner said, responding to efforts by senators such as Bingaman (D-NM), Webb (D-VA), Dorgan (D-ND), Lincoln (D-AR), and Lugar (R-IN) to pass an energy bill without comprehensive carbon pollution limits.

Five major fires are burning in Australia as the nation “swelters in a heatwave that has seen decades old records fall.”

Health Care

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) unveiled the Senate’s health care reform legislation yesterday and is “expected to call a vote later this week, perhaps Saturday if not sooner.”

The merged Senate bill “levies a 5 percent tax on elective cosmetic surgery. The provision raises $5 billion and was needed to make the numbers work, according to a Democratic Senate aide. The Finance Committee considered the tax but dismissed it, in part because it was a public relations battle that senators were not willing to wage.”

“Democrats in Congress asked for two separate investigations of drug industry pricing Wednesday as they continue working on legislation to overhaul the nation’s health care system.”

National Security

“President Obama wrapped up an eight-day tour of Asia on Thursday, holding talks with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and speaking to American troops at Osan Air Base.” Obama announced a US envoy would visit North Korea next month.

“Iran’s foreign minister vowed Wednesday that his nation wouldn’t allow any of its enriched uranium supply out of the country, the most definitive statement so far on an international proposal to exchange the bulk of Iran’s nuclear material for fuel rods fitted for a Tehran medical reactor.” However Iran has still “yet to make a concrete, formal response to the plan”

“In an unannounced visit Wednesday to Kabul, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned [President Hamid] Karzai that future civilian aid would depend in part on how his government performed in areas like developing an effective army and curbing cronyism, according to an American official.”