The WonkLine: December 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. You can also follow The Wonk Room on Twitter, where we will be live-tweeting the Senate health care debate.


National Security

AFP reports “The Taliban blew up a girls’ school in Pakistan’s Khyber district, where troops are fighting against militants in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan, an official said Wednesday. Militants detonated explosives overnight at the government-run school in Bazgarah town, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of Peshawar, capital of the violence-plagued North West Frontier Province. There were no casualties because the property was empty at the time.”

Security forces clashed with opposition protesters gathered Wednesday for a memorial for Iran’s most senior dissident cleric, beating men and women and firing tear gas, reformist Web sites reported.

One of China’s best-known dissidents has gone on trial, more than a year after he was taken into custody.


An Los Angeles Times editorial points out that, not only are undocumented immigrants not responsible for California’s budget crisis, California couldn’t pay for the priority programs like first-rate education, transportation and public safety without them.

Two Pennsylvania teenagers previously acquitted by an all-white jury of serious state charges associated with the beating death of an undocumented immigrant from Mexico have pleaded not guilty in federal court to a hate crime charges.

The Boston Globe reports that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services has finally filled this year’s quota of 65,000 applications for the once highly coveted H-1b high-skilled guest worker visas.

Health Care

“Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) promised Tuesday that President Barack Obama would receive a healthcare reform bill by the time of his State of the Union address in January,” but this morning the White House said it “expects January’s crowded congressional calendar to force health-reform talks into February.”

The New Republic is reporting that the Democratic leadership “is planning to make at least one concession to appease the pro-immigrant legislators” and will lift the the 5-year waiting period for legal immigrants to qualify for the Medicaid expansion.

“House Democrats insisted Tuesday they have no plans to roll over for the Senate in upcoming negotiations on a health reform bill.”


“In a meeting at the White House, the president absolves small banks of blame for the financial crisis but says they have a key role to play in the economic recovery,” the Los Angeles Times is reporting.

“The income of Americans made the largest gain in six months during November and their spending rose strongly, according to data hinting the economy might have picked up speed near the end of the year.”

“Americans looking for work are unlikely to find new jobs before next spring, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Wednesday, though he insisted the economy was on the mend.”

Climate Change

The drought in Vietnam, caused by a lack of rain and “unseasonably warm and bright days,” is the worst in a century.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology reported that “central Pacific Ocean surface temperatures are now at their warmest level since the El Nino of 1997-98, exceeding temperatures observed in both the 2002-03 and 2006-07 events.”

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) met with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson to urge her “to work with the mining industry and others to clarify how coal mines get permits,” after earlier this month “saying the coal industry wasn’t helping its cause by attacking opponents and sowing fear in the Appalachian coalfields.”