The WonkLine: March 5, 2010

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.


Climate Change

California’s dirty air caused more than $193 million in hospital-based medical care from 2005 to 2007 as people sought help for problems such as asthma and pneumonia that are triggered by elevated pollution levels,” according to a new RAND Corporation study.

In a full-page ad in Variety, a coalition of green groups said “the predatory grab for resources the Oscar-nominated film Avatar portrays on the fictional planet Pandora is similar to methods used in northern Alberta” for tar sands extraction.

A submission by the UK Institute of Physics “to a parliamentary inquiry examining the behavior of climate-change scientists” was drawn from Peter Gill, a consultant for “oil and gas production companies, who “argues that global warming is a religion.”

National Security

“President Obama’s advisers are nearing a recommendation that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, be prosecuted in a military tribunal…a step that would reverse Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s plan to try him in civilian court in New York City.”

“Iraq opened its polls early on Thursday for hundreds of thousands of soldiers and police officers responsible for protecting the country’s electorate, and they came under assault themselves.”

“Prime Minister Gordon Brown appeared on Friday before a high-level inquiry into the [Iraq] conflict, defending the decision to invade alongside American troops but questioning United States’ planning for the aftermath.”


FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair “went on a charm offensive by defending the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) against criticism that the program regularly fails to reach its goals.” “It’s still too soon to know how successful it will ultimately be,” she said.

The Department of Education named 16 finalists yesterday in the first round of its “Race to the Top” competition, “which will deliver $4.35 billion in school reform grants,” including the District of Columbia. Winners will be announced in April.

The United Kingdom’s “supertax” on bank bonuses “will reap more than £2.5bn for the Treasury, giving the UK government an unexpectedly large windfall to spend ahead of the general election.”


The White House is reportedly discussing prospects for reviving comprehensive immigration reform as evidenced by President Obama’s scheduled meeting with the two senators crafting a bill, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Irish immigrants would like lawmakers and the public to know that that for thousands of Irish people in the U.S., the immigration debate is just as important as it is to Latinos.

The executive director of a Chicago immigrant rights group writes in the Washington Post that President Obama risks alienating Latinos by ramping up immigration enforcement and failing to deliver on his promise of reform.

Health Care

“The Roman Catholic bishops signaled Thursday that if agreement is reached with House leaders on anti-abortion language, the church would work to get the votes needed to protect the provisions in the Senate — and thereby advance the shared goal with Democrats of health care reform.”

“In a direct challenge to Democratic leadership, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced an amendment on Thursday night that would prohibit Congress from using reconciliation to make changes to Medicare. ”

“Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told The Hill that liberals challenged Obama on the lack of a public health insurance option and other provisions in the Senate bill the president has endorsed. Lee said Obama said he still “strongly supports” a public option, but “the votes aren’t there.”