The WonkLine: March 26, 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.



Yesterday, “Senate Republicans blocked for the second time in recent weeks an extension of unemployment benefits” that didn’t have spending offsets. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) objected to multiple unanimous consent agreements to move the bill, while House Democrats balked at an offset suggested by the Senate.

The Obama administration “plans to overhaul how it is tackling the foreclosure crisis, in part by requiring lenders to temporarily slash or eliminate monthly mortgage payments for many borrowers who are unemployed.”

According to documents filed by the U.S. Justice Department, “JPMorgan Chase & Co., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and UBS AG were among more than a dozen Wall Street firms involved in a conspiracy to pay below-market interest rates to U.S. state and local governments on investments.”

Climate Change

“At least 19 percent of the world’s coral reefs are already gone, including some 50 percent of those in the Caribbean,” and an “additional 15 percent could be dead within 20 years,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — “if global warming continues unchecked, all corals could be extinct within 100 years.”

ConocoPhillips, BP, and Shell Oil Co met with climate bill drafters Sens. Kerry, Graham and Lieberman yesterday to ask them to block the federal government from regulating hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” for natural gas.

Simon Lewis, an expert on tropical forests at the University of Leeds in the UK, filed a formal complaint this week about the Sunday Times’ “inaccurate, misleading and distorted” story by Jonathan Leake about the IPCC.

Health Care

“For many, the healthcare fight may come to symbolize the tipping point. House passage of broad healthcare reform, which Obama signed on Tuesday, has raised doubts within Republican circles over whether the GOP leadership made a mistake by trying to kill the bill instead of shaping it more to their liking.”

“Three companies that were among vocal opponents of the legislation have warned they would see an immediate impact on their earnings as a result of the loss of deductions on tax-free subsidies they receive for providing retiree prescription-drug benefits.”

“Senate and House Republicans are introducing bills to close a loophole in the health care reform act that may exempt leadership and committee staffers from having to buy health plans created in the act.”


At a lecture at Arizona State University, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano affirmed that the Obama administration is setting its sights on immigration reform,”what I cannot tell you is the when,” she stated.

DNC chairman Tim Kaine praised former President Bush and other Republicans “who have really tried to find common ground on immigration issues,” though the party’s “loudest” voices have spoken out “in extreme ways.”

Senior Homeland Security officials report that U.S. law enforcement authorities, seeking to avert a spillover of drug violence from Mexican border cities, are trying out new cross-border cooperation with the Mexican federal police.

National Security

The New York Times reports that “after contentious meetings in the White House, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, returned home on Thursday with the politically explosive task of responding to an unyielding American demand that he limit Israeli building in East Jerusalem.”

“President Barack Obama will call Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday to discuss a new nuclear arms reduction treaty between their countries, the White House said.”

“Iraq was poised to announce long-awaited parliamentary election results on Friday, capping what has become an unexpectedly tight race between Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and Ayad Allawi, a former interim prime minister. Results from the nationwide March 7 elections, which drew some 12 million voters despite deadly bombings, have been released in dribbles by Iraq’s election authorities.”