The WonkLine: April 16, 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.




Sen. Susan Collins is the only Republican senator who has not signed a letter “promising to filibuster a motion to proceed [to the financial reform bill] unless the Democrats reopen bipartisan negotiations.”

U.S. housing starts rose more than expected in March to their highest level since November 2008 and permits to build new homes scaled a 17-month peak,” the Commerce Department said on Friday

Bank of America has “clawed back to profitability after two periods of losses,” The New York Times reports. The bank was “once considered critically ill, requiring $45 billion in government bailout money,” but now offers a positive sign for the economy, “after positive data in recent weeks on jobs and consumer spending.”

National Security

“With no prospect of a return to normal before the weekend, travel chaos across the globe deepened on Friday as a vast, high-altitude plume of volcanic ash from Iceland spread farther across northern and central Europe.”

“Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev resigned and fled the country, leaving political power fully in the hands of a group of political insiders who toppled him in a popular uprising last week.”

“The military government of then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf failed to fulfill its responsibility to protect former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in the hours leading up to her December 2007 assassination or to vigorously investigate her killing by a 15-year-old suicide bomber, according to a U.N. fact-finding commission report released Thursday.”


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that “he remains committed to passing comprehensive immigration reform this year, either before the November elections or afterward during an all-but-certain lame-duck session.”

The Washington Post reports that Federal agents “swarmed over five Arizona shuttle businesses…arresting dozens of van operators and smugglers accused of transporting illegal immigrants from the Mexican border to Phoenix.”

While in Mexico, first lady Michelle Obama said that “changes to the immigration system are necessary, but will be politically difficult.”

Health Care

President Obama signed legislation Thursday “that would extend federal COBRA health insurance premium subsidies to employees laid off from April 1 through May 31.”

“D.C. officials say the city will save millions of dollars from the recently approved federal health-care bill, a reward of sorts for the District’s years-long push to offer nearly universal insurance access to its residents.”

“Despite his objections to the national health care reform law, Gov. Jim Gibbons joined Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto on Tuesday in agreeing to spend $279,119 in state money to set up a planning unit to prepare for 150,000 additional Medicaid recipients in 2014.”

Climate Change

Andrew Tyndall discovered that the wall-to-wall nightly network news coverage of the Massey coal mine disaster never mentioned that “the Upper Big Branch workforce went unorganized,” and Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) said, “No captain of industry, regardless of power or position, is beyond the reach of the law.”

The Kerry-Graham-Lieberman green economy bill will be unveiled on April 26, as “nine Senate Democrats– including key fence-sitters, mainly from the Midwest” want “the bill to keep U.S. manufacturing jobs from shifting to nations like China that may not impose the same level of greenhouse gas emissions reduction standards as those called for under the evolving Senate bill.”

Economist Brad DeLong says that to deal with the crisis of global warming we need to “nationalize the energy industry in the United States” and “limit future climate negotiations to a group of seven—the U.S., the E.U., Japan, China, India, Indonesia, and Brazil—and enforce their agreement by substantial and painful trade sanctions on countries that do not accept their place in the resulting negotiated system.”