The WonkLine: May 19, 2010

Welcome to The WonkLine, a daily 9:30 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.


ELECTION UPDATE: In last night’s Senate primary elections, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) defeated incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), Rand Paul (R) defeated Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, and neither Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) nor Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D-AR) received enough votes to avoid a June 8 runoff. In the special election to replace the late Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), Mark Critz (D) defeated Tim Burns (R).

Climate Change

Federal officials said Tuesday that “they have recorded 156 sea turtle deaths;” most of the turtles were endangered Kemp’s ridleys.

As the National Academy of Sciences announces “the longer the nation waits to begin reducing emissions, the harder and more expensive it will likely be to reach any given emissions target,” Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) says ” support for the legislation that is being talked about just does not exist” and Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) says “my feeling is it’s not going to be coming up this year.”

John Ameroso, the pioneer of urban agriculture who started working in New York City in 1976, is retiring.


Immigration will be a central part of Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s two-day visit which kicks off today with a joint press conference in the Rose Garden and a state dinner later tonight.

Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl wrote Michael Posner, the assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, demanding an apology for comparing Arizona’s immigration law to China.

The Associated Press reports that “latest figures show that Arizona, which is about to put into effect the nation’s toughest immigration law, also is the only border state where illegal crossings are on the rise.”


Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) has proposed an amendment to his financial reform bill that would suspend Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s (D-AR) proposal to ban banks from trading in derivatives for two years “give the Treasury Secretary the ability to kill the ban altogether.”

According to a new study from the Institute on Assets and Social Policy, “in the last 23 years, the gap between the average net worth of African-American families and white families has more than quadrupled,” with the average white family having $95,000 more in wealth.

Yesterday, Arizona voters “approved a temporary sales tax increase championed by a Republican governor who, despite angering conservative supporters, embraced it as the only way to avert sharp cuts in education and other services.”

Health Care

“The American Medical Association is opposing the Medicare ‘doc fix’ included in the tax extenders bill House Democrats are preparing. AMA argues the proposed fix to the Medicare payment system for physicians doesn’t address the program’s solvency issues and only pushes the problem five years down the road.”

“A collection of insurance trade groups have sent comments to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services expressing concern if the definition of what constitutes a medical cost for insurers is ‘narrow.’‘”

“More than three-fourths of employers say they will wait until the effective date to comply with a provision in the health care reform law that requires group plans to extend coverage to employees’ adult children up to age 26, according to a survey.”

National Security

“South Korea will formally blame North Korea on Thursday for launching a torpedo at one of its warships in March, causing an explosion that killed 46 sailors and heightened tensions in one of the world’s most perilous regions, U.S. and East Asian officials said.”

“Insurgents, some of them wearing suicide vests, attacked one of the U.S. military’s largest and most populous bases Wednesday morning, the second ambitious attack in as many days and a sign that the Taliban movement may have launched its yearly spring offensive.”

“A close ally of Iran’s president denounced as illegitimate on Wednesday a draft U.N. resolution which would expand sanctions against Tehran because of its refusal to halt uranium enrichment. The text, agreed by all five permanent Security Council members after months of negotiation, targets Iranian banks and calls for inspection of vessels suspected of carrying cargo related to Iran’s nuclear or missile programs.”