The WonkLine: January 19, 2011

Welcome to The WonkLine, a daily 9:30 a.m. roundup of the latest public policy news. 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.


National Security

“President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao will confront stubborn rifts over North Korea and bilateral economic imbalances on Wednesday when they meet amid the pomp of a formal state visit.”

“The Saudi foreign minister says Riyadh has abandoned mediation efforts to end the political crisis in Lebanon caused by the UN-backed Hariri tribunal.”

“A magnitude 7.2 earthquake shook southwestern Pakistan early Wednesday, jolting residents of cities as far away as the country’s largest city of Karachi and the Indian capital, New Delhi.”


The Mississippi state senate, by a wide margin, passed an immigration bill that will allow state law enforcement officers to check the status of people they think might be in the United States illegally.

A group of Virginia House Republicans introduced a proposed package of at least 16 bills aimed at undocumented immigrants.

Florida state Rep. William Snyder (R) is considering “watering down” his legislation to appease critics concerned about racial profiling by allowing police to inquire about immigration status only during a criminal investigation.


Fresh off its infamous Citizens United decision reaffirming that corporations are persons just like you and me, the Roberts Court will now decide whether Corporate Americans can feel “embarrassed.” Hey Philip Morris, could you tell Bank of America that Koch Industries likes her?

All but two of the attorneys to serve as Solicitor General for the last 15 years now represent big business. One of the two exceptions is Justice Elena Kagan.

Two Virginia lawmakers are trying to shut down Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s (R) global warming denying witchhunt against UVA by limiting his powers of investigation.


JP Morgan Chase said yesterday that it is “mailing $2 million in refunds to military families who were overcharged on mortgages or wrongfully lost their homes.”

Financial regulators yesterday moved towards limits on proprietary trading that would “force chief executives to swear personally that their compliance systems are adequate.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) unveiled a foreclosure prevention plan yesterday that would help homeowners refinance at current interest rates or have their mortgage balances reduced in bankruptcy court.

Health Care

“The U.S. Justice Department has asked a federal appeals court to overturn a lower court ruling that deemed the health reform law unconstitutional because it requires all Americans to buy insurance or face a penalty.”

“Born of bloodshed, a self-proclaimed Age of Civility dawned in Congress on Tuesday. Republicans and Democrats of the House spoke without angry shouts and debated legislation to repeal the nation’s year-old health care law without rancor.” A final repeal vote is expected later today.

“Despite the millions spent on advertising, countless town halls and a reinvigorated debate over the new health law, neither party has accomplished the key goal: swaying public opinion on health reform.”

Climate Change

Pope Benedict XVI offered prayers for the international victims of catastrophic flooding, as the death toll has reached 20 in Australia, where more towns are being evacuated, 43 in Sri Lanka, where the UN has made a $51 million appeal, 53 in the Philippines, and 702 in Brazil, with more rains to come.

Arch Coal could have cut the environmental damage in half of the recently vetoed Spruce No. 1 mountaintop removal mine for as little as 55 cents a ton.

“Even as we approach the usual winter maximum, the ice extent is lower than at any time in recorded history,” according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.


Both the Obama administration and Senate Education Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) are gearing up to rewrite No Child Left Behind.

The public education system in Texas “is facing billions in proposed budget cuts that would include slashing arts education, pre-kindergarten programs and teacher incentive pay.”

Is former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee’s key reform getting dismantled?

LGBT Equality

“Just when Democrats thought the thorny issue of repealing a ban on allowing gays to serve openly in the military had been resolved, a Republican lawmaker reopened the debate by calling for more military voices to have a say if, when and how the ban is lifted.”

“A report from UCLA’s Williams Institute set to be distributed to Utah’s 104 legislators Wednesday morning found significant anti-gay bias and discrimination in the state, which is home to the Mormon Church.”

New data shows that “child rearing among same-sex couples is more common in the South than in any other region of the country.’