The WonkLine: January 20, 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.



House Republicans plan to hold a vote on January 25 that would endow House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) with “unprecedented” powers to set federal spending levels that are binding on the House.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker “is encouraging a crackdown on banks’ longer-term principal investments.” He also approves of the early efforts to implement a proprietary trading ban that bears his name.

Chinese President Hu Jintao will meet with lawmakers of both parties on Capitol Hill today.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) named immigration reform as one of his top priorities despite the fact that it stalled out last year.

The Wall Street Journal reports, “The Obama administration plans to intensify a crackdown on employers of illegal immigrants with the establishment of an audit office designed to bolster verification of company hiring records.”

Alejandro Mayorkas, director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, said his agency’s response to the Haiti disaster showed that it could handle a much larger immigrant legalization program like the Dream Act.


A California judge struck down a state law requiring all ammunition to be purchased in a face-to-face transaction.

Only about 15 percent of arguments before the Supreme Court are presented by women.

As a new study reveals that Citizens United caused the amount of corporate money seeking to influence the outcome of elections quadrupled, a progressive group is now asking DOJ to investigate whether Justices Scalia and Thomas violated their ethical obligations by hearing the Citizens United case while they were actively fundraising for right-wing corporate groups that benefit from their decision.

National Security

“President Obama on Wednesday gently but pointedly prodded China to make progress on human rights.”

“The Obama administration is preparing to increase the use of military commissions to prosecute Guantánamo detainees, an acknowledgment that the prison in Cuba remains open for business after Congress imposed steep new impediments to closing the facility.”

“South Korea on Thursday accepted North Korea’s proposal for high-level military talks, Seoul’s defense ministry said, setting up the neighbors’ first significant bilateral dialogue since November’s artillery strike against a South Korean island.”

Health Care

“House Republicans took their first major step toward repealing the health care overhaul that has dominated the American political landscape for almost two years, voting unanimously Wednesday to roll back the law.But now, the GOP’s real work begins.”

“Health insurers’ fourth-quarter reports will provide an early glimpse into how much wind the health overhaul could take out of plans’ profits—and, so far, Wall Street estimates don’t look all that bad for the industry.”

“When it comes to reforming health care, Massachusetts has been the most pioneering state in the nation. But that title could be on its way to going to another state: Vermont.”

Climate Change

With heavy rains across southern Africa, “over 50 people have died in floods in South Africa and neighbouring Mozambique,” and ” Zimbabwean authorities have issued flood warnings for points in the south and west of the country.”

“A series of safety and equipment failures in a Massey Energy Co. mine likely allowed a small methane explosion to trigger a second, massive blast that killed 29 men in April,” federal safety officials said Wednesday

“Top staff members for key House and Senate Republicans met in a closed-door session Tuesday with energy industry interests to work on strategy to handcuff the Obama administration’s climate change agenda,” Politico reports.


Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) “wants to cut state funding for universities by 20 percent and aid to community colleges by about half to deal with a $1.1 billion deficit this coming fiscal year.”

Slate’s Kyle Spencer argues that there are merits to allowing New York City schools to release data on teacher performance.

The Alexandria school district debates extended learning time.

LGBT Equality

“A bill that might delay the ending of the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays was introduced Wednesday by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA).”

“House Republicans today introduced a joint resolution that would begin the process to allow Iowans to vote on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.”

“Opponents of New Hampshire’s same-sex marriage law will try to get the 2009 statute repealed this year, despite learning that the issue is not on the agenda set by the leaders of the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.”