The WonkLine: January 21, 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.



President Obama will name GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt to head the newly renamed President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. The old iteration of the board was led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.

The number of people who bought previously owned homes dropped last year to the lowest level since 1997, according to data from the National Association of Realtors.

JP Morgan improperly overcharging and foreclosing on military families “emphasizes why we need a consumer protection bureau,” said Elizabeth Warren, who is heading up the newly created consumer protection agency.

National Security

“President Obama warned President Hu Jintao that if China did not step up its pressure on North Korea, the United States would have to redeploy its forces in Asia to protect itself from a potential North Korean strike on American soil.”

“Turkey again took on the challenge of facilitating discussion between Iran and the international community when Iranian officials and representatives of the U.N. Security Council’s five permanent members and Germany convened Friday for nuclear talks.”

Oliver Roy writes in the International Herald Tribune: “Just as Tunisia has been a turning point in the Arab world, so too it must be a turning point in the West’s policy toward the region.”


New Hampshire Republicans are pushing an “obviously unconstitutional” bill that would prevent students from voting in the community where they attend college.

Justices Scalia and Thomas are being forced to explain what they were doing at a right-wing fundraiser hosted by Charles Koch.

Rick Santorum doubles-down on his previous comparison between abortion and slavery, offering up a frothy mixture of justifications for why he believes that a “black man” should not be pro-choice.


The head of a conservative think tank and a GOP state lawmaker sponsoring an Arizona-style immigration bill are planning an immigration debate before the 2011 Utah Legislature begins.

The new governor of Michigan said he plans to establish “an exciting new initiative to encourage immigrants with advanced college degrees to come to Michigan to live and work.”

A Utah teen who was brought to the U.S. by his parents at age nine was arrested on his way to bible school and slated for deportation to Mexico.

Health Care

“The shooting rampage here that killed six and injured a congresswoman and 12 others has sparked a potentially fractious debate among Arizona lawmakers over two intertwined issues: state laws governing gun purchases and legislators’ efforts to change mental health laws.”

“Iowa House Republicans want to let Iowans ignore a federal requirement to buy health insurance. House File 2, which was approved today in a subcommittee, is aimed at negating a federal mandate set to take effect in 2014.”

“House Republicans may be focused on fulfilling their campaign promise to work to overturn the health care reform law, but a new CBS News/New York Times survey finds that a plurality of Americans prefer they focus instead on creating jobs.”

Climate Change

The Republican Study Committee has proposed a Spending Reduction Act, which moves to “eliminate taxpayer subsidies to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” citing a $12.5 million annual savings.

Randall Dantin, “the co-owner of a company whose towboat was involved in a major oil spill that closed part of the Mississippi River for nearly a week was sentenced Wednesday to 21 months in prison.”

The public awareness campaign Got Mercury? released a study, finding “that more than a third of the grocery store fish studied had levels of methylmercury in excess of the the FDA do-not-sell limit of 1 part per million.”


Higher Ed Watch asks if House Republicans can comes to terms with student loan reform.

Inside Higher Ed notes that under the spending cut plan unveiled by the Republican Study Committee yesterday “a number of programs of importance to scholars would be eliminated.”

Almost every teacher in the San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland school districts receives a satisfactory performance evaluation, prompting education scholars to note that “in a system where all teachers are winners, a crucial gauge of teacher quality is essentially lost.”

LGBT Equality

“Fifty-six Republican members of the Iowa House have joined an effort to end gay marriage in the state,” supporting a ballot initiative that would “define marriage in the Iowa Constitution as a heterosexual union.”

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development “proposed new regulations intended to ensure that its core housing programs are open to all eligible persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Kerry Eleveld explains why President Obama’s support for civil unions is so problematic.