The WonkLine: May 12, 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

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) says in a Washington Post op-ed that torture did not lead to the killing of Osama bin Laden. “According to the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, the best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee…was obtained through standard, noncoercive means,” he said.

Intelligence officials tasked with analyzing documents obtained from Osama bin Laden’s compound say the al Qaeda leader was preoccupied with attacking the U.S., “a fixation that led to friction with followers.”

“Senior Afghan officials say some Taliban leaders are offering intelligence about al Qaeda to prove they are serious about peace talks with the Afghan government.”

Health Care

“After years of increasing prices for health insurance, Aetna is asking state regulators to allow a premium decrease averaging 10 percent for more than 15,000 Connecticut residents.”

“House GOP freshmen, under attack from Democrats on a Republican Medicare proposal, are appealing to President Barack Obama to help tone down the rhetoric and have a calm discussion on the subject.”

“A group of leading Catholics today assailed House Speaker John Boehner for backing a budget plan that is “particularly cruel to pregnant women and children,” while “radically” cutting Medicaid and “effectively” ending Medicare.”


“Leaders in the House of Representatives on Wednesday set budget targets that would require the appropriations subcommittee that allocates funds for education, health and labor programs to cut more than $18 billion from the 2011 levels for those programs,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

“A bill that would make it easier for Pennsylvania’s public school districts to lay off teachers has the state Senate’s approval,” the Associated Press reports.

“Budget cuts forced by Congress will probably mean that university medical researchers seeking federal funds will have their lowest success rate in history,” National Institutes of Health officials said yesterday.

LGBT Equality

With overwhelming support from Republicans, the House Armed Services Committee approved all three of the anti-gay amendments to the 2012 defense authorization bill proposed last night.

The Minnesota Senate yesterday approved a referendum for a constitutional amendment redundantly banning same-sex marriage (Video).

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) signed the civil unions bill into law, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2012 (Video).

Climate Change

“Residents of Louisiana and Mississippi should be ready for flooding along tributaries, bayous and spillways as the swollen Mississippi River pushes record amounts of water south to the Gulf of Mexico, the states’ governors said.”

After Peabody Coal was hoaxed by Coal Cares, they responded with a hoax of their own, falsely attributing a fake “fact” to the World Resources Institute.

Activists rebranded Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater with the caption “…I’m the Tea Party’s wallet.”


Billionaire hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam “was convicted Wednesday on all 14 counts of securities fraud and conspiracy against him in the biggest insider-trading case ever, likely accelerating an unprecedented wave of prosecutions rocking Wall Street.”

Bloomberg notes that “Even in death, Osama bin Laden will be taking revenge on American taxpayers for years to come”: “This year alone, taxpayers are spending more than $45 billion in interest on the money borrowed to battle al-Qaeda.”

The United Nations said yesterday, “that about 1.3 billion tons of food is lost or wasted every year, which amounts to roughly one third of all the food produced for human consumption.”


Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), the original co-sponsor of the DREAM Act declined to join Democrats in reintroducing the bill. Lugar will likely face a tough Republican primary in 2011.

Republicans are stepping up their courtship of Hispanic voters following Obama’s speech in El Paso last Tuesday, with saying RNC Chairman Reince Priebus declaring, “Republicans are the proper home for Hispanic voters.” Obama easily won the Hispanic vote in 2008 with 67 percent.

Rep Lou Barletta (R-PA) has proposed legislation to slash federal funding to more than 100 “sanctuary cities”. By providing a “safe havens for illegal immigrants”, these cites are “aiding and abetting and that’s a crime in itself,” Barletta said.


The Ninth Circuit held that the Veterans Administration is unconstitutionally denying veterans access to mental health care that they are legally entitled to.

House Republicans are pushing a bill which could “effectively declare a state of permanent war against unnamed Taliban and al Qaeda operatives.”

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) is going around the Justice Department to seek approval for his state’s redistricting plan from a federal court in DC.