The WonkLine: May 17, 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.



“The United States is falling dramatically behind much of the world in rebuilding and expanding an overloaded and deteriorating transportation network,” and needs about $2 trillion in infrastructure spending, according to a report from the Urban Land Institute.

“About 60% of recent graduates have not been able to find a full-time job in their chosen profession,” according to the job placement firm Adecco.

In a new investigation, “the New York attorney general has requested information and documents in recent weeks from three major Wall Street banks about their mortgage securities operations during the credit boom.”


Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) takes a minute out of his busy schedule spent bashing Wisconsin workers to hate on some gay people.

The Senate is widely expected to confirm Susan Carney to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit today, despite a smear campaign launched against her by a radical anti-government group.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich joins the pantheon of former supporters of a law requiring people to carry insurance who suddenly started thinking that the law is unconstitutional the minute Barack Obama endorsed it.

LGBT Equality

Activists around the world are celebrating the 7th annual International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has recognized the day.

Rhode Island’s civil unions bill could see its first vote today, though it is opposed by both advocates and opponents of marriage equality.

Former Villanova basketball player Will Sheridan is the latest to come out and challenge the homophobia in athletics culture.


Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin asked Minority Whip Jon Kyl to sit down and talk about comprehensive immigration reform, stating, “I will work with you to have border security beyond what the president has done.”

Sen. Charles Schumer is reportedly “convening a Senate committee hearing to press for updates on security initiatives along the northern border.”

The Texas House passed a bill that would allow Texas counties to consider the income of a legal immigrant’s sponsor when determining if the immigrant is eligible for indigent health care.


“The attorney general’s office in Massachusetts has asked the University of Phoenix for documents and information going back a decade as part of a larger review into ‘possible unfair or deceptive methods, acts, or practices,'” Inside Higher Ed reports.

“A Georgia law that cleared the way for a wave of new state-approved charter schools was struck down Monday by the state’s divided top court in a landmark decision,” the AP reports.

“The leaders of three large faculty unions say they support assessments of student learning as a means of informing instruction and curriculum,” according to a new paper by the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.

Health Care

“If the race to fill a vacant western New York House seat is offering a preview of 2012, it’s going to be a bruising affair, with Medicare and Social Security at the center of the fight.”

“The Department of Health and Human Services on Monday released new details regarding more than $2.5 billion in cuts agreed to last month, including a $48 million reduction in spending on pediatrician training and $740 million less for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

“The National Taxpayers Union on Monday sent a letter to Congress demanding the repeal of President Obama’s healthcare reform as a condition for raising the debt ceiling.”

Climate Change

Massive floods and a monster cyclone that swept through northeastern Australia over the summer will cost more than $6 billion,” Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser said Tuesday.

Xcel Energy is well ahead of its targets to meet Colorado’s renewable energy standard, which requires that utilities supply 30 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

NRDC is running radio ads urging senators like Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) to vote this afternoon to end subsidies for the Big Five oil companies.

National Security

A new study by the International Council on Security and Development shows that the U.S. is failing to win over Afghans in the heartland of the Taliban.

The Obama administration has accelerated direct talks with the Taliban with the hope of enabling President Obama to report progress toward a settlement of the Afghanistan war when he announces troop withdrawals in July.

“Nick Harvey, Britain’s armed forces minister, said it was ‘highly likely‘ that the International Criminal Court would seek the arrest of Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president, over his role in the violent crackdown on protesters.”