The WonkLine: April 1, 2009

Welcome to The WonkLine, a daily 10 a.m. roundup of the latest news about health care, the economy, national security and climate policy. This is what we’re reading. Tell us what you found in the comments section below, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

National Security

The North Korean government of Kim Jong Il warned in a radio broadcast that its forces “will relentlessly shoot down” U.S. reconnaissance aircraft that monitor preparation for its missile launch.

U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke held a “brief and cordial exchange” with the head of the Iranian delegation attending an international conference at The Hague, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at a press conference.


President Obama and Russian President Dmitri A. Medvedev outlined their plans today to push the reset button in Russian-American relations, launching negotiations to draft a new arms control treaty that could slash the American and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals by about a third.

Health Care

“As electronic health records get a starring role in the economic stimulus package in the U.S., Americans are thinking through who to trust with their personal health data.” According to a new poll, 75 percent “Americans trust health providers above all other ‘data stewards’ for handling their personally identified information.”

A possible compromise on the public plan: “Congress would authorize a new government-run insurance program, but it would come into existence only if certain conditions were met — if, for example, private insurers failed to rein in health costs by a certain amount after several years.”

The Washington Independent asks Conservatives For Patients Rights founder Rick Scott to explain his health care record.


Keith Johnson asks whether the Waxman-Markey green economy legislation has learned from Europe’s lessons on cap-and-trade.


George Browning, the former Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn, told a memorial service of victims of February’s Australia bushfires “that human activity was causing climate change and extreme weather conditions.”

Yesterday, the Senate approved Sen. Boxer’s (D-CA) amendment to the budget “requiring that revenues obtained from upcoming global warming legislation be used to refund consumers for the price hikes via tax rebates,” and Sen. Thune’s (R-SD) amendment prohibiting “a future cap-and-trade initiative…from causing higher electricity rates and gas prices.”


Four regional banks yesterday “became the first firms to repay emergency aid from the government”; the largest bank was Signature Bank of New York, which returned $120 million.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said Tuesday “he would expedite legislation to create a ‘cash for clunkers’ program if needed to encourage consumers to trade in older cars for more fuel-efficient models”; such programs have “exceeded expectations” in Europe.

The Hill reports that “doubters from Wall Street to K Street think Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is overestimating what’s left in the $700 billion piggy bank Congress created to bail out the financial sector.”