The WonkLine: April 24, 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, and subscribe to the RSS feed. Also, you can now follow The Wonk Room on Twitter.


As a wildfire in Myrtle Beach on the South Carolina coast “spread over thousands of acres by early Friday” and a “7,500-acre-plus blaze” raged in South Florida, scientists reported that “wildfires spur climate change, which in turn makes blazes bigger, more frequent and more damaging to the environment.”

Rep. Gene Green (D-TX), who “represents a district with several oil refineries, a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions, said about the Waxman-Markey clean energy bill, “they have to get our votes, and I’m not going to vote for a bill without refinery allowances.”


Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), a prominent coal industry advocate, asked administration nominees whether they agreed with comments this week by Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, that no new nuclear or coal plants may ever be needed in the United States.

National Security

“A Pakistani Taliban commander withdrew his fighters from a key northwestern valley on Friday, amid growing alarm in the United States that the Taliban were creeping closer to the capital of nuclear-armed Pakistan.” Fears for Pakistan’s stability “have heightened in the past week after the Taliban took control of Buner,” a valley just 100 km from Islamabad. Two U.S. journalists “will stand trial for alleged crimes in North Korea,” the government announced Friday. “The two reporters for Current TV, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, are accused of entering the country illegally and intending ‘hostile acts.’” Progress on establishing a Palestinian state must go “hand-in-hand” with efforts to stem Iranian influence in the Middle East, Secretary of State Clinton said yesterday, “implicitly rejecting the emerging position of the new Israeli government.”


The Obama administration will receive its “first indication” of investor interest in its toxic asset plan today, “amid fears that the threat of government intervention and banks’ reluctance to sell will deter fund managers from participating.”


Bob Lawless at Credit Slips writes that “after years of presidencies that were at best indifferent or at worst supportive of the credit card industry abuses, to finally have the White House give some attention to these issues is an incredibly welcome development.”

A new paper from the Center for Economic and Policy Research concludes that the International Monetary Fund “is still prescribing inappropriate policies that could unnecessarily worsen economic downturns in a number of countries.”

Health Care

CQ is reporting that “despite threats from Republicans to delay considering the nomination of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Senate agreed Thursday night to schedule a confirmation vote for April 28.”

According to new Health Affairs polling, “an individual [health] mandate alone is supported by less than half of the population, [while] a shared-responsibility plan that includes this type of requirement is supported by a majority.”

More Massachusetts residents are “seeking care in hospital emergency rooms, and the cost of caring for ER patients has soared 17 percent over two years, despite efforts to direct patients with nonurgent problems to primary care doctors instead.”