The WonkLine: August 17, 2009

Welcome to The WonkLine, a daily 10 a.m. roundup of the latest news about health care, the economy, national security, immigration 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.

Health Care

The Senate Finance Committee may not meet its self-imposed goal of introducing a health care bill by September 15. “We will be ready when we are ready,” Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We will not be bound by any deadline.”

Al Hunt is arguing that the death panel town halls have actually rallied the Democrats and energized a push toward reform. A “counteroffensive” seems to be gaining ground.


“A pilot project by Medicare that links hospital payments to the quality of care has helped prevent infections in pneumonia patients and cut death rates in heart-attack patients, according to data to be released Monday.”


U.S. banks that failed in the past two years “were in far worse shape than those that collapsed during the industry’s last crisis” causing problems for the FDIC’s insurance fund. The FDIC’s estimated cost for those banks has averaged 25% of assets, “up from the 19% rate between 1989 and 1995.”

McClatchy reports that “the number of U.S. students who receive free and reduced-cost meals at school could soar to a 41-year high this school year,” as high unemployment pushes thousands more children into poverty.

USA Today notes that as the economy tumbled, accusations of wage theft increased, prompting a response from both state and national lawmakers.


The New York Times reports on a significant rise in scams involving “predatory” lawyers with a lack of knowledge of immigration law who exploit undocumented immigrants and those who employ them. The AFL-CIO and Change to Win are encouraging their local union members to issue a joint statement calling for immigration reform that’s currently delayed due to widespread concern about the potential inclusion of a guest worker program provision in any reform bill. Another Latino resident of Patchogue (Long Island) has fallen victim to an alleged “racially charged attack” just nine months after the murder of Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero — whose death Patchogue authorities referred to as part of an “anti-Hispanic crime spree.”

Climate Change

Bloomberg reports that four Democratic senators said that the Senate “should abandon efforts to pass legislation curbing greenhouse-gas emissions this year and concentrate on a narrower bill to require use of renewable energy.”


The New York Times reports on a Colorado State university project — partly funded by Colorado’s Southern Ute Indian tribe — that has “the twin goals of making fuel from algae and reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases.”

Reuters reports that “a new study by some of China’s top climate change policy advisers has urged the government to set firm targets to curb greenhouse gas emissions so they peak around 2030.” The study proposes setting both relative and absolute targets for limiting China’s emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities.

National Security

McClatchy reports that “Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, a notorious Afghan warlord accused of allowing the murder of hundreds, if not thousands, of prisoners and then destroying the evidence, returned to Afghanistan Sunday night as part of what appears to be a political deal brokered with President Hamid Karzai.” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday that “negotiation was the only path to statehood, espousing non-violence after his Fatah party backed an option of ‘resistance’ against Israeli occupation.” “We are peace seekers,” he said. USA Today reports that “five months after President Obama announced a new Afghanistan strategy based on stepped-up civilian efforts to rebuild the country, the State Department has put 92 new people in the field, department figures show. That’s about a third of its year-end goal of 313 additional aid workers and diplomats outside the Kabul embassy.”