The WonkLine: August 18, 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.


As of yesterday, immigration officials participating in ICE’s “fugitive operations” program will no longer be required to meet hard annual arrest quotas, with ICE Director John Morton telling the LA Times that more changes are coming soon.

The White House will host an immigration discussion on Thursday with DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and advocates, religious groups, businesses, and law enforcement officials, MSNBC reports. Yesterday, immigration officials said they discovered evidence of 10 previously unreported deaths in immigration detention and acknowledged that one in 10 deaths over the last six years were omitted from the official list of detainee deaths that was presented to Congress in March.

Climate Change

“The latest round of preparatory talks for the U.N. climate conference concluded today with negotiators lamenting that the languid pace of talks could mean there won’t be a deal on emissions in Copenhagen this December.”


“Two powerful Senate panels are at odds over which will be the lead author on perhaps the most critical piece of the global warming bill.”

Jennie Hatch asks what the health care debate has to do with climate change. “If they succeed in shutting down health care momentum, and if half the country is pissed at Obama and our reps about health care, how on earth are we going to move popular opinion on climate change? Shutting down health care could realistically mean shutting down the progressive agenda for this year, which includes climate change,” she writes.

Health Care

Yesterday, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) said that “without a public option, I don’t see how we will bring real change to a system.” Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV) said that a public option is “a must.”

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has sent a letter to PhRMA CEO Billy Tauzin accusing him of “appeasement” for agreeing with the White House to support reform legislation in exchange for certain profit protections. In the letter, Boehner accuses Tauzin of cutting a “deal with [a] bully.”


Bob Herbert on why we need a public option: “It’s never a contest when the interests of big business are pitted against the public interest. So if we manage to get health care “reform” this time around it will be the kind of reform that benefits the very people who have given us a failed system, and thus made reform so necessary.”


According to the latest Federal Reserve survey, in the second quarter of this year “banks continued to tighten lending standards to businesses and households, but there are hints that the credit crisis is beginning to ease.”

This fall, the Supreme Court will hear a case regarding executive pay at mutual funds. “The case, Jones v. Harris Associates, may turn out to be the court’s first significant statement on the corporate culture that helped lead to the Great Recession,” the New York Times reports.

Tim Duy picks apart an odd Wall Street Journal story on Vermont: “The tenor of the article is that Vermont has overregulated the mortgage market preventing…wait for it…the unforgivable error of restricting loans to those who can prove an ability to repay.”

National Security

CNN reports that “former President Clinton will meet with President Obama at the White House tomorrow afternoon for the first time since Clinton’s trip to North Korea that secured the release of two jailed journalists Eung Lee and Laura Ling.”


Protesters organized yesterday at the University of California, Berkeley “to call for the firing of a law professor who co-wrote legal memos that critics say were used to justify the torture of suspected terrorists…The demonstrators said John Yoo should be dismissed, disbarred and prosecuted for war crimes for his work as a Bush administration attorney from 2001 to 2003.”

The New York Times reports that “the Army plans to require that all 1.1 million of its soldiers take intensive training in emotional resiliency, military officials say. The training, the first of its kind in the military, is meant to improve performance in combat and head off the mental health problems, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide, that plague about one-fifth of troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.”