The WonkLine: December 16, 2010

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.

National Security

“A review of President Obama’s strategy for the war in Afghanistan concludes that American forces can begin withdrawing on schedule in July, despite finding uneven signs of progress in the year since the president announced the deployment of an additional 30,000 troops.” In an initial procedural vote, the New START treaty succeeded in getting the support of nine Republicans. A Republican leadership aide in the Senate said that “the strong vote today to proceed fundamentally changes the dynamic. It’s pretty clear this treaty is going to pass.” “Suppose the unthinkable happened, and terrorists struck New York or another big city with an atom bomb. What should people there do? The government has a surprising new message: Do not flee.”


Republican Judge Roger Vinson will hear oral arguments today in one of the many lawsuits challenging the Affordable Care Act. Vinson, who allowed this lawsuit to move past an early state in a poorly-reasoned opinion that relied on numerous discredited doctrines, is likely to side with his fellow Republicans.


Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wants the Virginia Supreme Court to revive his witchhunt against a leading climate scientist.

A Koch-funded group is touting a poll which finds that most Americans think the Founders were Marxists. Not quite sure what they think they are accomplishing with that one.


According to a survey of 96 consumer attorneys, “banks have started foreclosures on more than 2,500 homeowners still in the process of applying for mortgage modifications.”

The tax package that the House plans to vote on today includes $55 billion in benefits for a whole host of industries; ethanol producers, owners of NASCAR tracks and rum-makers will all receive tax breaks.


President Obama yesterday “was pressed by top executives to slash taxes on foreign earnings of US companies, prompting the White House to agree to ‘continue discussions’ on the issue.”


DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano called the killing of a border patrol agent “an unconscionable act of violence against the men and women of the Border Patrol and all those who serve and defend our country.”

The number of immigrants in the U.S. increased by about half a million in the year that ended in 2009, a jump from the recession when immigration almost stopped.

The Associated Press reports that “Congress has taken the unusual step of waiving immigration restrictions for two Japanese citizens fighting to live in the United States.”

LGBT Equality

“A group of Iowa attorneys is attempting to keep on the bench three state supreme court justices who ruled in favor of marriage equality last year but were voted out in November.”


“A state lawmaker plans to introduce a bill next year that would make Colorado the fourth state to recognize civil unions. Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, said he believes the majority of Coloradans support civil unions and oppose gays being treated unfairly.”

“U.S. Rep. Steve King and Iowa Family Policy Center President Chuck Hurley have thrown their support behind anti-gay organizations that the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as ‘hate groups.’”

Climate Change

Catastrophic floods are causing hundreds of millions of dollars of damage in Australia, following a tornado in Oregon, continuing to deepen the disaster in Colombia, and causing widespread ruin in New Brunswick, Canada.

“New analyses of the heat content of the waters off Western Antarctic Peninsula are now showing a clear and exponential increase in warming waters undermining the sea ice, raising air temperatures, melting glaciers and wiping out entire penguin colonies.”

“There’s no reason to believe that we won’t have a drought like” the 60-year drought that scorched the Southwest during the 12th century “in the future,” a scientist warns, “but we’re going to have warming on top of that.”

Health Care

“Republican lawmakers on the state level are largely against the new health reform law — but they aren’t against all of the behemoth legislation.”

“Choosing a health insurance policy should be easier if consumers use the simple chart and other information that state insurance commissioners are expected to approve Thursday.”

“The health care reform law confronts its most high-profile and politically charged challenge in a Florida courtroom Thursday, just three days after a federal judge in Virginia struck down a piece of the law in a similar case.”


Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) is naming names in his quest to regulate for-profit schools, which are overdue for reform.

The Senate yesterday defeated an attempt by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) to “kill off funds that help college financial aid offices cover the costs of providing federal grants to students.”

Gov.-elect Nathan Deal (R-GA) is threatening schools with severe budget cuts, while also insisting that his states corporate income tax be entirely eliminated.