The WonkLine: December 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. You can now follow The Wonk Room on Twitter, where we will be live-tweeting the Senate health care debate. Also, the Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson will be blogging and tweeting from Copenhagen on the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Climate Change

“In these few days in Copenhagen, which will be blessed or blamed for generations to come, we cannot permit the politics of narrow interest to prevent a policy for human survival,” United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown told world leaders in Copenhagen, “because for all of us and for our children there is no greater national interest than the common future of this planet.”

It appears the stock market believes in climate change: “stocks in large energy companies fall in response to announcements by NASA about record temperature results.”


The Copenhagen Prognosis, a new scientific report, argues that for global warming to stay below two degrees C, emissions “almost certainly” have to peak in 2015 and go to “near zero” by 2050.


The House of Representatives yesterday passed a $154 billion jobs bill composed of “combination of infrastructure projects, aid to states and funding for several safety-net programs” on a 217–212 vote. No Republicans voted for the legislation.

Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, Ben Bernanke, “is potentially on the road to another, more dubious honor: the record for receiving the most “no” votes during Senate consideration of a nominee for Federal Reserve chairman.” The current record is 16 “no” votes for Paul Volcker in 1984.

The Treasury Department has “abruptly shelved plans to start trimming its 34% stake in Citigroup Inc., after investors demanded a price so low that the Treasury Department would have lost money on the deal.”

Health Care

It’s unclear if Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has 60 votes to pass cloture in the Senate. “Until I can see more details, I’m not going to know whether I can support the bill,” said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) a crucial 60th vote.


Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) is “pushing the Obama administration to reveal the specifics of deals it struck with various groups on healthcare reform.”

The Washington Post is raising new concerns about several provisions in the Senate bill that would allow insurers to circumvent state-based consumer protection laws and sell health insurance policess across state lines.


The Census Bureau released a set of population projections yesterday showing that, due to stepped-up immigration enforcement and the recession, whites will likely make up the majority of the population until 2050, eight years later than previously projected. Workers’ rights centers are reporting that wage theft has become the top complaint they’re hearing, particularly from immigrants who are particularly vulnerable because of fear that employers will call immigration authorities. The Obama administration announced yesterday that it will stop detaining asylum seekers who have a credible fear of persecution in their home countries.

National Security

“Iran on Wednesday test-fired an upgraded version of its most advanced missile, which is capable of hitting Israel and parts of Europe, in a new show of strength aimed at preventing any military strike against it amid the nuclear standoff with the West.”


Ray Takeyh opines in the Boston Globe: “The arrival of new militant forces into commanding positions in the national security apparatus can only further erode prospects of an agreement. As the breakdown of the Geneva deal demonstrates, the vagaries of Iran’s domestic politics can always undermine arrangements seemingly beneficial to all the parties.”

“Parts of the Pakistani military and intelligence services are mounting what American officials here describe as a campaign to harass American diplomats, fraying relations at a critical moment when the Obama administration is demanding more help to fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda.”