The WonkLine: December 17, 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.


Senate Democrats may finalize a package of Senate Rules reforms today that could limit the minority’s opportunities for obstruction in the next Congress.

Yesterday’s oral argument before Republican Judge Roger Vinson in the multistate Affordable Care Act litigation did not go well.


The Senate confirmed a dismal four judicial nominees yesterday, barely putting a dent in the 38 nominees waiting for a floor vote. Because of unprecedented GOP obstructionism, President Obama has the lowest judicial confirmation rate of any recent president.

National Security

“The Obama administration plans to further step up attacks on Al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents in the tribal areas of Pakistan, to address one of the fundamental weaknesses uncovered in its year-end review of its Afghanistan war strategy.”

“Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, on a visit to North Korea he described as a mission “to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” began a series of meetings on Friday with senior diplomats in Pyongyang.”

“WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was released from a British jail cell Thursday after the High Court upheld a decision granting him bail.


The House approved President Obama’s $850 billion tax package last night, with no changes from the Senate’s version. Obama plans to sign the bill into law today.


A $1.2 trillion omnibus appropriations bill was pulled by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) last night “after several Republicans he had been counting on withdrew their support of the plan.”

One New York state judge has used a law “requiring attorneys in foreclosure actions to certify that they have taken reasonable steps to verify the accuracy of documents they submit to the court” to deny 127 foreclosure filings.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed a cloture motion on the DREAM Act yesterday, setting up a vote that would take place Saturday. Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) office said he will be present for a Saturday procedural vote on the DREAM Act despite being scheduled to have surgery for early-stage prostate cancer next week. A federal judge has dismissed the government’s argument that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are immune from lawsuits brought on constitutional grounds.

LGBT Equality

“Senate Democrats on Thursday moved one step closer to repealing the Pentagon’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) scheduling a key vote Saturday on a bill to end the ban on openly gay service members.”


“The Washington Post reports that state LGBT group Equality Maryland has hired Annapolis lobbying firm Alexander & Cleaver “to help push for legalization” during that 90-day window.”

“FIFA WORLD CUP president Sepp Blatter apologized for warning gay soccer fans that they should refrain from sexual activities if they attend the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.”

Climate Change

Three large wildfires are ablaze in bone-dry Texas, and heavy rains flooded homes and roads in Quebec and South Africa.

“The California Air Resources Board has approved the creation of the nation’s first broad-based program to put a cap on greenhouse gas emissions and to begin charging large emitters for the excess carbon dioxide they put in the air.”

“A state regulator issued an air-quality permit Thursday for a new coal-fired power plant in southwest Kansas, allowing a utility to begin construction on the $2.8 billion project without having to comply with new federal rules on greenhouse gases taking effect in less than three weeks.”

Health Care

“Three days after a federal judge granted Virginia’s request to void a key provision of the U.S. health-care overhaul law, a federal judge in this coastal city signaled that he is likely to follow suit in a case brought by Florida and 19 other states.”

“Leading House Republicans accused the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of rationing care.

“State-based programs that help spread the word about Medicare benefits will have to increase beneficiaries’ awareness about benefits of the healthcare reform law in order to get federal grants next year.”


The Los Angeles school board voted this week “to allow the district to seek corporate sponsorships as a way to get money to the schools.”

D.C.’s school safety statistics seems a bit hard to believe.

Gov.-elect Rick Scott (R-FL) has some truly awful education reform plans, but the Florida legislature’s plan to extend the school day at struggling schools is a good one.