The WonkLine: January 20, 2010

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. You can also follow The Wonk Room on Twitter.


Yesterday, Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke called for an audit of the Fed’s actions during the bailout of AIG, pledging to provide “all records and personnel necessary.” A vote to reconfirm Bernanke could take place as early as Friday.

“The Treasury Department persuaded some big banks to pay more than market estimates to repurchase warrants issued to the government” in return for TARP money, “rejecting bids that were in line with, or above, internal and external estimates.”


David Stockman, Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Reagan, welcomes the Obama administration’s bank tax: “Its underlying policy message is that big banking must get smaller because it does too little that is useful, productive or efficient.”

National Security

The Wall Street Journal reports “U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said al Qaeda was working with an array of local militant groups to destabilize South Asia and trigger a war between India and Pakistan, an indication of the growing U.S. fears about new terror attacks throughout the volatile region.” “Yemeni jets pounded the home of a suspected Al-Qaeda leader Wednesday, an army source said, as the military stepped up pressure on the group believed behind a botched bid to down a US airliner.” “The blockade of the Gaza Strip is putting residents’ health at risk, the UN and aid groups have warned…Some 27 patients died last year waiting to be referred out of Gaza, they said.”


An analyst tells the Wall Street Journal that the prospects for an immigration overhaul might not be damaged by the Massachusetts election outcome, though immigration reform itself will be “an uphill battle.” Markos Moulitsas writes on The Hill: “The issue [immigration] is popular, the policy is sound and Democrats can seize the opportunity to deliver on at least one major campaign promise.” The Miami Herald reports that the Guatemalan government claims that “U.S. immigration officials improperly seized Guatemalan passports issued to its citizens in the U.S. and detained three people who went to a Florida FedEx store to pick them up.”

Health Care

A Rasmussen election night poll of Massachusetts voters found that “56% of Massachusetts voters named health care as the most important issue. That suggests it was a big issue, but Democrat Martha Coakley actually won among those voters by a 53% to 46% margin.”


The New York Times outlines some options for passing reform: “A leading idea involves persuading House Democrats to pass a Senate bill that many of them have serious problems with. Another alternative calls for Senate Democrats to promise to make changes to the bill later on. Some Democrats said their big hopes would have to be scaled back.”

NPR reports that third-party prescription drug program administers are “one of the few industries growing during this recession.”

Climate Change

Long-term efforts to help Haiti recover from the earthquake “will have to reverse environmental damage such as near-total deforestation that threatens food and water supplies for the Caribbean nation,” experts say.

“It is my assessment that we likely will not do climate change this year, but will do an energy bill instead,” Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) told reporters in a telephone conference call on Tuesday, saying that his plan to “allow oil and natural gas exploration 45 miles from the Florida coastline” is “climate-friendly.”

A pro-coal rally is being planned before a debate tomorrow on mountaintop-removal mining between Massey Energy chief Don Blankenship and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at the University of Charleston in West Virginia.