The WonkLine: July 13, 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.


“I think people totally underestimate how much a few degrees affects everything from what you grow to how virulent kudzu will become,” a Georgia environmentalist warns, as a federal report finds that due to global warming, “the area of severe spring and summer drought in the Southeast has already increased by 14 percent since the mid-1970s.” “Senate Republicans will float new climate change legislation today “that leans heavily on the use of nuclear power, calls for more spending on research and development, and promotes an increase in offshore oil and gas drilling.” “The EPA has to have authority to regulate coal plants under the Clean Air Act,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) told reporters, explaining she “is worried about a provision added” to the American Clean Energy and Security Act “that would strip the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate pollution from coal-fired power plants.”

National Security

The Wall Street Journal reports that “a secret Central Intelligence Agency initiative terminated by Director Leon Panetta was an attempt to carry out a 2001 presidential authorization to capture or kill al Qaeda operatives, according to former intelligence officials familiar with the matter.” Wired’s Noah Shachtman reports that according to the U.S. Air Force “there wasn’t a single American airstrike in Iraq last month.” “Iraq is still a dangerous place…But the newly quiet sky shows just how far American military involvement in Iraq’s affairs has shrunk. In June of 2007, there were 207 airstrikes. In June 2008, there were 25. Now, none.” Noting increasing militant activity in Yemen, Jeff Reger writes that “the other Arab Gulf states — as well as the United States — would be well served in viewing Yemen not as a state apart, but as a regional problem with a regional solution.”


The Department of Homeland Security announced that it will be revising the 287g program, which gives local law enforcement officials the power to enforce federal immigration laws, with new guidelines intended to prevent police from arresting individuals for minor offenses. A new study by the Brookings Institution points to a nationwide shortage in immigration judges, with backlog of cases in Dallas’ immigration court hitting a ten-year high. A decrease in immigrants entering the U.S. due to the economic downturn has been further evidenced by a drop in border apprehensions and a decrease in the number of rescues and border-crossing deaths.


Analysts predict that Goldman Sachs will announce a $2.2 billion second quarter profit tomorrow. The company is expected to set aside enough money to pay $18 billion in compensation and benefits this year.


Bloomberg reports that Bank of America “is trying to avoid paying billions of dollars in fees to U.S. taxpayers for guarantees against losses at Merrill Lynch & Co., saying the rescue agreement was never signed and the funding never used.”

Yesterday, Senate Democratic leaders “signaled reservations” about a House proposal to implement a surtax on the rich to raise $540 billion for health care reform.

Health Care

The AP is reporting that “lawmakers from both parties are telling the White House they will go on vacation next month and leave behind — and incomplete — President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.”

The Washington Post argues that the current health care reform efforts have not done enough to control costs.

NYT: “As Congress struggles to find ways to pay for universal coverage and modernization of the health care system, it may well have to ask for more from the hospitals and the drug industry.”