The WonkLine: July 29, 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.


According to a new report, in May “home prices in major U.S. cities registered the first monthly gain in nearly three years.”

Yesterday, the House Financial Services Committee approved legislation giving shareholders “the right to cast non-binding, annual votes on executive pay and on special pay packages” and allowing regulators to ban certain pay practices at financial services firms.


With legislation reforming student loans moving forward, Higher Ed Watch notes that “the student loan industry and its most hard-line supporters in the financial aid world are doing what they do best: spreading fear about proposed changes to the student loan programs that would be harmful to their interests.”


The Department of Homeland Security rejected petition requests to make legally enforceable rules for immigration detention, explaining that “rule-making would be laborious, time-consuming and less flexible.” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano organized a closed-door session on immigration in Seattle on Monday with representatives of various industries and advocates impacted by immigration. A new study conducted by Rice University, “Slanted Newspaper Coverage of Immigration: The Importance of Economics and Geography,” found that newspapers from towns along the U.S. — Mexico border produce more negative coverage of immigration “in an effort to please readers.”

National Security

The Multi-National Force-Iraq will soon be faced with a “looming nomenclature problem” when George Bush’s “coalition of the willing” becomes a “coalition of one,” as the British and Australian forces withdraw from Iraq this week.


The United States and China concluded “two days of high-level talks with few concrete results,” but officials were optimistic that the summit would be a harbinger of greater cooperation between the two superpowers, with Secretary of State Clinton telling reporters that “laying the groundwork may not yield a lot of concrete achievements immediately, but every step is a good investment.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged Kurdish president Massoud Barzani to resolve long running issues with the central government in Baghdad this year before the U.S. reduces its presence further and loses influence over Baghdad.

Climate Change

In a new report, Oxfam Australia estimates that “75 million people in the Asia-Pacific region will be forced to relocate by 2050 if climate change continues unabated.”

Bloomberg reports that “China and the U.S. agreed to redouble efforts to craft a new climate change treaty, adding pressure on the two largest polluters to break a stalemate over how to curb global warming.” Secretary of State Clinton praised the accord, saying it gives the countries “direction as we work together to support international climate negotiations.”

St. Louis could face deadly heat waves every other year if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at their current rate, according to a report conducted for the Union of Concerned Scientists. Flooding in the region is also predicted to increase by 40 percent in the next couple of decades.

Health Care

Yesterday Elizabeth Edwards “lent her political star power to a underlooked element of the ongoing health care debate: the rise in bankruptcies related to health care costs.”


“As Congress contemplates taxing insurers for gold-plated health benefits to pay for a health overhaul, it might catch another group in its net: employers who “self-insure” — or pay for their workers’ health bills on their own.”

“The House will not vote on a health care overhaul this week, but lawmakers haven’t stopped talking about it — especially a group of senior Democratic leaders and holdout “Blue Dog” Democrats who have stalled a markup of the measure in the Energy and Commerce Committee,” Congressional Quarterly reports. House leaders say they have not determined when the House will begin its August recess, which is scheduled to start at the end of this week. “I’ve indicated that we’re not going to do the bill on Friday, because we don’t have time to give notice,” Majority Leader Hoyer said.