The WonkLine: July 30, 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.

Climate Change

The LA Times reports that “decades of war and mismanagement, compounded by two years of drought, are wreaking havoc on Iraq’s ecosystem, drying up riverbeds and marshes, turning arable land into desert, killing trees and plants, and generally transforming what was once the region’s most fertile area into a wasteland.”

The Senate yesterday “passed a $34.3-billion energy spending bill that backs up President Obama’s promise to close the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility in Nevada. The bill, passed by a 85–9 vote, also covers water transfers to help farmers in California and hundreds of water projects by the Army Corps of Engineers.”

The New York Times notes that “cool roofs” are catching on as an energy cost cutter.


Yesterday, the House voted to approve the PASS ID Act which will replace the “unworkable” REAL ID Act of 2005 and create a less costly program that establishes federal security standards for driver’s licenses and identification cards by 2016. After eliminating the state-funded health insurance of 30,000 legal immigrants last month, Massachusetts has voted to restore a small portion of those benefits without stipulating how much care they will qualify for. A Salvadoran family which fled their home country to avoid gang violence will bring their case to the Supreme Court which is expected to set a national precedent on whether escaping forced recruitment into violent foreign gangs is grounds for asylum in the US.

Health Care

Sen. Max Baucus(D-MT) said yesterday that a “preliminary Congressional Budget Office score of his panel’s draft health care overhaul package would cost under $900 billion over the next decade and provide health coverage to 95 percent of uninsured Americans.”


Suggested changes to the Massachusetts health care system would create real reform by improving quality and cutting costs, which should include more preventive services and interventions, and also increasing coverage.

Lawmakers who cite Lewin Group’s ‘Nonpartisan’ Data, like nearly 100 million Americans may quit their private insurance plans if offered a government-run alternative, don’t mention that the Lewin Group is owned by UnitedHealth Group.


Colin Barr at CNN Money writes that the government received fair value for TARP warrants from both American Express and Goldman Sachs, which may indicate that Treasury is finally getting tough on banks.

The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations “has subpoenaed financial institutions, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG, seeking evidence of fraud in last year’s mortgage-market meltdown, according to people familiar with the situation.”


Due to higher than expected demand, funding for Congress’ cash-for-clunkers plan may already be running out. Joe Weisenthal writes that the government probably didn’t take into account owners trading in cars with a resale value of $5,000+, “a seemingly irrational move to leave money off the table.”

National Security

CNN reports that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair “will be called before an inquiry into the country’s role in the Iraq war…Blair’s successor, Gordon Brown, announced the inquiry last month, saying it would look in depth at the lead up to and conduct of the war. However, he also said it would not appropriate blame or have any mandate to consider civil or criminal charges.” According to Voice of America, “witnesses in Iran say riot police have forced reformist leader Mir Hossein Mousavi to leave a Tehran cemetery, where hundreds of mourners have gathered to pay respects to those killed in the unrest that followed the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.” Reuters reports that “Indian opposition lawmakers staged a noisy protest and walked out of parliament on Thursday, branding government efforts to improve ties with Pakistan a sell out of national interest.”