The WonkLine: June 18, 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.

National Security

A Government Accountability Office report to be released today sharply criticizes Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for “not working together to stop the flow of guns into Mexico.”

Supporters of Iranian presidential candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi vow to take to the streets again today to protest Iran’s contested presidential election in defiance of government intimidation and threats. Moussavi called for a “day of protests and mourning” for those protesters killed in recent days.


Guillermo Bettocchi, the head of the UN Refugee Agency Operation (UNHCR) in Somalia, called the recent upsurge in violence “the worst violence ever in Mogadishu” over “the last 20 or so years.”


An immigration judge described the nation’s immigration courts as “a system at its breaking point,” after a new report was released showing the courts are “seriously overburdened” with the highest case backlog in over a decade due to the Bush administration’s stepped-up enforcement efforts. After their parents received deportation orders, over a hundred U.S. citizen children have decided to sue the U.S. government claiming a violation of their constitutional rights as they will probably have no choice but to leave the country as well. Maricopa County Supervisors in Phoenix, AZ have voted against accepting $1.4 million in state funding for local Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s controversial immigration enforcement measures.


“In the first such action of its kind, the Environmental Protection Agency has declared a public health emergency in the asbestos-contaminated town of Libby, Montana,” “where over the course of decades asbestos contamination in a vermiculite mine has left hundreds of people dead or sickened from lung diseases.”


“Can we trust local utility companies to manage billions of dollars in value in a responsible manner that benefits consumers and reduces global warming pollution?”

Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA), endorsed by Al Gore in 2008 for being “on the frontlines” for global warming, is defending his opposition to the Waxman-Markey climate legislation, claiming it would “greatly increase the cost of doing business for Iowa farmers and ranchers and excludes them from being a part of the solution.”

Health Care

During HELP’s first day of mark-up, “delicate deal-making also was going on behind the scenes at the White House, where administration officials were talking to drugmakers about voluntarily expanding prescription-drug benefits for Medicare recipients.”

Kaiser Health News has a very interesting article about Congressional Budget Office directors Douglas Elmendorf and Peter Orszag “sparring over health care reform.”

“Executives of three of the nation’s largest health insurers told federal lawmakers in Washington on Tuesday that they would continue canceling medical coverage for some sick policyholders, despite withering criticism from Republican and Democratic members of Congress who decried the practice as unfair and abusive.”


Fortune reports that the banking lobby is opposing President Obama’s proposal to eliminate the Office of Thrift Supervision, as “many outsiders say the OTS typifies the shortcomings of the current setup, in which regulators are ‘captured’ by their subjects.”


According to a new survey, “state income-tax revenue fell 26% in the first four months of 2009 compared to the same period last year.” Calculated Risk breaks down some of the numbers.

Politico details how Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) blocked the Obama administration’s proposal to merge the Securities and Exchange Commission with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.