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The WonkLine: March 11, 2011

Welcome to The WonkLine, a daily 9:30 a.m. roundup of the latest public policy news. 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.

Climate Change

“A massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake and a powerful tsunami devastated the northeast coast of Japan on Friday afternoon, leaving hundreds dead and triggering waves that threatened coastlines as far west as California.”

“Republicans have shown no fear in tying the oil price spikes to anything on the Democratic energy agenda,” even though the attacks “have no basis in fact.”

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“ Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s case seeking records on climatologist Michael Mann is headed before the full state Supreme Court.”

LGBT Equality

“The House of Delegates plans to vote today on whether to legalize same-sex marriage, a divisive issue that narrowly cleared the Senate and inspired thousands of Marylanders to register their feelings with their legislators.”

“Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is joining with a coalition of 21 Senate colleagues to introduce the Student Non-Discrimination Act,” which would better protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students from bullying.

“Tempers flared and voices rose Thursday night as Rhode Island state lawmakers held a hearing on legislation to make the state the sixth to legalize gay marriage.”

National Security

“The momentum seemed to have shifted decisively on Friday in an uprising that has shaken Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s four decades of rule, with rebel lines dramatically thinner after insurgents fell back from this strategic refinery town.”

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“The White House announced a five-point program on Thursday of steps to isolate Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and ultimately drive him from power, all stopping well short of military action.”

“In a deliberately undiplomatic speech to NATO defense ministers [today], [Defense Secretary] Gates called on European allies to put aside their domestic politics and work with the United States to secure the ‘semblance of normalcy’ that he said was emerging in some parts of Afghanistan.”

Justice

The gun lobby has come out against Caitlin Halligan, a former Supreme Court clerk and current nominee to the D.C. Circuit. This represents a clear escalation in the right’s battle to keep the judiciary empty — gun groups generally have not concerned themselves with lower court nominees and the first Supreme Court nominee to be opposed by the gun lobby was Justice Sotomayor in 2009.

The Virginia Supreme Court will hear a case involving Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R-VA)’s witch hunt against climate scientists.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad named a lawyer who is suing the state’s judicial selection panel to that very same panel.

Economy

According to the latest Federal Reserve data, U.S. households “shouldered a smaller debt burden in 2010 than at any point in the previous six years.”

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HousingWire reports that House Republican efforts to end several federal foreclosure prevention programs are “dead on arrival” in the Senate.

House Republicans plan to introduce another short-term spending resolution today, this time lasting three weeks and making $6 billion in supposedly “noncontroversial” cuts.

Education

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AL) tries to square her prior support for Head Start with her recent vote to cut Head Start.

During a meeting at the White House yesterday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers pledged to rewrite No Child Left Behind.

“Pennsylvania’s new Republican governor is under fire for proposing the nation’s biggest cuts in higher education — more than 50 percent for some universities,” the AP reports.

Immigration

Latino groups will stage a 15-day boycott of all businesses in Utah to protest a series of immigration bills sitting and flex the community’s economic muscle. The city of Danbury, Connecticut, and federal authorities have agreed to settle a lawsuit by immigrant day laborers for $650,000. A Florida House committee voted to require police to check the immigration status of a person who is under arrest or is the subject of a criminal investigation.

Health Care

“The 1,000-plus waivers granted by the Obama administration to a portion of the healthcare reform law have become a political liability for the White House.”

“The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a list of deficit-cutting options Thursday that includes hundreds of billions in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.”

“Nearly a year after Congress passed health care reform and the President signed it into law House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she’s ‘pretty confident’ the law will stand.”