The WonkLine: March 26, 2009

Welcome to The WonkLine, a daily 10 a.m. roundup of the latest news about health care, the economy, national security and climate policy. This is what we’re reading. Tell us what you found in the comments section below, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Health Care

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) promises to pass comprehensive health reform “for Teddy”: “I would like to do [health care reform] as a legacy issue for [Kennedy], if I can — this would mean a lot to him,” Hatch said.

After months of meetings, “a diverse collection of health care groups plans to issue recommendations on Monday for Congress” as it works on reforming the health care system. The group, Healthcare Reform Dialogue, sidesteps the most controversial questions in the debate.


The House Budget Committee’s version of the 2010 draft budget resolution includes ‘reconciliation’ instructions to allow legislation” implementing proposals for overhauling the health care system “to move later in the year.” The Senate Budget Committee did not include a similar provision.

National Security

Two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, detained last week by North Korean soldiers are likely to become bargaining chips for North Korea in its feuds with the outside world, according to analysts and politicians in South Korea.

David Ignatius writes about “private organizations in the United States [that] continue to raise tax-exempt contributions for the [Israeli settlement] activities that the [U.S] government opposes.”

The Chinese government has reacted angrily to a Pentagon report on China’s military power, which claimed it was altering the military balance in Asia. A foreign ministry spokesman called it a “gross distortion of the facts”, and urged an end to “Cold War thinking”.


Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced a bill that would “put a stop” to mountaintop removal — says Alexander, “Coal is an essential part of our energy future, but it is not necessary to destroy our mountaintops in order to have enough coal.”


As flooding began devastating rural North Dakota, forecasters yesterday warned that the Red River was “rising higher than predicted, possibly to its highest point ever recorded.”

The Conservation Reserve, “which pays owners to idle fragile U.S. farmland, could become one of the largest carbon sequestration programs on private land, an Agriculture Department official said on Wednesday.”


The House Budget Committee “approved the Democratic budget resolution on a party-line vote Wednesday, sending the $3.55 trillion budget plan to the full House for consideration next week.”

The New York Times reports that “like a dozen or so other cities across the nation, Fresno [CA] is dealing with an unhappy déjà vu: the arrival of modern-day Hoovervilles, illegal encampments of homeless people that are reminiscent, on a far smaller scale, of Depression-era shantytowns.”

Yves Smith asks “has the gaming of the private-public partnership begun?”: “It certainly looks as if Citigroup and Bank of America are using TARP funds, not to lend…but to scoop up secondary market dreck assets to game the public private investment partnership.”