The WonkLine: May 19, 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.


Today, the Senate will attempt to break a GOP filibuster of the nomination of Goodwin Liu to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit today. Many of the filibustering senators, including Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), James Inhofe (R-OK) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL), claimed that judicial filibusters were unconstitutional when a Republican president was in the White House.

Right-wing opponents of the Affordable Care Act are still clinging to a frivolous claim that Justice Kagan needs to recuse herself from their meritless lawsuit challenging the act.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) thinks that the Founding Fathers don’t know anything about the Constitution.

Health Care

“Employers will likely face health-care cost increases of 8.5% in 2012, but they’ll mitigate that burden by pushing more costs onto employees and making other changes to benefits, a PricewaterhouseCoopers report finds.”


“It’s a far cry from the seismic vote of lastNovember, but Democrats are nonetheless bullish about a handful of election results Tuesday that they say offers more evidence that the political pendulum is swinging back the party’s way.”

“The Obama administration argues that the states suing over the constitutionality of the health care reform law would risk leaving uninsured Americans ‘on the street after a car accident’ without the law’s requirement that nearly all Americans buy health insurance.”

LGBT Equality

The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, who has hosted Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachmann, and Tim Pawlenty on his show (among others), yesterday said that gay people are (literally) Nazis and the LGBT movement is “the Spanish Inquisition all over again.”

Nearly all military cadets have now seen the required hour-long training briefing on the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.


An Arizona teenager, Caleb Laieski, is in DC lobbying Congress to support the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which could get its key vote in June.


Republicans say President Obama’s efforts to reform the nation’s immigration system are “doomed to fail.” The Department of Homeland Security plans an investigation of the Secure Communities finger-printing program. The Marietta Daily Journal reports that a “federal civil rights lawsuit claiming that two Cobb County police officers stopped a man because he is Latino and then broke the man’s nose during an arrest has been settled for $32,500.”


“The median starting salary for students graduating from four-year colleges in 2009 and 2010 was $27,000, down from $30,000 for those who entered the work force in 2006 to 2008,” according to a study by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development.

“Without more students from low-income and working-class families earning bachelor’s degrees, the United States won’t meet the Obama administration’s college-completion goal,” according to a new report from the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education.

High gas prices are hurting rural schools’ budgets.

Climate Change

Friends of the Earth, Corporate Ethics International and the Center for International Environmental Law are suing the U.S. State Department to compel Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to turn over emails with a Keystone XL pipeline lobbyist who is a former top staffer. “Seaport officials are unsure how best to protect their facilities from rising sea levels and more frequent Katrina-magnitude storms,” two consequences of global warming. “Thunderstorms killed 13 people in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday even as heat and humidity continued to wear down people in northern India.”


Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned as the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund yesterday; he is being held in New York on charges that he sexually assaulted a hotel employee.


When Sheila Bair leaves her post at the FDIC next month, the Obama administration “will have five major bank regulatory positions either unfilled or staffed with acting directors.”

Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase float the idea of “death derivatives,” for betting on how long members of pension funds will live.

National Security

The Afghan government has moved so slowly to recruit Taliban defectors that they are losing the opportunity to capitalize on military gains and Osama bin Laden’s death.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he didn’t believe Pakistan’s leaders were aware of bin Laden’s presence in the country, though “somebody” in Pakistan — either a current or past government official — was. The Obama administration yesterday sanctioned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and six other senior members of his government.