The WonkLine: May 23, 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

“Joplin authorities estimated that 25 to 30 percent of the city had been damaged” by a tornado that has killed about 100 people, as another tornado killed one in Minneapolis. “Black lung disease, long a killer of coal miners, is on the rise again after retreating in the 30 years since Congress passed tougher mine safety laws,” health and safety experts said on Friday. Based on current trends, “Chicago will feel more like Baton Rouge than a Northern metropolis before the end of this century,” with fiercer weather, worse heat waves, and plant die offs with consequences that “read like an urban disaster film minus Godzilla.”


Politico reports that “[Sen. Marco] Rubio has taken a hard right turn on immigration that could drive away the very Hispanic voters Republicans need to win the White House in 2012.” A “varying group of [Arizona] Republican senators broke from the pack and voted against five immigration bills” and “prevented the state from another round of national and international attention.” Texas state senators have revived a bill that would allow police to question people they detain about their immigration status.

LGBT Equality

The Minnesota House gave final approval to the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage on Saturday, but not before some compelling anti-discrimination testimony was heard.


The House of Representatives officially filed a motion to intervene in the two cases out of Massachusetts challenging the Defense of Marriage Act.

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was in hot water this weekend after he was seen calling a fan an anti-gay slur, but has apologized, saying, “I don’t mean no disrespect to anybody, I just got caught up.”


Republican attorney James Bopp has 25 to 30 cases across the country seeking to expand well-moneyed interests’ ability to buy elections in the wake of Citizens United.

Justice David Prosser officially holds a 7,006 vote lead in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race after the completion of a recount. Prosser initially led the race by more than twenty points, until his association with anti-worker Gov. Scott Walker (R) became a liability.

Speaker John Boehner hates judicial overreach . . . except when he’s the one in court.

National Security

President Obama in a speech to AIPAC yesterday defended his stance that talks over a Palestinian state should be focused on Israel’s pre-1967 borders, along with negotiated land swaps, and challenged Israel to “make the hard choices” necessary to bring about a stable peace.


Insurgents launched a series of attacks across Baghdad yesterday, including one that struck a U.S. military patrol, killing 20 people, including 2 Americans.

Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron will announce later this week a new joint effort to coordinate national security analysis and strategy. The National Security Strategy Board would be co-chaired by White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and British National Security Adviser Sir Peter Ricketts.


Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) is entering the 2012 presidential race today. K-12 Politics looks at his education record.

The Education Department announced that “the rates at which student loan borrowers defaulted on their loans had spiked in 2009,” nearly equaling the largest increase on record.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) last week blasted the for-profit college industry for deceptive marketing; “In particular, he criticized an advertisement saying you can get an education while staying at home in bed in your pajamas.”


The nation’s biggest banks “own more than 872,000 homes as a result of the groundswell in foreclosures, almost twice as many as when the financial crisis began in 2007.”


“State attorneys general are stepping up their investigations of mortgage-industry practices by probing for potential misdeeds when banks originated home loans and packaged them into securities,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Seven publicly traded U.S. corporations represented on President Barack Obama’s advisory council for jobs and competitiveness — including General Electric Co. and Intel Corp. — have devoted a growing pool of their non-U.S. earnings to investments in other countries,” Bloomberg reports.

Health Care

“Protesters crashed Aetna Inc.’s annual shareholders meeting in Philadelphia on Friday morning, accusing the Connecticut-based health insurer of publicly supporting President Obama’s health-care plan while privately funneling money to its opponents — in particular, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.”

“The Obama administration has lobbed another round in its battle with health insurers over premiums. Insurers seeking rate increases of 10 percent or more will face increased government scrutiny starting in September underrules finalized Thursday.”

“A new poll released Saturday shows the Democratic candidate now has a slight lead — a four point advantage among likely voters — over the Republican in a special congressional election in Western New York that has attracted the national spotlight.”