The WonkLine: November 16, 2010

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.

Justice

The prize for the first justice to author a majority opinion this term goes to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who announced a unanimous opinion yesterday upholding higher sentences for criminals who use guns.

Supreme Court spouse Ginni Thomas is now denying reports that she will step down as the head of a right-wing organization which claims that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.

The Ninth Circuit will devote a full hour of oral arguments to the question of whether proponents of the anti-gay Prop 8 initiative are allowed to be in appeals court in the first place.

Economy

According to the USDA, “nearly 17 million families in America — about 15 percent of all households — had trouble putting enough food on the table at some point last year.”

Two Federal Reserve officials are pushing back on the notion that the Fed’s quantitative easing policy is meant to weaken the dollar.

David Leonhardt looks at closing the deficit by taxing the rich: “In all, you’d get about $570 billion of the $1.3 trillion in needed deficit savings for 2030 –- or 43 percent –- through taxes or benefit cuts applying to a very small share of the population.”

Immigration

Three Latino members of Congress will meet with President Obama today to talk about the chances of getting comprehensive immigration reform or the DREAM Act passed in the lame duck session. Outgoing Republican U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL) called on Democratic House leaders to bring the Dream Act immigration bill to a vote during the lame duck session. Yesterday, the California Supreme Court ruled that undocumented immigrants can be eligible for the same reduced tuition at public colleges and universities as legal residents of the state.

Health Care

“A new non-partisan report finds that the cumulative effects of President Obama’s health care reform package would be beneficial for the government’s efforts at debt reduction if the law is implemented fully.”

“Employers can switch health insurance carriers without losing special ‘grandfathered’ status under the health reform law, federal regulators announced in a rule reversal.”

“Would poor people who lose Medicaid be eligible for subsidies to buy private coverage in an insurance exchange beginning in 2014?”

National Security

“The British government planned to give details on Tuesday of highly unusual compensation payments to former detainees at Guantánamo Bay who have complained that the British intelligence agencies colluded in their torture.”

“Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday urged the Taliban to join talks to bring peace to the war-torn country, despite the insurgents’ leadership ruling out negotiations.”

“Thailand has extradited alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout to the United States to face trial on terrorism charges.”

LGBT Equality

“The age at which people in the U.K. are coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender has gone from 37 to 17 in about two generations, according to a survey released Monday by gay rights group Stonewall.”

“A federal appeals court Monday scheduled a two-hour hearing on Proposition 8, California’s anti-gay marriage initiative, for Dec. 6.”

“A key social conservative group is striking back at a fledgling alliance between a gay right wing organization and 15 leaders of local Tea Party chapters across the country who urged Republican leaders Monday to avoid social issues.”

Education

Is Michelle Rhee headed to Florida?

Oregon is now the sixth state to seek a federal waiver allowing it to cut special education funding; cutting such funding without a waiver can result in federal sanctions.

Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) criticized Parsippany schools superintendent Lee Seitz as “the new poster boy for all that’s wrong with a public school system that is being dictated by greed,” after Seitz signed a contract extension that Christie feels violates a pay cap regulation he implemented.

Climate Change

“Construction will soon begin on a new barrier to protect downtown Washington, D.C. and the National Mall from Potomac River flooding in the event of a massive storm,” officials said Monday.

“Federal and state officials and housing advocates announced on Monday the creation of a $133 million program to address housing problems that remain for poor Mississippi residents five years after Hurricane Katrina.

“US will direct one third of funds, about $500 million, under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman (KLB) Act to Pakistan for the reconstruction and rehabilitation areas affected in the country’s worst ever flood.”