The WonkLine: November 4, 2009

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

Climate Change

Republicans refused to applaud German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s call to “tear down walls of today” and “work in common in order to stem the potential catastrophe that can result if we continue to see global warming continue unabated.”

A survey of the “289 economists who had published climate-related studies in the top 25 economics journals in the past 15 years” finds “94% believe the U.S. should join climate agreements to limit global warming.”


Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) rebuked the Republican boycott of the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act markup, saying, “we are very close to a completely accurate estimate. People might say, ‘Why not wait?’ Because as soon as you amend it, you change it again. What are they going to do, wait five weeks to analyze each amendment?”

Health Care

Democrats filed their Manager’s Amendment to the House health care bill last night, suggesting that vote “will not be held until Friday evening at the earliest.”

The Washington Post reports that “moderate lawmakers are exerting their outsize influence in the divided Senate to secure changes to health-care reform legislation, potentially adding more delays to a bill that has already missed several announced deadlines.”

“Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) said Tuesday he was launching an investigation into health insurance pricing, asking four major insurers to justify their pricing practices.” “Harkin sent detailed requests to the four private companies — Aetna, Humana, Wellpoint and UnitedHealth Group — asking them to explain how they set premium rates and to explain the factors used in determining such charges.”


Buried in the unemployment insurance extension that both the House and Senate will likely pass this week is a tax change that, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, will “prove to be a $34 billion financial windfall for corporate America.”


Rep. George Miller (D-CA) introduced legislation yesterday “directing employers to pay for up to five days’ sick leave for workers they send home because they have contracted the H1N1 virus.”

The House Financial Services Committee, “under pressure from the White House, voted Tuesday to exempt small public companies from part of a federal law designed to prevent financial fraud, despite objections from regulators and key Democratic leaders.”

National Security

BBC reports that “US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a visit to Cairo, has reiterated Washington’s call for an end to Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank.”

VOA reports that “senior U.S. diplomats are meeting with detained Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi Wednesday, as the Obama administration pursues a new diplomatic approach towards the military-ruled nation.”

Reuters reports that “police clashed with supporters of Iran’s opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi in Tehran on Wednesday when a rally marking the 30th anniversary of the storming of the U.S. embassy turned violent.”


Latino leaders have started a campaign to make sure legal immigrants don’t get cut out of the health care bill by eliminating proposed waiting periods and canceling the existing five-year wait for Medicare and Medicaid programs. A South Carolina poultry plant raided by immigration agents last year has avoided trial by agreeing to pay $1.5 million, change its hiring practices, and adopt E-verify — a controversial web-based employment verification system. Immigration and Customs Enforcement appears to be sticking to its promise of focusing more on dangerous immigrants: 45% of immigrants arrested in 2009 had criminal convictions, up from 23% last year.