The WonkLine: October 23, 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.


Controversial Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio “won’t close the door on a possible run for governor” and is confident he would win if he did. A group of minority lawmakers from the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus adamantly opposed Sen. David Vitter’s (R-LA) amendment that would require the US Census to add a question about citizenship to its 2010 survey. CNN reports that that about 50% of the approximately 7,211 unaccompanied undocumented children lack legal representation when arguing their case in immigration court.

Health Care

Wellpoint, the nation’s largest health insurer by members, has issued a new study that purports to show “how proposed changes to the nation’s health-care system would drive up premiums for some individuals and small businesses.”

Yesterday, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that “a measure banning insurers from engaging in price fixing, bid-rigging and market allocation will be added to broader legislation overhauling the health-care system.” The House Judiciary Committee approved the measure on Wednesday.

The Center for American Progress has issued a new report explaining how secret claims denial rates could tell consumers a lot about their insurance company

National Security

VOA reports that “the top United Nations envoy for Afghanistan says more foreign troops are needed to help secure the country, and to train its army and police forces.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that “Russia has agreed to proposals by the U.N. nuclear watchdog to help reduce Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium.” “We agree with these proposals and we are counting on not only Iran, but all the other participants of the negotiations, to confirm their readiness to implement the proposed scheme,” Lavrov told reporters.

Commenting on the ubiquity of neocon nut Frank Gaffney on television, Steve Benen asks “is there nothing conservatives can say that would force them from polite company? Just how nutty must a far-right activist be before he/she is no longer invited to share their ridiculous ideas?”


Citigroup, in which the government has a 34 percent stake, “has more lobbyists than any other company who registered to try to shape legislation regulating the financial industry, U.S. Senate records show.”

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) “endorsed reducing banks’ power in nominating Federal Reserve regional bank presidents, vowing to include it in a planned overhaul of financial regulation.” Dodd’s move aligns him with Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) “who said last week he was pushing for the move to eliminate ‘obvious conflicts.’

The research firm CreditSights believes that “600 to 1,100 of America’s 8,200 banks may need help from, or winding down by, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, compared with the 118 that have failed since the beginning of 2008.”

Climate Change

“President Obama will appear at MIT this morning to talk about climate change and energy,” as thousands of activists worldwide prepare to call for “faster action, deeper GHG emissions cuts and stronger enforcement than either US climate legislation proposals or Copenhagen treaty conference preparations are currently contemplating,” in the 350 Day of Action tomorrow.

The Government Accountability Office told Congress that “federal agencies, working with Congress, state and local governments, should develop a national strategic plan that will guide the nation’s efforts to adapt to a changing climate,” including “flooding and other natural disasters brought by global warming.”

The Obama administration “proposed protecting critical habitat for the polar bear” — but “Interior officials insisted that the protections would not significantly alter” gas and oil drilling operations in the Arctic, including those in the critical habitat.