The WonkLine: October 26, 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.

Health Care

CNN is reporting that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will decide today if the merged Senate bill will include a public health insurance option. “Reid is likely to make the move without having firm commitments of support from 60 senators.”

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Senate leaders may submit the merged health bill “to the Congressional Budget Office for a cost estimate as soon as Monday, and make the legislation public as soon as Tuesday, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.” The legislation is likely to include a ‘free-rider’ requirement and an opt-out public option.

Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) “are pushing Senate leaders and the White House to speed up key benefits in the health reform bill to 2010.”

Immigration

The New York Times points out that rather than drawing in Latino viewers with CNN’s “Latino in America” special, the segment turned into a “rallying cry for activist groups who are calling on the cable news channel to fire Lou Dobbs.” The Associated Press reports that US immigration agents have “blundered badly in their dealings with [drug cartel] informants and other sources, covering up crimes and even interfering in a police investigation into whether one informant killed another.” An Iranian woman who was abandoned by her Muslim family for converting to Christianity went missing and the law students who won her asylum case are desperately trying to locate her and let her know that she will be able to stay in the US.

Climate Change

Tomorrow, Senate hearings on the Kerry-Boxer Clean Energy Jobs Act begin with testimony from administration officials, and President Obama will make a “smart grid” announcement “that will be the largest stimulus investment so far in clean energy.”

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Steven Lawitts, New York City’s top environmental official, “called the risk that drilling for natural gas in the upstate region that supplies most of the city’s drinking water” “especially alarming,” and “suggested the state or the energy companies should foot the bill if they pollute the city’s water supply.”

The LA Times reports on the “10 million people worldwide who have been driven out of their homes by rising seas, failing rain, desertification or other climate-driven factors,” such as California’s wildfires and the Filipino floods.

Economy

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) said that he does not think a bill consolidating all of the banking regulators into one super-regulator, which is being crafted by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) in the Senate, will pass. “There is no remote chance of it happening,” he said.

U.S. bank regulators have closed more than 100 banks this year, “signaling the financial crisis hasn’t abated for lenders struggling with mounting losses tied to commercial real estate.” This is the first time since 1992 that 100 banks have failed in a single year.

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Bank of America’s push to repay its TARP funds “has been snagged by a disagreement over how much additional capital the bank must raise to satisfy regulators,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

National Security

BBC reports “Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has demanded the chief of the country’s election commission be sacked ahead of a run-off poll next month. In a news conference Mr Abdullah said that Azizullah Lodin, the chairman of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), had ‘no credibility’. The IEC commissioners were appointed by incumbent President Hamid Karzai.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said today “that his country may agree to ship just part of its stockpile of low enriched uranium abroad for further enrichment, as per the Vienna talks…The comments by Mottaki were the first official indication that Teheran may at least partially agree to a UN-drafted plan to ship much of Iran’s uranium to Russia, where it would be further enriched into metal fuel rods.”

VOA reports “the war crimes trial of Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic began Monday before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague, but without the defendant. Karadzic refused to attend the opening session, insisting he needs more time to prepare his defense.”