The WonkLine: September 16, 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

Environmentalists shut down a Royal Dutch Shell tar sands mine in Alberta, Canada on Tuesday “in a series of protests on the eve of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit with President Barack Obama, aimed at pressing their case that the projects undermine the fight against climate change.”

The world will face a “global health catastrophe” if governments fail to agree to deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, and “doctors must take a lead in speaking out” about the threat of climate change, “according to an editorial published in the British Medical Journal and The Lancet on Wednesday.


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) “ordered that a third of the state’s electricity come from renewable resources by 2020, the same amount as a legislature plan but with promises to let power companies get more electricity from outside the state.”

National Security

The BBC reports that “Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s campaign team has condemned as “irresponsible” claims by EU monitors about the extent of election fraud. EU election observers have said about 1.5m votes — about a quarter of all ballots — cast in the presidential vote in August could be fraudulent.”

The London Times reports that “Japan’s new Defence Minister is a strong opponent of the country’s military support for the US, making it more likely than ever that the Government of Yukio Hatoyama will withdraw its naval ships from the war in Afghanistan early next year.”

The Guardian reports that “the World Bank yesterday issued its clearest warning to date that development efforts in poorer nations will be derailed without a huge increase in funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.”


Despite the fact that “NASA went ballistic” when astronaut and son of Mexican migrant workers — José Hernández — told Mexico’s Televisa network that the US needs to legalize its undocumented immigrants, Hernández stands by his comments, adding “as an individual I have a right to my personal opinions.” San Francisco Chronicle reporter Ruben Navarette claims that Obama was “bullied into lurching to the right” on immigration and health care and should’ve listened to those who advised tackling immigration reform first. The Smithsonian Institution acknowledged that it “made in error” in letting an anti-immigrant hate group, Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), rent its facilities at the National Postal Museum to host an event featuring news anchor Lou Dobbs.


Fortune’s Colin Barr asks “where are the subprime perp walks?”: “Three years after the housing bubble popped, federal prosecutors have yet to bring a case against the executives whose firms took part in some of the worst excesses of the subprime mortgage market. It’s not like there’s a shortage of abuses to investigate.”


Robert Smith looks at the U.S.-China tire dispute: “Neither side is in a position to throw platitudes about free trade at the other…After all, it’s not as if China welcomes American imports with open arms.”

Calculated Risk breaks down the housing tax credit debate: “Divide $15 billion by 350 thousand, and the program cost is about $43,000 per additional buyer. Very expensive.”

Health Care

After months of delay, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) has finally released the chairman’s mark to the Senate Finance Committee’s health bill without Republican support. “The $856 billion dollar package will not add to the federal deficit. The Finance Committee will meet to begin voting on the Chairman’s Mark next week,” Baucus wrote in a press release.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, registered his displeasure with the legislation. ““Unfortunately, we’re operating under an artificial deadline set by the Democratic leadership and the White House. I’m disappointed because it looks like we’re being pushed aside by the Democratic leadership so the Senate can move forward on a bill that, up to this point, does not meet the shared goals for affordable, accessible health coverage that we set forth when this process began,” Grassley wrote.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), who said that he would not support Baucus’ mark, reports that the White House is pushing Congress to pass “something” on health care reform. “David’s in there — Axelrod — saying we’ve got to try to get ‘something.’ So, the new benchmark is, ‘Well, if we can do something, if we can do anything, then we can say we did healthcare reform,’” Rockefeller said.