The WonkLine: September 24, 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. We are live Twittering the Clinton Global Initiative Conference and the Senate Finance Committee mark-up.

Health Care

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has begun reaching out to “other colleagues in both parties about reshaping the health bill through amendments on the Senate floor.”

Los Angeles Times’ Noam Levey points out that “in the drive to bring health coverage to almost every American, lawmakers have largely rejected restrictions on how much insurers can charge, sparking fears that consumers will continue to face the skyrocketing premium increases of recent years.

The PhRMA deal between the White House and Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) to provide discounted drugs to patients in the donut hole “would actually cost the government $17 billion over 10 years while creating a boon for the drug industry, suggest new data compiled by the Congressional Budget Office.”

Economy

“The U.S. banking industry’s signs of retreat on certain account fees mightn’t satisfy Washington lawmakers, including some who said Wednesday they are pushing ahead with broad restrictions on fee policies at banks,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

New Labor Department data shows that “the number of Americans filing first-time claims for jobless benefits dropped unexpectedly last week to the lowest in two months.” “Applications fell by 21,000 to 530,000 in the week ended Sept. 19, from a revised 551,000 the week before…The total number of people collecting unemployment insurance fell in the prior week to 6.14 million, lower than forecast.”

“The Federal Reserve signaled that the U.S. economy’s return to growth is insufficient to withdraw stimulus as officials seek to reduce the highest unemployment rate in a quarter century.”

National Security

The BBC reports that “the UN Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution calling for nuclear disarmament, in a session chaired by US President Barack Obama.” The resolution calls for further efforts to stop the spread of nuclear arms, to boost disarmament, and to lower the risk of ‘nuclear terrorism’. It was the first time US president had chaired a Security Council meeting.”

The New York Times reports that “China will not support increased sanctions on Iran as a way to curb its nuclear program, a government spokesman said Thursday.”

AFP reports that “leaders of the world’s top economic powers promised tough action to police financial markets and prevent a new economic crash Thursday as they gathered for G20 summit.”

Immigration

A Pew Research Center study found that though the “pull of the US is still strong,” “US economic woes and beefed-up border security are discouraging immigration from Mexico.”

Due to “financial challenges” caused by a 62% decrease in citizenship applications, US Citizenship and Immigration Services is considering more fee increases despite the fact that the already high naturalization fees and the souring economy caused the drop in the first place.

Records from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service show that there has been an increase in “U” visas granted to undocumented immigrants who are victims of abuse from just 52 last year to 4,400 during the current fiscal year with 13,000 applications still pending.

Climate Change

President Obama has nominated Islam “Isi” Siddiqui — vice president for science and regulatory affairs at CropLife America, a trade group that represents pesticide manufactures and attacked Michelle Obama for planting an organic garden at the White House — to oversee farm negotiations at the World Trade Organization’s stalled Doha Round.

A groundbreaking new paper called “Planetary Boundaries: A Safe Operating Space for Humanity has identified 10 separate biophysical systems crucial to humanity’s flourishing; “human activities had already pushed the world into the danger zone because of global warming, a high rate of extinctions of animals and plants and pollution caused by nitrogen, mainly used in fertilizers.”

“Scientists are surprised at how extensively coastal ice in Antarctica and Greenland is thinning, according to a study Wednesday that could help predict rising sea levels linked to climate change.”