Wonkbook: Immigration reform is in the House

February 5, 2013

Welcome to Wonkbook, Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas's morning policy news primer. To subscribe by e-mail, click here. Send comments, criticism, or ideas to Wonkbook at Gmail dot com. To read more by Ezra and his team, go to Wonkblog.

Wonkbook's Number of the Day: $2,912. That's the average amount of money U.S. households spent on gasoline in 2012, nearly 4 percent of their income before taxes.  

Wonkblog's Graph of the Day: Where girls outperform and underperform boys on science exams.


(AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: 1) House digs into immigration debate; 2) Sen. Murkowski's energy plan; 3) will a challenge to contraceptives coverage go to the Supreme Court?; 4) Obama misses budget deadline; and 5) anti-trafficking legislation gains ground.

1) Top story: Immigration policy heads into House hearings 

House readies for immigration hearings. "The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia, said on Monday that a series of hearings he will schedule in the coming months would examine different pieces of a possible overhaul of the immigration system, including proposals for a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants in the country...On Tuesday the committee will hold the first of those hearings." Julia Preston and Ashley Parker in The New York Times.

Immigration is focus for presidential meetings with big business and big labor. "President Obama will meet separately Tuesday with labor and business leaders on immigration reform, as the White House seeks to enlist the often at-odds interest groups in a common push toward a comprehensive legislative package...The White House believes that increasing pressure on Congress from different interest groups with large networks outside Washington will help Obama in his pursuit of an ambitious second-term agenda." David Nakamura in The Washington Post.

@bryan_caplan: The simplest solution to illegal immigration is to legalize immigration.#ImmigrationTweetDay

The costs and benefits of overhauling immigration laws. "[T]here is no consensus on the economic effects of legalizing millions of people who have been working in the U.S. for years either with false papers or off the books....[I]t is hard to assess the cost to the federal government and states of providing public services to legalized residents who eventually become eligible for them. Beneficiaries of legalization who are blue-collar workers could end up receiving more government benefits than they pay in taxes." Miriam Jordan in The Wall Street Journal.

...Particularly important: the connection between immigration and startup companies. "A visa option is missing in the proposal that quickly won industry support, and some say its inclusion is important to encourage talented people worldwide in the science, technology, engineering and math fields to create businesses in the United States...The Startup Act 2.0 is expected to be reintroduced in coming weeks, according to a Senate staffer." Michelle Quinn in Politico.

@Noahpinion: To all labor-protectionists: Global wages are NOT a zero-sum game. Optimal allocation increases wages everywhere!#ImmigrationTweetDay

Napolitano to make border visit. "Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will visit San Diego on Monday and El Paso, Tex., on Tuesday to review border security operations and meet with state and local officials and other stakeholders." David Nakamura in The Washington Post. 

POSNER: There is no such thing as an illegal immigrant. "It is common to think that the huge pool of illegal immigrants reflects a failure of government. Congress has established rules that determine who gets in and who stays out, but has failed to spend the money to enforce the law...Illegal immigrants do break the law, but they break the law in the sense that everyone breaks the law...What we have is a de facto quasi-guest-worker system, where foreign workers who overstay their visas or sneak across the border are permitted to stay and work as long as they do not commit a serious crime, look like terrorists, or cause other trouble." Eric Posner in Slate.

Music recommendations interlude: Andrew Bird, "Night Sky," 2011.

Top op-eds

FLOURNOY: The right ways to cut defense spending. "Unfortunately, the United States has an abysmal record of managing postwar drawdowns of defense spending. Almost all have resulted in a 'hollow force'—too much force structure with too little investment in people, readiness and modernization...So where should policy makers reduce spending?" Michele A. Flournoy in The Wall Street Journal

GAGNON: How the IMF can reduce unemployment. "[T]here’s one weapon the Obama administration can fire to get a more satisfactory recovery in employment: taking action to narrow the longstanding deficit in international trade. Millions of jobs are at stake. As it happens, the International Monetary Fund recently gave a green light to measures the administration could use to reduce the trade deficit in a formal statement of its 'institutional view' on the management of capital flows." Joseph E. Gagnon in Bloomberg.

CILLIZZA: Will the GOP establishment take back the party? "[T]here are clear limitations to what the Conservative Victory Fund can do, limitations that raise questions about just how effective it can and will be." Chris Cillizza in The Washington Post.

SUNSTEIN: The Boy Scouts vs. the Supreme Court. "The broader lesson is that social movements and evolving social values are responsible for many rights that Americans now take for granted. The right to be free from sex discrimination has become entrenched, but it did not really emerge until the last third of the 20th century." Cass R. Sunstein in Bloomberg.

PONNURU: The folly of plastic bag fever. "Conservatives often point out that laws, no matter how benign they may appear, have unintended consequences. They can reverberate in ways that not many people foresaw and nobody wanted: Raising the minimum wage can increase unemployment; prohibition can create black markets. The efforts in many cities to discourage the use of plastic bags demonstrate that such unintended consequences can be, among other things, kind of gross." Ramesh Ponnuru in Bloomberg.

PIPES: World health ratings are misleading. "Make no mistake—there is plenty of work to be done in improving American health. But the statistics in the Institute of Medicine report don't reflect flaws in the U.S. health-care system. Sustaining a superior level of medical innovation will do far more to improve Americans' health than adopting the health-care policies from overseas." Sally C. Pipes in The Wall Street Journal.

YGLESIAS: No more 'good cop.' "The real issue—both at the SEC and at other key regulatory posts that have yet to be filled—is what the president wants to see happen. If he’s smart, he’ll recognize that his second term is a great time for a No More Mr. Nice Guy approach to bank regulation. With the economy on the mend, now’s the time to worry less about cleaning up the last banking crisis and more about stopping the next one." Matthew Yglesias in Slate.

BROOKS: The philosophy of data. "If you asked me to describe the rising philosophy of the day, I’d say it is data-ism. We now have the ability to gather huge amounts of data. This ability seems to carry with it certain cultural assumptions — that everything that can be measured should be measured; that data is a transparent and reliable lens that allows us to filter out emotionalism and ideology; that data will help us do remarkable things — like foretell the future." David Brooks in The New York Times.

Need your input interlude: The Fix is looking for the best state-level political blogs.

2) Sen. Murkowski's energy ideas

Murkowski unveils major energy policy plan. "Lisa Murkowski is the ranking Republican on the Senate energy committee. So it’s worth paying close attention to what she has to say on the subject. And on Monday, Murkowski released a 121-page blueprint (pdf) detailing her 'vision for America’s energy future.' Many of the proposals in here are long-standing items on the Republican wish list — Murkowski is calling for more oil and gas drilling on federal lands, and she opposes strict environmental regulations on coal mining. But she also touches on smaller issues that don’t get as much attention, from energy efficiency to small modular reactors to new financing models for wind and solar power." Brad Plumer in The Washington Post.

Gasoline costs for households rose in 2012. "The average U.S. household paid an estimated $2,912 for gasoline last year, sucking up nearly 4% of the average household income before taxes, according to government data out Monday. That is the highest percentage in three decades, with the exception of 2008, when the rate was nearly identical." Tennille Tracy in The Wall Street Journal.

Lunar interlude: What it's like to drive on the moon.

3) Will the Supreme Court take a challenge to contraceptives coverage?

Contraceptives mandate could go to the Supreme Court. "The new contraceptives rules published by the White House on Friday nearly guarantee widespread access to birth control for anyone with an employer-sponsored health plan. They also guarantee that the legal challenges to the coverage mandate will continue unabated." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

'Navigators' for health exchanges are needed. "Signing up an estimated 30 million uninsured Americans for coverage under the health-care law is shaping up to be, if not a bureaucratic nightmare, at the very least a daunting task. While some people will find registering for health insurance as easy as booking a flight online, vast numbers who are confused by the myriad choices will need to sit down with someone who can walk them through the process." N.C. Aizenman in The Washington Post.

Bundled payments lure providers. "In yet another blow to traditional fee-for-service medicine where doctors and hospitals are paid for each service provided for each patient’s illness or course of treatment, the Obama administration says more than 500 hospitals and related health care organizations have agreed to be paid 'bundled payments' as part of a three-year initiative." Bruce Japsen in Forbes.

HHS sets off on purge of burdensome regulations. "The Obama administration is proposing to reform existing healthcare regulations and purge unnecessary ones, a move that it says would save $3.4 billion over five years. The Department of Health and Human Services has rolled out suggestions for changes at healthcare facilities that would eliminate red tape in the workplace." Megan R. Wilson in The Hill.

Everybody's working for the...healthcare benefits. "The Employee Benefits Research Institute recently surveyed workers and retirees on how health-care benefits factored into the timing of their retirement. The short answer is: a lot. Three-quarters of retirees said they worked longer than they would have otherwise to maintain access to their health plan." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

Journalism's worst moments interlude: In 1924, a New York Times report said Adolf Hitler had been tamed by prison and should no longer be feared.

4) Why the White House missed its budget deadline

For third straight year, Obama misses budget deadline. "For the third year in a row, President Obama on Monday blew the deadline for submitting his budget request to Congress, prompting Republicans to grouse once again about presidential fecklessness on fiscal matters." Lori Montgomery in The Washington Post.

...And here's the White House's excuse. "They’ve often missed the deadline by a bit, but they always turn out a budget, and Republicans always reject it because it includes, among other things, tax increases and the continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act. So Republicans are demanding that the White House hurry up and give them a budget they can reject." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

Mazes interlude: This is easily the best one Wonkbook has ever seen, and likely ever will.

5) Anti-trafficking legislation gains ground

House to unveil legislation to clamp down on gun trafficking. "In the first sign of bipartisan cooperation on gun control in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, four Democratic and Republican lawmakers plan to unveil a bill Tuesday that would make gun trafficking a federal crime...The bipartisan proposal to be unveiled Tuesday — and similar bills introduced in the Senate — would make it illegal for straw purchasers to transfer firearms to someone barred from owning one." Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

Obama takes gun-control arguments to Minnesota. "President Obama, taking his first trip outside Washington to rally support for new gun measures, stood alongside dozens of uniformed police officers here Monday as he delivered a forceful defense of mandatory background checks for all gun buyers." Philip Rucker in The Washington Post.

Women playing key roles in gun debate. "In the increasingly confrontational debate over the nation’s gun laws, two female archetypes have emerged. There’s the grieving mother whose child was killed in a shooting and whose pleas for stricter regulation seem unassailable. And there’s the flinty mother who wants maximum firepower to take matters into her own hands to protect her brood.Philip Rucker in The Washington Post.

Extreme weather interlude: Ice after a flood.

Wonkblog Roundup

Michael Lewis, meet the others who want to break up the big banks. Ezra Klein.

No, there probably isn't a bond bubbleNeil Irwin.

The White House's excuse for a late budgetEzra Klein.

Explaining the new Murkowski plan for energy policyBrad Plumer.

Why contraceptives-mandate lawsuits might go all the way to the Supreme Court. Sarah Kliff.

Could a smart grid have prevented the Super Bowl blackout? Brad Plumer.

Et Cetera

U.S. to sue S&P over ratingsJean Eaglesham, Jeannette Neumann, and Evan Perez in The Wall Street Journal.

Bills to legalize and tax marijuana advance in HouseKevin Robillard in Politico.

Wait drags on and on for veterans seeking government benefitsSteve Vogel in The Washington Post.

Democrats push to address 2012's long waits and lines at polling placesJeremy W. Peters in The New York Times.

Is trade at the heart of the Obama economic agenda? Richard McGregor in The Financial Times.

Sen. Corker renews push to give Fed a single price mandateRamsay Cox in The Hill.

Senate renews Violence Against Women Act 85-8Jonathan Weisman in The New York Times.

Tuberculosis-vaccine development stalls out. Jeanne Whalen in The Wall Street Journal.

Economic data: Factory orders up 1.8 percent on month. Sarah Portlock and Jamila Trindle in The Wall Street Journal.

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.

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