Huffpost Politics

HUFFPOST HILL - MAY 27, 2010

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EDITOR'S NOTE: The story below includes references to polling conducted by the firm Research 2000. The reliability and accuracy of Research 2000's polling has since been called into serious question by a report published in June 2010 by a group of statistical analysts.

Good news if you're unemployed: Congress will vote on unemployment benefits. Bad news: It might be a while. Good news if you're gay and patriotic: It looks like DADT repeal will pass. Bad news: You're going to have to wait at least until the end of the year to enlist. Good news if you're Barack Obama: Your presser won the day. Bad news: Helen Thomas is still kicking. Good news if you're a red snapper: Top kill appears to be working. Bad news: You're probably dead. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday May 27th, 2010:

BREAKING

UNEMPLOYMENT EXTENSION HUNG UP - Even after Democratic leadership scaled back its bill to reauthorize several domestic aid programs, reducing its impact on the federal budget deficit by $50 billion, conservative rank-and-file Democrats remain in their perpetual state of unhappiness. House leadership met shortly before press time to find a way forward, but all paths have major obstacles. Primarily, this one: Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus tells HuffPost that he's working out an agreement on what amendments could be offered by Republicans. But it comes at a high cost. The House had been planning to pass its bill and head out of town for the Memorial Day break. If any changes are made to the bill, it could languish over the break as programs and benefits expire. "We're ready. Soon as the House sends it over. We will pass it," Baucus said. "Gotta work out an agreement with the Republicans on votes. We're going to have to work out some accommodation on amendments."

Asked if the House would vote tonight, a brusque Steny Hoyer, leaving the leadership meeting for a floor vote, said: "We are STILL talking!" Chris Van Hollen said they were discussing possible changes with their members and could finish up before the break -- but he didn't say they'd vote tonight. Sandy Levin's been working on Blue Dogs. Pelosi worked on Jared Polis, who's been unhappy with the hedge fund loophole fix. The House is antsy to leave town. "Let's go!" two separate members of Congress shouted on the floor, at least one of them a Democrat. "People are really tired," one Dem told HuffPost. "What you're seeing is the success of stubbornness."

Democrats are thinking of dropping COBRA health insurance subsidies for laid-off workers to get Blue Dog support. "It's obscene," Appropriations Chairman Dave Obey tells HuffPost Hill. Blue Dog Henry Cuellar says he is leaning toward supporting the bill if its deficit impact is reduced to 60 billion, in part by dropping COBRA . John Larson tells HuffPost Hill the COBRA cut is not finalized.

"COBRA? Ooooh," said Dick Durbin when told what the House was considering. "It's painful for many of us who have sympathy for the unemployed to see their COBRA cut." (Durbin was on the House side meeting with Barney Farnk about preserving his swipe fee measure in the final Wall Street reform bill.)

An official involved in the leadership meetings tells HuffPost Hill that cutting aid to states is under consideration. Governors, apparently, have done a pathetic job of lobbying. "They need to do some heavy lifting," said a Dem leadership aide. "Or some lifting." Everything's up in the air, but, as of now, the House plans to be here to vote tomorrow.

CORPORATE LOBBYISTS FIGHTING FOR LOOPHOLE - One of the ways that Democrats propose to pay for extended jobless benefits is by closing a tax loophole that rewards companies for taking jobs offshore, which kills a whole flock of birds at once. Yet the GOP and its allied Blue Dogs aren't getting behind it, arguing that requiring U.S. companies to pay the difference between the foreign tax rate and the U.S. tax rate puts them at a disadvantage. One of the companies lobbying hardest against closing the loophole is IBM. According to its SEC filing, IBM "permanently reinvested offshore" $26 billion. Since 2005, its number of U.S. employees dropped from 134,000 to 105,000. And the bill it's lobbying against includes R&D credits that will benefit IBM.

DADT ADVANCING IN CONGRESS - Senate Armed Services is expected to pass an amendment that puts in motion the eventual repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell.". The panel has been holding an all day closed-door session.

The House will likely vote on Rep. Patrick Murphy's amendment to the defense authorization bill repealing DADT shortly. But if the repeal amendment passes with liberal support and then those liberals bail on final passage in an antiwar gesture, do House Democrats have the votes for the underlying bill?

LAWMAKERS CALL FOR CUTS IN MILITARY SPENDING - Officials from both sides of the aisle decried "the apparent absence of discussion about the efficacy, the extent, and cost of overseas U.S. military commitments" in a letter to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. It is authored by Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Ron Paul (R-Texas), Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). The effort comes just weeks after Frank appointed his own bipartisan commission to look at ways to reduce America's bloated military budget. Frank attacked what he called "this amorphous concept about [America] needing to be some sort of world superhero," and Wyden, who's up for reelection, was already defending himself: "Look, not all defense spending helps national security," he said. "Wasteful defense spending is waste!"

OBAMA MEETS THE PRESS, ANNOUNCES DRILLING FREEZE - The president announced that the government will initiate a moratorium on new offshore drilling projects for six months and suspend exploration underway near Alaska, Virginia and in 33 sites in the gulf. Obama made the announcement in a a wide-ranging press conference this afternoon that touched upon everything from the war in Afghanistan to green energy to Arizona's draconian immigration law, but he continued to back expanded offshore drilling as a necessary part of American energy policy. http://huff.to/d4wpYd

On his leadership of the crisis: "I take responsibility. It is my job to make sure this thing is shut down... BP is operating at our direction. Every key decision and action that they take must be approved by us in advance. This notion that somehow the federal government is sitting on the sidelines...is simply not true."

Obama's personal moment: "When I woke this morning and I'm shaving and Malia knocks on my bathroom door and she peeks in her head and she says, 'Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?' Because I think everybody understands that when we are fouling the Earth like this, it has concrete implications not just for this generation, but for future generations. I grew up in Hawaii where the ocean is sacred. And when you see birds flying around with oil all over their feathers and turtles dying, that doesn't just speak to the immediate economic consequences of this; this speaks to how are we caring for this incredible bounty that we have."

On the Sestak job offer controversy: "I can assure the public that nothing improper took place...There will be an official response shortly on the Sestak issue." Prepare the Friday night news dump...

On the Arizona law and resulting boycotts: "[It's] the wrong approach...I'm the President of the United States. I don't endorse boycotts or not endorse boycotts."

Cue Helen Thomas going off: http://bit.ly/aE6uod

EXCLUSIVE: GOV'T PROBING GOLDMAN'S SHITTY DEAL - HuffPost's Marcus Baram: "The federal prosecutors investigating Goldman Sachs are focusing on Timberwolf, the infamous 'shitty deal' repeatedly cited in a tense Senate hearing last month, according to people who have been contacted by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office. The probe raises the possibility of criminal charges against the storied Wall Street firm, which was charged in April by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission with civil fraud for allegedly misleading investors about another subprime mortgage-related security called Abacus." http://huff.to/a9CDXq

House GOP today introduced legislation to repeal health care reform and replace it with a bill they already proposed. http://bit.ly/cGYmAx

EXCLUSIVE: BUSH SAID WAR IS AN ECONOMIC BONANZA - President George W. Bush argued in early 2004 that the best way to grow an economy was by waging war, according to former Argentine Prime Minister Néstor Kirchner. "And he stood up from his chair and got angry. He told me 'A Marshall plan! No! That's a crazy idea from the Democrats. What needs to be done here, and the best way to revitalize the economy is--the United States has grown based on wars,' he told me. That's what he told me. 'Well,' I said to him, 'it is growth.'" The former Argentine leader, whose wife now heads the country, made the comments in an interview with Oliver Stone shot for his upcoming documentary "South Of the Border." Video: http://bit.ly/dsVf36

SENATE 2010 WATCH: HALTER UP, RAND PAUL DOWN - Arkansas Senate hopeful Bill Halter still leads Blanche Lincoln in Research 2000's latest runoff poll. It's Halter 47, Lincoln 44. http://bit.ly/bPqbXu

Perhaps just as importantly, in match-ups vs. GOP nominee Rep. John Boozman, Lincoln trails by 20 points while Halter's only down by 11. Kos's take: "If Lincoln wins, this seat is a guaranteed goner. No way she makes up that ground as an incumbent in a red state in an anti-incumbent year. She's dead, dead, dead. If Halter wins, he should get his own boost, but he'll certainly start the race as the underdog. Lucky for him, he'll be the outsider running against a 10-year DC entrenched incumbent. That's not a bad place to be in 2010." http://bit.ly/aAwn8C

MORE: Halter is also compiling a larger campaign war chest, raising more than $777,000 between Apr. 29 and May 19 -- $225,000 more than Lincoln brought in.

KY-SEN: Research 2000 has Rand Paul leading Jack Conway by just four points, 44-40. There's a real battle here in a deep red state. http://bit.ly/bajBcM

Tonight in The Hill: Alexander Bolton interviews Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on his views on what happens next with climate change legislation and immigration reform.

A fence was constructed around Sarah Palin's house to keep out her new neighbor, famed author Joe McGinniss...and maybe Mexicans. Behold, PalinFence: http://huff.to/aK0oA3

In his Swampland debut, Michael Crowley argues that McGinniss should pack up: "Of course the storied author has every right to rent a house overlooking her back yard in the service of reporting a biography of the former Alaska governor. But there's a difference between what's legal and what's proper, or wise." http://bit.ly/9UWejO

CONDOLEEZZA RICE TO PEN WHITE HOUSE MEMOIR - CNN: "Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday that she will write a memoir about her eight years in the White House, but only after her family memoir "Extraordinary, Ordinary People" is released. The first book, which recalls much of the Rice family's time during the Civil Rights era in Birmingham, will be published by Crown and is scheduled to go on sale October 12." http://bit.ly/cMoZRv

**HUFFPOST HILL CAPTION CONTEST** - Here are some Code Pink protesters marching in the nude to "expose" BP: http://bit.ly/dhP83K. Send your best zingers to huffposthill@huffingtonpost.com

Don't be bashful: Send tips/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to huffposthill@huffingtonpost.com

TRENDING

BIG OIL SPILL DAY - The "top kill" effort appeared to temporarily clog the fissure. Newsweek: "Almost 19 hours after the 'top kill' process of pumping mud and viscous liquid into the broken oil well in the Gulf, officials are claiming the process has worked. The main challenge had been to overcome the pressure of the oil spewing upward from the sub-sea reservoir. The first ship containing 50,000 barrels of the mud mixture reportedly ran out early Thursday, although a second boat was on the way." http://bit.ly/9TD8G0

A second boat was ON THE WAY?! Look, we're no experts, but here's an idea: How 'bout sending the third boat starting, say, now?

MMS DIRECTOR FIRED - The White House relented to pressure from critics demanding high-level shakeups in the government's drilling oversight structure, firing Mineral Management Service chief Elizabeth "Liz" Birnbaum. While Birnbaum officially resigned, Democratic officials tell the AP that she was pushed out. At Obama's press briefing, he said he didn't know whether she was fired or resigned. http://huff.to/dpkPkG

...but Birnbaum is still featured on the MMS homepage: http://mms.gov/

Scientists say the spill is the worst in American history. AP: "Even using the most conservative estimate, the new numbers mean the leak has grown to nearly 19 million gallons over the past five weeks. If the oil filled gallon milk jugs lined up side by side, there would be enough to reach from New York to Chicago and back. In the worst case scenario, if 39 million gallons has spilled, the oil would fill enough jugs to stretch from the Louisiana marshes to Prince William Sound in Alaska. That's where the Exxon Valdez ran aground in 1989, spilling nearly 11 million gallons." http://huff.to/d7UimY

BP USED SHODDY, COST-CUTTING PARTS ON RIG - A damning piece today form the Times on how BP knowingly used a riskier casing material to save money, according to a report from a government investigator: "The concern with the method BP chose, the document said, was that if the cement around the casing pipe did not seal properly, gases could leak all the way to the wellhead, where only a single seal would serve as a barrier. Using a different type of casing would have provided two barriers..." http://nyti.ms/bCkS4z

Five, count 'em five hearings on the leak today.

HANK JOHNSON GUAM WATCH - It's been 63 days since Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson inquired whether the U.S. territory will be swallowed up by the Pacific Ocean. He took time off from his Guam concerns today. Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, a BP America official in charge of claims processing told the panel his mother passed away in the wake of Hurricane Katrina before her claim check arrived. "I think you're filibustering," Johnson interrupted.

AnotherBP oil spill, this time in Alaska. Whoops: The Trans-Alaskan Pipeline was shut down this week when it cracked and spilled several thousand barrels of crude into backup containers. Reuters: "The shutdown followed a series of mishaps that resulted from a scheduled fire-command system test at Pump Station 9, about 100 miles (161 km) south of Fairbanks, said Alyeska Pipeline Service Co, the operator of the 800-mile oil line. The power outage triggered opening of relief valves, causing an unspecified volume of crude oil to overflow a storage tank into a secondary containment. There were no injuries, but the approximately 40 people at the work site were evacuated, Alyeska spokeswoman Michele Egan said." http://bit.ly/awMDWP

Newsweek reinvents print journalism, Part 237: If you haven't already, check out Newsweek's redesign, unveiled just a week before bidding begins for the esteemed periodical. Newsweek Digital's Mark Miller's announcement: http://bit.ly/9fZwis

DEMS LAUNCH GOP SPOOF WEBSITE - With the RNC's americanspeakingout.com far surpassing the absurdity of the new gop.com, the DNC is getting in on the fun, launching a mock "Contract With America." http://bit.ly/93sPuB

Our favorite "Speaking Out" proposals:

"Scratchy toilet paper is unconstitutional."

"Stop 'teaching' our children the atheist doctrine of heliocentrism. It contradicts the Bible."

"I think every food product NOT endorsed by Sarah Palin should carry a warning label stating we are ingesting socialism."

Politico's gossip columnist Anne Schroeder Mullins, who'd been there from the beginning, is leaving the publication to start a media strategy firm.

Fishbowl DC's Betsy Rothstein notes that today's TPM front page looks awfully familiar... http://bit.ly/aA2tWp

CONNECTICUTIANS OK WITH BLUMENTHAL 'NAM FIB - Connecticut AG Richard Blumenthal still leads his Republican challenger Linda McMahon by 25 points, according to a Quinnipiac poll out today. http://bit.ly/beidUR

Just as Blumenthal appears to be clearing the 'Nam hurdle, Joe Lieberman, ever the sticky wicket in Connecticut electoral politics says he's open to endorsing McMahon. From Politico's Manu Raju: "'I said I'm open,' Lieberman told POLITICO. 'Is it theoretically possible? Yes. I probably know Blumenthal better, but I know Linda McMahon - she was on the state board of higher education, and I met with her a couple of times in that capacity. This is the great privilege that voters of Connecticut gave me in 2006 as an independent. Wait and see.'" http://politi.co/aqpfMD

Orrin Hatch has introduced a bill making it illegal to lie about one's military service. Elyse Seigel: http://huff.to/c2BDSI

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here's Dan Aykroyd selling a glass skull filled with vodka: http://bit.ly/baw21z

SHARON ANGLE: "I AM THE TEA PARTY" - AP's Michael Blood: "With early voting under way for the June 8 primary, Angle has nearly erased Lowden's double-digit lead in recent polls, thanks in part to endorsements from the Tea Party Express and other conservative groups, including the anti-tax Club for Growth. Lowden, a former state senator, has stumbled after she suggested people might barter for health care using chickens and she faced financial questions about the use of a leased bus. Club for Growth began airing an ad statewide Wednesday that calls Angle a fiscal conservative and common-sense fighter and argues that Lowden supports huge spending increases and that she backed Reid." http://huff.to/bFdht2

Sam Stein on the standard practice of Sestak-style job offers: "American presidential history is littered with quid pro quos, implicit and explicit secret job offers, and backroom deals, so much so that the Sestak offer may be more the norm than the exception to it. 'It is completely unexceptional,' said Dr. Russell Riley, associate professor and chair of the Miller Center's Presidential Oral History Program at the University of Virginia. 'I read some place today that this is evidently illegal, which was shocking news to me. I don't know what the statutes are that would bear on this... it just doesn't seem to me to particularly rise to the level of being newsworthy in the first place and the fact that it's spun out into a scandal has been surprising.'" http://huff.to/cPaYaS

An aide to Darrell Issa says the New Hampshire lawmaker shouldn't have cut a deal with the White House, either. Mike Madden: http://bit.ly/cGuEE9

GOP HOUSE TAKEOVER? - HuffPost: "Isaac Wood, House Race Editor of renowned political prognosticator Larry J. Sabato's 'Crystal Ball' blog, wrote Thursday: 'Unlike some analysts, we have never once predicted that Republicans would win enough new House seats to take control of the chamber. They may well do so in November due to the factors with which we're all familiar (a bad economy, sagging presidential popularity, public concern over spending and debt, and so on). But in our eyes, there has been and still is insufficient data to suggest an impending turnover.'" http://huff.to/9jS8u2

NIKKI HALEY SCANDAL DRAGS ON - Will Folks, the South Carolina blogger claiming to have had an affair with gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley, claims in a FITSNews blog post today that there is photographic evidence of a romantic relationship. "Additionally, in early 2009 Folks now acknowledges being confronted with a photograph of himself and Haley in what he calls a 'compromising position.' The photograph was allegedly taken by a private investigator hired to uncover dirt on him, not Haley." http://bit.ly/d9rDPH

Alan Grayson's Building Feud - The Florida congressman has twice been turned down by an Orlando building, who says he can't advertise the presence of his office on the exterior of the building. So he plans to put the sign inside, visible from I-4. http://bit.ly/9EQW28

Bill Clinton is nearing his weight-loss goal for Chelsea's wedding, FYI. Karen Travers: http://bit.ly/dfLjmx

COMFORT FOOD

- M.I.A. freaked out at a Times reporter, posting her number on Twitter: http://huff.to/9veIkP

- Thomas Jefferson never went away...he's just fronting a light rock band. http://bit.ly/cwu5R5

- After airing a story about a 103-year-old African-American woman who still drives, CNN played Coolio's "Fantastic Voyage" including the part with the N-word. Kyra Phillips' mea culpa is glorious. http://huff.to/dzlil7

- RUH ROH: Shaggy's human doppelganger was arrested for having sex with a dog. http://bit.ly/bcpTl9

- "Alexis Houston, the woman and self-proclaimed relative of Whitney Houston who held a press conference with her lawyer Gloria Allred to DENY an affair with Matt Lauer, was born a man, the NY Post reports." http://huff.to/9sVcVi

- A Bay Area reporter deals with the most annoying flak ever, somehow restraining himself from knocking the guy out (@mikemadden:Watch this guy get hired on the Hill soon). http://bit.ly/dxgWSp

- Roman Polanski is doing just fine in his Swiss Chalet. http://huff.to/bW6TdM

- John Mayer's man-parts have cast a shadow over the entire enertainment industry, graphs show. http://huff.to/a7Hy7z

- The many ways a jilted ex-husband can put his estranged wife's wedding dress to good use. http://huff.to/czm3js

TWITTERAMA

@dceiver: I want "100,000 Feat Of Boom" to be the name of the next Ke$ha album. http://bit.ly/b0gPKS

@Delrayser: Helen Thomas has certainly brought her own BOOM to the presser.

@JoyVBehar: 2nite on my @hlntv show--incredible video of the 2-yr old w/ 2-pack-a-day cigarette habit. All I can say is, you've come a long way, baby. http://bit.ly/ahhuWH

@COMMON_OIL_SPILL UPDATE

@Common_Oil_Spill: bring it on http://bit.ly/aXSZVm

@Common_Oil_Spill: gluggggachhh aaach http://bit.ly/d3qgdd

@Common_Oil_Spill: getting full http://bit.ly/c4yPNX

@Common_Oil_Spill: wheeze http://bit.ly/9OtPqC

THE TUBE

Admiral Thad Allen is on Hardball. Nick Rahall, Steny Hoyer, Xavier Becerra and our own Roy Sekoff are on Ed Schultz.

TOMORROW

George Lemieux and R.I. Gov. Donald Carcieri visit Morning Joe.

ON TAP

6:00 pm - 8:00 pm:Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) throw a party for John Spratt (D-S.C.) at a government relations firm, which is a little mean if you think about it. Given the floor schedule tonight, donors will be lucky to get much more than a second or two with the House leaders, if that. [GrayLoeffler, LLC, 300 New Jersey Ave NW Suite 650].

6:00 pm - 9:00 pm: The Washington Hilton hosts an LBGT "Homo Hotel Happy Hour" in its recently renovated courtyard [Washington Hilton Courtyard 1919 Connecticut Ave NW].

6:00 pm - 12:00 am: Cornhole tournament at the Bullpen. The hottest activity since Devil Sticks comes to the outdoor Navy Yard establishment [Bullpen, 1229 Half Street SE].

8:00 pm - 1:30 am: If you feel like you need to atone for something, why not subject yourself to a crush of interns and video games at a Georgetown bar? Garrett's on M Street hosts an intern Wii shindig [Garrett's, 3003 M Street NW].

Got something to add? Send tips/quotes/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to Eliot Nelson (eliot@huffingtonpost.com), Ryan Grim (ryan@huffingtonpost.com) or Nico Pitney (nico@huffingtonpost.com). Follow us on Twitter @HuffPostHill (twitter.com/HuffPostHill). Sign up here: http://huff.to/an2k2e

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