POLITICS

HUFFPOST HILL - JULY 20TH, 2010

07/20/2010 06:05 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Even as the Senate cleared a major hurdle in the fight for unemployment benefits and the Judiciary Committee confirmed Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court, the media today seemed to be distracted by slightly more...salacious developments. Some politicos were entranced by Andrew Breitbart's new role as head of White House personnel. Others by Sharron Angle's ongoing efforts to spread word about our country's demise. One particularly zealous commentator just wants to punch Alan Grayson in the face. We'll be back tomorrow for the unemployment vote and the signing of Wall Street reform into law...assuming we finish our Mike Mullen portrait in time. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, July 20th, 2010:

EXCLUSIVE: LOBBYISTS FUNNELED MONEY THROUGH CONGRESSIONAL STAFF ASSOCIATION - Lobbyists for major banks, insurers, pharmaceutical and energy companies and at least one foreign government have been helping to fund and organize lavish gatherings of staffers and members of Congress since early 2009, funneling the money through an officially chartered staff organization called the Congressional Cigar Association. The CCA, founded by Republican staffers and sponsored by Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.), is chartered by the House Administration Committee for the purpose of encouraging networking among congressional staff. Full story tomorrow at HuffPost.

In the meantime, the Congressional Cigar Association is puffing away tonight at 6:30 pm thanks to Miami Cigars & Company [230 2nd St. SE]. We're sending a video camera. Consider yourselves warned.

SENATE NEARING PASSAGE OF UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS EXTENSIONS, REPUBLIC IN TACT...FOR NOW - After weeks of hold-ups, the Senate finally ended the filibuster of the long-awaited unemployment aide package 60-40, only hours after lawyer/Oakley sunglasses model Carte Goodwin was sworn in as West Virginia's newest senator. Ben Nelson was the only Democrat to vote against the bill while Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe broke ranks and supported the measure. Applause erupted in the Senate chamber after the clerk read out Goodwin's "aye" vote to invoke cloture. Arthur Delaney: "The great debate pitting deficit reduction against jobless aid is over -- until November, when it is certain to return. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday that the president would push for an additional extension of benefits when the current one expires shortly after the mid-term congressional elections." http://huff.to/c6N803

The bill will be taken up by the House tomorrow and is expected to be signed by the president this week.

Tough POTUS statement: "After a partisan minority blocked this critical aid to our nation's families three separate times, the Senate has moved forward on restoring benefits to the 2.5 million Americans whose livelihood has been held hostage by obstruction and game playing over the past weeks."

OBAMA TO MOVE QUICKLY ON CONSUMER AGENCY CHIEF, TREASURY OFFICIAL SAYS - "U.S. President Barack Obama will move 'fairly quickly' to choose a head for the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin said on Tuesday...'We are identifying possible candidates,' Wolin told a news briefing on implementation of the legislation." Reuters: http://bit.ly/dfsYZA

Labor is lining up behind Elizabeth Warren for the position. Sam Stein: "On Tuesday, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry will 'raise the point that Elizabeth Warren would be an excellent head of the newly created Consumer Protection Agency' in private talks with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, according to a senior source with the union. The tete-a-tete adds an element of intrigue into the debate over who should head the new, but important agency, and could set up a now-familiar scenario in which the labor community finds itself butting heads with the White House's economic team." http://huff.to/am8o6z

Sam Stein also notes that at-risk Dem Mary Joe Kilroy's endorsement of Warren signals the electoral potency of the consumer protection issue. http://huff.to/cDUiqj

Word comes to HuffPost Hill that Jackie Speier will endorse Warren in a HuffPost blog post.

The Chamber of Commerce is coming out against the Democrats' new mine-safety legislation.

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Arthur is en route to Las Vegas but he'd probably want us to mention Greg Sargent's item highlighting Richard Burr and Wisconsin Senate candidate Ron Johnson's recent statements that unemployment benefits discourage individuals from finding work. Burr on CSPAN in March: "The wrong thing to do is to automatically today extend unemployment for 12 months. I think that's a discouragement to individuals that are out there to actually go out and go through the interviews." And Johnson in an interview last month with Wisconsin Public Television: "When you continue to extend unemployment benefits, people really don't have the incentive to go take other jobs. They'll just wait the system out until their benefits run out, then they'll go out and take, probably not as high paying jobs as they'd like to take, but that's really how you have to get back to work." This argument, according to economists across the political spectrum, is completely false. http://bit.ly/aSRyTn

DEMS TO MEET ON ENERGY AND CLIMATE THURSDAY - The Hill: "Senate Democrats are gathering Thursday to see if they can get closer to determining details and a strategy for moving a climate and energy plan that may hit the floor next week...That includes when he will bring a climate and energy strategy to the Senate floor and whether it will include a first-time carbon-pricing plan for power plants. Two leading senators working on such a plan -- John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) -- on Tuesday said they need more time to work out a deal with utility companies." http://bit.ly/cT4GzU

Organizers of this week's Republican Senate caucus meeting screened a video featuring the two things respectively older and less funny than the attendees themselves: Looney Tunes and Jay Leno. The clip, which included quips from Leno about the economy spliced in between the cartoon's iconic opening and closing sequences, was intended to highlight Democratic infighting and Republican concern for the economy. Check it out here: http://bit.ly/90GQ4w

'DON'T ASK DON'T TELL' SURVEY BREACHED BY ACTIVIST - John Aravosis, a gay rights activist and founder of AmericaBlog, says he was "able to get three different PIN numbers" and gain access to an online chat portion of the DoD's survey regarding Don't Ask Don't Tell. His takeaway: "The survey has now been totally corrupted. Just as our groups and advocates predicted." The backstory is all here: http://bit.ly/dmLCCz

DAVID CAMERON VISITS WHITE HOUSE - Even before he touched down in the States, the British PM already found himself linked to America's two favorite things: BP and terrorism. "British Prime Minister David Cameron said the Scottish government 'had no business' releasing the Lockerbie bomber from prison, but said that he would not stage an inquiry into British Petroleum's involvement in Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi's return to his native Libya. Standing next to President Obama during the leaders' first joint press conference, Cameron also urged against prejudging BP's interference in the case, stressing the company's job-creating role in his country and his host's." MSNBC: http://bit.ly/abJbmH

Via Lynn Sweet, the menu at Obama and Cameron's lunch: http://bit.ly/9RJLuw

SPEAKING OF WHICH, Hari Sevugan at the DNC is enjoying a good laugh at Sharron Angle's latest press release, "Angle Goes On Offence with New TV Ad; "We're Just Getting Started" http://bit.ly/byy2Lk Sevugan writes to HuffPost Hill: "After playing defence for so long, we know that she had high hopes for her new communications team to take her on offence. And while it's possible that they simply were trying to honour the visit of the British PM, we suspect they will be criticised for this latest flub nonetheless and it will unfavourably colour her campaign despite their labours."

TOMORROW'S PAPERS TODAY - Washington Post: David Ignatius examines The Post's "Top Secret America" series on the U.S. intelligence community and contemplates what we are to learn from the investigation. The Hill: Molly K. Hooper on House Republicans, after failing to win elections in recent years by attacking Nancy Pelosi, are vowing to concentrate more on policy differences this election year. Roll Call: Jennifer Bendery on how President Barack Obama's effort to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been all but forgotten on Capitol Hill, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer acknowledges that the urgency has subsided as other issues have grabbed lawmakers' attention.

Don't be bashful: Send tips/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to huffposthill@huffingtonpost.com. Follow us on Twitter - @HuffPostHill

KAGAN CONFIRMED BY JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, GRAHAM VOTES IN FAVOR - Confessed New Yorker and holder of opinions Elena Kagan (D - Riverside Drive) cleared the first of two very low hurdles today on her way to the high court. The final vote was 13-6 with Lindsey Graham joining the committee's 12 Democrats. "It puts upon me a standard that stood the test of time is the person qualified? Is it a person of good character? Are they someone that understands the difference between being a judge and a politician? And, quite frankly, I think she's passed all those tests," Graham said before casting his vote for the solicitor general. http://huff.to/daRbb1

Noted by First Read: "[A]t this moment, residents of five states -- well over 50 million Americans -- are partly represented in the Senate by a lawmaker who has never won a Senate election." http://bit.ly/c4T0BX

MANCHIN RUNNING FOR WV SENATE - The morning after West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin and the state legislature hammered out an agreement on a special election to fill Robert Byrd's seat, Manchin announced today that he will run for the seat himself. There will be an August 28th primary and a November 2nd general. The agreement reached last night designates the election as legally distinct from the other general election contests, meaning Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, widely seen as the GOP's best hope for the seat, can run for both her House seat and the Senate opening. http://huff.to/dq4EhY

REID UP OVER ANGLE IN NEW POLL - The Public Policy Polling survey finds the majority leader holding a slight lead in his reelection bid,besting Sharron Angle 48% to 46%. "44% of voters in the state like the job [Reid]'s doing while 53% disapprove. That's a good deal better than earlier in the year when his approval was only 36% and 58%...Reid's approval spread within his party is 80/14, compared to 67/27 over the winter...With independents he's still pretty unpopular at 38/60 but that's much improved from the prior standing of 24/68...Only 36% of voters in the state have a favorable opinion of Angle, while 52% see her negatively." http://bit.ly/bAjU26

Angle has released her first positive TV ad of the campaign, warmly telling a crowd that our kids and the very liberties that form the bedrock of our society are at risk. In the spot, in which she appears to be interrupting at a bingo meet, Angle says that "We have a fearful society right now. What they're afraid of is that what we're going to be passing down to our children is not liberty and freedom, but debt and deficit. That's why you and I have an opportunity right now to change the direction of our country." http://bit.ly/cVmfbZ

Steny Hoyer, when asked at his pen and pad about whether the Tea Party is racist: "I don't know who the Tea Party is, number one." Lucia Graves: http://huff.to/a68e30

Another poll from PPP has Charlie Crist beating Marco Rubio 35% to 29%. Kendrick Meek, God bless him, finishes a distant third at 17%. With Jeff Greene running, it's Crist 38%, Rubio 29% and Green 13%. http://bit.ly/arMTYg

Harry Reid is denying Crist's claim that the majority leader floated the idea of Crist caucusing with the Democrats. "You must be reading somebody's mail other than mine," Reid said today. "I don't know what you're talking about." Politico: http://politi.co/9pl5Qm

A prominent Republican talking head wants Alan Grayson to die eat a fist sandwich quickly. Laura Bassett reports that Dan Gainor, a conservative media critic, tweet offered (twoffered?) to pay $100 to anyone who punched the Florida congressman in the face. Grayson told Bassett: "I think he's overlooking something important: I punch back." http://huff.to/czylfU

Fiscal austerity at its finest: Roll Call's Jackie Kucinich reports that more than 60 members of the House Republican Conference have yet to pay even half of their assessment to the National Republican Congressional Committee, and they're being called out on a giant dues sheet hanging in the NRCC building. http://bit.ly/aDpvm5

POLITICAL DICTIONARY WORD OF THE DAY - Quorum Call: A procedure used in both houses of Congress to bring to the floor the number of Members of the House or Senate who must be present for it to conduct its business. "Hoping to dish about last night's 'Meet the Kardashians,' Senator Leahy suggested the absence of quorum." http://bit.ly/9fLLMd

BREITBART MANUFACTURES CONTROVERSY, WHITE HOUSE BUCKLES - While we were keeping an eye on unemployment extenders today, a veritable brouhaha erupted on cable news and in the Twittersphere over a curiously-edited video leaked by Andrew Breitbart's Big Government website of Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod telling a NAACP gathering earlier this year that back in the 1980s she did not assist a farmer as much as she could have because the person in question was white. The NAACP quickly denounced Sherrod and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack soon asked, and shortly thereafter received, her resignation. Roland Martin involved himself in some way, also. The whole thing is kind of a mess. Turns out, Sherrod was telling a story about how she overcame an initial prejudice and wound up helping the farmer, forming a life-long bond. Think Progress: "Indeed, the wife of the white farmer in question, 82-year-old Eloise Spooner, confirmed the story and called Sherrod a 'friend for life.' She told CNN that Sherrod 'treated us really good and got us all we could.' 'She's the one I give credit to with helping us save our farm.'" http://bit.ly/bm7aJL

Breitbart is refusing to release the full video and, of course, the White House will reverse its decision any minute, now that the facts have surfaced. Right?

This is also a good time as any to bring back that picture of Tom Vilsack in a Winnie the Pooh costume (from Wonkette, via @pareene): http://bit.ly/3Gw1V

Maryland might become the second state in the nation to regulate the information candidates share on their social media portals. A committee of state legislators in Maryland have approved a measure requiring candidates to specify certain pieces of information about their campaigns. Baltimore Sun: "Candidates must begin including an authority line -- a declaration of approval that lists their campaign treasurer -- on their official campaign pages on Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites that have exploded in popularity this election season...Maryland's new rules also provide clarity on what a candidate must do if he or she wants to purchase an online ad with Facebook or Google or another provider." http://bit.ly/dksecV

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here's a monkey grooming a cat. http://bit.ly/cyF6QM

It's a real race to the bottom in Louisiana: The primary challenger to David Vitter is allegedly sleeping with his stepson's wife. Retired state Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor, who is running on a family values platform, has allegedly shtupped two married women, one of whom is his stepson's estranged wife. "State Rep. Noble Ellington, D-Winnsboro, said that Traylor was 'significantly involved' in the cause of his divorce from Peggy McDowell, who later married Chet Traylor and became Peggy McDowell Traylor. Noble Ellington said in an interview Monday that Traylor was 'certainly part of the reason' for his divorce from his then wife." http://bit.ly/a6D6m1

Rick Perry wants to inject your daughters with with his evil STD serum, or so alleges a new spot out from the Back to Basics PAC, which insists the Texas governor acted inappropriately by mandating that 11 and 12-year-old girls be vaccinated for HPV, the virus which causes cervical cancer. The group suggests that Perry made the decision after being heavily lobbied by Merck. The proposal was later overturned by the legislature. The spot features the disapproving glances of an actress/housewife, who you know is a responsible parent because she has a terrible haircut and apparently buys her kids bananas. http://bit.ly/9ujgLq

The Republican California state legislator who was outed as gay earlier this year after a drunk driving arrest has penned an op-ed calling on his party to adopt a pro-gay rights platform. "Gay people being treated with respect and having the same opportunities for a good life regardless of sexual orientation should not be topics of political debate. How can it possibly be that there is a partisan political divide over equal rights in America?" writes Roy Ashburn, who previously opposed expanding freedoms to LGBT Americans. http://bit.ly/95lRpJ

HERE'S YOUR CHANCE TO PAINT ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN - Concerned citizen and HuffPost Hill reader Kevin sends along an interesting job opening, soliciting applications from artists for the opportunity to paint a portrait of Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen. "The finished portrait shall be displayed in the 'E' Corridor outside the 'Tank' in the Pentagon," the listing reads. Any portraits of the chairman -- we don't care if they were made on MS Paint -- should be sent to huffposthill@huffingtonpost.com. The listing: http://bit.ly/benPh7

CONGRATULATIONS to HuffPost editor TJ Ortenzi on his marriage to gorgeous bride Lindsay Dorrance this past weekend in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. Photos: http://huff.to/9Cjlg5

JEREMY THE INTERN'S WEATHER REPORT - Tonight: It's a complete mess in the northern United States, with a stalled warm front perched seemingly over our heads. Scattered thunderstorms will pop up all over the place. Tomorrow: The problem is that the jet stream took a deep dip south before bouncing back up. It causes problems for storms trying to go east. Because the jet stream is north of us, we're going to see hot, sticky weather continue. I've also seen some strong pressure gradients in the Midwest. I think the volatility will reach here in the late afternoon/early evening. Thanks, JB!

For our reporters in Vegas: It's going to be really hot, folks. Expect 100+ degree temperatures, but little humidity. It doesn't mean you're not going to sweat, though. Drink lots of fluids during the day (alcohol makes it worse, not better), or stay indoors. No chance of rain. Don't tell us how to live, JB!

COMFORT FOOD

- Playboy has launched a work-friendly version that only features the articles. http://bit.ly/9kl3pU

- This dude tears apart a photocopier while explaining what it does, not unlike us. http://bit.ly/9dPacb

- Tim Robbins is coming out with an album. http://bit.ly/bCyd8S

- A parasailing donkey has lead to an investigation in Russia. http://bit.ly/aYiAGy

- This Burger King employee is totally juking the stats. http://bit.ly/cLvZwU

- Woah: Ultraviolet tattoos. http://bit.ly/9eFGD6

TWITTERAMA

@daveweigel: All I'm saying is that when Holder sends the New Black Panthers to "take care" of the JournoList leaker, it won't be pretty.

@jimgeraghty: Under Article 2, Sec. 2 of Constitution, the executive branch is staffed through a three-step process: 1. Advice. 2. Consent. 3. Breitbart.

@conanobrian: UK PM in DC to talk BP with VP. Damn, I just lost my Twitter license.

@markknoller: Kagan could make it to the court in time to hear possible appeal of Lindsay Lohan incarceration.

THE TUBE

TONIGHT: It was a hot air-off on Ratigan with Anthony Weiner and Alan Grayson. Jim McDermott said some disparaging things about the GOP's tax policy on Hardball. World News' Diane Sawyer speaks with British Prime Minister David Cameron. Sherrod Brown, Chris Van Hollen, Alan Grayson (again) and Sheila Jackson Lee are all on Ed Schultz. TOMORROW: Bob Casey appears on Daily Rundown and Mark Zuckerberg speaks with Diane Sawyer on World News.

ON TAP

TONIGHT

6:30 pm - 8:30 pm: The Canadian embassy hosts its summer reception. We refuse to take the "eh" bait. Just attend (RSVP: http://bit.ly/bIMfWp) [Embassy of Canada, 501 Pennsylvania Ave NW].

All Day: Dana Perino and Charlie Cook (he dropped out after finding out there'd be hat passing) host a fundraiser for John Thune (R-S.D.)'s Heartland Values PAC. Big guns are scheduled to appear: Mitch McConnell, Richard Burr, John McCain, Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint [Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, 400 New Jersey Ave NW].

6:00 pm: Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) is honored at a "Friends of Labor Reception" [Home of Bobby Juliano, 1099 22nd Street, NW Apt 802].

6:30 pm: John Shimkus (R-Ill.) raises dough for his reelection bid [ Capital Grille, 601 Pennsylvania Ave NW].

TOMORROW

11:30 pm - 2:00 pm: Few things are more American that hot dogs and baseball. In keeping with that standard, what better way to compromise your ethics than with hot dogs and baseball? AMI hosts a "Hot Dog Lunch" featuring baseball greats Ron Guidry, Lee and Dale Murphy. They'll be signing autographs [Rayburn Courtyard].

8:00 pm - 11:00 pm: NoMa Summer Screen adds an extra pinch of suh-weet with its screening of "Logan's Run" [L Street Between 2nd and 3rd Streets NE].

8:00 am: Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) hosts a "Women's Power Breakfast." The current market rate for Women's Power fundraisers appear to be about a grand per person [The Homer Building, 601 Thirteenth Street NW].

9:00 am: Bill Foster (D-Ill.), with an assist from Jim "Queen" Clyburn (D-S.C.) passes the hat [Hotel George, 15 E Street NW].

12:00 pm: Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) opens his mouth, you open your checkbook [The Monocle Restaurant, 107 D Street NE].

12:00 pm: With the Gulf oyster industry hanging on by a thread, why don't you go to a seafood restaurant and drop $25 on a meal... and $1,000 on a congressperson? Kay Granger (R-Texas) holds a fundraiser at Hank's Oyster Bar. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) provides backup [Johnny's Half Shell, 400 North Capitol Street NW].

12:30 pm - 2:00 pm: Susan Collins (R-Maine) welcomes you to her "Maine-Style Luncheon" at the NRSC. Roughly 100,000 lobbyists will be in attendance, not to mention the party animals from the National Association of Chemical Distributors PAC [National Republican Senatorial Committee, 425 2nd Street NE].

5:00 pm - 6:30 pm: Celebrate John Barrasso's (R-Wyo.) birthday in the manliest, most Republican way possible: with cupcakes [The Williams & Jensen Townhouse, 324 Independence Ave SE].

6:00 pm: Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) attends a fundraising reception thrown by various labor interests... a constituency we hear has some pull in Ohio [Offices of The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 25 Louisiana Ave 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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