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Nothing like the promise of yielding the balance of one's time to Santa Claus to get D.C. lawmakers to cut the crap. And cut it they did. What broken system? President Obama signed DADT repeal, the Senate ratified the START treaty, Congress passed a major defense bill and both chambers came together on a 9-11 responders bill compromise. All in one day! Wow! See you in January, Congress, when House Republicans will hopefully not have renamed the Capitol the Bureaucratic Overreach Dome. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010:
HOMEOWNER TAX HIKE COMING - Homeowners who don't itemize deductions on their taxes will be like step-kids at grandma's Christmas come January first, when they find themselves left out of the Oprah's Favorite Favorite Things that Congress just celebrated. The standard mortgage interest deduction -- which was claimed by about 15 million households last year -- is expiring and, despite the efforts of Max Baucus, didn't make it into the tax-cut deal. "I think it's only fair that it be in there. Itemizers get it, but lower and middle income people, who are really strapped, don't," Baucus told HuffPost Hill. "Second, you've got the housing market which is still in a bit of flux." -- That's one way to put it. "I was not directly involved in that negotiation. That was the Vice President and Senator McConnell, basically. ...I'm disappointed that it was dropped out and I'm going to keep fighting for it." This year? "I'm going to try this year, but, you know, we'll see."
CONGRESS PASSES 9-11 RESPONDERS BILL - Both chambers today voted on legislation providing health benefits to 9-11 first responders. After the Senate held a voice vote, the House picked up the measure late this afternoon, voting 206-60 in favor. An agreement was reached earlier in the day when Democrats OKed a reduction in the bill's price tag to $4.2 billion. "The Christmas Miracle we've been looking for has arrived," Sens. Schumer and Gillibrand said in a joint statement. Those cuts will be made by shuttering the Victims Compensation Fund in 2016 instead of 2031 and forbidding rejected applicants from pursuing civil action against the program. You might be put off by our nation's legislature denying heroic public servants the right to due process but it wouldn't be Congress if someone didn't strip an admirable group of citizens of a fundamental democratic right, no? If they hadn't taken the Tom Coburn offer, the Senate would have had to work all next week. And we can't have that.
@MPOTheHill: Schumer on 9/11 bill (and its 5-yr sunset): "You can be damn sure that we're going to be fighting to extend it when the time expires."
SENATE RATIFIES START TREATY - Shortly after Joe Biden arrived in the Capitol this afternoon to preside over the Senate (we're guessing after previously tending to his other no-show job "drywalling" at a Bergenfield construction site), and right after the 9-11 responder vote, the chamber at long last passed the New START treaty 71-26. Ron Wyden, only days removed from prostate cancer surgery, showed up to cast a vote for the treaty (and for 9-11 responders, too). Meanwhile John McCain, who vociferously opposed both bills, likely retreated to his office in a huff to assemble model ships in glass bottles, complain about baggy pants and listen to Tom Clancy audio tapes on his Victrola.
Obama's close ally David Cote is locking his highly trained, unionized workers out of a Honeywell uranium enrichment facility. How good an idea is that? Alarms are going off as we publish. [Local Channel 6]
@ChuckTodd: The 13 GOPers for New START: Alexander Gregg Corker Cochran Isakson Lugar Collins Scott Brown Johanns Voinovich Snowe Murkowski Bennett
President Obama held a press conference this afternoon heralding the day that saw DADT repeal signed
"More than 70 House members didn't bother showing up to vote Tuesday, even as the lower chamber wraps up its final priorities of the lame-duck session -- including a bill on funding the federal government through March and a measure on health benefits for 9/11 first responders." [WaPo]
ALASKA COURT RULES AGAINST JOE MILLER - Happy Holidays! The midterms are finally over! Again! For, like, the fifth time! The Alaska Supreme Court this afternoon threw out the Republican Senate candidate's case that the state had not properly tabulated the election results that gave Lisa Murkowski her second full term in the Senate. The court found that there are "no remaining issues raised by Miller that prevent this election from being certified." The election is over! Unless of course Miller finds some other way to contest the results. Then it's not! Huzzah! [AP]
PROPUBLICA: HOW MERRILL LYNCH RIPPED ITSELF OFF - A new ProPublica report reveals that pre-bailout Merrill Lynch started a new division to buy toxic mortgage bonds as the market imploded, so that other divisions could keep scoring profits from selling those same bonds. How'd they talk the suckers at Merrill Lynch Garbage into the scam? Bankers who made money selling the bonds agreed to share their bigger bonus payouts with the traders who bought them. The securities Merrill Lynch bought ended up being worth just pennies on the dollar, sacking the company with epic losses. But thanks to the socialized bonus program, nobody at Merrill had to feel that pain. [ProPublica]
BUDGET FIGHT COULD MEAN STEALTH DEREGULATION - Zach Carter: "The death of the Senate omnibus has dealt a massive blow to the administration's efforts to rein in the Wild West derivatives market. Dodd-Frank includes a host of new laws intended to shed light on the shadowy financial instruments that brought down AIG, but in order to implement them, the SEC and CFTC needed funding for more staff and software. Funding levels were boosted by the continuing resolution, but the plan only lasts until early March, and regulators will not be able to hire full-time staffers on a three-month budget. And the chances for fully funding regulators that oversee Wall Street's most profitable products won't get any better once Republicans take over the House."
As part of a campaign to make copay-free birth control available to all women, Planned Parenthood of America has a new web video entitled "Birth Control Girl." Though it's ostensibly a "Gossip Girl" spoof, it's really just a series of hilarious clips of someone in a giant birth control outfit meandering about Manhattan with an ear-to-ear grin. [Planned Parenthood]
PAPER OBTAINS ALL 250K CABLEGATE DOCS - It's been reported that the Norwegian paper Aftenposten has gotten its hands on all 250,000 Wikileaks cables. Said Afterposten editor Ole Erik to Norwegian business paper Dagens Naerings: "We're free to do what we want with these documents...We're free to publish the documents or not publish the documents, we can publish on the internet or on paper. We are handling these documents just like all other journalistic material to which we have gained access." Ball's in your court, Afterposten's Ole Erik! [Herald Sun]
Hey Ole Erik: if you've got any that involve, say, Oliver North and a planeload of cocaine, ship those puppies on over to firstname.lastname@example.org. @irisgrim needs a new pair of shoes.
Don't the rest of you be bashful, either: Send tips/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter - @HuffPostHill
PRESIDENT OBAMA SIGNS DADT REPEAL - Flanked by lawmakers and military brass, the president this morning signed into law legislation repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell. "No longer will thousands of men and women in uniform be asked to live a lie or look over their shoulder while serving the country they love," Obama said at the signing. Despite the general euphoria -- audience members could be heard shouting "USA! USA!" and "Repeal it!" -- the president wasn't actually signing repeal, but signing a bill that gives him and the military the power to write regulations repealing the policy. [HuffPost]
@SenatorReid: Five months after I promised to repeal #DADT, I'm so happy to give back this West Point ring to @ltdanchoi http://twitpic.com/3igbom
Todd Platts was the only Republican House member listed on the White House's attendee list. We're now awaiting announcement of a Tea Party challenger to counter such acts of treasonous event-attending
CONGRESS PASSES DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION BILL - After the Senate let out a collective "no homo" and scuttled the first incarnation due to its DADT provision, the Congress finally passed a $725 billion defense measure today when the Senate approved the bill that the House passed last Friday. It "authorizes the Pentagon to spend nearly $160 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this budget year without major restrictions on the conduct of operations....Among its numerous provisions is a 1.4 percent pay raise for troops and a guarantee that children of service members can stay covered under the military's TRICARE health care program until they are 26 years of age.The bill also would continue restrictions on the Defense Department's ability to close Guantanamo Bay, including prohibiting the transfer of detainees to the U.S." [AP]
PRO-CHOICERS LOSE OUT - Democrats stripped the Burris amendment from the defense bill, which would have allowed VA hospitals to perform abortions paid for with private money. Had the bill not been held up by the DADT dispute, the amendment likely wouldn't have been a big enough deal to slow down the underlying bill and it would've become law. In other words, the victory for gay-rights advocates came at the expense of pro-choicers, capping what has ironically been one of the worst congresses for abortion-rights advocates in decades.
FED LENDING WAS A HUGE BAILOUT - Zach Carter: "Ever wonder how much big banks made off of the Fed's "emergency lending facilities?" Well, so did Matt Sherman and Dean Baker. So they calculated just how much the biggest banks would have made from their super-low-interest Fed loans had they invested that money in U.S. Treasury Bonds, which, in case you forgot, are provided by the U.S. government. And it turns out that all of the top 10 participants in just one of the Fed's dozenish bailout programs would have made at least $100 million from government subsidies in that program alone, with top winner Bank of America taking home almost $1 billion. Had BofA bothered to "invest" the Fed loans in securities yielding just a bit more than Treasury bonds, they would have raked in $2.5 billion. And we wonder why bank bonuses are so big". [CEPR]
DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - John Shadegg said in a letter to USAToday that all he and Republicans want is for unemployment benefits to be "paid for" and that Republicans aren't "playing games" with the jobless. Shadegg, confusing reauthorizations of existing benefits with legislation that actually increased the number of weeks available, writes that Congress extended benefits nine times. "None of the extensions was 'paid for.' Every penny spent has added to our national debt." Actually, one of the extensions was paid for -- the one in November 2009, which President Obama called "fiscally responsible." Whatever. [USAToday]
PARANOID SELF-LOATHING GOP LOBBYIST'S NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION FOR GEORGE W BUSH - 'Tis the season to be strung-out in a state of fluoxetine-induced pseudo-jolly. As such, our favorite Paranoid Self-Loathing GOP Lobbyist -- finished with his breathing exercises after he thought a Salvation Army Santa's coin box was a bomb -- has advice for George W. Bush. Behold: The ninth installment of PSLGOPL's New Year's Resolutions For Other People! On the ninth day of Christmas, PSLGOPLNYRFOP said to me: "George Bush should consider piling on Obama next year." And a partridge in a pair tree! Season's Greetings, PSLGOPL!
POLL: PRESIDENT LEADS 2012 CONTENDERS IN FLORIDA - Despite the prevailing wisdom that President Obama will be lucky if he carries Rhode Island, California and Ben's Chili Bowl in 2012 and can eke out a spot in the Romney administration as director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, a new PPP survey indicates that he is actually the man to beat in Florida -- a state recently gifted more electoral votes by the Census Bureau. Obama leads Mitt Romney 46 percent to 44 percent. Against Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and native son Marco Rubio, the commander-in-chief leads 49-44, 47-42 and 48-40, respectively. Sarah Palin fares even worse, trailing the president 52 percent to 38 percent. Haley Barbour's numbers weren't released but we hear he didn't remember the numbers as being that bad. [PPP]
Another 2012 PPP poll has Obama trailing Huckabee by one-point in North Carolina and leading the rest of the field
HOUSE GOP RELEASES RULES CHANGES, BOOTS "LABOR" FROM PANEL - The incoming House leadership unveiled a series of mild-to-substantial changes to take effect in the 112th Congress. The House must now vote separately to raise the debt ceiling after passing a budget agreement. PAYGO will be replaced by CUTGO, a rule that will offset mandatory, and not just discretionary, expenditures with cuts elsewhere (tax cuts don't count for some reason, and don't have to be offset). All committee bills must disclose text of legislation at least 24 hours before it is considered and attendance records will be made public. (We warned you!) The Science and Technology committee will be renamed Science, Space and Technology (awesome). Education and Labor will undergo a semi-regular name change to Education and the Workforce (because only Trotsky-worshipping coastal types "labor" at their jobs). And though we would have preferred they restrict them from the international food stand in the Longworth cafeteria as well (line is long, bro), former congressmen working as lobbyists are henceforth forbidden from using the House gym. For those curious, no, the Committee on Financial Services was not renamed the Committee for Financial Services.
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Merry Christmas from this tremendously grouchy dog. [http://bit.ly/fcpQHi]
NORTH KOREA DIPS TOE IN GENDER CONTINUUM, ALBEIT AWKWARDLY - Not since Kim Jong-il's karaoke duet with Harvey Fierstein at Pride day 2005 has the totalitarian state so F-ed the binary. "North Korea has chosen a new target in its standoff with the West: the Republican lawmaker who will preside over the House Foreign Affairs Committee come January, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. The Stalinist state is convinced the lawmaker is out to get North Korea, but seems confused about the Floridian's gender. 'Ros, [the] man representing the U.S. conservative hard-liners, is human scum as he earned ill-fame as an anti-communist fanatic,' said the official Korean Central News Agency in an editorial today. 'He is a political illiterate ignorant of the background against which the nuclear issue cropped up on the Korean Peninsula and the processes to settle it.'" [WSJ]
HuffPost Hiccup: Yesterday we wrote about Belmont University pink slipping a beloved soccer coach because she publicly acknowledged the baby she and her partner were having. For whatever reason we trailed off at the end of a sentence and therefore didn't mention that Belmont had also forbidden students from starting a school-sanctioned LGBT group. Our Anonymous LGBT Belmont Alum noted that if the university wanted to be consistent, "they should dismiss 90% of the musical theater department and 100% of the female folk singers." ABLGBTA added: "While they're at it, why not lose that outdated 'dorm room doors must be cracked while members of the opposite sex are visiting.' It's really just encouraging all of those good Christian boys and girls explore their homosexual urges." Sorry, ABLGBTA!
JEREMY THE INTERN'S WEATHER REPORT - Tonight: Clear skies, temperatures below freezing. Beware! Tomorrow: High winds will make it feel chillier than it is. Only a bit cooler than today. Thanks, JB!
- Seven websites you should use to waste time on (after the rest of Comfort Food, of course). [http://huff.to/fmBs1O]
- Your cup now runneth over with awkward Christmas cards [http://bit.ly/fHsVgo]
- GET YO RETROSPECTIVE ON: The 20 best and worst movie tag-lines of the year. [http://on.vh1.com/fk0jcA]
- We aren't huge "Glee" fans but this "before they were famous" is a real good example of the genre. [http://bit.ly/ik5lwV]
- Dude feeds his baby in a very adorable, and very Japanese, manner. [http://bit.ly/fmfH9s]
- "Something gotta be wrong with her sittin' up here eatin' tissue." [http://bit.ly/dS0Ayk]
- Fox News' Chyron identified Elie Wiesel as a "Holocaust Winner." Unless "Operation Overlord" was secretly called "Operation Power-up Mushroom," that's kinda inappropriate [http://aol.it/gcMJdU]
- Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way/ Oh how much it is to ride on a HH-60G Pave Hawk combat search and rescue helicopter! [http://gizmo.do/fDiTpN]
- Here's a 15-minute video explaining the mechanics behind a candy dispenser made of Legos. You know what? Shut up. We find it interesting. [http://bit.ly/fq7atW]
@danielradosh: Because otherwise Haley Barbour could totally have been elected president.
@pwgavin: Best part about UConn's #89? Richard Blumenthal's ESPN.com cameo: http://twitpic.com/3ifnmg
@matthewstoller: Newsweek and/or Time will do a cover on the mysteries of sleep #2011predictions
@brianbeutler: Skype is down, putting Skype inventors Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis in the running for 2011 persons of the year.
6:00 pm: Nine D.C.-area 55-and-over choirs gather to perform holiday songs. Great for bachelor parties [Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, 2700 F Street NW].
8:00 pm - 10:00 pm: After you're done singing with the elderly, head over to the main stage for the annual Messiah sing along [Kennedy Center Concert Hall, 2700 F Street NW].
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