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HUFFPOST HILL - 112th Congress Back-And-Forth Begins

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The unemployment rate might be nearing double digits but Hill types are doing just fine. Kit Bond and Ron Klain are leaving their government jobs. All correspondences will henceforth be forwarded to the supple bosom of the private sector. The National Journal is taking it upon itself to be the second stimulus. And Arlen Specter is scrubbing the male-enhancement jokes from his stand-up routine in preparation for his law school lectures. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, January 4th, 2011:

HOUSE REPUBLICANS BLOCK REPEAL BILL AMENDMENTS - The House Republican initiative that would roll back health care reform -- tentatively called the That Legislation Totally BLOWS And, Not For Nothing, We Hear John Dingell Has Terrible Coffee Breath Bill Act Measure -- is slated for a vote Friday. At his first pen-and-pad today, Eric Cantor indicated that the GOP leadership will not allow Democratic amendments to the bill. Greg Sargent notes that this jams up "Rep. Peter Welch and other Democrats [who] are hoping to introduce amendments to the GOP's health repeal bill that would exempt specific provisions in the Affordable Care Act from the GOP's repeal measure." So could Republican leadership have better coordinated all this so that Mitch McConnell's op-ed assailing anti-amendment "tree-filling" by Democrats didn't run the same day??? Looks like the right and doesn't know what the far ri...never mind. [WaPo]

Howard Fineman scoops Obama's chief-of-staff shortlist. It goes in this order: "Acting Chief of Staff Pete Rouse, former Clinton Commerce Secretary Bill Daley, former South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle and -- a dark horse candidate -- Agriculture Secretary and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack." [HuffPost]

The new Senate convenes tomorrow. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will devote a good portion of his opening speech to filibuster reform. Tom Udall is planning to offer his motion to reform the rules, though it'll be held over until January 24th. The debate will begin, though, with Jeff Merkley and others speaking on behalf of reform. Tom Harkin, Ron Wyden and Claire McCaskill have their own proposals and plan to take the floor, as well.

Drinking games that include the fraction three-fifths will get a workout tomorrow as House Republicans read the Constitution to open the 112th Congress.

The Hill tomorrow is leading with an item by Mike Lillis on "Nancy Pelosi's adjustment to her new role as minority leader with a Democrat in the White House."

INCOMING HOUSE REPUBLICAN LATE IN REPORTING LOAN FROM MOM - Getting to know the incoming freshman class is gonna be fun. David Rivera, who won an open Florida seat in the Miami area, neglected to disclose a $132,000 loan from a slot-machine marketing firm he's closely associated with and which is run by his mom. "It was filed one day before The Miami Herald published a lengthy article raising questions about Rivera's financial dealings with the gambling referendum firm, Millennium Marketing Strategies, and reporting the existence of an investigation by the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office," the AP reports this afternoon. "'He was able to achieve the objective of concealing the loan and where it came from during the election, when it matters most to the voters and the press,' said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for the Washington-based Public Citizen watchdog group. 'At least he declared it, but it's something that should have been declared right away.'"

Oh hey, Laura Bassett's article on litigious charities got a shout out in last night's Colbert Report.

BOENHER QUIETLY ADVOCATING FOR RNC CANDIDATE - The incoming speaker of the House typically camouflages best when lurking about a pumpkin patch, standing in front of an early period Rothko, attending a Syracuse game, or clubbing in the Meadowlands. However it turns out he does a crappy job of hiding when conducting some behind-the-scenes advocacy for Maria Cino. According to CNN, Boehner has been making calls to RNC members on behalf of of the dark horse candidate who has been a longtime friend of the Republican leader and his Chief of Staff Barry Jackson. Of course it's entirely possible, if not likely, that this news was leaked on purpose. But if we said that up front we couldn't have beat the dead horse that is the Boehner-as-Midwestern-Oompa-Loompa joke. And we can't have that, can we? [CNN]

Honey, I shrunk the credit score - From Zach Carter and Delaney in tomorrow's HuffPost: "Steven Marks knew he was wasting thousands of dollars every month paying the mortgage on a home he bought during the housing bubble that will never be worth that much again. But he'd read plenty of horror stories about people having serious trouble modifying their mortgages due to bank confusion and misbehavior, so before he started looking for debt relief on his Reno, Nev. home, Marks sent a simple request to Bank of America: Could they tell him who owned his mortgage? And could they document it? After initially declining to tell him who owned his loan, Bank of America provided a form letter with the name of the current investor a few weeks later. But they also appear to have lowered his credit score, the preeminent measure of creditworthiness that will principally determine his ability to obtain loans in the future. 'I just asked to see my note, and they dinged my credit score. My insurance premiums have already gone up,' Marks told HuffPost. 'I went to see a lawyer, we're trying to figure out what my options are. After this, we're thinking about some forced mediation. Why keep paying if my credit score gets battered anyway?'"

THERE'S A REASON NOBODY LIVES IN IOWA - Zach Carter: "Just weeks after vowing to 'put people in jail' with his investigation of foreclosure fraud, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has abandoned the effort without even the most cursory criminal investigation. Lawyers in the know say the investigation hasn't even demanded documentation from banks to determine whether wrongdoing violated criminal statutes. Miller says the main goal of the 50-state investigation he is running is to fix the broken mortgage service industry, which, he tells Bloomberg is an 'inherently civil, not criminal' endeavor. Apparently criminal accountability has no effect on business behavior! Civil charges usually end up hitting shareholders, not bankers, meaning the culprits in the most widespread outbreak of bank fraud in history probably won't have to face any serious consequences. The AG effort was widely viewed as the best chance to actually hold bankers accountable. Surprise! Looks like Wall Street is going to win anyway."

CREW is kind of schilling for Big Ag, reports Mike Elk in an American Prospect piece that goes live at midnight: "In October, the Prospect reported on CREW's criticism of student-loan reform advocates. CREW's position was based on talking points disseminated by the for-profit education industry and relied on biased sources, including lobbyists later hired by the education industry. CREW's own executive director, Melanie Sloan, was hired by one of those lobbyists, Lanny Davis, in November, to begin work this month. Before Sloan's departure from the organization, CREW asked a federal official to step down from his central duty, once again echoing the arguments of lobbyists for a major industry -- this time, the largest meatpackers in the country." Heh.

THE FED STILL LOVES PREDATORY LENDING -- More Zach Carter: "Fresh off the biggest mortgage regulation fail in history, the Federal Reserve is quietly pushing a new rule that would eliminate a key federal remedy for predatory mortgage lending. Under current rules, if you can prove that a bank sold you an illegal loan, all the bank's profits from that loan will be stripped, and the bank loses the right to foreclose on you. You still have to pay off the principal, but since this is a penalty for illegal lending, after all, you don't have to pay up until the bank loses that right to foreclose. That gives you time to work out a payment plan with the bank without losing your home. But the Fed wants to reverse that scenario, requiring a borrower to pay off the entire principal on a loan before the bank loses its right to foreclose. As a result, borrowers who win predatory lending cases still lose their homes. Sure, it sounds like a bad idea, but it turns out banks can make a lot of money on it, so it must be good!"

RODELL OUT - Rodell Mollineau, a top aide for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, announced his departure in style yesterday, sending word in one of the best press releases HuffPost Hill has been privileged to receive. "Over the last four years Rodell's strategic guidance proved invaluable not just to me, but to the entire Democratic caucus," said Senator Reid in the release from Mollineau's shop. "His abilities make him one of the most talented young communications professionals in Washington today, and while his day to day presence in the Capitol will be missed, he will always be a member of the Senate family. I thank and congratulate him for his public service thus far and for what I am confident he will achieve in the future." The release went one further. "CONTACT: Regan Lachapelle (202) 224-2939" So we contacted Lachapelle to ask her what type of communications planning went on to prepare the calls that would come regarding the news. "We had a very long meeting about it. Rodell led it," said Lachapelle. We then talked to Mollineau. "If I'd have known that Regan was going to be doing such a bad job flacking for me, I would've assigned somebody else," he said.

We asked Mollineau, last spotted with HuffPost Hill at a Phish show at the Merriweather Post Pavilion, what song he'd be leaving the Senate to. The Train: "Don't be afraid to fly/You never know what day the doors will close/It's time to say goodbye/Time to pack up and ride/Got to leave this place/It's been cool but I gotta go"

@evale72 I call thee out @huffposthill for no @rachelweiner love, know u miss her but don't hate the player blame the game

Thanks, Eddie! Weiner, formerly of HuffPost fame, has moved from her gig as WaPo's national web editor to become Deputy Fix. Or is it Deputy The Fix? Either way, good on 'er.

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Allen West, making stuff up: The latest vote to extend long-term unemployment benefits for another 13 months was just "creating more victims and making people dependent on the government." He'll be here all week, folks. [RealClearPolitics]

This will be exciting: "Arlen Specter to Teach at Law School"

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

SCHUMER THE GRAND POOBAH OF RULES REFORM - Our own Sam Stein is reporting that Sen. Chuck Schumer has been given final say over the package of Senate rules reforms that will be unveiled later this month, an indication of his increased stature in the caucus. In the last Congress, Schumer had primarily been charged with helming the Rules Committee and deciding how much Cool Whip should be slathered on his Tuesday Schumwich. However after the disastrous midterms Harry Reid ceded control of the caucus' policy and messaging operations to Schumer thanks in large part to the New York senator's political acumen and because his hair plugs look awful purdy on Meet the Press. Schumer flack Brian Fallon threw some water on the news, telling Sam that "Senator Schumer believes that decisions as important as this should be made by the entire caucus. That is especially true in this case because it would take at least 51 votes to pass anything." [HuffPost]

Mitch McConnell, in a WaPo op-ed set to run tomorrow: "What every Republican senator, and many Democratic senators...[realized] was that any attempt by a sitting majority to grasp at power would come back to haunt us. Even worse, any rule change aimed at making it easier for one party to force legislation through the Senate with only a slim partisan majority would undermine the Senate's unique role as a moderating influence and put a permanent end to bipartisanship." [WaPo]

Rep.-elect Sean Duffy joined Twitter, thus taking the unprecedented step of broadcasting his day-to-day activity to the broader public: @RepSeanDuffy: I'm excited to serve Wisconsin's 7th District - stay tuned for more updates!

@NancyPelsoi: I'm now @NancyPelosi - 2 characters shorter than @SpeakerPelosi. RTers rejoice!

LEADING WH CHIEF OF STAFF CANDIDATE OPPOSED CFPA - William Daley, the rumored front-runner to be President Obama's next chief of staff, is an opponent of the forthcoming Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Per an April 7th Wall Street Journal piece: "But when White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel called a top J.P. Morgan executive to ask for the bank's support in creating a new consumer-protection agency, the executive--former Commerce Secretary William Daley--said no, according to people familiar with the conversation. His boss believed that sufficient consumer safeguards were already on the books." Of course this is in keeping with Daley's selling point as as bridge to the corporate community which -- with inequitable extensions of upper bracket tax cuts, an endorsement of the business-friendly Deficit Commission report and a less-than-welcoming attitude to labor -- the White House has strenuously ignored. [HuffPost]

National Journal HUNGRY-Y-Y!!! National Journal feed on journalists!!!! Congrats to Jessica Taylor, Alissa Swango, Kevin Brennan and Tim "I didn't realize Polly Pocket has a line of eyewear" Fernholz for joining the publication.

RON KLAIN JUMPS OFF SPRINGBOARD OF GOVERNMENT INTO SCROOGE MCDUCK MONEY PIT OF PRIVATE EQUITY - The vice president's office announced today that Chief of Staff Ron Klain will be departing at the end of this month. Though it'd make our week if this turned out to be the catalyst for a citywide campaign that culminates in the content's of Klain's secret junk hole being made public, we're... not getting our hopes up. In fact, it just so happens that Klain is leaving to head up Case Holdings, the holding company for former AOL honcho Steve Case. "For 25 years, Ron Klain has been my friend and advisor." VP Biden said in a statement. "As my chief of staff in the White House, Ron has done an exceptional job of building my team, implementing my direction on top priorities, and providing invaluable counsel. He has also played a key role in establishing the strong, positive relationship that exists between my staff and the President's team." Bye bye! [HuffPost]

ALSO WANTING MONEY NOW - Kit Bond will join the St. Louis law firm of Thompson Coburn. The 71-year-old whippersnapper not-a-lobbyist-because-that-would-violate-the-two-year-buffer-law will specialize "in advising clients in international trade, biotechnology, agriculture, cyberlaw and transportation." [St. Louis Business Journal]

OUTGOING DEM LEADERSHIP TAKES ON GOP AGENDA - In her final press conference as speaker of the House (or not), Nancy Pelosi defended her party's track record on job creation and vowed pursue an agenda of economic recovery in the minority. "We will measure every policy from both parties as it comes forth as to whether it creates jobs, whether it strengthens the middle class and whether it reduces the deficit instead of heaping mountains of debt onto our children and our grandchildren," she said, adding that "[t]he cost of health care, for individual families, for small businesses for corporate America, for our economy, and also for the federal budget, was unsustainable. And that's why, this comprehensive health care reform, one of the main reasons it was necessary." Her deputies' remarks were somewhat more pointed. "This repeal of health care reform is political theater," Connecticut Rep. and the country's highest-ranking hipster Rosa DeLauro said. "It's a kabuki dance...[it's] not going to happen."

Now that Tim Fernholz is switching jobs, Treasury flacks will be able to email his Geithner apologies with a subject line that begins "National Journal:" instead of "American Prospect:"

Lloyd Doggett --who, despite being a Texas Democrat, somehow eked out a victory last November -- echoes this line of attack in a HuffPost op-ed out soon: "Currently, spending through the Tax Code costs over $1 trillion with virtually no oversight; if the Republican rule is implemented, we can expect that figure to dramatically increase, all of it ballooning the deficit."

#$%@ TIM FERNHOLZ!!!!

Leading in Roll Call tomorrow, from John Stanton: "House Democrats came out swinging Tuesday, pre-emptively accusing Republicans of engaging in hypocritical political theater in pushing through a health care repeal bill with no amendments and limited debate. The nearly unanimous denunciation was a marked difference from the 111th Congress, when moderate and progressive Democrats could rarely get on the same page."

(Totally joking about Tim! As we speak he and Treasury are working on his rebuttal.)

@Todd_Zwillich: Thin crowd for incoming House Maj Ldr Eric Cantor's briefing today, huh? http://yfrog.com/h0x6yjnj

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - A bear cub plays with a bucket of water.

"Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) is the least likely Democrat to stand with his party on legislative initiatives, a recent analysis of 'party unity' votes done by Congressional Quarterly found."

HuffPost Hiccup: In a blurb yesterday about Rory Reid's potential bid to represent Nevada's soon-to-be-zoned 4th District, we mistakenly said Reid would be making a play for the 3rd District. Apologies to outgoing 3rd District Rep. Dina Tutus and her successor Joe Heck.

JEREMY'S WEATHER REPORT - Tonight: Approaching freezing, but otherwise calm. Tomorrow: Just like today, temps in the 40s, with mostly clear skies. Thanks, JB!

COMFORT FOOD

- Dog goes sledding. What did people do with pets before YouTube? [http://bit.ly/dGChwN]

- Guy robs a store with a big stick. A really big stick. [http://bit.ly/f7J10a]

- Lego hired someone to make a stop-motion short film. Lo and behold... [http://bit.ly/hiwOCi]

- "The Ten Best Post-Apocalyptic Survival Vehicles." [http://bit.ly/g0dlH]

- Cat holds on for dear life to a motorized toy. As per usual, there's some dog meandering about in the background. Move away, dog. [http://bit.ly/gElGKW]

- To put it mildly: this penguin doesn't give a %#!@ [http://bit.ly/hoHYio]

- Humanity at its zenith [http://bit.ly/gHv6iv]

- You can't unsee "Muppets With People Eyes." [http://bit.ly/hPH1yf]

TWITTERAMA

@pwgavin: Rule: Don't introduce new job news on Twitter with "It's true..." as if JUSTEVERYONECOULDN'TSTOPTALKINGABOUTITOMGOMG

@katrinanation: About to meet w/ new group of Nation interns.Seems a great group. Worried about former 'tern Nicholas Clegg & that lousy coalition he's in.

@EricKleefeld: A proposed bipartisan compromise: Repeal ObamaCare, replace it with RomneyCare.

THE TUBE - Dianne Sawyer speaks with a group of freshmen lawmakers. Ed Schultz fawns over Alan Grayson and looks ahead with Jan Schakowsky. Sam "Primetime" Stein goes primetime on the Rachel Maddow Show. Phil Roe and Bob Goodlatte stop by The Last Word. Kirsten Gillibrand is on The Daily Show.

ON TAP

TONIGHT

7:30 pm: The GOP House leadership is invited -- John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy and Pete Sessions -- to celebrate their impending control of everything, ever. Word is Boehner isn't coming (being held in the most Republican place in the Universe: The W Hotel). LeAnn Rimes performs at the gala benefiting America's New Majority [W Hotel, 515 15th Street NW].

8:30 pm: Black Cat screens The Breakfast Club, the 1980s John Hughes classic depicting the only people in the universe more self-involved than our politically-inclined readership (joke!) [Black Cat, 1811 14th Street NW].

TOMORROW

5:30 pm - 8:30 pm: Roy Blunt celebrates his swearing in with a reception at the Library of Congress. [Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, First Street SE].

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 Arthur Delaney (arthur@huffingtonpost.com). Follow us on Twitter - @HuffPostHill . Sign up here: http://huff.to/an2k2e

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