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HUFFPOST HILL - HCR Funding Vote Next Week

First Posted: 02/08/11 06:28 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:30 PM ET

Huffpost Hill

Rep. Denny Rehberg lectured Montanans about the value of hunting and reminded his constituents that nothing bonds father and son quite like the Most Dangerous Game. The U.S. is investing $53 billion in high-speed rail, an initiative we suspect will be fully paid for with dining cars selling $8 Heinekens. And Al Gore is furiously planting trees to offset the carbon footprint of all the printed scripts Keith Olbermann will be throwing around on his new Current TV show. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, February 8th, 2011:

HOUSE TO VOTE ON BLOCKING HEALTH CARE FUNDS NEXT WEEK - At his pen-and-pad session with reporters today, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor confirmed that the lower chamber will vote next week on cutting off funds for health care reform. "I expect to see one way or the other, the product coming out of the House to speak to that and to preclude any funding to be used for [health care reform]", Cantor said.

An irony for the simple minded: They'd be cutting funding for the already up-and-running high risk pool program that was their own idea and hasn't impressed anybody anyway.

Gibbs at his briefing today: "The president supports [the individual mandate]. We have gone to court to maintain it. And, as the president has said, we will work with those who want to see improvements in this law regardless of party. But we believe that individual responsibility is a foundation."

CONGRESS CAN'T GET ENOUGH OF ITS OWN SOCIAL SECURITY - Running in Roll Call tonight from Jennifer Yachnin: "While Members have taken steps to curb Congress' internal spending habits in recent months, the Congressional pension program is rarely mentioned on Capitol Hill. Taxpayers are expected to foot the bill for around $26 million in pensions to former Members this year, at the same time that Congress are seeking to claim austerity by curbing lawmakers' annual pay raises. That pension program estimate, which was calculated from data published by the Congressional Research Service, is based on payments to 455 Members as of October 2009 and doesn't include potential payouts to dozens of newly retired lawmakers who are eligible to draw their pensions."

Former Senator Alan Simpson is sucking hard on the congressional teat as we speak.

ThinkProgress has compiled a list of stimulus projects that would be left half-finished -- like a Vegas McMansion subdivison -- if the GOP's plan to return unspent stimulus funds passes. The feature, written by Lee Fang, will run tomorrow morning in TP.

The ThinkProgress piece should be a warning for Republicans who misinterpreted the midterms as a referendum against spending, rather against the anemic economy. Get unemployment down, and people will probably be too busy deciding whether a plasma or LCD flat screen is right for them to give a hoot about the deficit. The NYT hit this point on Friday and then again Monday, with stories about folks upset that their new, anti-earmark member of Congress is killing the projects they like, such as ones "to help consolidate information about arrests in Brazos County, Tex., and staffing for two new shelters for abused women and children in Salt Lake City. A rural county in Wisconsin will not be able to upgrade its communication system...Nan Hayworth, who knocked off Democrat John Hall in upstate New York, summed it up neatly to the Times in explaining why she ticked off her constituents by pulling a broadly popular project aimed at saving Lake Oscawana. "I am not questioning the worthiness of filtering Lake Oscawana," she said in a recent interview. But, she asked, "Is this a project to which federal tax dollars should be directed, or is this a project another authority should be responsible for?" Our basic reaction to that reasoning.

Speaking of shiftless deficit hawkery, Democracy for America will come after Dick Durbin tomorrow for getting behind Mike Crapo's effort to revive the deficit commission.

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Patty DiMucci of Cary, N.C. said she's been out of work since losing her job as a director of event planning for a beauty products retailer in March 2009. She said her unemployment benefits will run out this month. "This is the first time in my career I'm struggling to find a job," DiMucci, 42, told HuffPost. "I've applied for hundreds of jobs. The rejection takes its toll on you -- that is, when you even get a response from a company." DiMucci said she and her husband successfully obtained a mortgage modification from the Obama administration's Home Affordable Modification Program (!) that is saving them $900 a month, but without the roughly $2,000 she receives in unemployment insurance, they will have to make some tough kitchen-table budget decisions (just like Congress!). "Am I going to have to pull my son out of pre-school? We're barely making ends meet now," DiMucci said. While she still hopes to land a job, she worries that long-term unemployment itself is a huge obstacle. "Am I deemed unemployable?"

DOUBLE DOWNER - The Wyoming House voted down a bill that would have provided the state's unemployed an additional 13 weeks of federally-funded benefits. Why? Because that's stimulus money, and every time a state takes stimulus money, an angel loses its copy of Capitalism and Freedom. "When you say that it costs the state nothing, obviously, any money that comes to the state comes from all of us," said one state House member, according to AP. Wyoming is one of nine states that needs its legislature to lift a finger so its long-term unemployed can collect 13 weeks of benefits under the federal Extended Benefits program, according to the National Employment Law Project, which considers such finger-lifting a "no brainer." NELP estimates that 5,689 Wyoming jobless would have been eligible for the extra weeks of benefits, at a cost to the federal government of $24.1 million. [AP]

Tomorrow in The Hill: "Peter Schroeder on how a rift is emerging between congressional Republicans and the financial-services industry over the funding of Wall Street's watchdog: the Securities and Exchange Commission."

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

KEITH OLBERMANN HEADING TO CURRENT TV - The former MSNBC host announced today that he is joining the left-leaning Current TV as its "chief news officer." In addition to his editorial responsibilities, he will also host a nightly, one-hour primetime show on the network, a station he called "the model truth-seeking entity" in a conference call with reporters. Olbermann added that his new program will "be for all intents and purposes an improved and we hope amplified and stronger version of the show that I just did at my previous network." Despite the TV personality's high-profile move, Olbermann will be broadcasting to a much smaller audience: he averaged one-million or so viewers at MSNBC; the average primetime audience for Current TV is roughly 23,000 viewers. With Current scooping up Olbermann, all eyes now turn to QVC, whose Zirconia Journeys with Rick Sanchez is still not green-lit. Pity. [HuffPost]

President Obama has quit smoking, his wife Michelle told reporters today. That's a hard thing to verify, short of smelling someone's breath or fingers and... well... good luck with that. [AP]

REP. DENNY REHBERG DIDN'T GET THE MEMO ABOUT #NEWTONE - In an address to a joint session of the state legislature yesterday, at-large Montana Rep. and Senate candidate Denny Rehberg told the crowd that "judicial activists" should be placed on the endangered species list...and he didn't mean because there aren't enough of them (He meant it in the more blood libel-y kind of way). Speaking of a recent court decision that mandated the gray wolf be kept on the endangered species list, Rehberg said, "When I first heard his decision, like many of you I wanted to take action immediately...I asked: How can we put some of these judicial activists on the endangered species act?" [Video, via Montana Human Rights Network]

U.S. INVESTING $53 BILLION IN HIGH-SPEED RAIL - Trains, best known as the primary mode of medium-distance transport for Joe Biden, I-95 Corridor businessmen and college students too squeamish for the Chinatown bus, are getting a stimulus package of their own. The vice president today unveiled a sweeping initiative to construct a network of high-speed rail connections and upgrade existing train infrastructure. The proposal will leave the decision of which corridors to build in to the Department of Transportation. According to a press release from Biden's office (the subhead of which reads, "Plan Lays Vision for Long Term Infrastructure Investments Needed To Win The Future"), the president's 2011 budget proposal will allocate $8 billion for the project, with the rest of the funds coming over the next six years. [HuffPost]

From the Department of Too Bad Dan Pfeiffer Can't Dress Up As Helen Thomas Anymore: "White House aides have been quietly preparing incoming press secretary Jay Carney for his briefing debut next week. CNN has learned that the process, led by deputy spokesman Bill Burton and Josh Earnest, who had both been in the running for the press secretary job, has been exhaustive...Carney would stand behind a podium in a room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The team of staffers played the role of reporters, and would ask him questions on 'current topics," closely following the format of Robert Gibbs daily briefing.'" [CNN]

HARMAN OFFICIALLY RESIGNS, SPECIAL ELECTION CONTENDERS LINING UP - Jane Harman officially resigned from the House today, a day after the California Democrat announced that she is stepping down to serve as the president and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Already a handful of possible candidates from both parties have expressed interest in the special election to fill Harman's seat. L.A. City Councilwoman Janice Hahn has already announced that she will run. California Secretary of State Debra Bowen is also reportedly mulling a bid. Republican businessman Damon Dunn is rumored to be interested in the seat, as well. [Roll Call]

A PPP survey suggests that Jeff Bingaman might be the person best-suited to keep his seat blue. When pitted against former Governor Gary Johnson, Congressman Steve Pearce, and former Congresswoman Heather Wilson, the veteran Senator handily leads all three by double-digits. However, when Johnson is polled against the state's two Democratic House reps, Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan, the popular former state executive leads both by small margins. This being New Mexico, we're a bit perplexed that Jeff Bingaman's spirit animal was omitted from the list of possible contenders. That pink coyote sure can speechify!!!. [PPP]

But will Bingaman even run? He was one of only two senior Senate Democrats who gave up a seat on a big committee (Armed Services) and he's been around since, good god, 1983.

POLL: AMERICANS OVERWHELMINGLY SUPPORT EGYPT UPRISING - Despite the best efforts of Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and the rest of the gang to recast the unrest in Egypt as nothing more than the work of a bunch of Twitter-using, Caliphate-forming, Goldline-hating, SEIU-backed, Saladins-in-training who probably provided Christina Aguilera the altered sheet music for "The Star Spangled Banner," a Gallup survey out yesterday finds people in this country are quite supportive of the Egyptian uprising. 82 percent of respondents said they are "sympathetic" toward the protesters, whereas only 11 percent are "unsympathetic." What's more, 77 percent of Republicans polled say they sympathize with the demonstrators. Try harder, Glenn. [Gallup]

Christiane Amanpour, back from Egypt: "In my view, the more perspectives the better...This is the United States of America, the bastion of the free press. Anyone can get on cable, why not Al Jazeera?" [Yahoo]

Sarah Palin has nixed her visit to Israel, The Hill is reporting. Fellow would-be 2012 contenders Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee have already paid visits to Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and Haley Barbour is scheduled to travel to the country next week. We're sure this has absolutely nothing to do with Palin's recent plea that liberals quit accusing conservatives of using child blood to make a Jewish variant of chicken noodle soup. Next Year In Jerusalem (because the world is ending in 2012)!

U.S. SEEKING VETO POWER OVER INTERNET DOMAIN NAMES - The U.S. government is quietly trying to exert control over who can and can't use a series of Internet suffixes that will be incorporated into the web by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the sanctioned organization that manages such things (somehow). In a statement sent to CNET, the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration said that a government veto power "has merit as it diminishes the potential for blocking of top level domain strings considered objectionable by governments. This type of blocking harms the architecture of the DNS and undermines the goal of universal resolvability (i.e., a single global Internet that facilitates the free flow of goods and services and freedom of expression)." Says CNET's Declan McCullagh: "Another way of phrasing this argument, perhaps, is: If less liberal governments adopt technical measures to prevent their citizens from connecting to .gay and .xxx Web sites, and dozens of nations surely will, that will lead to a more fragmented Internet." Just as long as .Dot happens, we'll be happy campers. [CNET]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR -This family constructed a mechanical, hamster-powered robot walker. It begins.

Lawyers for a soon-to-be incarcerated associate of Jack Abramoff say their client should be shown leniency because of the film Casino Jack. Attorneys for Michael Scanlon say that he should not have to serve the two years government prosecutors are requesting because the movie, which stars Kevin Spacey and depicts Abramaoff's rise and fall, sullies his reputation. "He has also thrown away his career, has lost control of his financial affairs and jeopardized his ability to provide for his sons," Scanlon's legal team wrote to TPM's Ryan J. Reilly. "His reputation has gone down the drain as well, and he will be stigmatized forever as the caricature of Mike Scanlon portrayed in the recent movie 'Casino Jack' rather than the true Mike Scanlon." Tell us about it! For years now we've been trying to sue over the movie K-PAX...just because. [TPM]

JEREMY'S WEATHER REPORT - Tonight: We're looking at a chilly, windy evening (which is quite logical, considering today was windy and chilly). It's to be expected, as a cold front just swept through the region. Tomorrow: Clouds in the morning give way to sun in the afternoon. While it will be a bit warmer than today, the lack of wind will be the big difference from today's chill. Thanks, JB!

HuffPost Hiccups: We were so thrilled to discover new ways of adding 1 and 1 yesterday that we dropped the ball an embarrassing number of times: We misspelled Kirsten Gillibrand's name, called the DLC the "Democratic Leadership Committee" (it is -- or was -- a "Council") and said Max Baucus chairs the Budget Committee when he chairs the Finance Committee. We'll try our best not to bungle the National Anthem this week...but no promises. Ye-e-e-e-esh.

At least we didn't...: "An article on Jan. 16 about drilling for oil off the coast of Angola erroneously reported a story about cows falling from planes, as an example of risks in any engineering endeavor. No cows, smuggled or otherwise, never fell from a plane into a Japanese fishing rig. The story is an urban legend, and versions of it have been reported in Scotland, Germany, Russia and other locations." [NYT]

COMFORT FOOD

-Nicholas Felton's annual report beautifully detailing the minutia of his own life is out. This is way more compelling than you think. [http://bit.ly/f1Kc8n]

- The "Born This Way" blog invites LGBT folks to send pictures from their youth that demonstrate that sexuality isn't a choice. Hilarious and touching. [http://bit.ly/eZfMMY]

- A cat tries to assimilate itself into the dominate culture by eating with its hands. [http://bit.ly/e4zF8Q]

- Manhattan as a giant pinball machine. The freshman year poetry seminar-ish metaphor might not be impressive, but the visuals are. [target="_hplink">http://bit.ly/cbtBor]

- Vote Harry Baals. [http://bit.ly/dLcHlU]

- A Star Wars: A New Hope cheat sheet that explains the entire film using only icons. [http://bit.ly/dOuwSs]

- While we're on the topic of Star Wars (and when aren't we?), a superfan cut a two-hour commentary version of the movie using only bonus clips such as behind-the-scenes videos and interviews with the cast and crew. [http://bit.ly/eqZvuu]

- From the "Department of Vibrating Cellos": Someone constructed a piano that rocks band and forth. [http://bit.ly/frTV8f]

TWITTERAMA

@mattduss: Just passed Avigdor Lieberman in hall at Knesset. Winked at him.

@aterkel: Goodbye, Evan Bayh doormat. (Seen in Russell Senate building.) http://plixi.com/p/75781680

@DCjourno: SPOTTED waiting in line for Burrito Bowls at Chipotle: Stew and Walsh. Ask Rethmeier who got the Carnitas. (h/t Holmes)

ON TAP

TONIGHT

6:30 pm: Chris Lee defends his upstate New York turf with a campaign function at Art and Soul. The restaurant claims to offer a "modern regional cuisine with southern accents" which might be the most generic way to describe 80 percent of District restaurants [Art and Soul, 415 New Jersey Ave NW].

7:00 pm: Brett Guthrie hosts a fundraiser at Carmine's. Some of their garlic dishes come with pasta [Carmine's, 425 7th Street, NW].

TOMORROW

6:30 pm: Show her you care: Celebrate Valentine's Day by dropping $2,000 on Don Manzullo's reelection at "Mrs. Don Manzullo's Annual Valentine's Dinner." In some Eastern cultures, Don Manzullo is renown as an aphrodisiac [Finemondo Restaurant, 1319 F 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 Arthur Delaney (arthur@huffingtonpost.com). Follow us on Twitter @HuffPostHill (twitter.com/HuffPostHill). Sign up here: http://huff.to/an2k2e

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