It seemed like President Obama's budget (that probably won't be passed) really sent everyone for a spin today. Political journalists spent the entire day combing through the document (that probably won't be passed), breaking only to tweet clever, Washington-themed Valentine's messages ("Be My Valentine? [WAIT FOR APPLAUSE]" #ObamaValentines). Republicans denounced the funding for Esperanto-speaking beekeepers or whatever supposedly frivolous items are contained in the budget (that probably won't be passed). And no amount of rubber bullets, enraged masses, burning vehicles or general political upheaval in the Middle East could grab our attention because we were all too busy focusing on the budget (that probably won't be passed). This is HUFFPOST HILL for Monday, February 14th, 2011:
@greeneforsenate: Happy Valentines Day Everyone #gogreene
PREVIEWED HERE FIRST: REP. JEAN SCHMIDT UNDER INVESTIGATION BY ETHICS COMMITTEE - Running tonight in Roll Call, a scoop from Jennifer Yachnin: "The Office of Congressional Ethics is examining ties between Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) and a Turkish-American interest group that has represented her in a host of legal actions in her home state, Schmidt attorney Bruce Fein confirmed. Fein, who is a Turkish American Legal Defense Fund attorney and resident scholar at the Turkish Coalition of America, did not provide details of the inquiry, but Democrat David Krikorian has filed multiple complaints to the OCE, alleging that the Ohio lawmaker improperly received free legal services from TCA and its legal defense fund arm in violation of House rules. Krikorian has twice sought to challenge Schmidt for the 2nd district seat."
Few tears will be shed in a chamber that calls the Ohio representative Mean Jean if this pans out.
WHITE HOUSE RELEASES BUDGET - Though it tragically wasn't delivered in a giant, opaque egg carried by androgynous servants, the White House did distribute its (plastic-wrapped) $3.73 trillion fiscal year 2012 budget this morning. The Obama administration claims the document gets the ball rolling on $1.1 trillion in deficit reductions over the next ten years. Even though the president couldn't even get his budget passed last year (with a Democratic-controlled Congress, no less) this was all anyone could talk about today...and we're talking about a news-cycle that's seen the Middle East unravel and a planet that dwarfs Jupiter in size being discovered in our solar system.
Grijalva Unhappy: "Nickel and diming our way to economic recovery, especially on the backs of working Americans who did nothing to cause our economic problems, is not the right way to go," Progressive Caucus Co-chair Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said.
REPUBLICANS RESPOND - "It looks like to me that this thing has about $8 of tax increases for every $1 of spending cuts," said Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, at a press briefing at the Capitol today. "You really cannot borrow and spend and tax your way to prosperity, but unfortunately that's what this budget does." Elise Foley notes: "GOP members rejected White House claims that the budget would save $1.1 trillion, arguing that figure is based on fuzzy math and 'gimmicks.' Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) told reporters on Capitol Hill that the bill would reduce the deficit by only a 'negligible' $300 billion." (If you're going to gin up figures, why not just say it increases the deficit by a glabillionty?)
As Republicans spent the morning republishing the document in single-paged, double-spaced, 72-point font so they can ferry it around in a wheelbarrow and moan about government largess, the HuffPost team scoured the document for things that will make you angry (or not). Behold...
Like asking the begger outside the liquor store to front your handle of Jim Beam, America's would-be homeless will be asked to shoulder a significant portion of the administration's cuts. Although the budget calls for $577 million increase in housing assistance programs for Americans without a roof over their heads, total funding for HUD is cut by two percent. Those reductions are primarily taken from programs aimed at preventing homelessness. Said Jeremy Rosen, policy director for the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, to HuffPost's Laura Bassett: "I think it's a rearranging of deck chairs on the Titanic, so to speak, because we're saying, 'Okay, we're gonna provide a little bit more money to people who are homeless by taking it away from housing programs that stop people from falling into homelessness.'" [HuffPost's Laura Bassett]
Are you an endangered woodland caribou? A delicate coastal ecosystem whose myriad beach dwellers are threatened by warming ocean waters? A ray of light bouncing off of the Earth's surface longing to reenter inner-space but worried about greenhouse gas-induced refraction? Well sucks to be you, because the budget cuts EPA funding!
The total proposed military budget is actually five percent lower than the 2011 fiscal year budget, the first time in a few years that defense expenditures fell. Unclear yet how much of the total $553 billion total allotment will be spent on scouting replacement rendition sites should Egypt fully transition to a human rights-honoring democracy. We hear Myanmar can disappear a body with the best of them, but try finding a KFC in downtown Naypyidaw, y'know? [HuffPost's Amanda Terkel]
The budget contains reductions in 12 tax breaks for fossil fuel producers. The cuts will save an estimated $46 billion over the next decade. Those savings will be redirected to green initiatives: one that aims to put a million electric cars on the road by 2015, another that will double the amount of energy produced by clean sources by 2030 and a third that will reduce buildings' consumption of energy by a fifth by 2020. [HuffPost's Budget Liveblog]
LATEST EDITION OF THE ANDY-STERN-HAS-LOST-HIS-MIND WATCH - The "Comeback America Initiative" launched today, led by Concord Coalition guy David Walker, a diehard deficit hawk. The board includes business leaders, a former Republican senator-turned-lobbyist and, naturally, Andy Stern. "CAI has received a three-year grant from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation which funds most of its operations," the new group reports. Peterson is a hedge-fund billionaire who is making it his life's work to reduce Social Security benefits.
DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - The Obama administration acknowledged Monday that its proposal to slash funding for heating assistance to the poor would, in fact, hurt the poor. "This is a very hard cut," White House budget director Jacob Lew said during a press conference. "This is a cut that has real impact." To wit! Christie Graber of Council Bluffs, Iowa, said she just recently qualified for $350 in assistance for her heating bill after applying for LIHEAP for the first time. Graber, a 60-year-old former event planner, said she gets by on $1,035 monthly Social Security disability checks. "I think he can cut other places," she said of the president's proposal to cut LIHEAP. "I'm very disappointed. I campaigned for him. I believed in him. I was thrilled. I had tears in my eyes watching the election results come in....I don't think he should cut help to the poor." [HuffPost]
DOUBLE DOWNER FROM HUFFPOST HILL'S MA - "o.k. here's a try. do whatever you want with it including nothing. it's not sarcastic so change it if you like. that's not natural to me so it wouldn't sound right. President Obama is great for always remembering the middle class but the poor people are never mentioned. (but what about the poor people?) they (we?) think, feel, eat, get cold, and maybe most importantly, vote, too. reducing the heat allotment by even a small amount will be disastrous for some and painful for all who are living on only their Social Security or Social Security Disability check. I am being asked to pay $262 this month, more than a quarter of my monthly disability check, and may have to do it again next month depending on the weather. Luckily, my oil company allows me to pay throughout the summer but for others, it may mean their heat will be cut off. The heat allotment was always figured so that people could pay their bill throughout the heating season. Having almost enough is not good at all when you have no way to get the rest. It seems (disingenuous or hypocritical-pick one) to me for Mr. Obama to go into an inner city school to talk to the children when he knows many of them are in danger of having their heat cut off, which can certainly affect their education. I'm afraid that those at the top have become further and further removed from those at the bottom and actually have no idea what some of these cuts mean in real terms to real people."
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MIDDLE EAST ERUPTS: TENS OF THOUSANDS DEMONSTRATE IN IRAN - Days after Hosni Mubarak's decades-long rule in Egypt ended, protesters swarmed downtown Tehran to demand similar reforms in their own country. Members of the opposition had planned the protest for today to try and mimic the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Demonstrators chanted "An Iranian dies but doesn't accept humiliation," and "Death to the dictator," a reference to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (we're guessing that first one is a bit catchier in Farsi). Those who showed up to express their dissatisfaction with the regime were met with riot police, who fired tear gas on the crowds. The government-friendly Fars news outlet condemned the demonstrators as "hypocrites, monarchists, ruffians and seditionists." [HuffPost/AP]
Protests spread to Bahrain and Yemem while Egyptian police, state employees, journalists and others protested for better wages and working conditions. Bahrainis of all stripes appeared at rallies throughout the country, where they were mostly met with a torrent of rubber bullets from police. In the Bahraini village of Diraz, protesters chanted "No Shiites, no Sunnis, only Bahrainis." In Yemen, student protesters staged a sit-in at Sana University as part of ongoing opposition to the hard-line rule of perennial president Sana University. On Fox, Shepard Smith conducted a delightful interview with a former Playboy playmate about an illness that broke out at the Playboy Mansion. [NYT]
CQ Roll Call won a capture the flag tournament this morning (really), earning a $10,000 donation from a cola company to The Links Incorporated. MedStar Women's Heart Program, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and the Association of Black Cardiologists got a share of another $10,000, also from the cola company worried about health issues.
JAY CARNEY MARKS FIRST DAY AS WH PRESS SECRETARY - The former communications director for Joe Biden and TIME scribe is finishing up his first day as the Obama administration's mouthpiece. Word is Carney will likely hold his first press briefing tomorrow. So White House staff and correspondents -- eager to size up Carney like Buzz and the gang scrutinizing Jim Stark in Rebel Without A Cause -- will have to wait. Any rumors of knife fights with Dan Pfeiffer in front of L.A.'s Griffith Observatory or reports of Bill Daley driving a 1950s Chevy off of a cliff or Jake Tapper wearing a beanie should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. [Atlantic Wire]
Leaders from the Finance and Judiciary Committees announced new subcommittees today. Finance Chair Max Baucus and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch unveiled the Finance Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth, which will be chaired by Bill Nelson while Mike Crapo, informal organizer of a bipartisan deficit hawk gang, will serve as the panel's ranking member. Meanwhile, Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy announced the Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. That will be headed up by Al Franken and Tom Coburn. [Senatus]
REP. JEFF FLAKE ANNOUNCES SENATE CANDIDACY - The Arizona lawmaker officially announced his intention to seek the Senate seat being vacated by Jon Kyl today. "As soon as possible, as the congressional schedule allows, Sheryl and I will get the kids...and do a statewide campaign," Flake said at a press conference at the same hotel where Kyl announced his retirement last week. Flake, a member of the Appropriations Committee and the type of dude who sets his thermostat to 50...in D.C...in winter, is seen as a staunch fiscal hawk and will likely appeal to the party's fiscal conservatives but his somewhat bipartisan streak on immigration reform might irk some. A press release from the NRCC's Chair Pete Sessions gushed that Flake is a "stalwart fiscal conservative." The congressman will now barnstorm the state, inspiring crowds with stirring speeches about budget shortfalls. Also our office is pretty convinced that he's a dead ringer for Will Forte. [Fox News]
SWEAR. TO. GOD.: SHERIFF JOE ATOP ARIZONA POLL OF GOP SENATE CANDIDATES - Infamous Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio -- who views living, breathing human beings trying to make a better life for themselves in the U.S. with the same level of compassion that we view gastroenteritis, traffic jams or unchecked bacne -- actually has a shot at being Arizona's next senator. A survey out last week finds Arpaio earning the support of 21 percent of Arizona Republicans. Jeff Flake comes in second with 17 percent and the always stable J.D. Hayworth garners support of 16.6 percent of respondents. [Roll Call]
With a Senator Sheriff Joe a possibility, Gabrielle Giffrords' speedy recovery just got that much more urgent. Thankfully, Giffords is apparently making great strides in her efforts to relearn how to speak. The Arizona Congresswoman has reportedly been mouthing the words to a number of songs -- such as "Happy Birthday" and "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" -- sung by friends and family at her bedside. She also received a call from her brother-in-law, astronaut Scott Kelly, as he orbited in the International Space Station. Giffords' chief-of-staff told the New York Times that her boss said "Hi, I'm good," during that conversation. Seeing as how we'd be too awestruck to say anything to a dude CHILLING OUT IN SPACE, that's three words better than us. [CBS News]
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Show her you care this Valentine's Day: Have a Madagascar hissing cockroach named after her.
BANK LOBBY APPLAUDS TREASURY PLAN FOR FANNIE & FREDDIE Zach Carter: "The American Bankers Association, a top bank lobbying group, is singing the praises of Friday's report from Treasury on the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In a statement released today, ABA President and CEO Frank Keating said his group is 'pleased that many elements of the Administration's proposal to reform housing finance are consistent with the plan put forward by ABA, which we shared with both the Administration and Congress,' adding that, 'Differences between the two plans do remain, and more specifics are needed, but we are moving in the same direction.' Which sounds about right. Treasury put forward three proposals for the future of Fannie and Freddie, including one that closely tracks a plan first hatched by another bank lobby group, the Mortgage Bankers Association. Critics of the proposal, which now include Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times, say it risks restarting the too-big-to-fail trouble that sank Fannie and Freddie." [ABA]
CHINA OVERTAKES JAPAN AS WORLD'S SECOND-LARGEST ECONOMY - Even without the introduction of Four Loko, Judd Apatow, Doritos Collisions, frozen pizza and cookies, Farmville or Justin Bieber, China continues to put up astonishing macroeconomic indicators and is now the biggest thing in America's rear-view mirror. Japan's GDP in 2010 was $5.474 trillion, reports the Wall Street Journal. That number was narrowly beat out by China's $5.879 trillion (hundred billion here, hundred billion there). It's the first time in 42 years Japan failed to land the number-two spot. [WSJ]
JEREMY'S WEATHER REPORT - Tonight: The strong winds continue this evening, making for a cold, windy night. Expect temperatures to rapidly plunge, as today's high will be nothing more than merely a memory. Tomorrow: It gets into the mid-40s, but strong winds will make it feel a bit colder. Thanks, JB!
- A beautifully shot, short documentary featuring aerial footage of one of the world's last uncontacted tribes. [http://bit.ly/fooMHM]
- A map of the United States with each state colored-in with locals' favorite microbrew. [http://bit.ly/ig2NcE]
- This church praises the Lord's name via hardcore death metal. [http://bit.ly/fXi8cV]
- Lovely on-the-ground video of post-Mubarak celebrations in Cairo. [http://bit.ly/eT0IxC]
- A new survey indicates that 32 percent of Russians think the Sun revolves around the Earth. Only thing left for them to do now is form a Tea Party chapter. [http://aol.it/eJjiHv]
- An ESPN reporter was chased out of his spot by an Alpaca. Can we deploy these things to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan? [http://bit.ly/dYpZ96]
- Apparently there might be a planet on the outer reaches of our solar system that dwarfs Jupiter in size. No one ever saw it. Whoops. [http://gizmo.do/dM8wpc]
- Marlon Brando wrote a somewhat off-putting love letter to a flight attendant in the 1960s. Here it is. [http://bit.ly/eV5AnP]
@zachdcarter: BREAKING ON FOX: Obama yet to completely eliminate all government
@dafnalinzer: I want to hold you (forever) #GitmoValentines
@pwgavin: Journalist Valentine's Day card: "The best is yet TK."
8:00 pm: If you're a hipster, chances are you might not be about Valentine's Day anyway, Black Cat, that cavernous lair of PBR and Pitchfork-approved tunes, is hosting a Valentine's Day dance party. Really just an excuse to go wild on a Monday. [Black Cat, 1811 14th Street NW]
5:30 pm: Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who is mulling a primary challenge to Orrin Hatch, passes the hat at a campaign function. [The Caucus Room, 401 9th Street NW]
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm: Rep. Glenn Thompson raises campaign cash by throwing a "Post-Super Bowl Party." A week-or-so late but good on ya, lad. [Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America Townhouse, 53 D Street SE]
7:00pm: Lucinda Williams, the veteran alt-country rocker, takes her act to 9:30 Club. [9:30 Club, 815 V Street NW]
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