HUFFPOST HILL - Senate Cups Ears And Screams 'LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU'

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Tim Pawlenty announced that he was previously correct in saying that he would run for president. Eric Cantor encouraged Paul Ryan to run for president, now that the 2012 field is as appetizing to Republicans as a Michelle Obama school lunch menu. And although the world didn't end on Saturday, high fuel prices are starving our nation's grandmothers, House Republicans are starving our nation's moms and corporations are oppressing our nation's gays. So let's hear it for existence! You're the best, existence!!! This is HUFFPOST HILL for Monday, May 23rd, 2011:

SENATE VOTES TO LIMIT DEBATE ON PATRIOT ACT, BECAUSE WHO WOULD WANT TO DEBATE THAT? - The upper chamber voted overwhelmingly (74 to 8) to limit debate on the extension of several Patriot Act provisions through 2015. Members of both parties' leadership made a deal last week to extend three parts of the surveillance law without any changes. David Dayen summarizes: "There are three provisions at issue. One, roving wiretaps that allow broad electronic surveillance from the FBI on any phone line or communications device. Two, the ability to access business, medical or virtually all other records of any suspect, regardless of the relationship to terrorism. Three, the 'lone wolf' provision to allow surveillance of people with no ties to a terrorist group. Earlier this year, the Congress extended these provisions for 90 days. That expires on Friday." Can you hear me now? Yes. [FDL]

Jon Tester: "Today we have an opportunity to do away with a law that tramples on Americans' constitutional rights...The Patriot Act flies in the face of the Fourth Amendment and it allows the government to hold secret proceedings even when the proceedings don't need to be held in secret." [The Hill]

RYAN BUDGET SPLITTING GOP SENATORS - Senate Republicans -- including Susan Collins, Scott Brown and Richard Lugar -- went public today with how they plan to vote for Paul Ryan's budget. Collins and Brown both said that they will vote against the measure while Lugar, who is facing a tough reelection battle, came out in support of it. Brown outlined his decision in a Politico op-ed. "I do not think it requires us to change Medicare as we know it," he wrote. Rand Paul, meanwhile, is opposing the bill because he thinks it doesn't do enough.

"Darrell Issa isn't the bogeyman Democrats expected," writes Anna Palmer in a piece running in Roll Call tonight. "While the Oversight and Government Reform chairman has been trying to put the Obama administration on the defensive, much of the powerful panel's agenda has been focused on investigating more mundane bureaucratic government policies and engaging in hearings on issues that other committees have already addressed."

Frank Bruni, the political reporter-turned-food critic for the Times, has been named the paper's newest op-ed columnist. Bruni will pen two columns per week, one for the redesigned Sunday review section and another that will appear during the work week. Bruni will be the first openly gay op-ed columnist in the paper's history (the Times says "first gay," we say "first openly gay" because, y'know, c'mon...). Seeing as how Bruni has written about stalks of celery that are more substantive than a typical Maureen Dowd column, this is, in our humble opinion, a step forward for the Gray Lady. Congrats, Frank! [NYT]

In Ireland today, Obama noted with approval that the country "overcame occupation." His not stop is England. Heh.

LIZ WARREN ON THE HILL - Pop some popcorn: Elizabeth Warren comes before a hostile GOP panel tomorrow at 2 p.m. for a hearing chaired by Patrick McHenry called "Who's Watching the Watchmen? Oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau."

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - President Obama, in his 2011 State of the Union address, talked about how most people could remember the good old days, when getting a job meant showing up at a factory after finishing high school. "If you worked hard, chances are you'd have a job for life, with a decent paycheck and good benefits and the occasional promotion," the president said, adding that he understood "the frustrations of Americans who've seen their paychecks dwindle or their jobs disappear -- proud men and women who feel like the rules have been changed in the middle of the game." EXCLUSIVE: Here are the new rules: 1) Don't be old. 2) Don't be unemployed. 3) Don't pin your hopes on college. 4) Don't expect to make more money at your next job. [HuffPost]

STARVING MOMS - "House Republicans are proposing a cut in the WIC nutrition program that would force WIC to turn away 325,000 to 475,000 eligible low-income women and young children next year. This cut -- part of the 2012 appropriations bill that Rep. Jack Kingston, chairman of the House agriculture appropriations subcommittee, unveiled today -- would break a 15-year commitment by Administrations and Congresses of both parties to provide enough WIC funding to serve all eligible women, infants, and children who apply." [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

STARVING GRANDMAS - Meals on Wheels is losing volunteers and delivering fewer meals because of increased fuel costs. "For our Meals On Wheels programs, it is a triple whammy because gas prices are up, food prices are up, and the economy is down," said Meals on Wheels prez Enid Borden in a statement. [Meals On Wheels Association Of America]

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PAWLENTY LAUNCHES PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN ... YOU REMEMBER TIM PAWLENTY, RIGHT? - Tim Pawlenty launched his White House bid today in a speech at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, the finale of a two-day media push surrounding the announcement. The address hit a lot of conservative sweet spots, from government spending to health care reform. However Pawlenty, whose campaign slogan is "A Time for Truth," emphasized that, like his mullet of yore, a lot of things will have to be cut in the face of political realities. "The truth about federal energy subsidies, including federal subsidies for ethanol, is that they have to be phased out," he said of the state's signature political issue. "We need to do it gradually. We need to do it fairly. But we need to do it." Pawlenty's speech came on the heels of his appearance on all three of the network morning shows and a web video that was released Sunday announcing his announcement. While the announcement itself was a low-key, stand-in-front-of-the-flag-and-wait-for-the-applause-to-die-down affair, the announcement video was done in the same high-budget style as his exploratory committee video. [NYT]

Pawlenty's hometown paper, the St. Paul Pioneer Press published news of his announcement right next to the obituary section.

GINGRICH LABELS HIMSELF A D.C. OUTSIDER IN THE LEAST OUTSIDER-Y WAY POSSIBLE - During his 36th appearance at the Christian Science Monitor's D.C. breakfast discussion series this morning, Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, made the case that he is a Washington outsider. This, of course, is sort of like an alcoholic declaring his sobriety as he unloads his wallet at $6 shot-and-a-beer night at O'Malley's. "I'm not a Washington figure, despite the years I've been here," Gingrich said. "I'm essentially an American whose ties are across the country and is interested in how you change Washington, not how you make Washington happy...I am the people's candidate, not the capital's candidate." Sam Stein pour salt on the wound: "Two weeks before that, he had delivered a speech at the Brookings Institution, one of D.C's gilded think tanks, 'on health solutions for lower costs, younger lives, more independent living and more American jobs.' At various points in his Monday presentation, Gingrich noted that he had cast 7,300 votes in his lifetime, delivered 5,000 speeches, sat down for 10,000 interviews and written 23 books (which, mid-way through the hour-long question and answer session he corrected to 24, to account for the next book he will have published sometime in June)." [HuffPost]

Eric Cantor on a possible Paul Ryan candidacy: "Paul's about real leadership. I think that that's what this public so desperately wants to do right now. They don't want to see individuals that just dismiss problems that we can just sweep under the rug." [The Hill]

NY 26: DEMOCRAT HOLDS LEAD ONE DAY BEFORE SPECIAL ELECTION - Upstate New York voters will once again try to paper over the memory of a sexually unorthodox politician when they vote on the successor to the shirt-averse Chris Lee tomorrow. A survey out yesterday from Public Policy Polling has Democrat Kathy Hochul leading Republican Jane Corwin and Tea Party candidate Jack Davis. Forty-two percent of respondents say they'll vote for Hochul while 36 percent and 13 percent say they'll vote for Corwin and Davis, respectively. While it's striking enough that a Democrat has a solid lead in a Republican-leaning district, the real story is in Hochul and Corwin's favorability numbers. Hochul has a +14 favorability spread (51 percent to 37 percent) while Corwin registers a cringe-worthy -18 spread (34 percent to 52 percent). Bill Clinton and Chris Christie have made robocalls on behalf of the Democrat and Republican, respectively. [PPP]

Speaking of Chris Christie, Dave Jamieson was in New Jersey this weekend and noticed that the governor's portrait in a highway rest stop is unceremoniously hung behind a hand sanitizer dispenser.

TENNESSEE GETS ITS ACT TOGETHER - After allowing a massive federal unemployment program to die without a single solitary word of public debate, lawmakers in Tennessee got their act together and revived the program. [KnoxNews]

Hey Nissan, FedEx, AT&T, Comcast, DuPont, Pfizer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Caterpillar, KPMG, Whirlpool, Embraer, Alcoa and United HealthCare: The Gays Are Coming For You. LGBT activists are pressuring corporations on the Chamber's board to fight a discriminatory law in Tennessee that the local Chamber is backing. Amanda Terkel: "The site AMERICAblog and the Human Rights Campaign are now pushing an aggressive campaign to pressure these companies to use their influence and lobby [Tennessee Gov. Bill] Haslam to veto the measure. "[D]on't for a minute buy the chamber's excuse that this is about business, not prejudice," wrote AMERICAblog founder John Aravosis in a May 19 post. "Every other minority is protected in the state under federal law. Gays and trans are not. The law was the idea of the religious right. The lead lobbyist on the law was the religious right. The only victim of the law was the LGBT community. This law was specifically written and intended to repeal Nashville's new civil rights ordinance protecting gay and trans citizens, period." [HuffPost]

DEBT LIMIT NEGOTIATORS TO TACKLE ENTITLEMENTS - Anna Palmer: "Debt ceiling negotiations Tuesday are expected to move to the politically risky terrain of entitlements, according to Congressional leadership aides...While much of the discussions have centered on common ground for budget cutting -- such as agriculture subsidies -- lawmakers and Biden are going to begin discussing ways to find savings or cuts from Medicare and Medicaid, according to a Congressional leadership aide. 'They are going to move on to trickier topics,' another aide familiar with the negotiations said. 'It doesn't mean they won't make progress. It just gets slower now.' There is more attention being paid to the negotiations since the 'gang of six' Senators appeared to collapse last week when Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) pulled out of the talks." [Roll Call]

Joe Biden's press secretary, Elizabeth Alexander, is leaving the vice president's office to practice law. She will be replaced by Kendra Barkoff, who most recently was Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's press secretary. Congratulations, Kendra, you are now in the business of Joe Biden's actions and, more significantly, words. Pour yourself a double tonight.

WHITE HOUSE CREATES NEW RAPID-RESPONSE POSITION - Because the president can't jump into the fight every time some well-financed dingbat accuses him of secretly being Robert Mugabe's love child, the White House today announced that it has appointed Jesse Lee to fill the newly-created roll of "Director of Progressive Media & Online Response." Lee has previously worked as a blogger for the White House and as a liaison to the progressive community. The DNC has traditionally handled rapid response, so this move indicates that the administration will co-opt some of the committee's work. [HuffPost's Sam Stein]

"Nice bit o' drivin!": Watch the president's limo get stuck on a ramp at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Watch this dog push a cat in a scooter ... until it absentmindedly lets it go.

Michael Steele has signed on to be a contributor for MSNBC. The outspoken former RNC chairman, whose manic middle-aged man energy always reminded us of our uncle rebounding from a divorce, has become a fixture on the network lately, appearing regularly on Rachel Maddow's program. [HuffPost]

Ben Smith: "This has been in the works, in retrospect, since about January 2009."

JEREMY'S WEATHER REPORT -Tonight: Thunderstorm Watch: There's a
severe thunderstorm watch in the area until about 6 p.m. A line of strong cells is coming through, and there's a good chance we'll see heavy winds, possible hail, and dense rain. Tomorrow: Ah, the first taste of summer. You know, the hot, humid and thunderstorm-y kind of summer. Expect highs in the mid-80s with lots of humidity. And yes, this is the weather that leads to pop-up thunderstorms. Have fun with that. Missouri. The
pictures say more than I can. The videos are amazing and frightening at the same time. But I think what gets overlooked is the sound. With no video available, you can really hear
that noise -- the freight train everyone talks about. For the first time, I'm speechless. Thanks, JB!

COMFORT FOOD

- Time lapse photographs of a German shepherd growing up from eight-weeks-old to one-year-old in 40 seconds. [http://bit.ly/krG5Uu]

- There was a rain delay at a Clemson/Davidson game. What followed was nothing less than glorious. [http://bit.ly/kW1Fi7]

- If it isn't already obvious, local news anchors and reporters are fault-riddled humans like the rest of us. Allow this reporter to demonstrate. [http://bit.ly/mC50Im]

- There is a movement afoot to retire Ronald McDonald. Public health experts say he encourages childhood obesity, not to mention the fact that he's creepy. [http://bit.ly/kp4gyC]

- A handy chart detailing what your eyes look like on various drugs. [http://bit.ly/k1SUCq]

- A Star Wars-themed food truck makes grilled cheese sandwiches so Star Wars geeks' mothers don't have to. [http://bit.ly/mBSaGi]

- Fun with speeding cars and condoms. [http://bit.ly/kCOAcS]

- LCD trading cards might be targeted to sports fans but we're pretty sure their largest audience will be douchebags. [http://bit.ly/m0tbQF]

TWITTERAMA

@JAMyerson: Pre-1169 borders leave England defenseless

@pareene: But when will the New York Times finally hire an op-ed DUDE-umnist?

@pourmedoffee: Probably should not have shared my true feelings with so many people before the rapture. Awkward.

ON TAP

TONIGHT

7:00 pm: If you don't have the funds to travel to Mt. Kilimanjaro to see the snow before it melts, why not make a shorter trip and see an equally endangered thing: The once bountiful Arkansas Democrat. Mike Ross is the guest of honor at a D.C. fundraiser [The Source by Wolfgang Puck, 575 Pennsylvania Ave NW].

7:30 pm: Richard Burr, Saxby Chambliss and -- setting aside the "Gang of Six" for the "Gang of Mad Cash $$$$, Yo" -- Tom Coburn attend their "Monday Meeting" fundraising event [Capitol Hill Club, 300 First Street SE].

TOMORROW

8:00 am - 9:00 am: Barney Frank, enjoying his new Code Pink-free life in the minority, heads to Bistro Bis for a campaign event [Bistro Bis, 15 E Street NW].

8:30 am: George Miller, your favorite mustached politician who reminds you of that friendly high school civics teacher you had (maybe it's just us), gets his reelection hustle on [Offices of The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 25 Louisiana Ave NW].

8:30 am - 9:30 am: Louise Slaughter, the Garfunkel to Nancy Pelosi's Simon, tries to make the morning, and he career, last [Johnny's Half Shell, 400 North Capitol Street NW #175].

10:00 am: Hey bored interns! Jessica Alba will be in the Capitol tomorrow promoting the Safe Chemicals Act [Senate complex].

12:00 pm - 1:00 pm: Jim Clyburn breaks away from his tiny office in the Capitol, where is staffers apparently are packed in tenement-style, for a fundraiser [Communications Workers of America, 501 Third Street NW].

6:00 pm: Claire McCaskill tries to forget about that whole private plane fiasco the best way someone can forget about a stressor: with MSG and money. Max Baucus, Jay Rockefeller and Jeff Bingaman will provide support at the Chinese restaurant fundraiser [Hunan Dynasty, 215 Pennsylvania Ave SE].

6:00 pm: File in "Things We Want Photographs Of": John Larson is the host of a bocce ball tournament on the rooftop of a law firm. Linda Sanchez, Shelley Berkley, Mike Capuano and Richard Neal are scheduled to attend [Venable Law Offices Rooftop, 575 7th Street NW].

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Filed by Eliot Nelson