Congressman Paul Broun admitted that he feels threatened by men in dresses. A freshman Republican views government health plans the way most Americans view donuts in the office kitchen (they're bad for you, but who can say no?). And Democrats hope that the actions of a few voters in upstate New York can predict the behavior of the rest of the nation. Guess we'll all be rooting for the Bills, calling "soda" "pop" and eating beef on wecks soon. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, May 25th, 2011:
SENATE VOTES ON RYAN AND OBAMA BUDGETS - A weeks-long parliamentary battle between Senate Democrats and Republicans is reaching its climax this evening as the upper chamber votes on the budgets put forth by Rep. Paul Ryan and President Obama. "The Republican plan to kill Medicare is a plan to make the rich richer and the sick sicker," Harry Reid said before the vote, channelling his inner Alan Grayson, repeating the phrase "Republican plan to kill Medicare" over and over. GOP moderates Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Scott Brown and Lisa Murkowski broke ranks and voted against the Ryan proposal, along with Rand Paul, who has said it doesn't hurt grandmas enough (and it doesn't cut the deficit enough). Democrats originally planned to just vote on Ryan's budget in an attempt to highlight policy differences within the Republican conference. Mitch McConnell retaliated by promising to force a vote on the budget originally put forth by President Obama so as to inflict the same sort of PR disaster on his Democratic counterparts. Thankfully, the escalation ended there, sparing us from a back-and-forth that was destined to end either with either someone waving copies of Mein Kampf in the air while making inappropriate comparisons or Olympia Snowe pantsing Carl Levin in the Ohio Clock Corridor.
The bill failed 57-40: That's a ton of Senate Republicans on the record for ending Medicare as we know it. What are we missing here? Are they so anxious to get gigs on K Street that they're purposely committing career suicide?
Every Democrat voted against the Obama budget. Heh.
SWIPE FEE VOTE AFTER MEMORIAL DAY - All good things must come to an end. Harry Reid said today that the K Street gravy train known as the swipe fee debate will arrive at a floor vote after Memorial Day. "I've indicated to my leadership that we're going to try to get rid of the issue dealing with swipe fees as soon as we can," he said today. But hey, there's always the House -- and lobbying for another vote in the Senate.
The House Populist Caucus will unveil its "Gas is too damn high" plan tomorrow morning in the Capitol. In the scheme of congressional-appropriation-of-Internet/pop-culture sensations, a 6-8 month turnaround actually isn't that bad. Think of it this way: it could have been a lot more stale. It could have been the "Gas prices are the weakest link" plan.
Bill Clinton On The Prowl Sydney Harman was laid to rest today. Bill Clinton spoke for him. After the service, he chatted with Chris Matthews for about ten minutes, then glad-handed every valet. Invigorated, he told the Secret Service he wanted to take a walk -- and shook hands all the way to White House, Howard Fineman reports.
Today in press releases/cries for help: "One Hitters Burned Again By Timid Czardinals: Office of National Drug Control Policy Backs Out of Softball Game with Drug Policy Reformers ... WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Once again, the softball team representing the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has backed out of playing a Congressional Softball League game against the One Hitters, a team consisting of members of several drug policy reform organizations and others who support ending the 'war on drugs.'"
Runing in The Hill tomorrow: "Mike Lillis on how House Democrats are challenging the White House to scale back on deporting illegal immigrants, particularly in cases when kids are seeking an education or families would be split apart."
DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - From the mailbag: "I am an single, older, mature female. I had sensed in 2005 that the economic situation was getting worse and sold my home in early 2006. I, then, rented a room from my 87-year old mother....I have no health insurance and I have a preexisting condition. I don't go to the doctor's or the dentist because I can not afford the costs. I have spent almost 9 months, this time, looking for a job. I may get a 3-month temporary job in June, but after considerable research, I will leave for Mexico in August....I have no illusions about America. America is dead."
Does hoisting oneself by one's own bootstraps to another country count as a good example of American personal responsibility and rugged individualism? iEl Sueno Americano!
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GEITHNER ATTACKS WALL STREET AND THE GOP - It's been pretty hot and humid in Washington recently, so you'll excuse some of our leaders for making uncharacteristic statements in a fit of heat-induced delirium . During a Politico-hosted, Bank of America-sponsored breakfast this morning, the Treasury secretary -- one of Wall Street's most beloved profit lubricants -- took aim at the financial sector and congressional Republicans. "I don't think any of them covered themselves in glory," he said of Wall Street management in the lead-up to the financial crisis. "The system we have today is still the system that caused the crisis." He responded to House Oversight Republicans who accused Elizabeth Warren of lying. "What happened yesterday was deeply unfair to her," he said, adding that it was "political theater." [HuffPost's Zach Carter]
Does Obama basically have to appoint her after yesterday? Al Franken and a bunch of progressives called on him to do so today. At WeSupportWarren.com, more than 50,000 people have seconded him.
IS THE CENTRIST POWER STRUCTURE EYEING RECONCILIATION - Liberals who proposed using reconciliation to pass a tough health care reform bill were laughed out of the room -- until the Senate did it anyway, but not to make it tough. Now David Dayen in TAP is noticing that the same folks are looking to use the majority-only process to push spending cuts through the Senate. American Prospect: "The Democrat-controlled Senate has yet to vote on a 2012 budget that would serve as a counterpoint to the Medicare-slashing Paul Ryan plan that passed the House. When Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad explained on May 19 why he wasn't taking a budget proposal to the Senate floor, he may have said too much. Conrad, a member of both the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission, which failed to get the required votes for its deficit plan to trigger congressional action, and the now dismantled Gang of Six, which tried to hash out a deal on reducing the deficit, said in a press conference last week that voting on a budget bill in the Senate along party lines now would make it more difficult to use reconciliation to get a budget passed." TAP
Max Baucus thinks it's time for a recalibration in the U.S.'s Afghanistan policy. "The President has announced that this July will mark the beginning of a transition of security responsibility to Afghan forces," he said today on the Senate floor. "However, in my view the transition plan is too slow. We need to begin handing responsibility of security to Afghan forces immediately and aim to have most US combat troops out of Afghanistan by the end of next year. We should leave behind only a small force to hunt down and kill terrorists in Afghanistan, and to help the Afghan military perform their duties." [HuffPost's Amanda Terkel]
HEALTH INSURANCE FOR SOME, MINIATURE AMERICAN FLAGS FOR OTHERS - Why have so few people enrolled in health care reform's Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan? This thing was supposed to be a reason to get excited about the Affordable Care Act, but only 18,000 have signed up while millions of eligible people languish. Well, one of the biggest obstacles to wider enrollment is the program's condition that applicants be uninsured for at least six months, a requirement designed to prevent the program from "crowding out" private insurance companies. "Although crowd-out provisions are common, when you're talking about the sickest Americans, we shouldn't force them into an absurd choice to either keep their expensive insurance or leave their insurance for six months and hope their ailments don't bankrupt them," health care policy consultant Benjamin Geyerhahn said. Another obstacle, Geyerhahn said, is that insurance brokers can't make money by getting people to sign up for the PCIP. "In light of the fact that brokers earn nothing by selling this insurance, we shouldn't be surprised that few people have purchased it." [HuffPost]
ORSZAG: PAUL RYAN'S MEDICARE PLAN SUCKS - "As the government paid relatively less for Medicare, beneficiaries would bear an increasing share of the cost of their care. It is no great accomplishment, however, merely to shift health expenditures from the federal government to consumers, without doing anything to decrease them in total." [Bloomberg]
GOP CONGRESSMAN WON'T GIVE UP HEALTH CARE 'BECAUSE IT'S FREE' - Earlier this week, freshman Rep. Rob Woodall chided a constituent for being to reliant on her company for health benefits. "Hear yourself, ma'am. Hear yourself," Woodall told the woman. "You want the government to take care of you, because your employer decided not to take care of you. My question is, 'When do I decide I'm going to take care of me?'" Asked why he hadn't forgone his own government health care for a private insurer, Woodall got real. "It's because it's free," he said. "It's because it's free." Are these sorts of things premeditated? Do lawmakers get up in the morning expecting to make complete jackasses of themselves? Do they share their plans with their spouses as they prepare for the day? "Well, sweetie," we imagine some congressman saying somewhere while knotting his tie in the mirror, "today I'm going to be a bold-faced hypocrite. And it's going to be hilarious. Can you hand me the beer mug cuff-links?" [HuffPost]
REP. PAUL BROUN: LET'S START PROFILING THE ARABIANS - Even though Osama bin Laden is dead and terrorism has been cured forever, politicians still feel the need to weigh in on airport security. During an interview on C-SPAN's "Washingotn Journal," Rep. Paul Broun was so kind as to relay a charming anecdote about a recent airport experience of his. "I walked through ... right behind me there was a grandma -- little old lady, and she was was patted down," he said. "Right behind her was a little kid who was patted down. And then right behind him, there was a guy in Arabian dress who just walked right through. Why are we patting down grandma and kids? We need to focus on those people who want to harm us." Ha ha! Great stuff! And how about that airplane food? Disgusting! [The Hill]
NY 26: AS GO A FEW THOUSAND VOTERS IN GENESSEE COUNTY, SO GOES THE NATION - Ahhhh, special elections: Those magical times when political analysts and operators collectively insult Americans by conflating the views of .06 percent of the electorate with those of 310 million other people. It's one of the ways that political thinkers are similar to the people who run Gnomeo and Juliet focus groups -- in that both channel their frustrations and profound feelings of emptiness into a toxic disregard of the masses. Democrats and liberals see Kathy Hochul's victory as a repudiation of the Republican assault on Medicare and as a sign of things to come. "It's now starting to look like a real possibility that we will have had three electoral waves in a row," Paul Krugman blogged, "a Democratic sweep in 2006-2008, a Republican countersweep in 2010, and a countercountersweep in 2012 as voters realize that the GOP is the same as it always was, only more so." Paul Ryan, during a morning show hit, portrayed the loss as the result of national Democrats' pernicious ways. "It is a preview of scare tactics, distortions, demagoguery to try and scare seniors to voting for them," he said. "We have a year and half, and I believe in a year and a half's time, the truth will get out and the facts will be known." Jim Garaghty agreed: "As long as the American public believes that Medicare is fine and no change is needed, the Democrats will thrive with their scare tactics."
HALF OF WISCONSIN VOTERS WANT SCOTT WALKER RECALLED - Maybe it's that he endangered the job security of the lady who taught you how to spell. Maybe it's because he threatened to dispatch the state National Guard to prevent her from walking out. Maybe it's that he passively listened to the rantings of a man he thought was a conservative billionaire the same way a New Yorker passively listens to a racist cab driver. Whatever the reason, a new PPP survey finds that 50 percent of Wisconsin voters want their governor recalled. Forty-seven percent of the respondents say they oppose a recall. His approvals are worse: Fifty-four percent disapprove of his job performance while only 43 percent approve. [PPP]
Speaking of politically-besieged state executives, Rick Scott is registering the lowest approval rating of any governor, according to Quinnipiac. Only 29 percent of Sunshine State voters think Scott is doing a good job, a far cry from the 57 percent who think he's screwing the pooch. The Republican-controlled legislature scores equally dismal marks, with a 56 percent to 26 percent disapproval/approval rating. [Quinnipiac]
A documentary presenting Sarah Palin in a favorable light will premiere in several early primary states in June, reports Scott Conroy. The film -- tentatively titled (in our minds) Waiting For Superman ... Because He's The Lynchpin Of My Anti-Terrorism Policy -- was reportedly green-lit in part to rehabilitate Palin's image in preparation for a possible presidential run. "This film is a call to action for a campaign like 1976: Reagan vs. the establishment," the film's creator, Stephen K. Bannon, said. "Let's have a good old-fashioned brouhaha." [RealClearPolitics]
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Astounding up-close video of lightning striking the ground.
JEREMY'S WEATHER REPORT - Tonight: The good news is that all threats of thunderstorms this evening have dissipated. The bad news is, of course, that Oprah is no longer around. Tomorrow: Hot. Like the hell that is the post-Oprah world. We can, for the firs time this year, reach the 90-degree mark. It's a perfect prelude to the Memorial Day weekend. Tornadoes: It's been done, overdone perhaps. Suddenly, everyone wants to talk about tornadoes (as if it's never been done before). But other weather is being noticed as well. Did you know that prior to the Japan earthquake, the areas right over the quake heated up? Thanks, JB!
- The definitive list of the sneakers that Jerry Seinfeld wore in his acclaimed 1990s TV series. [http://bit.ly/eQYVfm]
- On a similar note, "The Cosby Sweater Project" is also an archival project to be imitated. [http://bit.ly/hm08la]
- For those of you unlucky enough not to have been at Woodstock, here's Chewbacca and an Ewok dancing to "Welcome to the Jungle." [http://bit.ly/lkdK5k]
- Speaking of Star Wars (again, we know), if we grew up in an area where people raced soapbox cars, this Star Wars-themed one would be our inspiration. [http://bit.ly/j9PTLM]
- Don't get us wrong, we love chicken, but we don't think we would expose ourselves if a restaurant ran out of them, like this guy. [http://bit.ly/mbDyIp]
- A compilation of Maru, the Internet's favorite Japanese cat who doesn't give a shit. [http://bit.ly/jKY945]
- While we're on the topic of cats, here's one seriously enjoying a shower [http://bit.ly/lzNWS1]
- A urinal out of Super Nintendo game cartridges. Not advised. [http://bit.ly/m7KLqh]
@daveweigel: DEVELOPING: Eric Cantor calling for #NY26 to return to 1967 borders
@pourmecoffee: America envy of world today as we demonstrate orderly transition of power. Ryan Seacrest in charge until Oprah replaced.
@BenjySarln: Ailes Quiet On The Eastern Front #palinfilmnames
5:00 pm - 7:00 pm: Raul Grijalva, who can throw a drink back with the best of them, attends a campaign reception in his honor [National Democratic Club Townhouse, 40 Ivy Street SE].
5:30 pm - 7:30 pm: A bevy of Democrats convene for a "Taste of New York" campaign function for Ed Towns. Steny Hoyer, Anthony Weiner, Charlie Rangel, John Dingell, Henry Waxman and Jim Clyburn, among others, are slated to make appearances [Altria, 101 Constitution Ave NW Suite 400 West].
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm: Brad Miller, a southern Democrat, dares to be seen in the same building as Teamsters (and will take their money, to boot!) [Offices of The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 25 Louisiana Ave NW].
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm: Marco Rubio wiles away the hours until he can run for president in 2016 with a swanky rooftop fundraiser. It's good to be the king (in-waiting) [The Homer Building Rooftop, 601 13th Street NW].
6:00 pm: Mark Kirk, who even in his worst moments can still take a deep, twisted, Freudian pleasure in the fact that he occupies the president's former Senate seat, gets his fundraising on [Charlie Palmer Steak, 101 Constitution Ave NW].
6:30 pm: David Vitter explains to his benefactors how he wasn't able to successfully strong-arm Congress into tying offshore drilling expansion to the interior secretary's pay raise [Bobby Van's Grill, 1201 New York Ave NW 809 15th Street NW].
6:30 pm: Holy crap, a politician is venturing to H Street NE for a fundraiser?!?! Steve Israel, the DCCC chairman, raises some dough at everyone's favorite Jewish-Irish pub [Star and Shamrock, 1341 H Street NE].
12:00 pm: DINGELLSAURUS!!! The dean of the House, John Dingell, does some fundraising of his own [Charlie Palmer Steak, 101 Constitution Ave NW].
1:00 pm: "Friends of Jim Inhofe Defense Industry Lunch" isn't just that experimental rock band your friends keep telling you about, it's also the title of the Oklahoma senator's campaign event [The Monocle Restaurant, 107 D Street NE].
6:30 pm: Roy Blunt's "Oh I see what you did there" PAC, "Rely on Your Beliefs (ROYB) Fund," gets an early jump on the newly-minted senator's reelection [Washington Golf and Country Club, 3017 N Glebe Road, Arlington].
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