POLITICS
07/11/2011 05:45 pm ET | Updated Sep 10, 2011

HUFFPOST HILL - Medicare Possibly On The Table


Herman Cain is spreading the gospel with schmaltzy keyboard accompaniment and low production values, just the way John the Apostle envisioned it. In between dodging shell rounds in Gualish, Libya's rebels are familiarizing themselves with Patton Boggs' retainer contracts. And the phrases "juice" and "it takes two to tango" were used in conjunction with the debt ceiling negotiations, leading us to wonder whether lawmakers are discussing the nation's finances or scripting the next Step Up movie. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Monday, July 11th, 2011:

WHITE HOUSE FLOATED RAISING THE MEDICARE ELIGIBILITY AGE - According to a number of sources familiar with the ongoing debt ceiling negotiations, the White House considered raising the age at which Americans can start receiving Medicare benefits from 65 to 67 as a concession to the GOP, which dovetails with Inside Health Policy's reporting. Sam Stein: "Sources offered varied accounts regarding the seriousness with which the president had discussed raising the Medicare eligibility age. As the White House is fond of saying, nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to. And with Republicans having turned down a 'grand' deal on the debt ceiling -- which would have included $3 trillion in spending cuts, including entitlement reforms, in exchange for up to $1 trillion in revenues -- it is unclear whether the proposal remains alive." This is huge, seeing as how the sanctity of entitlement programs is as central an issue in the Democratic party as maintaining health care reform, voting rights and plastering one's car with university bumper stickers.* [HuffPost's Sam Stein]

Hill sources tell us Medicare means testing was on the table, too.

*We had a REALLY hard time thinking of issues that are sacrosanct in the Democratic party (labor, progressive taxes, war, gay rights, etc). It was ... depressing.

NEGOTIATIONS OVER MANUFACTURED CRISIS CONTINUE - Congressional leadership (including Pelosi!) continued negotiating today, focusing mostly on reviving the Joe Biden-led discussions. Appropriately, Eric Cantor dominated today's talks, since he was the one who blew them up last time. (Remember that?) Boehner spoke up very little, but did find time take a dig at the president, according to a Republican familiar with the chat. It got weird when Boehner told Obama that, "look, entitlement cuts aren't easy for us to vote for either. Our guys aren't cheerleading about cutting entitlements." Obama replied: "Your guys already voted for them!" Boehner shot back: "Excuse us for trying to lead." Anyway. Cantor came with a specific proposal which included roughly $350 billion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid over ten years, cuz the problem in America is that people get treated too often when they get sick. $246 billion would come from Medicare, including $53 billion from Medigap coverage, $50 billion in increased co-payments for nursing home and homecare, $38 billion from new means testing, and $16 billion in higher co-pays for lab tests.

Pelosi told the group she sent George W. Bush flowers for his birthday.

HILL PRIORITIES DISTILLED IN ONE BILL - Freshman Tea Partier Daniel Webster, keeping Alan Grayson's seat warm for him, has drawn up and filed a piece of congressional poetry such as we have never seen. The Prioritize Spending Act of 2011 tells the Treasury Department where to spend its dwindling money in the event the debt ceiling isn't raised: 1) bondholders 2) soldiers 3) military contractors/national security 4) Social Security 5) Medicare. Yeah, that looks about right. [House.gov]

@jbendery: Next WH-Congress meeting on deficit talks: Tuesday at 3:45, says Dem source.

ALL OUR PROBLEMS ARE SOLVED: SENATE ADVANCES THAT NON-BINDING RESOLUTION TO GUILT RICH PEOPLE - It's expected to pass. Huzzah!

Tomorrow in The Hill: "Cristina Marcos and Bob Cusack on how more than six months after being sworn into office, a handful of freshman lawmakers have yet to introduce a single piece of legislation." The Josie Hearn/Yvette Clarke special!

TAMMY BALDWIN'S LANDMARK SENATE BID - "Landmark"? Or PHASE 2 OF THE SECRET GAY AGENDA TO TAKE OVER OUR SCHOOLS AND SULLY OUR CRYSTAL-CLEAN FLUORIDATED DRINKING WATER???. Anyway, this is running tonight in Roll Call from Kyle Trygstad: "Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin's potential to become the first openly gay Senator escalates the already sizable implications of an open-seat race that could decide Senate control. The Democrat stands ready to benefit from a national fundraising network of women and gay rights groups that are excited by her expected candidacy and buoyed by the momentum behind same-sex marriages."

JIM DEMINT ACCIDENTALLY REFUDIATES RIGHTY VIEW OF SOCIAL SECURITY - Blabbing on a Sunday show about how the debt ceiling is a phony crisis that won't have consequences, Jim DeMint accidentally repudiated the right-wing view that Social Security adds to the deficit. "There are enough assets in Social Security and Medicare to pay the benefits of those programs for several years," DeMint said, affirming the fact that the Social Security trust fund, which consists of Treasury securities bought with payroll taxes, is separate from the federal budget and that the program's payouts don't add a dime to the deficit. This true fact is sometimes obscured by conservatives who say Social Security's bankrupting America. A bill by Claire McCaskill and Bob Corker, for instance, would "eliminate the deceptive 'off-budget' distinction for Social Security," as their statement announcing the bill described it. Will somebody please brief Jim DeMint on the debt ceiling?! Medicare and Social Security can't pay benefits with their assets, in the event of default, if their assets are government bonds. Which they are. Wander out of that circle, Senator.

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Twenty percent of Americans' personal income came from federal benefits in 2010, according to a Moody's Analytics via the New York Times. This money is helping prop of the economy. That is why, of course, serious politicians in Washington are taking it away. A huge chunk will disappear with the expiration of federal unemployment benefits come January 2012. Hello double dip. [NYT]

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PRESIDENT OBAMA HOLDS PRESS CONFERENCE, SAYS THINGS, QUESTIONS SAM STEIN'S 'JUICE' ... THAT'S ABOUT IT - OK, he also said that he won't agree to a short-term debt ceiling agreement, but beyond that, there wasn't a lot of earth-shattering news made during President Obama's press event today. "I don't see a path to a deal if they don't budge. Period," he stated. "I've been hearing from my Republican friends for quite some time that it is a moral imperative to tackle our debt and our deficit," he said. "What I've said to them is, 'let's go.'" In response to Sam Stein's question about the need for more, not less government investment, President Obama rambled on about the sustainability of entitlement programs, the stimulus and referenced our favorite Tupac Shakur movie, but didn't really address the question. "Sam, I don't know how much [J]uice you've got in the Republican caucus," he said. A: Lots o' Juice. [HuffPost]

Here's a photo of Sam asking the president a question while being flanked by Bill Daley, Chuck Todd and Bill Press. There are too many participants to say that Sam is the meat in a Washington sandwich. We'll go ahead and say Sam is part of a "Beltway Club." Or maybe a "D.C. Cuban," if you will.

The president managed get the nation's pea growers, if not its liberals, excited. "It's not going to get easier, it's going to get harder," he said of the how-the-sausage-is-made challenges that lie ahead. "So we might as well do it now; pull off the Band-aid, eat our peas." Pete Klaiber, director of marketing for the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council (yes, that exists), was overjoyed, if not a little deluded. "We take President Obama's comment on the need to 'eat our peas' as a reference to the first lady's push to get all Americans to eat a more healthy diet as part of the Let's Move campaign," he said. OK! [LA Times]

Let's get real: Peas suck.

Delaney Defense: No they don't.

Boehner responds: "I want to get there. I want to do what I think in the right -- the best interest of the country, but it takes two to tango and they're not there yet."

LIBYAN REBELS STAFFING UP ON K STREET - Don't fire until you see the whites of the banker collars on their monogrammed pinpoint oxford Brooks Brothers' dress shirts! The Mike Allen-penned (Without an assist, mind you, from Robo. Someone please check on Mikey, we're worried) Politico Influence this afternoon quoted a Legal Times column from Matthew Huisman reporting Libya's Transitional National Council has retained the services of Patton Boggs to push lawmakers to recognize their legitimacy. "They agreed to pay our fees on an hourly basis but we also agreed that they do not have money now and that we don't expect them to pay unless and until they actually get money," partner David Tafuri, in a jarringly candid fashion, told the publication.

NEWS CORP SCANDAL OFFICIALLY UPGRADED FROM 'REPULSIVE ETHICS BREACH' TO 'UTTER SHITSTORM' - The News of the World hacking scandal continues to broaden with each passing day and, accordingly, Rupert Murdoch's standing in Britain is atrophying rapidly. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown is expected to announce that his phones were hacked. It's being reported that The Sun obtained the medical records of Brown's disabled son and published stories based on those records. A number of leading British politicians, including Labor Party leader Ed Milibrand and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg have called for News Corp. to drop its bid for control of BSkyB, the satellite broadcaster. And, in case your stomach still retains your lunch, The Daily Mirror reports that NOTW editors approached a former New York City police officer about hacking the phones of 9/11 family members. We give it -- oh -- four days, until the Guardian airs allegations that ... um ... you know what? Nothing could possibly be more disgusting than what's already been reported. We'll leave this one be. [HuffPost]

On July 19th, Newsweek.com will go the way of Pets.com ... sort of. On that day, the magazine's web portal will be merged into The Daily Beast's website. Visitors to Newsweek.com will be redirected to The Daily Beast. Does Pets.com redirect to The Daily Beast? We're too lazy to check. That'd be HILARIOUS, though. [NY Mag]

LET'S NOT RUSH TO JUDGMENT ABOUT HERMAN CAIN'S ALLIGATOR-FILLED BORDER MOAT - HuffPost Hill started watching HBO's "Game of Thrones" this weekend, so we TOTALLY get why someone might get swept up in medieval forms of self-preservation. It's all the rage! Are you building your stone turret yet? We sure are! However Herman Cain's plan for an alligator-filled moat along the U.S.-Mexico border might be pushing it just a wee bit. "I just got back from China. Ever heard of the Great Wall of China? It looks pretty sturdy. And that sucker is real high," he said at an event in Iowa last month. I think we can build one if we want to!...I'll have that moat that President Obama talked about. And I would put those alligators in that moat!" Now Somos Republicans, an immigration-friendly GOP organization, wants Cain to end his campaign. "As a civilized society we need to seek civilized solutions that meet the needs of our free market economy. We fail to see how anyone can seriously consider alligator filled moats and a new 'wall of China' a practical solution to our broken immigration system," the group wrote in a statement. Well, sure, if you put it like that. [HuffPost]

From the Department of LET THE EAGLE SOOOOAAAAAARRR: Herman Cain today released his first gospel album, "Sunday Morning." We can best describe the sound as Luther Vandross meets Jesus meets late-night karaoke lounge at Tokyo's Haneda Airport. We will concede that Herman deserves some real props for shirking AutoTune. [Daily Caller]

Rick Perry is reportedly phoning a number of top New Hampshire GOP officials. Of course, New Hampshire is the least-girly New England state, so the gruff Perry could just be learning more about its no-nonsense ways. However, NH Journal reports that the Texas Governor has spoken with state senators, party leaders and others about his possible entry into the presidential race. "Another Republican who spoke to Gov. Perry told NH Journal it sure sounds like he's planning to run," writes Shawn Millerick. [NH Journal]

Read HuffPost's new foreign policy reporter Joshua Hersh's first piece on the U.S. embassy in Syria, which was overrun by protesters this morning.

BIG TAN FIGHTS BACK: WON'T SOMEBODY *PLEASE* THINK OF THE SNOOKIS - Give us your tired, your poor, your wife beater-clad bros yearning to look fly for their weekend at the Shore. Representatives of America's tanning salons are pushing back against a 10 percent vanity tax on their services, implemented to help pay for health care reform. Representative Michael Grimm who -- wouldn't ya know it -- represents Staten Island, The Situation's Birthplace, is leading the charge. "It's mostly college students and women who use tanning salons and not millionaires and billionaires," Grimm told Bloomberg. John Overstreet, the executive director of the Indoor Tanning Association, echoes Grimm's concern for the oppressed orange. "The bottom line is it isn't fair to single out a single industry to pay for what the government wants to do." Be sure to check out the ITA's tan tax website, featuring a girl in a midriff top on a beach giving the camera the FACE gesture. [Indoor Tanning Association]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Cat is terrified by two apples.

Remind us why we keep Arizona around? "[Arizona] Republican Sen. Lori Klein was showing off her raspberry-pink handgun when she aimed it at a journalist who was interviewing her in the lounge just outside the Senate chambers. According to the story that was published Sunday in the Arizona Republic, Klein's .380 Ruger was loaded and did not have a safety to keep the gun from going off. But Klein told the reporter, Richard Ruelas, that he didn't need to worry because, 'I just didn't have my hand on the trigger.'" [Arizona Guardian]

Reminder: Arizona lawmakers spent the waning hours of their session this year naming a state gun instead of preserving federal unemployment benefits for some 45,000 jobless Arizonans. They picked a Colt.

JEREMY'S WEATHER REPORT - Is this hell?, the child asked his father. "No, son, this is Washington, D.C." Yep. That's exactly how it felt today, and if you don't like bad news, now would be a good time to move on to Comfort food. Actually, just skip straight down to Twitterama. Maybe you'll be featured, and then you can say that, despite the soaked shirt(s), today wasn't all that bad. And yes, it's a giant middle finger from Mother Nature. I warn you: There will be no respite tonight. While it's mid-70s, the humidity will kill. Tomorrow: It will be worse. Yes, worse. And there will be a cold front coming in from the west, which recorded wind gusts of over 70 mph in Detroit today. But, seeing as how we're in the middle of a debt ceiling crisis, I know that you don't need any refreshers on hot-and-cold blowhards. Thanks, JB!

COMFORT FOOD

- Baby owls. Funny music. What more could you possibly want? [http://huff.to/oOwLAQ]

- Oh, so you want more? How about a sea lion shaking hands [Editor's note: Jesus Christ, we do this for a living?] [http://huff.to/pNTSsU]

- Someone tracked their level of inebriation by comparing the legibility of their bar tab signatures over the course of a night. [http://bit.ly/n1ADOO]

- The Guardian decided to list Britain's best youth cultures. Unclear on who the "Soulies" were? Find out! [http://bit.ly/qOQi5K]

- Duran Duran's "Hungry Like The Wolf": The very lo-fi version. [http://bit.ly/nWM76s]

- Kids react to an edition of "Epic Meal Time." As if our kids weren't inundated enough with images of fatty foods... [http://chzb.gr/pkP2Qf]

- Cat is Spiderman-esque in its wall ascending abilities. [http://bit.ly/oYsttp]

- The campaign to honor Bruce Lee with a a postage stamp is alive and well. [http://huff.to/oinShw]

TWITTERAMA

@BenjySarlin: First Romney, then Huntsman, now it's John Boehner. No escaping Obama's death hug! #hugsfired

@TerkelRage: Adam Green just emailed an Adam Green tweet in which Adam Green quotes Adam Green. The Russian nesting doll of self-promotion.

@samsteinhp: I'm leaving the huffington post to serve as the president's new chief liaison to the Hill GOP. The juice is loose.

ON TAP

TONIGHT

7:00 pm: Jim Clyburn raises money so he can get the hell out of that tiny-ass "Assistant Minority Leader" office and get back his suitably-sized, majority whip office be reelected [The Williams & Jensen Townhouse, 324 Independence Ave SE].

7:30 pm: Saxby Chambliss, Richard Burr and Tom Coburn attend their monthly dinner meeting fundraiser. It's a pricey at $1,000-a-head. Maybe the three senators host a cheaper "Drunken Trip To Julia's Empanadas" series? [Capitol Hill Club, 300 First Street SE].

TOMORROW

8:00 am: Richard Lugar attends a campaign breakfast at the Livingston Group -- the Livingston Group, of course, known far and wide for their excellent omelets [The Livingston Group, LLC, 499 South Capitol Street SW #600].

8:30 am: Mark Warner and Mark Prior put in an appearance at a DSCC fundraiser. Is there a chore wheel in the Senate cloakroom dictating when senators have to do things like this? [Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, 400 New Jersey Ave NW].

5:00 pm - 8:00 pm: If you're going to shell out $500 to attend a Nationals game with Eric Cantor, do yourself a favor and treat yourself to some Shake Shack and a t-shirt, or something [Nationals Park, 1500 South Capitol Street SE].

5:00 pm - 6:00 pm: Public Campaign, Steve Cowan and Rep. Walter Jones screen Priceless, a documentary that chronicles ways states and citizens are trying to reduce the role that campaign contributions play in American democracy [CVC Congressional Meeting Room North (CVC 268)].

5:30 pm - 7:00 pm: Brian Higgins gets an assist from Gary Ackerman and his carnations at his fundraiser [B Smith's Washington DC, 50 Massachusetts Ave NE].

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