Huffpost Politics

HUFFPOST HILL - Congress Still Targeting Olds

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Allen West is not going to apologize for lying about apologizing to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, or is he? Unable to find anything more popular than Social Security, Medicare and the mortgage deduction, congressional gangs are devising ways to target roller coasters, puppies and Monday Night Football. And congressional women have a new spot to squat. Yay! This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, July 20th, 2011, two days until Eliot returns:

So let's see if we have this right. The Gang of Six proposal that congressional leaders and the White House think is a good idea does this: Cuts Social Security, with pain that'll be felt within six months, before the next election; cuts hundreds of billions from Medicare; cuts the homeowner tax credit and the 401(k)/IRA credits. Look, we get that our democracy is bought and paid for, corporate-owned, etc., but actual people still actually vote, don't they?

MCKEON: GANG OF SIX CUTS TOO MUCH - Republican House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon is against the Gang of Six plan, Colin Clark reports. McKeon: "Defense has already shrunk $439 billion over 10 years. In its current form, I cannot support the Gang of Six proposal." [AOL Defense]

REID INTERRUPTS THE GANG-OF-SIX-GASM - Lawmakers on the Hill have been preaching that there’s enough time -- before financial Armageddon -- for Congress to write, score, and pass a major deficit reduction deal that’s been sitting on the shelf for months. Even the White House hinted that they’d be open to a short-term debt-ceiling solution if it meant that a Gang of Six-like plan could be passed and attached to it. Several reporters had lunch with Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday. And, among other things, he basically called a one-month, time-extending, debt ceiling deal delusional. [Huffpost’s Sam Stein]

SANDERS CONGRATULATES GOP - There's not much left for Bernie Sanders to do. His office put out this release today: "Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today congratulated Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) on their very significant victory in negotiating a deficit-reduction plan which achieves their long-term goal of dismantling every major social program relevant to working families."

CFPB OPEN FOR BUSINESS TOMORROW - The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau officially leaves the Treasury tomorrow. The CFPB will have at least a year of independence -- which the Amish call rumspringa -- during which it can drink, get high, have sex, investigate financial institutions for defrauding customers and otherwise experience life outside the control of the White House.

In Tomorrow's Roll Call: David M. Drucker reports that within days, vulnerable Senate Democrats will cast perhaps the toughest vote of their career on politically volatile legislation to raise the debt ceiling. But such votes have been in remarkably short supply this year, just as the hard-charging Democratic class of 2006 turns cautious as it approaches its first re-election challenge.

ANOTHER LOOMING GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN: The House voted along party lines this afternoon to approve a GOP-sponsored bill reauthorizing the FAA's operating authority through Sept. 16. But the bill is likely to face strong opposition from Senate Democrats. One of the biggest sticking points is a GOP provision tightening union restrictions on airline and railroad employees. The FAA's current operating authority ends on Friday. If no agreement is reached, the agency could shut down, furloughing large numbers of workers. [AP]

Federal Reserve orders Wells Fargo to pay $85 million fine for illegally pushing perhaps more than 10,000 borrowers into more-expensive subprime mortgages and falsifying loan documents over a four-year period, Shahien Nasiripour reports. It's the most expensive fine ever levied by a federal bank regulator in a consumer protection case. Wells Fargo turned a $3.9 billion profit last quarter; it's made $7.7 billion in profit thus far this year. Borrowers who lost their home because they were wrongly forced to make higher payments can get up to $7,000 in restitution. The bank did not admit any wrongdoing as part of the settlement agreement.

WOMEN'S RESTROOM OPENS OFF HOUSE FLOOR - On Monday, a long-awaited women's restroom opened adjacent to the House floor -- a luxury male lawmakers have enjoyed for decades. Up until now, women have had to trek a few hundred yards toward the center of the Capitol to relieve themselves. But as we reported in February, the only reason this restroom exists is because of a Capitol land grab by John Boehner. He got to take over the historic offices of the House Appropriations Committee as his new area, give a small space to women for a bathroom -- and look like a gender parity activist while living like a king. [HuffPost's Amanda Terkel]

@RepDonnaEdwards: Love the new Ladies room off the floor of the House. Three cheers to @SpeakerBoehner!

No word on if Allen West thinks Debbie Wasserman Schultz is entitled to use the new facility.

AND.... SPEAKING OF ALLEN WEST - The Florida Republican was alllllll over the place on Wednesday. His campaign sent out a fundraising appeal playing up what a dickbag bad ass he was in calling Wasserman Schultz "vile." Then, he told The Huffington Post's Jen Bendery that he had actually apologized to the DNC chair. But wait! Neither the DNC nor Wasserman Schultz’s office received an apology. Sure enough, West’s office clarified that people would have to be stupid to think he’d be so gracious. "Absolutely false," West's spokesperson Angela Sachitano said of West's own statement. "The Congressman is waiting on an apology from the Congresswoman."

Classy. So, who’s right? Bendery. Here is the actual transcript of her chat with West -- and if the whole episode is giving you a headache, there is a Minnesota Republican lawmaker who has medication for that.

HuffPost:: I saw that there's a bunch of congresswomen having a press conference to talk about your email to Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Does that bother you that they're doing that?

West: No, it doesn't bother me.

HuffPost:: They're probably going to say something about being anti-woman.

West: I've been married for 22 years, I have two daughters.

HuffPost: So what does that mean? That you respect women or….

West: And I just apologized.

HuffPost: And you just apologized?

West: Mmmhmmm.

And here's the audio. Either Allen West's office is lying to reporters or Allen West lied to his office.

Allen West Was Second - Why are we so angry at Allen West for calling DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz "vile" and "heinous" and "not a Lady"? After all, he's just echoing the mockery of Tea Party financier American Crossroads. Just a couple months ago, Crossroads boss Steven Law declared that the breast-cancer surviving Wasserman Schultz lacked "charm," and his outfit put out a video that needled her for having "all of the grace of a punch in the face."

We've been agreeing with Larry Summers an awful lot lately. And he nails it with his take on his now-famous meeting with the Winklevi twins, portrayed in The Social Network: "One of the things you learn as a college president is that if an undergraduate is wearing a tie and jacket on Thursday afternoon at three o'clock, there are two possibilities. One is that they're looking for a job and have an interview; the other is that they are an asshole. This was the latter case. Rarely have I encountered such swagger, and I tried to respond in kind."

Wall Street Prostitutes Busted: No, that is not an unkind euphemism for Congress. Seventeen people were just indicted for running a prostitution ring out of Brooklyn catering to financial professionals. Supposedly they scored $7 million over three years, but it's unclear how much of that was financed by TARP. [Reuters]

DEMS HEART REAGAN - "I find myself these days quoting Ronald Reagan," said Sen. Barbara Boxer Wednesday. So sayeth The Communicator: "The full consequences of a default or even the serious prospect of default by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate...The Nation can ill afford to allow such a result." [Mike McAuliff]

The Onion: Congress Continues Debate Over Whether Or Not Nation Should Be Economically Ruined

Not The Onion: Al Sharpton is gonna get that 6 p.m. slot on MSNBC it appears. Cenk Uygur, who had been hosting that hour, is reportedly out after refusing to change time slots.

UNIONS HIT OBAMA TWICE IN ONE DAY Mike McAuliff: "President Obama's rocky relationship with unions took a few more lumps Wednesday as labor groups pounded a deficit-cutting proposal he embraced and his White House's welcome for Walmart."

MSNBC/HUFFPOST: COLOMBIAN UNION MEMBERS STILL ROUTINELY MURDERED - A group of Colombian union members visited the HuffPost DC office to rebut assertions by pro-trade pact partisans that the Colombian killing of labor leaders is a thing of past, as the U.S. insists. Dave Jamieson was on Dylan Ratigan's show to discuss his story: "For Juan Cambindo, a Colombian sugar cane worker and union leader, the news of significant progress has come as a great surprise....He first learned of his new and improved lot while watching television. 'The United States was talking about how our situation has gotten better,' Cambindo. 'But that's not true. Our situation continues to be bad, and it's getting worse.' Colombia remains by far the world's most dangerous country for union leaders and members. Nearly 3,000 activists have been murdered there in the last 25 years, with convictions resulting in a paltry 6 percent of the cases. According to the non-profit labor rights group U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project, 51 Colombian unionists were killed last year and 338 received death threats. The country generally accounts for about half of the unionist murders worldwide these days." [HuffPost and MSNBC]

Example of labor negotiations in Colombia: "Tell that man if he does not stop running off at the mouth we will cut out his tongue."

MoJo unearths [organic bottled water].

MICHELE BACHMANN BELIEVES 47 PERCENT OF AMERICANS DON'T PAY TAXES - During a Twitter town hall today, Bachmann was asked, "Why isn't anyone talking about the 47% of Americans that don't pay taxes?" -- a hardline conservative meme that's been blowing up the batsh*t blogosphere lately. So the congresswoman responded: "I am. Simple. Fair. Flat. Everyone should pay something." If only it were so! The Tax Policy Center has estimated that 47 percent of Americans didn't pay income taxes last year. But there are, of course, boatloads of other taxes out there -- payroll taxes, property taxes, excise taxes, sales taxes, etc. Only 14 percent of Americans didn't pay either income taxes or payroll taxes in 2009, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities -- and the vast majority of those were awfully poor. The 47 percent income tax figure is also significantly inflated by that whole worst recession since the Great Depression thing. In normal years, the figure is in the 30s. Notably, even if 47 percent of Americans really didn't pay any taxes, implementing a flat income tax that raised taxes on the poor would still be a clear violation of Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge. Also waiting for the drive-by lamestream media to misquote Bachmann with an: "I am simple."

How do we know the 47% number is a meme lately? From the volume of @aol.com emails we've been getting that include that precise number.

OCC Still a Sick Joke Masquerading as a Federal Agency - Remember when all those state regulators wanted to crack down on predatory lending in, like, 2004? And remember when the OCC stepped in to say, "Aw hell naw"? And remember when those horrible mortgages wrecked the global economy? Well, the OCC wants another go-round. Today, the agency finalized a new set of "preemption" rules that are pretty much just like the old ones, protecting the nation's biggest banks from state scrutiny. Americans for Financial Reform says the new regulations directly violate last year's Wall Street reform bill, which required the OCC to ease the preemption rules.

More Murdoch Misery - Erik Wemple thinks Rupert Murdoch should also apologize for falsely reporting that some racecar exec had a Nazi orgy in 2008, and for blackmailing women the guy slept with. Yeah fine, Wemple, but everybody knows the real Murdoch scandal was that time he forced out a reporter for refusing to dress up like Harry Potter.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - It’s the combination of fuzzy and stabby that makes hedgehogs so adorbz. [youtubes via reddit]

DEM CALLS REPUBLICAN FRINGE A 'CULT' - From Sen. Tom Harkin: "On the Republican side you've got scores of Republicans who say, fine, let the country default. Need I remind you Michele Bachmann [was] running around my state saying she wouldn't vote to raise the debt limit no matter what? No matter what. Got that? No matter what. This is one of their leading contenders for the presidency. So the debate and fight is not between Democrats and Republicans; it's between some Republicans and their sort of cult fringe, as I refer to them, out there."

At the same press conference, an aide almost dropped a "Cut, Cap and Kill Medicare" poster onto Sen. Barbara Mikulski -- on her birthday. "Don't cut, cap and kill me!" Mikulski said. Never change, BAM!

Alan Grayson has a way to save $2 trillion: Stop waging war all over the damn place.

FOLEY FROWNER - Erick Velazquillo, 22, was stopped last October for driving with his high beams on, and arrested for driving with an expired license. (North Carolina changed its laws for undocumented immigrants and driver's licenses after he received his license, making it impossible to renew.) Velazquillo entered the U.S. from Mexico with his family when he was two years old. He has no criminal record and graduated from Central Piedmont Community College in 2009. Yesterday, an immigration court judge gave him a 45-day extension on his deportation charge so federal authorities can consider whether to allow him to stay in the states. "I came in at the age of two, I've been living here for 20 years and I basically grew up as an American. I should have a chance to contribute back."

THE POWER OF BACHMANN'S PRAYER - Bradlee Dean, the vitriolic, rap-metal drumming preacher linked to presidential hopeful Rep. Michele Bachmann, may have yet to see the Rapture, but he has seen his fortunes -- and the fortunes of his ministry rise -- since the congresswoman took an interest in him. Bachmann had famously prayed for Dean’s organization to grow ten-fold. So HuffPost Hill assigned investigative reporter Jason Cherkis to check it out. He reports back that in 2008, tax records show Dean earned a mere $27,433 as president and director of You Can Run But You Cannot Hide Inc., a nonprofit tax exempt ministry based in Bachmann's suburban Minnesota district. In 2009, Dean's salary ballooned to $51,303 plus an additional $45,887 in a housing allowance. Dean refused to comment about the tax records. When asked on their tax records if they ever engaged in "direct or indirect political campaign activities on behalf of or in opposition to" any candidates running for public office, Dean and Co. checked "No." [Classic Dean Rants]

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

POLITICO MORE OR LESS CALLS FRATES A THIEF - If you're a very important recipient of POLITICO's very important "Influence" email newsletter, you likely noticed an editor's note in Wednesday's edition. "Some POLITICO Influence readers recently received emails sent to an improperly obtained subscriber list," it read. "We apologize for this. Please rest assured that POLITICO has not sold or intentionally shared our confidential subscriber list."

(Deep breath. Deeeeeeep breath. DAMN IT, BREATHE)… ‘Who the F*CK would mess with the integrity of the list!?!?!’

The note was clearly aimed at Chris Frates, the guy who helped build the list while at POLITICO before bolting to the National Journal so he could have a social life become their lobbying correspondent. Frates (as we envision it) perspired profusely when we asked him for an explanation. Like all guilty suspects, he deferred to "management.” Their response: "[F]or clarity's sake, this was a list of Frates' contacts, not an official 'Politico list.' Hence their reference to 'SOME of you may have received.’” If the list doesn't fit, you must acquit.

JEREMY'S WEATHER REPORT

Okay, the big story: It's hot. I warned you it was going to be hot. You don't have to listen. Just know that it's going to stay hot. That's what a heat wave is. There's a good chance it'll hit 100 degrees. Tomorrow, which means that it's going to feel like you're in a sauna. Drink lots of water. Thanks, JB!

COMFORT FOOD

Bayonet kabobs and candied bacon in this week's Russian-themed Epic Meal Time. [EMT on the youtubes]

Discovery Channel has set up a live webcam at the Georgia Aquarium's shark tank. [ustream]

The Gregory Brothers autotuned that (fake?) "I LOVE CATS" eHarmony video. [G.Bros on the youtubes]

The Planet of the Apes prequel will probably look something like this. [gizmodo]

Japanese inventor creates flying rescue sphere. [youtubes via reddit]

Arming apex predators with futuristic beam-swords can only end well. [collegehumor]

Capoeira Badminton's got nothing on Kung Fu Soccer Volleyball. [collegehumor]

The ketchup-dispensing R/C tank you were waiting for. [youtubes]

If it’s dead but moving, it's either a zombie or this seafood dish. [youtubes via thedailywh.at]

TWITTERAMA

@pourmecoffee: It feels like MacGruber is in charge of the debt ceiling crisis.

@daveweigel: Q: If Sarah Palin wrote a Facebook post about Bachmann's migraines, would the Internet explode?

@omarbhester: .@140townhall google santorum

ON TAP

TONIGHT

5:30 p.m.-7 p.m.: Buckle your safety belts kids, because it's Rob Portman's "Annual and Awesome Chili Fest!" night at the NRSC. [425 2nd St., NE]

6 p.m. - Waaay late: The NRSC Policy Board will enjoy barbecue together while Portman shills his chili back at headquarters. [410 7th St., NW]

6 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.: Been a while since you had vomit on your shoes? Fear not, McFadden's has your number tonight at a "Liberty On The Rocks" happy hour for college students, interns, and other "fans of liberty." [2401 Pennsylvania Ave., NW]

TOMORROW

8:30 a.m.: Napa Valley's own Mike Thompson raises cash over breakfast, inexplicably depriving guests of the chance to get buzzed on his district's finest export. [400 North Capitol St., NW #175]

8:30 a.m. Look for Michael Bennet at the classy Mott House mansion, which might explain why he's charging double the typical fundraiser ticket: A cool $1,000 per person. For breakfast. [122 Maryland Ave., NE]

9 a.m.: Now that Paul Ryan's budget firestorm has been replaced by a different budget firestorm, the man is finally free to pad his coffers in peace. [300 First St., SE]

12 p.m.: Ready the record books, folks, because Leonard Lance is hosting his 32nd fundraiser at the Capitol Club in three years. If you know someone who's had more there in less time, we want to know. [300 First St., SE]

12 p.m.-1:30 p.m.: PayPal lobbyist Becky Relic co-hosts a lunch for Jerry Moran, a leading opponent of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. PayPal users, beware. [234 3rd St., NE]

1 p.m.: The people who haul fossil fuels out of the ground (aka the American Council of Engineering Companies) take time to grease up the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Jim Inhofe. [400 North Capitol St., NW #175]

6 p.m.: Bloomberg's B-Gov woos potential customers Wall-Street style, with "An Evening of Politics and Pinot" at swanky Sonoma. High-priced escorts from Brooklyn not included. [223 Pennsylvania Ave., SE]

7 p.m. - 9 p.m.: Susan G. Komen launches its junior fundraising circle -- discussion of summer homes and tiny dogs virtually assured. [3251 Prospect St., NW]

7 p.m. - 9 p.m.: If you think that doing shots of rail booze with barely legal staffers sounds like a good time, you're right. It is. Get your fix at George's intern happy hour. [3251 Prospect St., 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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