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HUFFPOST HILL - Congress Chugs Red Bull, Powers Through Semester's Worth Of Homework

First Posted: 12/16/11 05:58 PM ET Updated: 12/16/11 06:08 PM ET

Washingtonians will always remember where they were when they first tried to say something punchy about Christopher Hitchens' death. Orrin Hatch was a BAD WIDDLE BOY when he called President Obama a "scaredy cat." And Congress passed the megabus. If it were a *real* Megabus, the toilet wouldn't work and someone named Myrtle would take too long at the rest stop. Let's get moving, Myrtle! This is HUFFPOST HILL for Friday, December 16th, 2011:

MEGABUS - Roll Call: "After weeks of legislative wrangling, appropriators proved to find a middle ground in a sharply divided chamber, as the House passed an omnibus appropriations bill on a bipartisan vote. Today, 147 Republicans joined 149 Democrats to pass the $1 trillion bill. In total, 86 Republicans voted against it, as did 35 Democrats...The vote marks the second time in as many spending bills that Democrats have put up more votes than Republicans, although fewer Republicans voted against this bill than against the November three-bill "minibus," which 101 Republicans voted against. Rep. Jack Kingston, a member of the Appropriations Committee, said GOP leaders and Appropriations members have been holding "come to Jesus meetings" to convince their party's restive right flank that unity will bolster Speaker John Boehner's leverage in negotiations with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and President Barack Obama." [Roll Call]

FLUIDS - "Negotiations on a compromise that would extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits continued Friday, with Senate leaders and the White House saying progress was being made as Congress prepared to go into its end-of-year recess.
White House spokesman Jay Carney described the situation as 'quite fluid' and expressed cautious optimism that agreement would be reached on a proposal pushed hard by President Barack Obama but resisted by Republicans." [CNN]

REPUBLICANS TAKE KEYSTONE ISSUE HOSTAGE, HOPE IT DEVELOPS SOME KIND OF LEGISLATIVE STOCKHOLM SYNDROME - In a move Friday that was characterized by Democrats as a predictable next step total surprise, congressional Republicans demanded that any extension to the payroll tax holiday be accompanied by legislation designed to move the Keystone XL oil pipeline forward. "House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) fired the first warning shot, saying he would attach language on the oil pipeline to Senate Democrats' efforts to advance a short-term payroll tax cut extension. "These rumors that are floating around here about a two-month extension, I'll just say this: If that bill comes over to us, we will make changes to it," Boehner told reporters Friday morning. "And I will guarantee you that the Keystone pipeline will be in there when it goes back to the Senate." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) later upped the ante, via a spokesman, saying he wouldn't accept any payroll tax cut deal, regardless of its timeline, unless it included the pipeline provision." [HuffPost]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - FOUND: Truthful Republican statements about unemployed people failing drug tests. Jack Kingston's office refused to provide details about the business in his district that he said couldn't find clean workers, but DDD tracked some down. Trey Cook, owner of Savannah Tire, said that on average, his company has received 15 to 20 job applications per month for the past four years. During that time, he said, 40 percent of applicants failed the drug test, though he did not have detailed data. "It is quite surprising to me," he said. Ugh. And in Rep. Tom Reed's New York district, the local workforce agency boss said that over the past three to five years, the hundreds of businesses he's worked with have told him job applicants fail drug tests at a rate of 10 to 30 percent. "I can tell you there are individuals we have that were on unemployment for a significant period of time....Additionally, while they were on that, they were receiving food stamps, and also during that time we would be training them to the tune of thousands of dollars. We get this all done, and then they go to the job and they fail the drug test and they can't get hired. ... It's a huge drain." LEGALIZE IT!!!11 [HuffPost]

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

PROGRESSIVES OPTIMISTIC ABOUT SANTA THIS YEAR, ALSO ROBIN HOOD TAX - Nobody wants to be the first to tell progressives that just about everyone in Washington, except maybe Tom Harkin and Pete DeFazio, is nestled comfortably in Wall Street's cashmere-lined pocket. But someone will have to, and soon. Right now, the White House and Treasury are painfully trying to avoid the issue of a "Robin Hood" tax. "Advocates of a tiny but lucrative tax on financial transactions are increasingly hopeful that President Barack Obama's need to more firmly establish himself as the Main Street candidate in 2012 will lead him to back the measure. The tax -- though nearly inconsequential on a per-trade basis -- would reap billions in revenue from Wall Street's most rapacious institutions while also cutting down on their incentive to engage in the high-stakes, lightning-fast gambling that has proven particularly lucrative for them, at the expense of others. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) introduced legislation last month that would impose a 0.03 percent fee on financial transactions, an amount so small that its sting would only be felt by speculators who rapidly move vast sums in and out of trading positions. But because of the enormous volume of transactions, the new tax would still raise $350 billion in next 10 years, according to nonpartisan congressional scorekeepers. The bill is "generating some interest in the White House, and I'm hopeful that the president will pick up on this," said Harkin, a fifth-term senator." [HuffPost ]

REPUBLICAN WAR ON WOMEN, ACT MCCXVI: GOP ATTACKS CANTWELL OVER HER MARITAL STATUS - In slamming Maria Cantwell for her position on the Plan B pill, Amanda Terkel reports, her Senate opponent more or less called her a floozie. That's the high-level discourse we expect in a Washington state Senate race. Terkel: "Sen. Maria Cantwell's (D-Wash.) position on Plan B emergency contraception is being called into question by her Republican opponent, due in part to the fact that she is an unmarried woman without children and has, according to him, 'frequently voted to undermine the role of parents in child-rearing.' State Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R), who is running against Cantwell, sent out a campaign email Thursday with the headline, "Baumgartner Criticizes Cantwell Embrace of Morning After Pill for Young Girls." [HuffPost]

Sen. Orrin Hatch called Obama a "scaredy cat" today and accused the president of getting "pushed around" by hippies and the like. [The Hill]

For a little more context on Orrin Hatch, here he is playing and singing a seasonal ditty he wrote.

LIKE THE GUY SAYING IT, GINGRICH'S DEBATE 'SHOCKER' WAS JUST ANOTHER RESURRECTED THING FROM THE '90s - Were you shocked and frightened when Newt Gingrich called for "abolishing" judges and courts that he deems "Anti-American" in Thursday's GOP debate in Iowa? If so, don't worry, he's got lots of experience with it. HuffPost's Paul Blumenthal writes, "Attacking judges is not a new cause for the former House speaker. Last year he was one of the first national figures to support, with words and money, an unprecedented effort in the state of Iowa to oust three judges not because they had breached any ethical rules, but because a segment of the populace disagreed with one ruling. That effort has led to a politicization of Iowa's judicial selection process, which was designed to avoid politics. It also represents another example of Gingrich's pressuring an institution that did not work his way until it did." [HuffPost]

Remember the baseball bat wielding psycho *character* who ran for governor of New York last year? Yeah, we didn't either. But he's Carl Paladino. And he's for Newt.

GOD IGNORES REPUBLICAN PRAYERS FOR 11TH HOUR CANDIDATE, ROMNEY ENDORSEMENTS FOLLOW - South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley endorsed Mitt Romney on Friday. "Haley said Friday on Fox News she is throwing all of her support behind Romney in the Republican primaries. She says jobs, the economy and spending are most important and the former Massachusetts governor is the best candidate to address those issues. Haley also says President Barack Obama seems most afraid to face Romney.
Haley is a rising star in the GOP, and her endorsement means a lot in South Carolina, the first Southern state to hold a primary election." [HuffPost]

MITT ROMNEY'S QUID PRO QUOPT OUT - Here's the simplified version of what happened between Mitt Romney and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in November. Romney: "Look, Nikki, I promise, I will totally get you the money. I just need to sell some stuff and move a few things around, you know?" Nikki: "Ok, sounds good." Here's what actually happened: "Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney assured South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) that he would grant a waiver to her state to opt out of the health care law signed by President Barack Obama before she endorsed him Friday. However, that process is subject to numerous restrictions and does not take effect until Jan. 1, 2017." [HuffPost]

TEXAS GOP ABOUT TO BE OVERRUN WITH SPORTS METAPHORS -
Given how well things turned out for Rick Perry, the self-proclaimed "Tim Tebow" of the Republican presidential field, it's only natural that he should inspire copycats back home in Texas. Exhibit A: ESPN's Craig James, a college football announcer who's just taken a leave of absence from analyzing rushing yardage to run for Kay Bailey Hutchinson's Senate seat. Naturally. "Craig requested to be taken off Tuesday's game as he considers his decision," said ESPN spokesman Michael Humes, referring to the Beef O'Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg. The Senate race in Texas is already underway, as several contenders hope to fill the seat to be vacated by GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2012... James, a former running back at Southern Methodist University, lives in Celina, Texas and serves as a board member for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank in Austin." [CNN]

Nazi comparisons: What's not to love?. Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) employed one yesterday when he compared Democrats to Joseph Goebbels. Hi-yooo!

TYLER KINGKADE'S (LAST) NEWS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED - California state legislators grill administrators from UC Davis and UC Berkeley, while they act like they aren't the ones making massive budget cuts to public colleges. Report concludes there's still a fair chance states in the Gulf would be in trouble if there was another oil spill. An Ohio Supreme Court justice that supported capital punishment says he now wants to abolish it. Some local DC protesters prayed outside of John Boehner's office for higher taxes. No one wants your stupid gold coins, US Mint! Tough times in the Recession: After a man had his home foreclosed on, the city decided to keep his Christmas light displays. And the FCC passed a set of new regulations to destroy jobs make sure that Jos. A. Bank cannot have annoyingly loud commercials anymore. May the wind be at your back, Tyler!

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Kitty makes French bulldog FREAK OUT.

JEREMY'S WEATHER REPORT - Tonight: Just get through tonight, right? Although there's some not-so-great weather, it will clear up. And it won't be so bad, either; mid-40s and sunshine. Thanks, JB! But, um, sunshine tonight?

COMFORT FOOD
By @bradjshannon!

- Christopher Hitchens... Receives 'Dawkins Freethinker of the Year Award' from its namesake (~30m), Debates William Lane Craig re: theism (~2.5h) and Speaks ill of the late Jerry Falwell on CNN (~5m).

- People kayak off a 90 foot waterfall. Deliberately. [http://bit.ly/uj39GJ]

- Nat Geo WILD offered to host a GOP debate with Stephen Colbert. They sent him this amusing promo, which aired on the Report last night. [http://bit.ly/s2pMPz]

- The most creative, bizarre, and disgusting holiday ad we've seen this year. [http://bit.ly/sBqJnW]

- Bad Lip Reading, Gingrich edition. [http://bit.ly/rFEIVD]

- NPR attempts to classify all those angry people who jabber on the internet. [http://n.pr/slo24m]

- Have you ever considered changing your name? [http://bit.ly/tSnQRP]

- DNS, an important internet thing, briefly explained. [http://bit.ly/uOws5j]

TWITTERAMA

@PJORourke: Reporting is like hunting. Writing is like cleaning the thing you killed.

@AndrewKroll: @evanmc_s "Well-placed unaligned GOP operative"? Thought he was just a recurring gag in @HuffPostHill... #SoDC

@pourmecoffee I'm worried Santa will be indefinitely detained. He flies around in the dead of night with God knows what in his bag.

ON TAP
By @tylerkingkade

TONIGHT

8:00pm: Comedian Eddie Griffin is going to make people who donate money to Hank Johnson chuckle. [801 E Street, NW]

MONDAY
6:00pm: Friends and staff of Mother Jones magazine are going to provide snacks for a holiday gathering at The Passenger, but they're a non-profit, so they realize they can't afford a booze budget that journalists require. [1021 7th Street 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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