POLITICS

HUFFPOST HILL, Sponsored By The American Beverage Association - DeMint V. Boeing..

03/22/2012 06:11 pm ET | Updated May 22, 2012

The Senate, apparently unaware that it's still a week and a half until April 1, got some stuff done today. The Mitt Romney campaign tried to deflect attention from Etch A Sketch and onto Mr. Potato Head, because, clearly, interchangeable facial features send a stronger message about consistency. And in an unusual turn of events, Romney once supported something that he now disparages. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, March 22, 2012:

THESE TWO TEAMS JUST DON'T LIKE EACH OTHER - Zach Carter and HPH: "In early February, Alabama Republican Spencer Bachus called for a meeting between two of the most quietly influential interest groups in the nation's capital: credit unions and community banks. Bachus, chairman of the powerful House Financial Services Committee, was looking to ensure the passage of a slew of federal favors benefiting both sides. All the lobbyists had to do was show up at a meeting and figure out how to work together. It was too much to ask. The Credit Union National Association and the Independent Community Bankers Association immediately agreed to the sit-down, but as the meeting approached the community bankers abruptly cancelled the event, according to lobbyists and congressional staffers familiar with the plans." [HuffPost]

OK, NOW WALL STREET IS LITERALLY RUNNING PEOPLE OVER- Dave Jamieson tells us why people are getting killed during auto repossessions: "In some ugly cases, you might blame the ill will of debtors. In others, the carelessness of bad-apple agents. In many cases, however, industry insiders trace the problems back to decisions by lenders at the top. According to insurers, lawyers and longtime repo agents, the big-time financial institutions as a group are paying less than ever to have vehicles recovered in the event of default. In the minds of many repo agents, the penny-pinching by lenders has pitted them against one another, as reputable firms struggle to do the job on thinner margins and less-reputable agents willingly take on the cheaper work. 'This is where the recession and the finance world come right into the front yard,' says Kevin Armstrong, a former repo man who is now a collections manager.'" [HuffPost]

DEFAZIO TIRED OF PLAYING HOUSE IN THE HOUSE - Jen Bendery: "In case anyone was worried that Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) has run out of things to complain about, he hasn't. 'All we do is 'pretend' legislation,' DeFazio ranted to The Huffington Post while standing outside the House chamber. He pointed to House Republicans having just passed a bill to repeal part of Obama's health care reform -- a bill that has no chance of becoming law -- and then to House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) putting forward a temporary extension of a major highway bill instead of moving a broader bill already passed by the Senate. 'They're giving us a vision of what the world would look like if they were in charge of everything,' DeFazio griped. 'It's pretty grim.'"

SANTORUM FOR JEWS FOR JESUS - Rick Santorum previously failed to disclose $95,000 in speaking fees, including $6,000 he earned speaking at a 2010 Jews for Jesus event. Oy. Ken Vogel: "The Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, which is based in Central Pennsylvania, initially tried to land Sarah Palin and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, both of whom are devout Christians who are strongly supportive of Israel, as speakers at its 2010 conference, according to [Joel Chernoff, CEO of the Messianic Jewish Alliance]. 'Rick was our next call, because we liked him and we liked where he was coming from spiritually and values-wise' Chernoff said. He added: 'In the pantheon of fees, his wasn't that big.' ... The 2010 speech is just one of several outlined in an amended personal financial disclosure statement filed by the former Pennsylvania senator in January and released Wednesday afternoon by the Federal Election Commission." [Politico]

FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! - The Romney campaign accused Santorum of being Team Obama this afternoon -- twice. "I was disappointed to hear that Rick Santorum would rather have Barack Obama as president than a Republican," Romney said in a statement this afternoon, taking a Santorum attack line wildly out of context. (The Santorum line: "If they're going to be a little different, we might as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk of what may be the etch-a-sketch candidate for the future.") They also said Santorum is "becoming the most valuable player on President Obama's team" by drawing out the nomination process. Romney is supportive of slashing entitlements, except the one that says he's entitled to the nomination. He'd grandfather that one in. [HuffPost]

JIM DEMINT IS REALLY, REALLY CONSISTENT LATELY - Zach Carter: "On Tuesday, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) led a conservative Senate bloc opposing a government loan program on the grounds that it functioned as a corporate welfare agency. Just weeks earlier, he donated $500,000 to a hardline conservative group that is making opposition to the program a central part of its legislative strategy. Caught in DeMint's crosshairs: Boeing, a company that DeMint has spent much of the last few months defending in a public feud between it and the National Labor Relations Board. The agency tried to block the company from moving from Washington to South Carolina, arguing that the airline and weapons manufacturer was doing so in order to punish its unionized workers. DeMint repeatedly cited the value that Boeing will bring to South Carolina." Heh.

@edhenryTV: At end of OK event woman heard telling President she was born at same hospital in Hawaii. He quipped: "Do you have YOUR birth certificate?

STOCK ACT PASSES - The Senate resoundingly approved a bill to keep themselves from insider trading, because they're above our silly commoner "laws." Politico: "After weeks of delays, the Senate on Thursday sent a bill banning congressional insider trading to President Barack Obama for his expected signature. The Senate voted 96 to 3 to pass a watered-down STOCK Act, which would bar members of Congress, their staff and some federal workers from profiting from non-public information obtained through their jobs." [Politico]

@jamiedupree: Three Senators who voted against cloture on STOCK Act - Burr R-NC, Coburn R-OK and Grassley R-IA

JOBS ACT ALSO PASSES - Something in the air today, we guess. LA Times: "A bipartisan effort to make it easier for smaller businesses to access investment cash was back on track after clearing the Senate, but not without grave warnings from opponents who insisted it would open the door to a new era of fraud. ... President Obama has given the measure qualified support, and it now returns to the House where GOP leaders expect swift passage, sending it to the White House next week as a rare bipartisan victory." [LAT]

Who said it: Newt or Kanye? [MTV]

ROMNEY: I LOVE LAMP - Romney has said the Obama administration turned out the lights. "The government would have banned Thomas Edison's light bulb," Romney declared at the University of Chicago. "Oh yeah, Obama's regulators actually did." How shocked would you be to learn Romney previously joined government efforts to prop up non-incandescent bulbs? Sam Stein: "While Romney may be opposed to the federal government regulating minimum standards for the light bulb market, he certainly wasn't opposed to the government promoting energy-efficient light bulb use itself." [HuffPost]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - When Sean Davis of Lunenburg, Mass. lost his Census job in October 2010, he figured he'd be able to claim unemployment insurance for 99 weeks, because that's how long benefits lasted according to every contemporaneous news report. But when he called the state unemployment office the other day, he was annoyed to discover that the rules have changed and his benefits will be stopping very soon. "They told me that they were no longer doing the 99 weeks because of the federal government action," Davis, 40, said in an interview. In the February payroll tax cut deal, Congress preserved all federal unemployment programs for the rest of the year but denied states to chance to remain eligible for all the bennies. The maximum duration of benefits will fall to 73 weeks by the end of the year. Massachusetts is one of several states cutting aid for the long-term jobless in early April. "It's been a real pain," Davis said of his job search. "It just seems like half the jobs I'm looking for I would qualify for in terms experience want a higher level of education than I have."

UPSIDE DOWNER - Weekly unemployment claims keep on going down, almost as though the economy were in some kind of a recovery. "In the week ending March 17, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 348,000, a decrease of 5,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 353,000," the Labor Department says. It's also the lowest claims number since March 2008. [DOL]

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SANTORUM OPPO DUMP! - Jason Cherkis: "In 1994, as he was making his first successful run for the U.S. Senate, Rick Santorum was followed by a trackers, who were hired by the state Democratic party and equipped with video cameras. The trackers trailed Santorum into public events at municipal buildings, on factory floors and inside community centers across Pennsylvania. They recorded how many people were in the room, whether or not media was on hand and Santorum's every word. After every event, a tracker wrote up a memo for the campaign staff of Santorum's opponent, Harris Wofford. The nearly 200 memos, obtained by The Huffington Post, are archived along with the rest of Wofford's papers at Bryn Mawr College, where Wofford had served as president." [HuffPost]

SENATOR BEGS FOR ATTENTION - AP: The Senate wants to grill the NFL about bounties. And the NBA, NHL, NCAA and Major League Baseball are invited, too. Sen. Dick Durbin is setting up a Judiciary Committee hearing about bounties in professional football and other major sports in the wake of news that New Orleans Saints players received extra cash for hits that hurt particular opponents. The assistant Senate majority leader, an Illinois Democrat, said Thursday he wants to examine whether federal law should make such bounty systems a crime. "Let's be real basic about it here. If this activity were taking place off of a sporting field, away from a court, nobody would have a second thought (about whether it's wrong). [AP]

GONNA BE AN AWKWARD CONFERENCE MEETING - GOP Rep. Richard Hanna told pro-choice women today they should give money to Democrats. Ouch. Laura Bassett: "'I think these are very precarious times for women, it seems. So many of your rights are under assault,' he told the crowd of mostly women. 'I'll tell you this: Contribute your money to people who speak out on your behalf.' ... When HuffPost asked Hanna after the rally whether he was bucking his party by encouraging women to give their money to 'the other side,' he said that he wasn't. 'I'm trying to help [the GOP],' he said. 'I think it's the appropriate thing to do.'" [HuffPost]

BREAKING: JOHN EDWARDS IS MAY BE KIND OF A CREEP - Well, allegedly, in this instance. DNAinfo: "A call girl working for alleged "Millionaire Madam" Anna Gristina told investigators she was paid to have sex with former U.S. Sen. John Edwards when he was in New York raising money for his failed presidential bid, DNAinfo has learned. ... The one-night fling allegedly took place at an Upper East Side hotel suite... The Loews Hotels Regency is also where he reportedly met videographer Rielle Hunter, who bore Edwards a love child while his wife, Elizabeth, battled cancer." Edwards' lawyer called the accusation "categorically" false and demanded a retraction. [DNAinfo]

ROMNEY ALREADY HELPING BUSINESS - The Eric Fehrnstrom job creation plan is working: Stock in Ohio Art Co., which makes the Etch A Sketch, is up after his comments about the toy yesterday. Bloomberg BusinessWeek: "The thinly traded toymaker more than tripled to $12.50 on one transaction of 500 shares at 10:41 a.m. in New York on the over-the-counter market. It was the biggest intra-day move for the shares since at least 1980, according to data compiled by Bloomberg." Nice, Eric! [Bloomberg]

@EricFehrn: Etch A Sketch stock is up? Psst, I'll mention Mr. Potato Head next. Buy Hasbro

BILLIONAIRE REPUBLICAN DONOR: OBAMA'S A SOCIALIST - We heard somewhere that the president is a Saul Alinsky-style radical, too, but we can't remember who that guy is. Sam Stein: "The reclusive, super-wealthy Republican donor Harold Simmons sat down for an interview with the Wall Street Journal in which he explained why he decided to donate $18 million to conservative super PACs. To put it bluntly: he despises and fears President Barack Obama. 'Any of these Republicans would make a better president than that socialist, Obama,' Simmons told the Journal ... 'Obama is the most dangerous American alive ... because he would eliminate free enterprise in this country.'" [WSJ (sub rec'd), HuffPost]

MITT ALSO LIKED CAR-POOLS - Hippie. The New Republic: "After taking office in 2003, [Romney] combined the state's transportation, environment, and housing departments into a single 'Office for Commonwealth Development' under the command of Doug Foy, a prominent local environmentalist who was known to commute to work 20 miles by bike. Together, Romney and Foy pushed for legislation to channel new development into existing communities, thereby reducing the need for new road construction and the car dependence of Massachusetts residents. They put forward a sweeping 'Climate Protection Plan' in 2004, which included, among many other things, calls for more car-pooling, public transit and tax breaks for motorists who bought hybrid vehicles." [TNR]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Celebrities read tweets about themselves. [http://bit.ly/GNO1sc]

WARREN TO OBAMA: SERIOUSLY, CHIMP TO HUMAN EVOLUTION WAS FASTER - We're paraphrasing. Warren told Washington Blade she wants gay marriage to be part of the official Democratic Party program. She also said the president, who has claimed to be "evolving" on the issue, should buck up and support it. "Asked whether she wants Obama to finish evolving and support same-sex marriage, Warren chuckled and responded that was indeed her view. 'I want to see the president evolve because I believe that is right; marriage equality is morally right,' Warren said." [Washington Blade]

COMFORT FOOD

- Romney bike ride [ youtu.be/OZVMAbeknT8]

- Robotic jellyfish [http://bit.ly/GJDcex]

- Dog owners scold dog, dog storms off and slams door [http://huff.to/GGIR6Q]

- Scientist fire most powerful laser EVAR [http://huff.to/GGJeOT]

- Johnny Depp and Marilyn Manson will record a duet of "You're So Vain" because... because. [http://bit.ly/GDYqss]

- World's strongest little girl [http://bit.ly/GGJOfH]

- Spooky pictures [http://huff.to/GGJnBV]

TWITTERAMA

@BorowitzReport: BREAKING: Prostitution Ring Embarrassed by Association with John Edwards

@pourmecoffee On this day in 1933, FDR signed bill legalizing possession of beer and wine. He also did some other good stuff, but this was his main thing.

‏@stefanjbecket Cats RT @nycsouthpaw: If Fehrnstrom had said tabula rasa instead, what would everyone have tweeted about yesterday?

ON TAP

TONIGHT
5:00pm - 7:00pm: After giving Hill staffers free rides all day, the bike lobby is giving them free drinks at a reception. Clearly, these folks know how to influence Congress. [Dirksen G50]

7:00pm: Screening of the new documentary "Fear of A Black Republican," which spends 90 minutes tiptoeing around the obvious awkward question of why there are so few black Republicans in Congress. [555 11th St NW]

7:00pm: A few times a year, members of Congress actually do fun fundraisers that aren't crazy luxurious. Andre Carson's event at the Wizards/Pacers game could be one of those. [601 F St, NW]

TOMORROW
7:00pm - 12:00am: Sacrebleu! The French Embassy allows members of the dirty, smelly, American publique inside the gates for one night, for a French tasting sort of thing. [4101 Reservoir Rd. NW]

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