POLITICS

HUFFPOST HILL - Beleaguered State Gets Much-Needed Sadness Infusion

12/11/2012 05:36 pm ET | Updated Feb 10, 2013

After weeks of not blinking, some reports indicate that fiscal cliff negotiators may have reached for the Visine. Mitch McConnell's approval rating is so low you'd think he was Congress. And Antonin Scalia suggested society's embrace of homosexuality is a precursor to its acceptance of beastiality and murder. Hollywood executives inform us Justice Scalia will feel validated by the crime of passion at the end of "Marley and Me 2: Paris Nights." This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, December 11th, 2012:

REPUBLICANS PRETEND TO MAKE COUNTER-OFFER - Speaker Boehner spokesman Michael Steel tells the world: "We sent the White House a counter-offer that would achieve tax and entitlement reform to solve our looming debt crisis and create more American jobs. As the Speaker said today, we’re still waiting for the White House to identify what spending cuts the president is willing to make as part of the 'balanced approach' he promised the American people. The longer the White House slow-walks this process, the closer our economy gets to the fiscal cliff." Now look, we hate the White House as much as any other Glenn Greenwald-loving blog commenter, but we have yet to see anyone explain why Boehner's position here is not entirely ludicrous. The White House wants tax hikes. The GOP wants spending cuts. So the WH proposed tax hikes. And the GOP demands that the WH also propose spending cuts. But the WH doesn't want spending cuts! Beyond, that is, the hundreds of billions of very specific cuts they've already proposed!

@AP: BREAKING: AP source: Obama, Speaker Boehner discussed fiscal cliff Tuesday after exchange of offers.

Update from Sam Stein: "Jill Jackson, a reporter for CBS News, tweets out that the Republican offer contains $1.4 trillion in new revenue. Boehner's office did not immediately return a request for confirmation. But if that number is indeed correct, it seems likely that the speaker has ostensibly signed off on tax rates going up on some income. It would be all but impossible to get that revenue level simply by capping deductions and closing loopholes."

@chadpergram: WH drops from $1.6 to $1.4 trillion in revenue. Top Ways & Means D Levin says "It's basically in the ballpark" as something he can live with

@edhenrytv: Sensing optimism tonight from President's allies about fiscal deal, one outside adviser told me they're now "75 pct" of the way toward deal

(U)AW HELL NO: MICHIGAN HOUSE PASSES RIGHT-TO-WORK LEGISLATION - Apparently the union thugs didn't wrap enough chains around their knuckles and/or didn't slowly beat pipes against their palms in a sufficiently menacing fashion. AP: "Unswayed by Democrats' pleas and thousands of protesters inside and outside the state Capitol, the House approved two final bills, sending them on to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. One dealt with private sector workers, the other with government employees. Both measures cleared the Senate last week. Snyder is expected to sign the measures into law as early as Wednesday that would make Michigan the 24th state with right-to-work laws, which ban requirements that nonunion employees pay unions for negotiating contracts and other services." [HuffPost]

Options for the bill's opponents: "Line-Item Veto: Snyder could sign right to work into law but still throw labor a bone by using his line-item veto power to strike the $1 million appropriation in the bill... That way, the law would be eligible to go on the ballot... Citizens Initiative: This route may be labor's best route to the ballot box... labor supporters could need to gather a high number of signatories to force a vote to repeal the law, similar to what was done in Ohio with the repeal of an anti-collective bargaining law...Repeal Legislation: Not all Republicans were on board with right to work in this session, so Democrats could attempt to gain some GOP support for a bill to repeal the law. Recalling GOP Lawmakers: Labor leaders have raised the suggestion of trying to recall Republicans who back right to work...2014 Elections: Snyder is up for reelection in 2014...Lawsuits: A union activist has already filed a lawsuit... 'alleging violations of the Open Meetings Act after the Michigan State Police barred the doors to the Capitol,'according to the Detroit Free Press. The Associated Press recently reported that opponents are considering other possible lawsuits." [HuffPost's Amanda Terkel]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Matthew Egerton applied for unemployment insurance as soon as he lost his health care administration job at the very end of 2010. The Virginia Employment Commission approved Egerton's benefits, but Egerton balked when he learned that unemployment claimants in Virginia are required to give the government names and phone numbers of their job search contacts. "I did not want to do this as I did not want the negative impression of the VEC checking with employers while they were considering my application," Egerton, 35, told The Huffington Post in an email. "I did not want the risk of seeming like a bad candidate and hurting my chances of being accepted." While stories of waste and fraud in the unemployment system often dominate headlines, fewer people are gaming the system than avoiding it altogether, according to a recent study for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. On average, the study found, savings from unpaid benefits are seven times larger than the cost of improper payments over the past 22 years. Your faithful DDD tried to ask Orrin Hatch about this today, but he said send it to the office and got on the Senate subway. [HuffPost]

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FISCAL CLIFF: BOEHNER UNIMPRESSED - You'd think that President Obama's fiscal cliff offer was a press conference question blurted out by Luke Russert. Mike McAuliff: "House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on Tuesday that President Barack Obama still has not gotten serious about dealing with the impending 'fiscal cliff,' saying the White House has yet to offer anything that can pass muster with the GOP...In Obama's most recent offer, the White House suggested raising some $1.6 trillion in taxes, while cutting about $400 billion from Medicare and investing more cash in economic stimulus. Although Boehner and Obama met over the weekend for discussions that both sides described as positive, Boehner did not sound encouraging in his House floor remarks at noon on Tuesday." [HuffPost]

A fiscal cliff agreement might result in your grandmother donning a crocheted ski mask and holding up a CVS for its Simcor stash - Jeff Young: "Raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 could leave as many as 435,000 older Americans without health insurance, according to a report published Tuesday...Republicans have floated raising the Medicare age to 67 as one way to reduce the program's spending -- an idea Obama reportedly considered during negotiations last year...The combined result of an increase in the Medicare eligibility age and states opting out of the Medicaid expansion could be 435,000 people between 65 and 67 years old without health insurance, the Center for American Progress study concludes. In states like Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana that don't expand Medicaid, most of the poorest older people 'will have nowhere to turn for coverage,' according to the study." [HuffPost]

2014: CROSSROADS ALREADY CHURNING OUT SCARY VOICE ADS - And they come complete with sad repetitive piano accompaniment, which leaves you with the feeling that Mary Landrieu is adding arsenic to your toddler's sippy cup. Paul Blumenthal: "Crossroads GPS, the nonprofit co-founded by Karl Rove, has launched a series of radio ads to pressure five Democratic senators to reject President Barack Obama's outline of a "fiscal cliff" deal, particularly higher tax rates for the wealthy... The lawmakers in Crossroads' sights are longtime Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and first-term Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.)... Other than naming an individual senator, the five ads themselves are identical, calling on the lawmakers to reject President Obama's 'massive tax increases and even more debt' and urging 'bipartisan solutions to strengthen Medicare and Social Security and tax reforms that raise more revenue without killing jobs.'" [HuffPost]

Ashley Judd, not actually in terrible shape: "Although Kentucky remains deeply Republican, [Mitch] McConnell's low approval ratings -- the worst of any senator nationally, according to PPP -- could make him vulnerable. Just 37 percent of Kentucky voters approve of his performance, while 55 percent disapprove... One challenger he might not have expected is Judd, who is reported to be seriously considering a Democratic bid. PPP found that Judd would be the top choice of Democratic primary voters, and would trail McConnell by just four points in a hypothetical matchup, 43 percent to his 47 percent." [HuffPost's Ariel Edwards-Levy]

Cory Booker, take note: "State Sen. Barbara Buono announced Tuesday she will seek the Democratic nomination for governor, accusing Republican Gov. Chris Christie of 'trickle-down economics' that she said have stagnated economic growth in New Jersey and left the state with the highest jobless rate in three decades. Buono, who has served in the Legislature since 1994, said the governor was right to declare the rebuilding of the state from Superstorm Sandy an urgent priority, but she said 'that's not the only rebuilding that needs to be done.'" [AP]

NIKKI HALEY FINALIZES SENATE SHORTLIST - Sadly, there's no Stephen Colbert, Alvin Greene, Joe "You lie!" Wilson or HuffPost Hill's dark horse, The University of South Carolina Gamecock. CNN: "Her final choices for the seat are Rep. Tim Scott, Rep. Trey Gowdy, former state Attorney General Henry McMaster, former South Carolina First Lady Jenny Sanford and Catherine Templeton, a conservative attorney chosen by Haley to head the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. One thing they have in common: a warm personal relationship with the governor, who is known to prize loyalty. 'All of them have proven to be fighters in their lives and Nikki respects that and likes them all,' the GOP source said. 'She respects their service and thinks any of them will make a great senator.'" [CNN]

Lindsey Graham would welcome a Stephen Colbert Senate candidacy. "It's always good to laugh, he's funny, but I'm not so sure we have a comedy deficit as much as a fiscal deficit," Graham said during an interview with Elise Foley. "At the end of the day, Gov. Haley will appoint someone who will step right in and hit the ground running." Or maybe Graham is just tired of Al Franken discussing farm regulations in the Stuart Smalley voice and wants to freshen things up. [HuffPost]

JOURNALISM: POLITICO ELUCIDATES LINCOLN CHAFEE'S WET DREAM - This morning Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, having bravely embedded themselves in Erskine Bowles' occipital lobe, published a piece that allegedly reveals Washington's secret plan to fix our ailing economy. Yet the article couldn't be more blandly center-right if it joined Third Way and created a Google alert for David Brooks. Politico: "Most politicians in the most powerful positions in Washington agree in private that there are a half-dozen or so big things they could and should do that could put a rocket booster on the U.S. economy - but they are too timid to say it in public ... The current tax-and-spending debate only flirts with what these insiders say needs to be done. Instead, top White House and congressional leaders talk privately of the need for tax reform that goes way beyond individuals and rates; much deeper Social Security and Medicare changes than currently envisioned; quick movement on trade agreements, including a proposed one with Europe; an energy policy that exploits the oil and gas boom; and allowing foreign-born students with science expertise to stay here and start businesses ... Next year represents the best opportunity in decades to do something about some or all of them, according to those in the trenches. It starts with taxes." [Politico]

Also amazing: "No doubt, there are environmental concerns, especially for drinking water."

Powerful lawmakers tell HuffPost Hill we should take steps to avoid transforming into an economic dystopia where militias fight for territory and precious resources in dilapidated school buses and dune buggies armed with MG42s.

SCALIA: IT'S ADAM AND EVE, NOT ADAM AND STEVE SOME DONKEY ADAM DATED - According to the Supreme Supreme justice, people will start making eyes at their Scottish terriers and murder anyone who doesn't cover their mouth when they sneeze, because gay marriage is just that awful. AP: "Speaking at Princeton University, Scalia was asked by a gay student why he equates laws banning sodomy with those barring beastiality and murder. 'I don't think it's necessary, but I think it's effective,' Scalia said, adding that legislative bodies can ban what they believe to be immoral.'It's a form of argument that I thought you would have known, which is called the "reduction to the absurd";' Scalia told [freshman Duncan] Hosie of San Francisco during the question-and-answer period.'"If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?' Scalia said he is not equating sodomy with murder but drawing a parallel between the bans on both. Then he deadpanned: 'I'm surprised you aren't persuaded.'" [HuffPost]

Bradley Manning update: "Closing arguments for a hearing over alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning's treatment in pre-trial detention ended Tuesday, with his lawyer arguing that his conditions in the Quantico Marine brig were so degrading that all the charges against him should be dropped...whether Manning's treatment amounted to unlawful punishment, and whether brig officials intended to inflict it, were the critical issues at hand as Manning's attorney essentially put the government on trial." [HuffPost's Matt Sledge]

SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOT CHILD OF IMMENSE WEALTH AND PRIVILEGE: BOOK - In her forthcoming memoir, Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor describes the challenges she faced as an Andover prefect reflects on her humble beginnings. AP: "Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor says in her upcoming memoir that her lifelong battle against diabetes and the fear that she might die early played a big part in her decision not to have children... Sotomayor also defends affirmative action -- under which she was admitted to Princeton University and Yale Law School -- as needed to get disadvantaged students to the starting line of a race to success. She grew up so poor in the South Bronx that her family never even had a bank account...it tells the story of her rise from a tenement in which English was rarely spoken to her entry into service as a federal judge in 1992. She includes an especially painful encounter with illegal drugs in her description of her beloved first cousin Nelson, who eventually died of AIDS that she said he contracted through a contaminated needle." [AP]

PHILADELPHIA SOCIETY SOIREE IS EVERYTHING THAT'S WRONG WITH EVERYTHING - Naked Philadelphia: "1400 people attended this year's [Pennsylvania Society dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan on December 9] while thousands more attended the lavish parties on the sidelines of the event...The next big race in Pennsylvania is the governor's race in 2014. Governor Corbett, speaking during the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Seminar at the ornate Metropolitan Club, tried to reassure business leaders that he will soon be revealing his plans for controlling the state's pension costs, privatization of the liquor stores, and repairing the ailing infrastructure...The head of the Fels Institute of Public Policy at Penn, David Thornburgh, believes that Corbett will fine. 'Ridge['s] poll numbers looked the same after two years. He won re-election, " he noted. He doubts that [Rep. Allyson] Schwartz has a chance. 'The state is not ready for a Jewish, liberal woman from Philadelphia that used to run an abortion clinic,' said the son of a former Pennsylvania Governor...A relaxed party atmosphere often loosens the lips of politicians. A new representative in Harrisburg accidentally divulged that one of his colleagues is so cheap that he makes staffers pay for their own toilet paper." [Naked Philadelphia ]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Dog is troubled by a machine that makes fart noises.

COFFEE: IT KEEPS YOU AWAKE - HuffPost DC: "Looking for a non-Starbucks, non-Caribou coffeehouse? Here are our picks." [HuffPost]

COMFORT FOOD

- What would happen if "The Joy of Painting" were mixed with John Lennon's therapy sessions from the early 1970s? You'd get this 30-minute video of a Japanese guy screaming while painting. [http://bit.ly/VNfwzH]

- What it's like to browse the web in North Korea [http://bbc.in/VJed4C]

- When war is no more, we will use our drones to deliver burritos, like these guys do. [http://bit.ly/U00nFW]

- Mother duck and her ducklings cross a multi-lane highway. Frogger ain't got nothing on waterfowl. [http://chzb.gr/ZaybGi]

- "The Most German Philosophers Love Song" ("I Nietzsche Nietzsche you so bad...") [http://bit.ly/UzDiu8]

- Who needs Muzzy when you have this cat that teaches languages? [http://bit.ly/T2yaPy]

- What an iPod looked like in the 1920s -- suffice it to say, there was no shuffle. [http://bit.ly/W2NnAS]

TWITTERAMA

@BenjySarlin: RELEASE THE COLLEGE TRANSCRIPTS RT @AdamSerwer: Princeton did not make a recording or a transcript of Scalia's remarks. It's 2012.

@quasimado: Fun game: Keep a search column up on Tweetdeck for 'life is hard'

@timothypmurphy: But seriously it would be pretty great if Nikki Haley appointed Caroline Kennedy.

ON TAP

TONIGHT

6:00 pm: The Senate's new minority whip, John Cornyn (forever known to us as BIG JOOOOOHHNNNNNN), launches his reelection campaign -- hopefully while mounted on a steer. [NRSC, 425 2nd Street NE]

6:00 pm - 7:00 pm: Chuck Schumer puts down his Schumwich and talks politics at a reception recapping the 2012 election. [Acqua Al 2, 212 7th Street Southeast]

TOMORROW

8:30 am Richard Burr hosts a morning coffee fundraiser for his 2016 reelection bid. Nothing cures the BRRRRRRs quite like a cup of warm coff---We're sorry. We're so so sorry. We'll never do that again. We swear. [NRSC, 425 2nd Street NE]

6:30 pm: If you have $30,800 to spare and want to talk to Dick Durbin about the latest season of "Homeland," then boy do we have the fundraiser for you. The Senate majority whip is joined by Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and Patty Murray for a DSCC fundraiser. [St. Regis, 923 16th Street NW]

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