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HUFFPOST HILL - 'Anxious Stockbroker' Photos To Terrorize America

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It's great to be back and we hope you enjoyed Socialist Santa's handouts. Congress obviously didn't heed president Obama's advice to eat Christmas cookies and drink eggnog because Harry Reid called John Boehner a despot and Steny Hoyer made an ill-timed comparison to shooting children. The House will finally come back on Sunday, saving Americans from the embarrassment of standing under its window with a boom box. And it appears that Starbucks' plan to keep America away from the fiscal cliff by writing "Come Together" on all its D.C.-area coffee cups hasn't achieved much. That might help explain the dire "Let's Thelma And Louise This Sucker" message scribbled on our Caribou Coffee latte. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, December 27th, 2012:

@BloombergNews: FLASH: Congressional leaders to meet with President Obama tomorrow, Durbin says

LIBERTY AND UNION, INSEPARABLE FROM THE PAPERWORK - If we do go over the cliff, it'll be like one of those scenes where Bond and the bad guy punch each other the entire way down, seemingly oblivious to the fact they have bigger problems. The difference here is that Republicans (and the jobless) are the only ones who'll go splat when they hit the ground. House Republican leaders still think there's a chance the Senate manages to send them something which they'll have to eat or amend and send back. Folks in the Senate Democratic camp, though, don't see that happening. But whether it happens before or just after January 1 doesn't really make a difference. Harry Reid, who'd been holding back, let loose today, ripping John Boehner as a "dictator" who has overseen "the mother of all debacles." The majority leader's statement was meant to convey his frustration at the House speaker's legislative conduct, but we can't stop imagining the Ohio lawmaker in an all-white military dress uniform and a comically tall Pinochet military hat. Of course, Boehner would *never* wear such a thing (you try getting Merlot out of white mohair). Anyhoo, Reid was pissed at the speaker for not bringing up legislation passed by the upper chamber that would keep the Bush era tax cuts for annual income under $250,000. "The American people I don't think understand the House of Representatives is operating without the House of Representatives," he said on the Senate floor this morning. "It's being operated by a dictatorship of the speaker, not allowing the vast majority of the House of Representatives to get what they want." Senate Republicans are left arguing that the Senate bill that has already passed has been "blue slipped" and can't come up in the House. "The paperwork never left the Senate," McConnell said on the floor today, in remarks that will go into the same congressional record as "Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable." [HuffPost's Mike McAuliff]

GOOD JOB, STARBUCKS! HOUSE COMING BACK SUNDAY - In a welcome development, House Speaker John Boehner was so moved by the "Come Together" message on his double shot skinny espresso peppermint mocha black, extra-burnt coffee that he has called his conference back for Sunday. Mike McAuliff: "House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is calling the House back into session on Sunday before New Year's Eve, apparently in hopes the Senate will send it measures to avert the so-called fiscal cliff that the Senate has already rejected, according to a House source familiar with Boehner's plans. 'The House has acted on two bills that collectively would avert the entire fiscal cliff,' the GOP source said Boehner told House members on a Thursday afternoon conference call...The Senate has voted those measures down, and passed a bill that would preserve tax rates on income under $250,000 for couples and $200,000 for individuals. Republican leaders have been calling on the Senate to take up its bills again, however, noting that revenue bills are supposed to start in the House." [HuffPost]

Steny Hoyer, zeitgeist whisperer. Roll Call: "In a sign of just how charged and hyperbolic this year-end debate has become, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., used an unfortunately timed comparison that likened Republicans trying to use the debt limit for leverage on spending cuts to people threatening to shoot their own children. 'It is somewhat like taking your child hostage and saying to somebody else, "I'm going to shoot my child unless you do what I want done." You don't want to shoot your child,' Hoyer said at a press conference following a brief 10-minute pro forma session for the House." [Roll Call]

SENATE TO PASS WARRANTLESS WIRETAPPING BILL - The next *click* time you call that *click* buddy of yours in *click* Qatar, just remember his *click* teeth might not be *click* responsible for the *click* clicking. Matt Sledge: "With Senate poised to act as early as Thursday night to renew the foreign surveillance bill that authorized the Bush administration's secret warrantless wiretapping program, civil liberties advocates are getting deja vu. With only the Senate's vote standing in the way of renewal, the debate over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act in 2012 is looking strikingly similar over to the debate over the bill in 2008. The White House is pushing for a quick, 'clean' reauthorization without any amendments before the bill's Dec. 31 expiration date. Congress seems to be showing little inclination to press for more. And civil liberties advocates, along with a few Senate allies, are criticizing the measure, arguing that basic details of the warrantless wiretapping program remain unknown. Or, as Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel with the ACLU's Washington office, put it, 'I bet [Bush] is laughing his ass off.'" [HuffPost]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - The U.S. House of Representatives will convene on Sunday in a last-minute effort to avoid the steep spending cuts and tax cuts scheduled to take effect at the end of the year. But Sunday will already be too late for long-term unemployment insurance, which will lapse on Saturday thanks to congressional inaction. According to the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group, more than 2 million Americans will stop receiving benefits after Dec. 29, when the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program will cease to be. "The 11th hour has arrived," NELP director Christine Owens said in a statement on Thursday. "Other consequences of going over the fiscal cliff won't be felt for some time, but losing Emergency Unemployment Compensation will deliver an immediate and severe blow to people who are already down." It won't be the first time in recent years that lawmakers watch idly as millions of Americans stop receiving federal unemployment insurance, which kicks in for workers who use up the standard six months of state-funded benefits. During the summer of 2010, benefits lapsed for weeks as the Senate squabbled over the spending. After lawmakers finally reached a deal, unemployed people received lump sums accounting for the benefits they'd missed. Presumably, the same thing would happen if Congress reauthorizes the benefits early in January.

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LISA JACKSON STEPPING DOWN - Minus a few notable achievements, the EPA administrator hasn't had much to do, aside from reminding her colleagues not to flush after making number one and memorizing Native American maxims about land stewardship, we guess. WaPo: "Jackson, who will step down shortly after President Obama's State of the Union address next month, has not accepted another job, according to several individuals who have spoken with her. Many expected that she would not remain for the administration's second term; Jackson herself joked about it recently...It remains unclear how ambitious an agenda EPA will pursue in Obama's second term, although environmental leaders have called on the president to limit greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. EPA will soon finalize the first carbon standard for new power utilities, but the White House has yet to decide whether to impose limits on existing facilities, according to several individuals who have been briefed on the matter but asked not to be identified because no final decision has been made." [WaPo]

ED MARKEY RUNNING FOR SENATE - Ed Markey, known lover of puns, is in. Boston Globe: "US Representative Edward Markey, dean of the state's Washington delegation, will run in 2013 for the US Senate seat expected to open with the nomination of US Senator John Kerry to head the State Department. Markey, 66, a Malden Democrat elected to the House in 1976, is the first prominent candidate to declare a run for Kerry's seat, which will be filled through a special election early next summer, probably in June. Kerry, a Democrat and head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is expected to be easily confirmed by the Senate in the coming weeks as the next secretary of state...Two other Bay State congressmen, Michael Capuano of Somerville, and Stephen Lynch of South Boston, both Democrats, have also expressed interest in seeking Kerry's seat. Running in a special election is a low-risk venture for House incumbents--if they lose they would still be members of Congress and able to run for reelection as favored incumbents in 2014. A person familiar with Markey's decision said the longtime congressman sees the US Senate as a better opportunity while the GOP controls the US House of Representatives." [Globe]

SCOTTY B FOR SENATE - The outgoing/incoming Massachusetts senator today set off a new round of speculation about a possible fiscal cliff deal when he wrote on his Facebook page that the White House had sent a proposal to Senate Republican leaders. Not so much. We're guessing one Senator Brown's royal friends was just trying to impress him. "Heading back to dc. Just learned that the Pres. reached out to Senate GOP leadership with a proposal. It is the first such proposal to be put forth. Eager to see why it is. How it is serious," he wrote before quickly adding a follow-up, "Correction. Hope it is serious." He added: "I'm rushing to get on plane and thought I would keep you all informed. I will be sure to check my update for grammar next time for those who want it done perfectly. Yikes"

THE ARC OF HISTORY IS LONG BUT IT BENDS TOWARD PLEATED KHAKIS: WHITE MAN JOINS SENATE - "With a ride on Air Force One already under his belt," -- which, we'll note, is right above the pleats -- "the newest member of the United States Senate took his oath of office Thursday, less than 24 hours after the governor of his home state announced he'd be tapped for the job. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, who replaces the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, was sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden at 2:36pm ET. Schatz most recently served as the state's lieutenant governor and previously led Hawaii's Democratic party. Gov. Neil Abercrombie picked his 40 year-old deputy over Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who was Inouye's choice to be his successor. With Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid eager to assemble every Democratic vote possible as the 'fiscal cliff' approaches, Schatz rushed to Washington after his appointment was announced yesterday." Schatz, at 40, is the youngest senator, but he'll lose that title to the 39-year-old (!) Chris Murphy next week. But on the same day, Mazie Hirono is sworn in -- which will make Schatz the youngest senior senator in the Senate. Probably ever? Let us know if we're wrong. [NBC News]

Disappointed liberals take comfort: "In addition to addressing native Hawaiian recognition, Schatz gave one public policy priority: 'For me personally, I believe global climate change is real, and it is the most urgent challenge of our generation.'" The second most urgent issue, for Schatz at least, is likely to be the pronunciation of his name. It's not what you think it is. It's pronounced "shots," he says. [BuzzFeed]

What happens when one of President Obama's tech gurus finishes handing victory to the world's most powerful person and abstains from the internet for a whole week? Jon Ward finds out.

Kasie Hunt is jumping from AP to NBC News.

HAPPINESS IS A WARM GUN WITH A MARGIN OF ERROR OF +/- FOUR PERCENT - Emily Swanson and Ariel Edwards-Levy: "Support for tighter gun control laws continues to rise in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, and another new poll finds that support for stricter gun laws is at its highest point in years. In the new HuffPost/YouGov survey of 1,000 adults conducted Dec. 21-22, 55 percent of Americans said that gun control laws should be made more strict, 13 percent said they should be made less strict, and 27 percent said there should be no change. Support for stricter laws in the new poll is even higher than it was in another HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted immediately after the shooting took place, when 50 percent of respondents said that that gun control laws should be made stricter." [HuffPost]

Bad news if you're a horse in Piscataway: "Many U.S. states are failing to protect animals from cruelty, sexual assault, neglect and other forms of abuse, an Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) report finds. The '2012 U.S. Animal Protection Laws Rankings' is the seventh annual report to assess animal protection laws across the U.S., rating each region in fifteen categories. The sections include law enforcement, cruelty reporting and sexual assault. 'Ag gag legislation' was added as a factor this year -- some states have made it illegal to gain access to a farm facility under false pretenses, punishing animal abuse whistleblowers." [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - "Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mi--AWOOOOOOOOOOOO." Dog sings Auld Lang Syne."

COMFORT FOOD

- Stunned looks, snickering and outright guffawing: the year's best news bloopers. [http://huff.to/10nNdsZ]

- An audio-visual mixtape celebrating the 50th anniversary of the cassette tape. [http://chzb.gr/U9M41b]

- Video of stuntman Eos Karlsson, probably the person in Hollywood most in need of an Icy Hot patch. [http://bit.ly/ZDyPOf]

- The folks at Bad Lip Reading turn One Direction into avant garde foreign language auteurs. [http://bit.ly/VhgSgF]

TWITTERAMA

@ryanbeckwith: In honor of the fiscal cliff, the ball at Times Square this year will drop directly onto a crowd of middle-class onlookers.

@pourmecoffee: Sunday: RG3 beats Cowboys, runs in uniform straight to Capitol, negotiates cliff deal, runs back by monument getting high five from Lincoln.

@ezraklein: Fiscal cliff talks have literally devolved to "No, you go first." "No, YOU go first." "No, YOU GO FIRST!"

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