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HUFFPOST HILL - Republican Conference Now Filled With Pickup Artists

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At their annual retreat, House Republicans received instruction on how to have "successful communication" with women, but weren't provided complimentary copies of "The Game." Lawmakers are cracking down on inauguration ticket scalpers -- offenders will be punished with purple tickets. And White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked about Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Te'o's nonexistent girlfriend, probably because Harry Reid claimed Lennay Kekua hadn't paid taxes in ten years. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, January 17th, 2013:

PAUL RYAN: GOP LEADERS READY FOR A FISCAL LET DOWN - House Republicans have been on their annual retreat this week. After a disastrous team building exercise -- invisible hand of the market trust falls -- injured dozens, Paul Ryan spoke about the next fiscal showdown. Sabrina Siddiqui: "Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Thursday said Republicans are weighing the option of a short-term debt limit extension, but that House GOP leaders are using their annual retreat to highlight the 'realities of divided government' and set expectations among members of their caucus as a number of fiscal deadlines approach... The former Republican vice presidential nominee noted the party's position as the 'majority in the House but the minority in power in Washington,' a sign that GOP leaders were seeking to manage expectations among incoming freshmen lawmakers for the battles ahead. Ryan also said Republicans were 'discussing the possible virtue of a short-term debt limit extension, so that we have a better chance of getting the Senate and the White House involved in discussions in March.' Although he declined to discuss specifics regarding what a short-term extension would entail... Still, Ryan seemed to imply that behind closed doors, House GOP leadership was engaged in an effort to lay out the consequences of a debt ceiling breach -- and explain why a hostage strategy would not be the best way forward. He said members were told it was important to focus on goals that are within the party's reach instead." [HuffPost]

DOD'S PAPERWORK MORE OF A MESS THAN AFGHANISTAN, CAN'T BE AUDITED - The Government Accountability Office said today it could not be held accountable for the multibillion-dollar black hole that is the Pentagon and that office park in Upper Northwest that keeps the homeland secure. "The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) cannot render an opinion on the 2012 consolidated financial statements of the federal government because of widespread material internal control weaknesses, significant uncertainties, and other limitations. As was the case in 2011, the main obstacles to a GAO opinion on the accrual- based consolidated financial statements were: Serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense (DOD) that made its financial statements unauditable. The federal government’s inability to adequately account for and reconcile intragovernmental activity and balances between federal agencies. The federal government’s ineffective process for preparing the consolidated financial statements." So, if the sequester went into effect, how would we even know it? USA! [GAO]

@daviSusan: Paul Ryan says he'll be at Obama's Inauguration. "Yes," he said, "It's my obligation." Then: NO MORE QUESTIONS! #GOPRETREAT

HOUSE FRESHMEN OFF TO UNSURPRISINGLY BAD START - Freshmen Democrats had been planning a joint service project with incoming Republicans at a local charter school -- neutral territory, we suppose -- but the GOPers have refused to play along, after initially saying they were willing to do so, an aggrieved Democrat tells HuffPost Hill. So they can't even cooperate on volunteering. Ah well. Charter schools suck anyway. How do you think they'd do if regular public schools could expel anybody they wanted and kick them over to charters? (Another House Democratic aide said that he was willing to give the GOP the benefit of the doubt, and that it might've been a genuine scheduling issue. We will devote our substantial journalistic resources to uncovering the truth, fear not.)

The Onion is LITERALLY writing Joe Biden's autobiography: "'Hombre, you’ve just done Uncle Joe a real solid buying this book,' begins the foreword to a new autobiography attributed to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. 'I ain’t the kind of guy who forgets his debts. Next time we meet there’s a tallboy of ice cold Beast on me. And if you’re a lady, I know a few tricks to repay you with interest, if you catch my drift.'... Now The Onion is publishing an e-book titled 'The President of Vice,' about the life of Mr. Biden and ostensibly written in his voice. This autobiography (of sorts) will be released on Friday at the Kindle Singles store of" [NYT]

SCALPERS GET STITCHES: CHUCK SCHUMER FOUR LOKO-ING INAUGURATION TICKET SCALPERS - The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies today blasted out a press release informing reporters that a Democrat is, quite naturally, stymieing the free market. The release: "Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that, at his request, eBay and Craigslist have pledged to work with Schumer’s office to stop the sale of scalped tickets to the Presidential Inaugural Ceremonies. After media reports that online retailers were offering scalped tickets that are meant to be free for members of the public, Schumer publicly called on the companies to cease the practice and preserve the integrity of the Inaugural events. The tickets, which clearly state 'Not for Sale; on the back, were being scalped for thousands of dollars in some cases. eBay will enforce a policy not to allow these listings on their site, while Craigslist employees will monitor their site and remove these listings." Someone get these noble executives a schumwich!

A reader sends along a screencap of someone scalping inaugural tickets on Craigslist. From the "Inauguration Ceremony Ticket - $650" post: "I am interning at a congressman's office and have a ticket for the inauguration ceremony in one of the closest sections, the North standing orange section... These tickets are in the highest demand as millions flock towards this Capitol building to get the best ticket available. I am looking for the best offer, but I do understand the demand for this ticket." [Screenshot]

GIT YER INAUGURATION EVENTS HERE - Although you're less likely to run into Ben Affleck at the OMGWEELECTEDABLACKGUY Ball's caviar station this go around, inauguration is still a big deal. Our coworkers at HuffPost DC have compiled lists of the official and state balls and ones being thrown by third party groups.

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - They are having some kind of problem sending out unemployment checks in New Mexico. "Nearly a week after the new Workforce Solutions website and electronic system were unveiled, unemployed New Mexicans said they are still unable to certify for benefits on the new website," KOAT reports, noting callers have been unable to get through to the agency. "Diana Martinez from Grants was one of those callers. 'For two weeks, I've been calling every day for three hours at a time. I give up and I hang up,' said Martinez. 'It is a mess. I haven't been able to certify through telephone and online.'" [HuffPost]

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STAFF CHANGES IN PELOSILAND - Roll Call: "House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s longtime chief of staff, John Lawrence, is retiring, and Nadeam Elshami, previously Pelosi’s communications director, will replace him...Elshami has worked on Capitol Hill for 21 years and for Pelosi since 2007. He led messaging efforts on House passage of two touchstone legislative achievements for President Barack Obama and Pelosi: the health care overhaul and the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation... In addition to Elshami replacing Lawrence, three other aides are being promoted or given expanded responsibilities. George Kundanis, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, will be given an “expanded role for legislative and Member responsibilities,” according to a release from Pelosi’s office. Diane Dewhirst is being promoted to be another Pelosi deputy chief of staff, with “a portfolio focused on strategic planning.” Drew Hammill will take Elshami’s previous position as communications director." [Roll Call]

REPUBLICANS WORRIED THAT ALIENATING EVERYONE MIGHT NOT BE A GREAT POLITICAL STRATEGY - We all know that this round of GOP soul searching will end with the party blasting out "Abortion clinics have armed guards, why don't our schoolchildren?" fliers. The Hill: "Even as Republican officials maintain the GOP majority is safe, several lawmakers and longtime activists warn of far-reaching political ramifications if voters perceive Republicans as botching consequential talks on the debt ceiling, sequestration and a possible government shutdown. 'Majorities are elected to do things, and if they become dysfunctional, the American people will change what the majority is,' Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a House deputy majority whip and a former National Republican Congressional Committee chairman, told The Hill...GOP campaign officials insist that a debate occurring nearly two years before the 2014 midterms will be forgotten easily by voters and that the fundamentals of the House landscape favor Republicans...Former House member and National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Tom Davis (Va.) noted that if the GOP enters the upcoming negotiations divided on the issues, Republicans in deep-red districts will inevitably receive primary challenges. While there’s little chance of those deep-red districts switching hands in the coming election, Davis noted that the challenges would draw much-needed funds away from those swing districts." [The Hill]

@lukerussert: At House #GOP retreat members will be taught how to have "successful communication w minorities & women."

STEVEN CHU: F--- THIS NOISE ::DROPS MIC:: - America's soft-spoken Nobel laureate nerd king, who conservatives insist was party to a nefarious liberal plan to send briefcases of unmarked bills to reckless eco-terrorist entrepreneurs, will step down. Bloomberg: "U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who drew criticism from Republicans over his support for loans to Solyndra LLC before the solar-panel maker went bankrupt, will leave his Cabinet post in President Barack Obama’s second term, according to two people familiar with the matter. Chu’s departure will be announced as soon as next week, according to one of the people. Both requested anonymity to discuss personnel matters that haven’t been announced. The people didn’t identify potential replacements. The exit will leave the Obama administration with vacancies at the top of the three departments that oversee energy and environmental policy. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Lisa Jackson, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency, have announced their intention to leave the administration. Chu, 64, was a career scientist and co-winner of the Nobel Prize for physics when he joined the Cabinet in January 2009. Supporters said Chu brought a fresh perspective to discussions often dominated by politics in Washington." [Bloomberg]

CPAC has added names to its annual presidential aspirant pageant. We CANNOT WAIT for the talent section when Rick Santorum will ride a unicycle while juggling Warren Harding's bones. Nick Wing: "The planners of 2013 event, set to be held in the Washington D.C.-area this March, are off to a quick start rounding up the current popular choices for a potential 2016 presidential run. On Thursday, the coordinators at the American Conservative Union announced that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and former Pennsylvania senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum had confirmed invitations to speak at the event, as reported by CNN. Rubio and Santorum are set to join Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), as well as Wisconsin congressman and former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan -- who has been selected as the keynote speaker -- in addressing the conference." [HuffPost]

@NickBaumann: A friend reports the CNN chyron just called Leon Panetta "Leon Panther."

HILLARY CLINTON WOULD OWN FLORIDA: POLL - PPP: "In a hypothetical 2016 match-up, Clinton leads Rubio by 4 points, 50% to 46%, and she beats Bush by 5 points, 49% to 44%. Both of these modest leads are within the poll’s margin of error. The main reason Clinton leads both candidates is her strong appeal among moderates, who favor her 63% to 29% over Bush and 63% to 32% over Rubio. Clinton’s +11 favorability rating (52/41) is actually lower than Rubio’s +13 job approval (49/36) and Bush’s +16 favorability rating (51/35). Despite their popularity at home, Florida voters don’t support Rubio or Bush running for president in the next election--they oppose the idea 53% to 31% for Bush and 49% to 38% for Rubio. In a nine-way contest, Clinton is the favorite for a whopping 65% of Democratic primary voters, followed by Joe Biden (15%), Andrew Cuomo (4%), Elizabeth Warren (4%), Deval Patrick (1%) and Mark Warner (1%). 88% have a favorable opinion of Clinton. If Clinton and Biden decide not to run, Cuomo would lead the pack with 22% support, but 48% of Democrats are not sure or would support different candidates." [PPP]

Uncle Joe: "Making an imaginary shotgun with his hands and firing it with a loud 'BOOM!' line Thursday afternoon, Vice President Biden made the case that the White House plan to curb gun violence does not step on the Second Amendment." [TPM]

@lizbart: Joe Biden shotgun gif

VIRGINIA'S LEGISLATIVE BODY HAS WAYS TO TRY TO SHUT THAT WHOLE PRO-CHOICE THING DOWN - NARAL and Planned Parenthood might want to start organizing against a proposal South Carolina to assign frowning church ladies with rulers to every abortion clinic in the state. No such law has actually been proposed anywhere but... let's be honest: It totally will. Laura Bassett: "A Republican-controlled committee in the Virginia State Senate voted 8-7 on Thursday to block Democrats' efforts to repeal a new mandatory ultrasound law and a set of regulations that could shut down many abortion clinics in the state. The committee also voted down a new anti-abortion bill that would have prevented Medicaid from paying for low-income women's abortions in cases where there is a severe fetal anomaly. Virginia Republicans attracted national criticism in early 2012 when they proposed a bill requiring women to undergo invasive, medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound procedures before having an abortion. Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) later helped Republicans revise the bill to require only external, 'jelly-on-the-belly' procedures, and he signed that version into law." [HuffPost]

@jbendery: THIS IS HAPPENING: MC Hammer gets a round of applause at natl mayors conference as "U Can't Touch This" video plays on screens.

States are getting their local versions of "Mr. Akaka..." - NCSL: "Almost every state has some type of network or broadcast system providing legislative coverage -- although the landscape of organizations that do so varies widely, according to a survey by NCSL. The largest, most sophisticated and independent organizations belong to the National Association of Public Affairs Networks (NAPAN). The association’s president, Paul Giguere, who runs CT-N, The Connecticut Network, estimates that about 24 states have public affairs networks (PANs), most of which rely on tax or public funds to varying degrees. Some of the larger networks include Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin. They broadcast real-time and archived legislative coverage, produce Emmy-award winning programs on complex issues and trends, travel around their states to cover cultural and historical events, and offer regular news updates." [National Conference of State Legislatures]

Well done, New York Magazine: "An Illustrated Guide to President Obama’s Favorite Political Analogies"

WHAT ABOUT YOUR IMAGINARY GIRLFRIENDS? - @jbendery: Watching WH briefing online, I could still hear a whispered "yesssss" from a reporter when the Te'o question came up.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - This dog enjoys playing with socks. Its owner apparently enjoys heavy metal.

CHALLAH AT ME! - HuffPost DC: "If things go as planned, this Friday evening, the 'Seven Single White Jewish Males' who placed a recent Craigslist ad looking for dinner companions will be breaking challah with seven of the many, many women who answered their amusing and question-filled, if not universally charming, ad." [HuffPost]


- The always day-destroying "7 Sites You Should Be Wasting Time On Right Now" list from HuffPost Comedy. []

- What happens when you put the lyrics to the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" theme is put through the Google Translate grinder? This. []

- A supercut of every insulting nickname from the perversely awesome "Archer." []

- Gross, but fascinating: If you apply a magnet to a bag of liquified cereal, the iron content will rise to the top. []

- KERNTYPE, a game that teaches you about kerning, the typographic process of setting the space between letters. Much more interesting than it sounds. Really. []

- Via Reddit, this RTE news report from Ireland features the most insane retelling of a crime ever. []

- Photos from inside the world's largest cave, which will be Larry Ellison's house after the rapture. []


@elisefoley: Why are we mocking the GOP for wanting to learn "successful communication with women?" All you nerds on twitter could use that, amiright?

@EricKleefeld: I'm tired of political debates about mass murdering psychopaths -- especially since the topic keeps coming up.

@pourmecoffee: GOP at retreat so you'll have to wait if you need vote cast for meaningless ideological gesture or against important actual progress.

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