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HUFFPOST HILL, sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute - Semper Femalis: Women Headed To Front Line

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Washington, D.C. is expecting an inch of snow tonight and miles of condescension via people from colder climates tomorrow. The carrot Pat Leahy is using to entice Republicans into supporting VAWA reauthorization involves giving a lot of people the stick. And now that he's grilled Hillary Clinton about Benghazi, John McCain will have to return to his other favorite pastimes: eating prunes and rewatching the CNBC ticker on his VCR. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013:

BENGHAZI: CLINTON TESTIFIES - The Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing room and that of the House Foreign Affairs committee were temporarily transformed into saunas as tremendous amounts of hot air were emitted into them. AP: "Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered fiery rejoinders Wednesday to Republican critics of the Obama administration's handling of the deadly attack on a U.S. mission in Benghazi, facing off with lawmakers who included potential 2016 presidential rivals... Clinton rejected GOP suggestions in two congressional hearings that the administration tried to mislead the country about the Sept. 11 attack that killed Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans...Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., pressed her on why 'we were misled that there were supposedly protests and something sprang out of that, an assault sprang out of that.' 'With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans,' she said, her voice rising and quivering with anger as she and Johnson spoke over each other. 'Was it because of a protest? Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided they would go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.' If Johnson's comments drew an irritated response from Clinton, she notably ignored Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., when he said he would have fired her if he had been in charge and found that she had not read cables from her team in Libya asking for more security." [AP]

Fox News' summary of Clinton's testimony may have single handedly set women's rights back two decades.

FILIBUSTER UPDATE - Sabrina Siddiqui and Mike McAuliff send word: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he has the 51 votes necessary to move forward with filibuster reform using the constitutional option, effectively increasing pressure on Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to come up with a deal that both parties can support. On Tuesday, Reid gave McConnell a deadline of 36 hours and pledged to proceed without Republicans in the absence of an agreement. If a filibuster deal is not reached, Reid will proceed with a package that will shift the burden by requiring the minority party to come up with 41 votes to maintain a filibuster. Both Reid and McConnell have shielded the details of their negotiations from the press, but a Senate Democratic aide said a deal among the two leaders will probably look like the bipartisan, scaled-back proposal introduced by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.). The rules reform was set to be the major topic of discussion at a Thursday democratic caucus lunch."

LEAHY TRIES TO TRAP GOP ON VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT - This guy hangs out with Batman, so he knows a thing or two about outfoxing opponents. Jen Bendery: "Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) unveiled their VAWA bill on Tuesday. Just like their legislation last year, the bill would reauthorize the law and add new protections for members of the LGBT community and Native American women. It also adds a new provision that provides for audits of untested rape kits and gives law enforcement resources to help reduce the backlog of rape kits. The biggest change is that their bill nixes a proposal to increase the number of available U visas; that is, visas for immigrant victims of violence. The provision was a key piece of Leahy's bill last year, but his decision to take it out was strategic: It means House Republican leaders can no longer accuse him of having a 'blue slip' problem. The term refers to an obscure practice the House can use to kill a bill that originates in the Senate if it raises revenue. The Constitution requires that all revenue-generating bills originate in the House." [HuffPost]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Some kind of glitch, or possibly a new policy -- it's hard to tell -- is holding up jobless benefits for a lot of people in New Mexico. "Thousands of New Mexicans are calling on Gov. Susana Martinez to help them get their unemployment checks three weeks after problems cropped up at the Department of Workforce Solutions. The bills are due, and Mary Montoya said she doesn't have enough money to pay them. Montoya, like thousands of other New Mexicans, has not received her unemployment benefits. 'It's hard to ask your kids to help you pay your bills,' Montoya said. 'There's people who are going to be out here in the cold.' She hasn't received her benefits because she must prove she is looking for work and qualify for benefits in order to keep getting an extension from the federal government. When Montoya tried to do that by going online, she kept getting kicked out of the website. When she called, she said she was put on hold for seven-and-a-half hours. [KOAT.com]

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WE CAN SHOOT IT: DEFENSE LIFTS BAN ON WOMEN IN COMBAT... WOMEN CAN KEEP BEING IN COMBAT - America is now one step closer to realizing the Founders' dream of having our reality resemble that of "Starship Troopers." Now we just need to find some slimy aliens hell-bent on our destruction. AP: " Senior defense officials say Pentagon chief Leon Panetta is removing the military's ban on women serving in combat, opening hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs after more than a decade at war. The groundbreaking move recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff overturns a 1994 rule banning women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units. Panetta's decision gives the military services until January 2016 to seek special exceptions if they believe any positions must remain closed to women." [AP]

HOUSE PASSES DEBT CEILING SUSPENSION - The measure includes the "No Budget No Pay" provision which will really hinder Jay Rockefeller's attempts to spruce up the antechambers in his Rock Creek Park mansion. Congress is so dumb sometimes. Sabrina Siddiqui and Mike McAuliff: "The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to raise the nation's debt ceiling by an unspecified amount, suspending the federal government's restriction on borrowing until late May. The legislation passed the lower chamber by 285 to 144, with nearly three dozen Republicans opposing the measure. It includes something of a stunt -- a provision to force the Senate to write a budget by suspending lawmakers' pay unless they pass a spending resolution. The "No Budget No Pay" provision is largely symbolic, since Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash) already has pledged to write a budget -- something that the Senate has not done for nearly four years, largely for political reasons." [HuffPost]

As Jason Linkins points out, if you can just "suspend" it, wtf have we been arguing about all this time?

ARORA ADDRESSES EPIC GAY MARRIAGE LIE BY NOT ADDRESSING IT - Sam Arora is a Democratic lawmaker in Maryland who ran on a campaign to support gay marriage, then voted against it once he got into office, putting him on the opposite side of history, Maryland voters, his donors, his constituents and civil rights. How does somebody recovery their dignity or political capital after that sort of display? Arora thinks he's found it: He's now working to ban high school employees from having sex with students, and opposes driving drunk with kids in the car. Can Profiles in Courage be updated with a new forward on this guy? Or will he end up voting against his own bill? For the first time since his craven betrayal, he was asked publicly about the gay marriage vote. He responded exactly as you'd expect a person like him to. [Washington Blade]

Ben Nelson is going to have a difficult depositing all this money in the ATM machines he's unfamiliar with: "Former Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) on Wednesday revealed he would earn nearly $1 million per year in his new job as chief executive of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). Nelson, a centrist Democrat who retired from the Senate in January, told reporters on a press call that he does not plan to lobby the government as leader of the organization. That will be left to the association’s staff, he said, according to Insurance Journal." Of course! [The Hill]

SENATE REPUBLICANS CONFLICTED ABOUT BACKGROUND CHECKS - Asked by HuffPost's Jen Bendery about whether they'd support comprehensive background checks on gun purchasers, GOP senators responded as if asked whether they'd still love their spouses after being found guilty of murder: "Ask a Senate Republican if he or she supports an assault weapons ban and you'll likely get a 'no.' But ask about tighter background checks -- one of the few items in President Barack Obama's gun violence package with a shot at passing Congress -- and you'll likely get a vague response about needing more information, if you get a response at all. 'Uh, I don't know what you mean,' said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who then ended the conversation by turning around and walking into a room where senators were having lunch, closing the door behind him. 'I need to have more details. I, you know, I just need -- you need to ask me after I've talked to our judiciary staff in our office,' said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), also heading to the Senate lunch. 'I hate to respond just in the hallway, so I won't.' 'I've got -- my wife's here. I'm sorry. I've gotta -- thanks,' said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)." [HuffPost]

@froomkin: Can't be both! Is K Street living through lean times? (Politico) http://bit.ly/VjOX5u Or flooded with cash? (BuzzFeed) http://bit.ly/XFRp39

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THUGGERY AT ALL TIME LOW: REPORT - Dave Jamison: "Driven by widespread job losses in the public sector, the number of American workers belonging to a labor union has dropped to a record low, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2012, the rate of union membership in the public sector fell by more than a full percentage point, from 37 to 35.9 percent of workers, while in the private sector it dropped from 6.9 to 6.6 percent. The combined rate of American workers now belonging to a union stands at 11.3 percent, down from 11.8 the previous year and the lowest figure ever since the bureau started collecting the data in 1983, when the rate was 20.1 percent. Much of the precipitous fall in the public sector can be attributed to layoffs, particularly in public education and local government, where teachers and municipal workers are often unionized. Public-sector layoffs have been a major drag on the economic recovery, with more than half a million such jobs having vanished since the Great Recession began." [HuffPost]

One of John Boehner's colleauges responded today to questions about what the speaker said Monday that made Michelle Obama roll her eyes. Our money is still on an "amirite?" being thrown into the mix. "He said, 'I have no clue what that was about,'" Louisiana's John Fleming told Yahoo News. "He said they were just having a casual conversation. He said he doesn't know why she rolled her eyes. It was nothing they were communicating on that would be a reason to do that, so he's not sure. Maybe she heard something else. He was speculating that maybe there was another conversation she was hearing." [Yahoo News]

@StevenTDennis: Boehner: Maybe she (FLOTUS) was rolling her eyes at something Schumer had to say

What is Barack Hussein hiding? "White House Press Secretary Jay Carney mocked reporters for asking him about reports that Beyonce lip-synced through the National Anthem at Monday's ceremonial inauguration." [BuzzFeed]

THE ARC OF HISTORY IS LONG BUT IT BENDS TOWARD BLOWING CRAP UP - Last week, the Air Force's Global Strike Command published
"Dr. King's Dream for the Global Strike Team," a blog post that recasts the slain civil rights leader and anti-war activist as a philosophical founding father of terror from above. "Dr. King would be proud to see our Global Strike team - comprised of Airmen, civilians and contractors from every race, creed, background and religion - standing side-by-side ensuring the most powerful weapons in the U.S. arsenal remain the credible bedrock of our national defense," the post reads. "Our team must overlook our differences to ensure perfection as we maintain and operate our weapon systems... Maintaining our commitment to our Global Strike team, our families and our nation is a fitting tribute to Dr. King as we celebrate his legacy." When Northrop Grumman publishes a tribute to the life and message of Mohandas Gandhi, we'll let you know. [AFGSC]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Wanna impress that special someone? Here's a quick guide to the perfect cocktail.

'ALICE' RETURNS TO DC: HuffPost DC: "Following last spring's Washington Ballet performance of "Alice," the Kennedy Center is once again staging the Lewis Carroll classic. TheNational Ballet of Canada is in the midst of Christopher Wheeldon’s "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."." [HuffPost]

COMFORT FOOD

- Cat is fed up with Alistar the Dachshund's shenanigans. [http://huff.to/WmB7dC]

- R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion" reset in a major key. Michael Stipe's deep-seated ennui? GONE. [http://huff.to/ThnMHZ]

- This timelapse video captures one woman's male to female transition over three years. [http://bit.ly/UUUzPX]

- North Korean video games are incredibly odd -- and have just mastered the technology behind Super Nintendo. [http://bit.ly/VUSy7F]

- Is your cat lacking a certain... mythical quality? This inflatable unicorn horn will do the trick. [http://bit.ly/WIceK6]

- Sometimes R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" suits the moment perfectly, like during a high school basketball team's championship celebration. And sometimes your hang glider crashes after takeoff. [http://chzb.gr/UivDCU]

- This hamster that devours a pretzel stick is the Nathan's hot dog eating champion of the rodent world. [http://bit.ly/XzjLKo]

TWITTERAMA

@TheMatthewKeys: Two journalists walk into a bar. No joke there, most journalists drink. It's sad.

@marklisanti: Every time I see a retweet, I immediately check that person's bio to determine if it constitutes a professional endorsement.

@TERKELRAGE: Sipping tea and deciphering Jeff Jarvis' muffled screams as he wiggles around the floor of my chalet, bound and gagged.#Davos2013

ON TAP

TONIGHT

6:00 pm: Like a five-day weather forecast on the eve of the apocalypse, the DSCC hosts a fundraiser for its potentially disastrous 2014 campaigns. DSCC Chair Michael Bennet, Mark Udall, Carl Levin, Patty Murray, Jeff Merkley and Dick Durbin put on a strong face and ask for your money. [Bistro Bis, 15 E Street NW]

TOMORROW

8:30 am: Sophomore BIll Huizenga takes a break from calling people in the back of a car and hosting constituent meetings in his crappy office to get up for a morning fundraiser. Congress: You gotta really want it. [419 New Jersey Ave SE]

12:00 pm: David Vitter, who must have sent Scott Desjarlais a supportive note during the 2012 campaign because... c'mon, is the guest of honor at a luncheon benefitting his reelection campaign. [Capitol Hill Club, 300 First Street SE]

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