POLITICS
01/24/2013 05:34 pm ET Updated Mar 26, 2013

HUFFPOST HILL, sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute - Senate Productivity Upgraded From 'Deadlock' To 'Impasse'

Once upon a time, High Capacity Magazine was the Choom Gang's favorite publication; now it's in the Obama administration's crosshairs. Code Pink scored a huge victory today when one of its flies landed on President Obama's face during a televised statement. And now that Chris Christie and Mark Zuckerberg are pals, the likelihood of the "poke" button being replaced with a "rib jab" module is skyrocketing. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, January 24th, 2013:

BIDEN: HIGH CAPACITY MAG BAN TRUMPS ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN - Christina Wilkie: "Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that he is "much less concerned" with the dangers posed by assault weapons than he is about high-capacity gun magazines, possibly offering an early window into the Obama administration's priorities in the upcoming gun control debate on Capitol Hill. 'More people out there get shot with a Glock that has cartridges in a [high-capacity magazines],' said Biden, chair of a White House task force to develop violence prevention proposals, during an online Google+ chat. 'I'm much less concerned, quite frankly, with what you'd call an 'assault weapon' than I am with magazines, and the number of rounds that can be held in a magazine.' A Glock is a type of semi-automatic pistol. Biden acknowledged that a proliferation of military-style assault weapons posed a danger especially to law enforcement officers who are 'outgunned' by criminals with these guns. But it was clear that the vice president, who called himself 'a sportsman' with two shotguns, was more concerned with the size of gun magazines." [HuffPost]

HOUSE GOP THROWS BRUSHBACK PITCH AT CEOs - Zach Carter and HuffPost Hill: House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) is considering introducing legislation that would significantly increase the taxes paid by the nation's largest banks while providing tax breaks to struggling homeowners. The legislation, which is currently in discussion draft format would draw vehement opposition from Wall Street and other major corporations that trade heavily in derivatives. They may have only themselves to blame. Congressional Republicans have been furious at the top corporate executives who've been lobbying heavily for a "grand bargain" that would include tax hikes and cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, according to congressional GOP insiders. GOP leaders were further piqued when business leaders began lobbying for certain corporate tax reforms, leading to a sharply worded letter from Camp to the Business Roundtable. One Republican operative told HuffPost that the bill was political payback for the CEO's collaboration with the Fix the Debt coalition, which worked with a group of corporate CEOs who had pressured the GOP to accept tax increases as part of a deal to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff" at the close of 2012. "This transaction tax was only a matter of time after Camp's letter to the Business Roundtable," the operative said. "In just a few months their lobbying campaign has resulted in Republicans initiating new revenues on their backs. Maybe the CEOs can kill it by Democrats insisting the taxes aren't high enough."

It's official: Women can keep serving in combat zones: "The military services began racing Thursday to open jobs across the armed forces to women, a historic change that likely will put more women into direct combat in Afghanistan and in any future conflicts... 'Today Gen. Dempsey and I are pleased to announce that we are eliminating the ground combat exclusion rule for women and moving forward with a plan to eliminate all gender-based barriers to service,' [Defense Secretary Leon] Panetta said in the official announcement of the policy change at the Pentagon." [HuffPost's Dave Wood and Molly O'Toole]

JON FAVREAU DISCUSSES THE INAUGURAL ADDRESS - Washington's fourth-most handsome wordsmith spoke to Sam Stein about the process behind crafting one the introductory speeches of the president's second term: "In his first interview since helping write the president's second inaugural address, Jon Favreau... said [the speech] would probably be one of the last he will write in his current post... The process started in early December. After sharing ideas with the president, Favreau looked back at a number of second inaugural addresses to figure out what has worked in the past... He also gathered a dozen or so of Obama's best addresses -- 'a binder full of speeches' -- and mined them for inspiration, memorable turns of phrase and compelling themes. At the top of the list was the commencement speech Obama delivered at Knox College as a senator in 2005, when he spoke generally about the need for collective action in a global society... Two Sundays before the speech, Favreau had a draft. From there, he and the president continued to exchange edits. Obama jotted down his thoughts -- longhand and with small, neat penmanship -- on a yellow notepad, a mild irritant for the speechwriting team...The night before the inauguration, Obama was done editing. All that was left were words to underline so that they'd get proper emphasis in the delivery." [HuffPost]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Womp womp. Chelsea Kiene: "New Hampshire state Republicans have introduced a bill with a strict message for welfare applicants: If you can't pass a drug test, you won't receive benefits. The bill, co-sponsored by Reps. Donald LeBrun (R-Nashua) and Jeanine Notter (R-Merrimack), would mandate that welfare applicants first submit a clean drug testbefore receiving assistance under the federally funded Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Republicans in other states have proposed a plethora of similar schemes in recent years, with hardly any becoming law. '[There are] people who have worked and paid taxes their whole lives and get no help when they need it,' Notter wrote in an email to The Huffington Post, explaining the reasoning behind the bill. 'Meanwhile, there are those who know how to work the system and to get free stuff. There are many loopholes in the system.'" [HuffPost]

UPSIDE DOWNER - Christopher Rugaber: "The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell last week to the lowest level in five years, evidence that employers are cutting fewer jobs and may step up hiring. The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly unemployment benefit applications dropped 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 330,000. That's the fewest since January 2008." [Associated Press]

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REID AND MCCONNELL REACH FILIBUSTER AGREEMENT - Sadly, the two leaders didn't agree to a provision where senators get 5 percent off their filibuster requirements if they sing their support for a given bill -- you know, like one of those quirky froyo joints. That'd be wicked awesome. With Sam Stein: "The pressure from the liberal senators... created the political space for Reid to cut the deal with McConnell, which includes changes to how the Senate operates but leaves a fundamental feature, the silent filibuster, in place. The deal will address the filibuster on the motion to proceed by changing the amount of debate time that would follow a cloture vote from 30 hours to four, speeding up Senate business and allowing more legislation to reach the floor. But the deal still requires Democrats to muscle 60 votes to invoke cloture on that motion... An alternate route to get past the motion to proceed will be implemented as a change to the rules, and a filibuster on the motion would be barred if the majority can find eight members of the minority, including the minority leader, to sign a petition. But Democrats already have 55 members in their caucus, five short of the 60 needed to end a filibuster, so it's unclear what the purpose of getting three additional Republicans would be. Under the agreement, the minority party will be able to offer two amendments on each bill, a major concession to Republicans...The new rules will also make it easier for the majority to appoint conferees once a bill has passed...The new rules will only allow two hours to pass after cloture is invoked before a nominee is confirmed." [HuffPost]

Progressives are not exactly happy with the outcome, and not just because the singing discount provision wasn't included. Mike McAuliff: "Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) warned President Barack Obama that he 'might as well take a four-year vacation' if the Senate fails to pass real filibuster reform-- and the plan being unveiled Thursday by Senate leaders doesn't qualify, the veteran lawmaker said. 'It's a baby step. Really, it's a baby baby step,' Harkin told reporters Thursday before heading into a caucus meeting on the filibuster plan." [HuffPost]

WALL STREET REFORM ACTIVISTS PLEASED WITH OBAMA'S SEC PICK - After the shock of seeing the grotesquely deformed hybrid spawn of Alan Grayson and Eric Schneiderman subsided, activists lauded President Obama's decision to appoint this terrifying fusion of science and madness to lead the SEC. Mark Gongloff: "President Obama's expected pick of former U.S. prosecutor Mary Jo White to be the nation's top securities watchdog is widely being taken as signaling a crackdown on Wall Street crime. But there are red flags, in White's past statements and in her work for bankers as a lawyer in private practice, that raise some doubts about just how zealous an investor protector she will be... White has for the past decade represented banks and bankers as head of litigation at the New York law firm Debevoise & Plimpton. In more than 10 years as one of New York's most sought-after white-collar defense attorneys, White represented a long list of corporate titans, including former Bank of America chief executive Ken Lewis and, in 2005, Morgan Stanley, which hired her to vet John Mack, a prospective CEO." [HuffPost]

The Secret Service is really letting its guard down: "A pesky Musca domestica (per pooler Brian Beutler of Talking Points Memo) landed on the president's face during a press conference Thursday to announce his picks to head the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Obama swatted at the fly a couple of times, and the official White House transcript records, 'This guy is bothering me here--(swatting at a fly.)' The insect eventually left the commander in chief alone." [Yahoo News]

UN TO INVESTIGATE US DRONES - This will end with a strongly worded memo that an entry level State Department staffer will spot under their Diet Slice, laugh at, crumple up into a ball and toss into their trash can basketball hoop. Josh Hersh: "The United Nations opened a major new investigation on Thursday into the United States' use of drones and targeted assassinations. The U.N. investigation, led by special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights Ben Emmerson, is expected to focus on the legal justification for America's expansive drone program, which has largely remained secretive and unexamined. 'The exponential rise in the use of drone technology in a variety of military and non-military contexts represents a real challenge to the framework of established international law,' Emmerson said in a statement released by his office. Human rights observers have long objected to the use of drones to target suspected terrorists because they often result in wider civilian deaths than administration officials have acknowledged. But more practical concerns -- about the legality and efficacy of the program, as well as the White House's lack of transparency -- have also been growing." [HuffPost]

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WILL THAT DOG HUNT? DEMS EYEING TEXAS - If President Obama suddenly puts on 60 pounds, begins wearing Wrangler jeans and is seen driving around in in a Ford F-150 littered with James Coney Island wrappers, this is why. Politico: "National Democrats are taking steps to create a large-scale independent group aimed at turning traditionally conservative Texas into a prime electoral battleground, crafting a new initiative to identify and mobilize progressive voters in the rapidly-changing state, strategists familiar with the plans told Politico. The organization, dubbed 'Battleground Texas,' plans to engage the state's rapidly growing Latino population, as well as African-American voters and other Democratic-leaning constituencies that have been underrepresented at the ballot box in recent cycles. Two sources said the contemplated budget would run into the tens of millions of dollars over several years - a project Democrats hope has enough heft to help turn what has long been an electoral pipe dream into reality. At the center of the effort is Jeremy Bird, formerly the national field director for President Barack Obama's reelection campaign, who was in Austin last week to confer with local Democrats about the project." [Politico]

@mateagold: Amazing stat in #OFALegacy report: Obama's 34 million Facebook friends are friends with +98% of US-based Facebook

Ben Nelson is cashing out so fast he might actually experience time at a slower rate than the rest of us. Omaha World-Herald: After more than 30 years of owning Berkshire Hathaway stock, former Sen. Ben Nelson sold it all last year, in part out of tax considerations. Nelson was asked Wednesday during a conference call with reporters about potential conflicts of interest with his personal finances given his new job as CEO of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners... Nelson and his wife, Diane, owned more than $1.5 million in Berkshire stock, according to his most recent personal financial disclosure statement... Capital gains tax rates are going up for those with incomes of more than $450,000 a year. Nelson's salary will be $950,000." [World Herald]

MITT ROMNEY VISITS DC - The former Republican presidential candidate and his wife will brave a trip on an airplane without retractable windows and potentially filled with LMFAO members tomorrow. We wish them Godspeed. CNN: "After choosing not to attend his former rival's inauguration, Mitt Romney, along with wife Ann, is headed to Washington at the end of the week. The pair will attend a reception in their honor Friday hosted by philanthropist Catherine Reynolds and businessman Bill Marriott Jr., according to a former aide to the governor. CNN has also learned the Romneys are expected to attend the prestigious, black tie Alfalfa Dinner, scheduled for Saturday, while in the nation's capital." [CNN]

We can't wait for the Susan B. Anthony List protesters to show up with "CRIME SCENE DO NOT CROSS" tape wrapped around their bellies. Laura Bassett: "A Republican lawmaker in New Mexico introduced a bill on Wednesday that would legally require victims of rape to carry their pregnancies to term in order to use the fetus as evidence for a sexual assault trial. House Bill 206, introduced by state Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R), would charge a rape victim who ended her pregnancy with a third-degree felony for 'tampering with evidence.' ... Third-degree felonies in New Mexico carry a sentence of up to three years in prison." [HuffPost]

ZUCKERBERG HOLDING FUNDRAISER FOR CHRISTIE - Someone needs to make a comic book out of this. BuzzFeed: "Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg will host a fundraiser next month in his Palo Alto home for Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, both camps confirmed to BuzzFeed. Christie, who is up for reelection this year, first met Zuckerberg in 2010, when the Silicon Valley billionaire donated $100 million to Newark public schools. But the backing from Facebook's chairman and chief executive offers far more than money: It is a mark of how Christie, almost alone among his party, has emerged as the sort of natural figure who can cut deep into traditionally Democratic constituencies, like powerful young tech magnates. Since 2010, when Zuckerberg, Christie, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker went on Oprah Winfrey's talk show to announce the donation to Newark's schools, the three men have worked together on advancing a local education agenda, earning the praise of reformers, and ruffling teachers unions. Along the way, Zuckerberg became a fan of Christie, and as the governor geared up for his 2013 reelection bid, the tech mogul approached the campaign about helping to get him another term, said Christie strategist Michael DuHaime." [BuzzFeed]

YALE MEN EXCHANGE BARBS - Top drawer! Mumsy will enjoy this! Nick Wing: "Earlier this month, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas spoke at oral argument for the first time since February of 2006, breaking nearly seven years of silence. While the occasion was historic, initial reports of Thomas' remark suggested that the words he uttered actually weren't. With the release of the Supreme Court's complete transcript, we now know that he said more than simply, 'Well -- he did not.' But not much more. According to the document, oral arguments in Boyer v. Louisiana were proceeding on Jan. 14 when Thomas felt inclined to weigh in during discussion about the academic credentials of the lawyers who were at issue in the case... 'Well, there -- see, he did not provide good counsel,' Thomas, a Yale graduate, chimed in referring to one of the lawyers in question. It's still unclear whether Thomas was taking a swipe at rival Harvard, or perhaps at Yale itself." [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - What, you've never seen Shetland ponies wearing sweaters?

COMFORT FOOD

- A cantankerous gent explains in this short film why it was impossible to fake the moon landing. [http://bit.ly/XySEyn]

- Prince Harry really, REALLY likes ice cream. [http://bit.ly/WnoPS8]

- So, do you know anything about techno? This scene from 1996's "Vibrations" explains the ins and outs of this totally tubular musical genre. [http://chzb.gr/WgeLxg]

- There were a lot of things wrong with the movie "Avatar." [http://bit.ly/XZCVLw]

- A slideshow debrief on some of the more ridiculous things happening in Japan right now. [http://huff.to/10C7RRI]

- If emails like this take him to court, Google's Eric Schmidt might want to familiarize himself with the Fifth Amendment. [http://read.bi/WWxCtN]

- "Ten things cats are secretly obsessed with." [http://bit.ly/XygdHJ]

TWITTERAMA

@samungar: WH Harrison, and he'll drop dead 20 secs into every race RT @aterkel MT @News8NewsTalk: @Nationals say There will be a 5th racing President.

@BillWeirABC: "It was you, Fredo McCain"? RT @rickklein John Kerry just made a Godfather Part II reference in his testimony. I did not see that coming.

@toddzwillich: sounds like a terrible cereal RT @JeffFlake: Cuba flake

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