POLITICS
01/30/2013 06:32 pm ET

HUFFPOST HILL - Large Man Can't Understand

Somewhere, non-Senator Designate Barney Frank is curled up in a Snuggie, binging on "Friends" and eating a wheel of brie with his hands. Still-Senator David Vitter attacked Marco Rubio over immigration, which should comfort Bob Menendez. And thanks to Senate testimony, we learned today that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is "a large man... a tall man" like Sheldon Whitehouse... or your mom packing heat. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, January 30th, 2013:

@edatpost: It begins: MT @markudall: @lisamurkowski & I ask colleagues to sit together during #SOTU 1.usa.gov/XKlEU7

AUSTERITY STRIKES AGAIN - With Zach Carter: "Lawmakers were stunned Wednesday to learn that the U.S. economy officially dove toward a double-dip recession at the end of 2012, contracting for the first time in three and a half years amid steep declines in government spending and sluggish exports. Policymakers were similarly stunned in Europe when reductions in government spending led to continued economic malaise, leading top economists there to question the logic behind austerity recommendations. European austerity programs are a major driver of the slowdown in U.S. exports, and several economists have argued that reductions in government spending, here and abroad, are almost solely responsible for the suddenly tanking economy. 'Austerity has been terrible for Britain and the rest of Europe,' said Chad Stone, an economist with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank. 'We've not been as bad as them, but we haven't given our economy the support it needs.'" [HuffPost]

Yet lawmakers don't seem too worried about the sequester.

RECKONING FOR MILITARY - Dave Wood: "For more than a decade, Congress and the Pentagon have lavished money on the nation's 1.3 million active-duty troops and their families. Salaries and benefits soared far above civilian compensation, military bases and housing were refurbished, support services like day care, family counseling and on-base college courses were expanded. Now comes the reckoning. These personnel costs, necessary and warranted for those bearing the burden of war, are threatening to wreck the military, squeezing the accounts meant to fix or replace gear worn from a decade of war, for research and development, and for new missions in, say, Africa. So stubbornly are personnel costs rising that at the current rate of increase, they would consume the entire defense budget by the year 2039, leaving well-paid troops standing around with their tanks, ships and airplanes rusting and out of gas." [HuffPost]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - D'oh: "The U.S. economy unexpectedly shrank from October through December, the first quarterly drop since 2009 and a reminder of the economy's vulnerability as automatic cuts in government spending loom. The Commerce Department said the economy shrank at an annual rate of 0.1 percent mainly because companies restocked at a slower rate and the government slashed defense spending. Those trends partly reflected uncertainty late last year about the fiscal cliff, which Congress averted in a deal reached Jan. 1. Economists say those factors could prove temporary. Still, the sharp slowdown from the 3.1 percent annual growth rate in the July-September quarter, also driven by a drop in U.S. exports, raised concerns about 2013." [AP]

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SENATE GUN CONTROL HEARING: THE ONLY WAY TO STOP A BAD GUY WITH A WAYNE LAPIERRE... Alan Fram: "In a dramatic appeal, wounded former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords urged Congress on Wednesday to enact tougher curbs on guns, saying, 'too many children are dying' without them. 'The time is now. You must act. Be bold, be courageous, Americans are counting on you,' she told the Senate Judiciary Committee at Congress'... Giffords spoke haltingly, a result of the wounds suffered when she was shot in the head in an attempted assassination two years ago that left six others dead. But in conflicting testimony a little more than an hour later, a top official of the National Rifle Association rejected bans on certain assault weapons and high capacity magazines advocated by President Barack Obama and gun control advocates in Congress. Under persistent questioning from Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the panel's chairman, the NRA's Wayne LaPierre also conceded that in a reversal, his organization no longer supports universal background checks for gun purchasers. He said criminals wouldn't subject themselves to a background check and the current system is a failure because the administration doesn't prosecute potential violators aggressively." [Associated Press]

Things got weird: "Lawyer and gun rights supporter activist Gayle Trotter gave vivid testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee at a Wednesday hearing on gun violence. Trotter, a senior fellow at the conservative Independent Women's Forum, argued that a proposed ban on assault weapons would 'disarm' vulnerable women and "put them at a severe disadvantage" in fights with multiple criminals. Trotter painted a picture of mothers under assault in their homes, and when Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) questioned the details of one example she offered, she told the lawmaker he didn't understand the issue. 'You are a large man, tall man, a tall man,' Trotter said to laughter from the audience." [HuffPost's Christina Wilkie]

LINDSEY GRAHAM TOTALLY GETS IT - Melissa Jeltsen: "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) argued at the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on gun control Wednesday that high-capacity magazines are needed to protect families. His reasoning? Without them, mothers responding to home intruders might run out of bullets. 'Would I be a reasonable American to want my family to have the 15-round magazine in a semi-automatic weapon, to make sure, if there's two intruders, she doesn't run out of bullets?' he asked. 'Am I an unreasonable person for saying that in that situation, the 15-round magazine makes sense?'" [HuffPost]

@pourmecoffee: "Gabby Giffords's Handwritten Notes for Her Testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee" bit.ly/TbADtU

The notes were written by Giffords' therapist, according to an aide.

NRA ENDORSEMENT NOT AS COOL ANYMORE? Chelsea Kiene: "The NRA's grip on politics is waning, if the open race for former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr's seat is any indication. Former congresswoman Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.), a one-time close ally of the gun advocacy organization, is now backing away from her previous unapologetic pro-Second Amendment stance, according to an email she sent to supporters Wednesday. 'I have not lobbied the NRA for an endorsement,' Halvorson promised supporters. 'I support President Obama and Vice President Biden's efforts in getting all sides to the table.'" [Soon on HuffPost]

"Video Games Are 'A Bigger Problem Than Guns,' Says Actual U.S. Senator"

Symbolism update: "The Chicago home where the late President Ronald Reagan grew up is slated to be demolished and potentially turned into a parking lot for President Obama's Library, it was revealed today." [Mail Online]

MCCAIN: BUILD THE DANGED GAY FENCE - John McCain today endorsed a plan to basically exile a bunch of gay people from our country. Too bad we don't have a Siberia or anything. Elise Foley: "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) came close on Wednesday to drawing a line in the sand over the inclusion of same-sex couples in comprehensive immigration reform. 'Which is more important: LGBT or border security?' he said at an event hosted by Politico. 'I'll tell you what my priorities are. If you're going to load it up with social issues, that is the best way to derail it, in my view.' McCain is part of an eight-member group -- four Democrats and four Republicans -- that released a framework for immigration reform on Monday. That plan does not include any mention of same-sex couples, who currently cannot petition for green cards for even their legally-married spouses under the Defense of Marriage Act." [HuffPost]

McCain and Chuck Schumer hope to garner 80 votes for the citizenship/exile the gays bill: "Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) laid out more of their group's plans on Wednesday for immigration reform, including their optimistic goal of 80 votes for a final bill in the Senate. Well, maybe. Speaking at a Politico Playbook breakfast, the two went on to admit they might be, as McCain said, a little 'Pollyanna-ish.'... He and Schumer said they want an open legislative process on immigration reform, taking the bill through committee and then onto the floor with the ability for fellow senators to offer amendments. They said they don't expect to agree on all amendments, but want to stick broadly to their framework. That could help them win over a majority of Democrats and ideally a majority of Republicans as well, McCain said." [HuffPost's Elise Foley]

VITTER ATTACKS RUBIO OVER IMMIGRATION - Could it be that Vitter is laying the groundwork for a 2016 campai--BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Sorry. Daily Caller: "Rubio in recent days has made his case on various conservative talk radio shows, including [Laura] Ingraham's, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin. But Vitter pointed to the lapses in Rubio's judgment with regards to the legalization status his proposal would offer. 'Look, I love and respect Marco,' Vitter said [on Ingraham's show Wednesday]. 'I just think he's amazingly naive on this issue. This is the same old formula we've dealt with before, including when it passed in 1986 and that is promise of enforcement and immediate amnesty. And of course, the promises of enforcement never materialize. The amnesty happens immediately, the millisecond the bill is signed into law. And the same is true here.'" [Daily Caller]

PATRICK NAMES TEMPORARY REPLACEMENT FOR KERRY'S SEAT - Sorry, drunk lady in Pink Red Sox hat, you'll have to wait until 2014. Luke Johnson: "Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) on Wednesday appointed William 'Mo' Cowan to the Senate seat vacated by newly confirmed Secretary of State John Kerry. Cowan will hold the seat in an interim capacity until an election in June. Cowan, 43, is a former chief of staff and former legal counsel to Patrick. Like Patrick, who grew up on the South Side of Chicago before attending Milton Academy, Harvard and Harvard Law, Cowan came from a poor background to Boston for education and made a career there. After growing up in poverty in rural North Carolina, Cowan went to Duke University and then Northeastern University School of Law. He never left, and became a prominent Boston lawyer. Cowan's appointment means that there will be two black senators serving together for the first time in American history. Neither were elected -- Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) was appointed in December after former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) left the chamber in the middle of his term." [HuffPost]

WHAT NEXT FOR BARNEY FRANK, THEN? Our favorite Paranoid Self-Loathing GOP Lobbyist has a job lead for Frank: He could make more than a member of Congress as an attorney with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He still wouldn't make as much as PSLGOPL, though, who's got more cash than he can even fit in all the mattresses in his house. Thanks, PSLGOPL!

@margbrennan: .@JohnKerry's first day in office as #SecState will be on Monday.

SCOTT BROWN LEANING TOWARD SENATE RUN - If the once and future senator does try to run, we hope he'll make his announcement on Twitter after downing a sixer of Sam seasonal ("massafxchyusetts citizsens aneed leadershjip adn ikm heere tooday toa asks 4 hyrour suporft!!!1"). AP: "Republican officials close to Scott Brown said Tuesday that the former U.S. senator from Massachusetts is "'eaning strongly' toward seeking a return to Washington and will likely enter the race to replace Sen. John Kerry early next week... Republican officials with knowledge of Brown's considerations said that Brown has not finalized his plans, but was 'leaning strongly toward' another Senate bid. The officials spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to share internal discussions... Brown's allies say the Republican senator is encouraged by the likelihood of a Democratic primary and the lack of a Democrat with statewide appeal." [AP]

Polling: "Brown starts out leading Markey by just 3 points in a head to head match up, 48/45. 69% of the voters currently undecided voted for Elizabeth Warren in November, while only 17% of them voted for Brown. If those folks ended up voting for the same party that they did in November, Markey would lead Brown by a point. Brown may be starting out at 48%, but it's a very hard path to 50 for him given who the undecideds are." [PPP]

FBI LOOKING INTO BOB MENENDEZ PROSTITUTION ALLEGATIONS - PRO TIP: Do everything you can to avoid even the appearance of this. Miami Herald: "FBI agents late Tuesday night raided the West Palm Beach business of an eye doctor suspected of providing free trips and even underage Dominican Republic prostitutes to U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. -- who has denied what he calls the 'fallacious allegations.' Agents gathered at the medical-office complex of Dr. Salomon Melgen, a contributor to Menendez and other prominent politicians, to start hauling away potential evidence in several vans. The investigation is believed to be focusing on Melgen's finances and the allegations about Menendez's trips and contact with prostitutes. A spokesman for Menendez could not be reached for comment, nor could Melgen." [Miami Herald]

This is probably the saddest thing we've read all week: "A 15-year-old majorette who performed at some of President Barack Obama's recent inauguration festivities has been shot to death in Chicago. Police say Hadiya Pendleton was shot in the back Tuesday in a South Side park and died at a city hospital. Authorities say Hadiya was one of about 12 teenagers sheltering from heavy rain under a canopy when a man jumped a fence, ran toward the group and opened fire. The man fled the scene in a vehicle. No arrests have been made." [AP]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Fox thinks it's a dog.

COMFORT FOOD

- Menswear Dog is a blog featuring dogs dressed up in fashionable men's clothing. Eat that, Sartorialist. [http://bit.ly/UvFeq8]

- Lance Armstrong, appropriately enough, sings Radiohead's "Creep." [http://chzb.gr/VueoBk]

- Just because, John Kerry's guest spot on "Cheers" from 1992. [http://bit.ly/WsbD1b]

- Suburban kid does really solid guitar cover of R. Kelly's "Ignition." [http://bit.ly/11azMZl]

- "Gangnam Style" presented in flipbook form. [http://bit.ly/VlTlh1]

- Sixteen of God's greatest creations to ever appear on the news. We're particularly fond of the "Writer/Wizard/Mall Santa/Rasputin impersonator." [http://huff.to/UA1pvk]

- What happens when you open a can of mixed nuts in space? It's... hypnotic. [http://bit.ly/X0LIf4]

TWITTERAMA

@sabrinasiddiqui: Sad but true. "@evanmc_s: 'The Loophole' would be a good name for a Capitol Hill bar"

@mattyglesias: Have written three separate items today that I've seen denounced on twitter as the dumbest thing you'll read today. :-(

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