John Boehner says he doesn't want to spend taxpayer money on cigarettes, even though we're pretty sure he's paid in Marlboro cartons. Speaking of cigarette currency, Jesse Jackson Jr. is going to jail after pleading guilty to wire and mail fraud. And Ashley Judd met with DSCC officials, which either means she's seriously considering a Senate run or Michael Bennet's obsession with "Double Jeopardy" is getting weird. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, February 20th, 2013:
JOHN BOEHNER IS TIRED OF LETTING MACHINES HAVE ALL THE CIGARETTES - With Sabrina Siddiqui: "Republican leaders in Congress complain that President Barack Obama wants to keep raising taxes instead of joining the GOP in a plan to replace ill-advised spending cuts set to take effect on March 1. Even worse, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, Obama won't even end such obvious government extravagance as 'paying people to play video games, giving folks free cellphones, and buying $47,000 cigarette-smoking machines.' Is the government really wasting money on that stuff? Depends on the definition of 'waste.' Sometimes a small investment now can reap big savings later. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is one agency that's got a smoking machine. But it turns out researchers there aren't using the device for amusement or to belabor the well-known dangers of smoking; they're using it to test new treatments for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is commonly caused by smoking and is the third leading cause of death in the United States." [HuffPost]
Is this what Boehner wants you to think a smoking machine looks like?
FLORIDA GOV'T REACHES MEDICAID WAIVER AGREEMENT WITH FEDS - Tampa Bay Times: "Hours after the federal government agreed to grant Florida a conditional waiver to privatize Medicaid statewide, Gov. Rick Scott... [endorsed] a plan to conditionally expand the health care program to about 1 million Floridians or more... Scott previously has said that Florida cannot expand Medicaid unless the federal government approves the state's plan to privatize the system... The privatization plan expands on a five-county pilot program that has been rife with problems. Critics worry for-profit providers are scrimping on patient care and denying medical services to increase profits. Some doctors have dropped out of the pilot program, complaining of red tape and that the insurers deny the tests and medicine they prescribe. Patients have complained they struggled to get doctor's appointments. Several health plans also dropped out of the pilot program, saying they couldn't make enough money. Patients complained they were bounced from plan to plan with lapses in care. Nearly half of the 200,000 patients enrolled in the pilot have been dropped from at least one plan, federal health officials noted at one point during negotiations." [Tampa Bay Times]
LISA JACKSON AND TURDUCKEN-GATE - Free Beacon: "The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its second batch of emails from former administrator Lisa Jackson's secret email address Friday, but the researcher who sued the agency to obtain the records says it improperly redacted nearly all of the information... Among the redacted information was an email from EPA General Counsel Scott Fulton to Jackson in which he inquired about the existence of turducken -- a meat dish in which chicken is stuffed in a duck, which is then stuffed in a turkey. 'Separate and more important question: is there such a thing as a turduckin [sic] (a New Orleans dish)? Was [REDACTED] and they mentioned this. Not sure if they were pulling my leg.'... However, government watchdogs contend Jackson's use of a secret email address is a possible violation of federal record laws. 'Administrator Jackson's practice of using fictitious email accounts to conduct official EPA business, shielding the contents from public view, conflicts directly with her responsibility to follow federal records law,' saidCitizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) Executive Director Melanie Sloan in a statement." [Free Beacon]
DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - If the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration take effect as expected at the beginning of March, long-term unemployed Americans receiving federal unemployment insurance will see their weekly benefit checks reduced by 9.4 percent. "Affected long-term unemployed individuals would lose an average of more than $400 in benefits that they and their families count on while they search for another job," the White House said recently on its website. "Smaller unemployment checks will also have a negative impact on the economy as a whole," the White House said. "Economists have estimated that every dollar in unemployment benefits generates $2 in economic activity." [HuffPost]
DOUBLE DOWNER - After March 1, low-income seniors will receive 400 million fewer meals from federally-assisted charities. More than half a million women and children will be dropped from a nutrition program. Roughly 125,000 families will see their rental assistance threatened, and more than 100,000 formerly homeless Americans may be tossed out on the streets.
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IS OBAMA'S MIN WAGE PROPOSAL TOO SMALL? Don't worry, Mr. President. Happens to lotsa guys. Dave Jamieson: "As the White House developed its new proposal to raise the federal minimum wage, there was at least one core constituency of President Obama's that was largely left out of the loop on the plan: organized labor. Labor unions by tradition are one of the loudest voices advocating for a higher minimum wage, believing it will help spur wage growth not just for the working poor but for all workers. The White House's proposal last week to raise the wage floor from $7.25 to $9 by 2015 and peg it to inflation caught many labor officials by surprise -- in most cases, pleasant surprise, given the president's relative silence on the issue during his first term. But others have voiced concern off-the-record that the White House's proposal comes with too low a number. Despite the general applause by progressives, labor activists who follow the issue closely recall that on the campaign trail in 2008 Obama stumped for having a minimum wage of $9.50 by the end of 2011." [HuffPost]
PRESIDENT GOLFS WITH OIL EXECS DURING ENVIRONMENTAL PROTEST - Or, put another way, the president delivered Michael Moore the opening scene of his next movie on a silver platter. Lucia Graves and Paul Blumenthal: "On the same weekend that 40,000 people gathered on the Mall in Washington to protest construction of the Keystone Pipeline -- to its critics, a monument to carbon-based folly -- President Obama was golfing in Florida with a pair of Texans who are key oil, gas and pipeline players. Obama has not shied away from supporting domestic drilling, especially for relatively clean natural gas, but in his most recent State of the Union speech he stressed the urgency of addressing climate change by weaning the country and the world from dependence on carbon-based fuels...But on his first 'guys weekend' away since he was reelected, the president chose to spend his free time with Jim Crane and Milton Carroll, leading figures in the Texas oil and gas industry, along with other men who run companies that deal in the same kinds of carbon-based services that Keystone would enlarge. They hit the links at the Floridian Yacht and Golf Club, which is owned by Crane and located on the Treasure Coast in Palm City, Fla." [HuffPost]
ROMNEY TO APPEAR AT CPAC - The conservative movement's Stockholm syndrome-like hold over the former Republican presidential candidate is now complete. He's supporting the hostages. National Review: "Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will appear at the Conservative Political Action Conference next month, according to two sources familiar with the event's itinerary. Romney's speech, which will be delivered at the Gaylord National hotel in Prince George's County, Md., marks the former Massachusetts governor's return to the political scene. After he lost the presidential election, Romney decamped to his beachfront home in La Jolla, Calif. But friends say he has become somewhat restless, and he's eager to contribute to the national debate. Sources say he'll likely focus on economic and fiscal issues, and that his message will be optimistic. 'This is really an opportunity for Governor Romney to thank all his supporters and friends,' says a senior Romney aide." [National Review]
CHUCK HAGEL IS NOT A FRIEND OF HAMAS: GUY WHO TOLD JOKE ABOUT CHUCK HAGEL BEING A FRIEND OF HAMAS - You know those security announcements at the airport warning that jokes about could lead to your arrest? Next time it might also include a caveat about derailing cabinet nominations. Daily News' Dan Friedman: "The revelation could have doomed President Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense: He gave a paid speech to a group called 'Friends of Hamas.' Fortunately for Hagel, this claim, which galloped across the Internet, was bogus. I know, because I was the unwitting source...Here's what happened: When rumors swirled that Hagel received speaking fees from controversial organizations, I attempted to check them out. On Feb. 6, I called a Republican aide on Capitol Hill with a question: Did Hagel's Senate critics know of controversial groups that he had addressed? Hagel was in hot water for alleged hostility to Israel. So, I asked my source, had Hagel given a speech to, say, the 'Junior League of Hezbollah, in France'? And: What about 'Friends of Hamas'? The names were so over-the-top, so linked to terrorism in the Middle East, that it was clear I was talking hypothetically and hyperbolically. No one could take seriously the idea that organizations with those names existed -- let alone that a former senator would speak to them." [Daily News]
JACKSON JR. PLEADS GUILTY - Ryan Reilly : "Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) pleaded guilty in a federal courtroom Wednesday morning to using campaign funds to purchase an array of personal items including Bruce Lee memorabilia, a $43,000 Rolex watch and a mink cashmere cape. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy before U.S. District Judge Robert L. Wilkins. His wife, Sandra Jackson, who resigned from her position on Chicago's city council, is expected to plead guilty to filing false tax returns before the same judge on Wednesday afternoon...He acknowledged he 'used money that shouldn't have been used,' calling the government's statement accurate and saying he had 'no interest in wasting the taxpayers' time or money.'... Additional records disclosed Wednesday revealed that expenses charged by Jackson and his wife to his campaign included $4,272.78 on the Navigator of the Seas cruise, $2,306.08 at Walt Disney World, over $10,000 at Best Buy, over $300 at Build-A-Bear, $3,544.00 at Mariel's Boutique, and $5,687.75 on Martha's Vineyard Holistic Retreat. The personal expenses at nightclubs and lounges topped $60,000, while personal dry-cleaning expenses topped $14,000." [HuffPost]
Speaking of corruption: "Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, the brash spokesman for the city inundated by Hurricane Katrina, is expected to plead not guilty in federal court on Wednesday to charges that he accepted kickbacks in exchange for city contracts. It will be Nagin's first appearance in court -- and his first public appearance in the city he led for eight years -- since a federal grand jury handed down a 21-count public corruption indictment in January. The charges include bribery, wire fraud, filing false tax returns, conspiracy and money laundering." [Reuters]
ASHLEY JUDD MEETS WITH DSCC - Two of America's most charismatic -- and drop dead gorgeous, if we do say so ourselves -- people, Ashley Judd and Michael Bennet, together at last. Politico: "Actress Ashley Judd privately met with officials at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in Washington earlier this week, as she continues to weigh whether to mount a Senate run against Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, according to two sources familiar with the session. According to one person familiar with the matter, Tuesday's meeting marked Judd's first formal one with officials at the DSCC, which coordinates strategy, recruits and fundraises on behalf of Senate Democratic candidates. DSCC officials refused to comment, saying they would not discuss candidate recruitment. The meeting indicates that the Hollywood movie star and eighth-generation Kentuckian is still seriously weighing a political foray after spending the last several years as an outspoken environmental and liberal activist. But sources said it remains uncertain whether Judd wants to leave acting to take on the Senate minority leader, who is the Democrats' top target in 2014 when he runs for a sixth term."
The Land of Milk and Honey and water packaged in one-off containers of polyethylene terephthalate: "Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Wednesday, where the two toasted [water] to the Florida Republican's now famous on-screen dip and sip during his GOP State of the Union rebuttal. No mini Poland Spring bottles this time. According to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the two politicians talked about more than awkward on-air travails. Netanyahu expressed his gratitude for Rubio's pro-Israel record." [HuffPost's Nick Wing]
DRONE MANUFACTURERS TRYING TO REVAMP IMAGE - Maybe they could pull a "House of Cards" and airdrop a bunch of barbecue on war weary Afghan villagers? Preston Maddock: "As the debate over drone warfare rages on, the drone industry is worried it's getting a bad name. 'There is fear amongst the general public about what these systems are capable of,' said Gretchen West, a spokesperson for the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a drone advocacy organization. 'Industry doesn't agree with current public thinking.' Fears about drones have been reignited in recent weeks by new information about the Obama administration's use of drones to kill al Qaeda suspects abroad, including American citizens. But industry insiders like West argue that, in the future, drones will be more commonly used for non-lethal, non-military purposes, in fields such as agriculture, media coverage, oil and gas pipeline monitoring and mining. Indeed, industry insiders even shy away from the commonly used term 'drones,' preferring to refer to them as 'unmanned aerial systems.'" [HuffPost]
FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF ENRON FIELD - Chris Kirkham: "For more than two years, Florida Atlantic University has been searching for the name of a corporate sponsor to adorn its new 30,000-seat, palm-ringed football stadium. The public university on Tuesday announced an unconventional partner: the nation's second-largest operator of for-profit prisons, the GEO Group Inc. The newly christened GEO Group Stadium came as part of a $6 million donation from the prison company's charitable foundation, which will be paid out to Florida Atlantic over 12 years." [HuffPost]
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Selfless springer spaniel feeds a lamb some milk.
MARION BARRY'S HOUSE IS FOR SALE - Realtor set you up! HuffPost DC:
"Here's your chance to own a piece of motley D.C. history -- the house where then-Mayor Marion Barry was living when he was arrested for cocaine possession.." [HuffPost]
- This history of music in seven minutes. [http://bit.ly/ZfzOzL]
- "American Psycho," the kid-friendly version. [http://chzb.gr/12Izz59]
- Otter is incredible in the low post. [http://bit.ly/ZrE82O]
- A primer on how to become pope. [http://bit.ly/15tF1YY]
- Someone compiled the greatest local news interviews of all time. Our nation's area men and women can't stop giving. [http://huff.to/WQJ50X]
- Good news for all you anarchists/gamers: there's a new game coming out that simulates a riot. [http://bit.ly/YmGQzO]
- History's greatest bar mitzvah invite. [ http://t.co/LGtmgDGZ]
- Fun update from science: "[F]ireballs of doom will form spontaneously and destroy the Universe." [http://ars.to/Y4zcOv]
- "This Is A Box Of Gushers, Wrapped In Fruit Roll-Ups, Wrapped In Fruit By The Foot" [http://bit.ly/UHUZLX]
@meredithshiner: "UP CHUCK!! Chuck 4 Pres '16'" pic.twitter.com/coBxPar6RX
@pourmecoffee: Correction: Chuck Hagel did not lead a rally of Bane's underground army, also there is no underground army or Bane.
@pareene: Mitt Romney to read triumphant victory speech at CPAC's first ever "Unskewed Inaugural"
8:00 am: Even Democrats from Baltimore need to worry about elections (namely primaries). Elijah Cummings hosts a fundraiser for his reelection campaign. No word if Omar Comin'. [Baltimore, MD]
6:30 pm: Brad Sherman holds a debt retirement dinner for his bruising Sherman/Berman battle last year. We hear it will be a lovely event, culminating with the debt receiving a Carvel cake and a rolex. ::rimshot:: [Studio City, CA]
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