Today Americans confronted an unexpected and devastating consequence of the sequester: lawmakers talking about their butts. Chris Christie made the healthiest decision of his life today when he approved the expansion of New Jersey's Medicaid benefits. And the Senate confirmed Chuck Hagel as the next secretary of defense, rendering the past month of political controversy even more unbearably pointless than it already had been. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, February 26th, 2013:
GRAHAM, MCCAIN: OBAMA IMMIGRATION MEETING WAS PRODUCTIVE - Elise Foley: "Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Tuesday they came out of a meeting with President Barack Obama more confident that he understands their argument that border security must be given prominent weight in plans for comprehensive immigration reform. 'It was one of the best meetings I've ever had with the president,' Graham told reporters. 'He understands we need border security that we can afford, and Senator McCain made a strong point about the border,' he added later. 'The president understands the working components of it, so I was, quite frankly, encouraged.' McCain wouldn't comment on what he told the president, but also said Obama seemed to be listening to his concerns about the southwest border. 'I am more confident after our conversation today,' he told reporters." [HuffPost]
SENATE APPROVES FRIEND OF HAMAS SLEEPER AGENT TO RUN PENTAGON - Chuck Hagel has been confirmed by the Senate to be the next secretary of Defense. That cracking sound you hear is Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Kelly Ayotte egging the Pentagon. Luke Johnson: "The U.S. Senate confirmed former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) as President Barack Obama's next secretary of defense by a 58 to 41 vote Tuesday, marking an end to one of the most drawn-out fights for a president's Cabinet pick. The opposition to Hagel melted away Tuesday after the Presidents' Day recess, with the Senate moving earlier in the day to end debate on his nomination by a 71-27 margin, and 18 Republicans voting in favor. On Feb. 14, Republicans succeeded in maintaining an unprecedented filibuster against the nominee... Four Republican Senators voted for Hagel. Sens. Thad Cochran (Miss.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), and Mike Johanns (Neb.) and Rand Paul (Ky.)" [HuffPost]
"A Teenage Girl Invited Rick Perry Over To Play Guitar Hero: And apparently he showed up!"
SUPREME COURT HANDS THE CLICKING SOUND YOU HEAR ON THE PHONE HANDED A VICTORY - Downside: Your civil liberties are being eroded. Upside: Our screenplay about a beautiful NSA analyst who falls in love with one of her phone tap targets just got that much closer to being greenlit. Matt Sledge: Journalists and human rights advocates worried they are being swept up in an electronic dragnet cannot challenge the U.S. government's secretive warrantless wiretapping program in a lawsuit, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision on Tuesday. The court's decision, handed down in a case called Clapper v. Amnesty International USA, will complicate civil libertarians' efforts to push back against the post-9/11 expansion of surveillance. At issue is the government's warrantless wiretapping program, begun in secret and without congressional authorization under the George W. Bush administration. In the wake of a 2008 federal law passed to legalize that program, the National Security Agency and other agencies are supposed to be able to read emails and listen in on phone calls without a warrant -- but only when they are targeting foreign nationals. Journalists and others pressing the case as plaintiffs, however, worry that American citizens could have their calls swept up if they happened to contact the NSA's targets" [HuffPost]
@jonward11: "What'd you do for recess Pat?" - Sen Cruz to Sen Leahy as they walked to Capitol subway
DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Republicans in Arizona and Oklahoma want to make extra sure that people filing for unemployment insurance are eligible to receive the benefits. An Oklahoma bill would require people filing for unemployment to sign an affidavit promising they weren't fired for misconduct. A similar bill in Arizona would require claimants to provide documentation proving their eligibility. Both bills have received preliminary approval in their respective legislatures. The measures seem to be part of a new phase in an ongoing Republican effort to restrict the flow of government money to people who lose their jobs. In the past few years, lawmakers in more than a dozen states and the U.S. Congress have sought to require drug testing for eligibility, and several states -- most recently North Carolina -- have sharply reduced the duration of benefits. [HuffPost]
More federal judges kick Rick Scott in the pants for his welfare drug testing scheme.
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SEQUESTER: ECONOMIC CATASTROPHE NEAR, CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS DEBATE REAR ENDS - It was the butts of times, it was the worst of times. Mike McAuliff: "With the sequester budget cuts set to kick in Friday, House Speaker John Boehner had a message for his colleagues in the Senate: Get off your 'ass.' The Ohio Republican congressman delivered that message Tuesday, as President Barack Obama headed to Newport News, Va., to send a similar, although less pungent, message to Republicans in Congress. Obama planned to use a shipyard as a backdrop to illustrate the impact of the impending cuts, which would trim $85 billion from the federal budget over the rest of the year...'We have moved a bill in the House twice. We should not have to move a third bill before the Senate gets off their ass and begins to do something,' Boehner added." [HuffPost]
Discord's gotten so bad in Washington that John Boehner's subjects no longer agree with his verbs.
Et tuchus, John? "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) responded to Boehner's charge in the afternoon, saying it was the House GOP that was parked on a bench. 'I was raised in a little town that had 13 brothels in it, so I'm used to some pretty salty language as you know,' Reid told reporters on Capitol Hill...'I think he should understand who is sitting on their posterior,' Reid continued." [Ibid.]
CHRISTIE ACCEPTING MEDICARE EXPANSION FUNDS - It's a shame he's not invited to CPAC, he could totally brag about this to the attendees. Star-Ledger: "Gov. Chris Christie will expand the state's Medicaid program to cover 300,000 uninsured New Jersey residents, The Star-Ledger learned today. The governor's new budget, which he plans to unveil at joint session of the Legislature this afternoon, also relies on state revenue growth of 4.9 percent and delays some property tax rebates for local taxpayers, according to three sources with knowledge of the budget plan who spoke on the condition of anonymity... Christie, a possible presidential candidate in 2016, joins Republican governors from Ohio, Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, North Dakota, Florida and New Mexico as well as Gov. Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island, an Independent, in embracing the larger Medicaid program." [Star-Ledger]
Chris Christie wasn't invited to CPAC because he has no "future" in conservative because his attitudes about guns are similar to most of the country. National Review: "New Jersey governor Chris Christie was not invited to address the Conservative Political Action Conference because of his position on gun control, according to a source familiar with CPAC's internal deliberations who requested anonymity to speak freely. Christie has a 'limited future' in the national Republican party given his position on gun control, the source tells National Review Online. As a result, the CPAC insider says, the focus of this year's conference, 'the future of conservatism,' made Christie a bad fit. Christie, the source adds, is simply not a conservative in the eyes of organizers." [National Review]
CLASS WARFARE UPDATE: WARREN AND BERNANKE SKIRMISH - Mark Gongloff: "Newly minted Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday showed why big banks are not her biggest fans, grilling Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke about the risks and fairness of having banks that are 'too big to fail.' Warren (D-Mass.) questioned Bernanke during his latest semiannual appearance before the Senate Banking Committee to discuss the economy and monetary policy. Warren pressed the Fed chairman about whether the government would bail out the largest banks again, as it did during the financial crisis. 'We've now understood this problem for nearly five years,' she said. 'So when are we gonna get rid of "too big to fail?"'... Later, when pressed again by Warren, Bernanke suggested that the government's tools to wind down a big bank that is failing were still a work in progress -- or at least that financial markets have not yet been convinced of their power." [HuffPost]
@dorseyshaw: in 1999 Brian Williams anchored MSNBC primetime youtu.be/1v_5YjAXzLo
GROUP OF REPUBLICANS BACK GAY MARRIAGE SCOTUS CASE - They might exert as much influence on their party as Ringo did on the Beatles, but these prominent moderate Republicans could actually affect the high court's Prop 8 ruling. NYT: "Dozens of prominent Republicans... have signed a legal brief arguing that gay people have a constitutional right to marry, a position that amounts to a direct challenge to Speaker John A. Boehner and reflects the civil war in the party since the November election...The document will be submitted this week to the Supreme Court in support of a suit seeking to strike down Proposition 8, a California ballot initiative barring same-sex marriage, and all similar bans... Among them are Meg Whitman, who supported Proposition 8 when she ran for California governor; Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Richard Hanna of New York; Stephen J. Hadley, a Bush national security adviser; Carlos Gutierrez, a commerce secretary to Mr. Bush; James B. Comey, a top Bush Justice Department official; David A. Stockman, President Ronald Reagan's first budget director; and Deborah Pryce, a former member of the House Republican leadership from Ohio who is retired from Congress." [NYT]
LIBERALS CAN BE STUPID AND RACIST, TOO - And not just by constantly telling black acquaintances how much they like their hair. Behold: "A Democratic group is under sharp criticism for controversial online messages about Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell's wife... Recently, the group turned its attention to McConnell's wife, former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, with a focus on her race. In a Feb. 14 Twitter message, Progress says: 'This woman has the ear of (Sen. McConnell)--she's his wife. May explain why your job moved to China!'... The Tweet links to a website run by conspiracy theorist and radio host Jeff Rense, alleging Chao, who was born in Taiwan, discriminated against American workers during her tenure." [WFPL]
@AshleyJudd: Whatever the intention, whatever the venue, whomever the person, attacks or comments on anyone's ethnicity are wrong & patently unacceptable
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Rumble in the jungle: Kangaroo fights stuffed hippo.
HOW MICHELLE OBAMA APPEARED AT THE OSCARS - In short: there was a lot of deception. As for us, we snuck into the Vanity Fair afterparty by hiding in Arianna's traveling sleep pod. Never fails. LA Times: "On Feb. 14, a Hollywood delegation showed up at the White House. Motion Picture Academy President Hawk Koch, Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron and film mogul Harvey Weinstein... They wanted to see if they could secretly work out the details for Michelle Obama to present best picture at the Oscars 10 days later. Senior members of the first lady's team met with the group... would the Obama daughters be in the room as well? (No, as it would be nearly midnight, and there was school the next day.) Should the presentation happen in a White House screening room or a ceremonial space? (The latter; it had to feel presidential.)... When it was time for a rehearsal with Obama last week, Zadan and Meron shut down all the monitors at the Dolby, told the crew they needed to attend an emergency meeting on one of the musical numbers and hustled out to a production truck outside, where they gave the first lady directions via a satellite hook-up...Over the weekend, an employee for PriceWaterhouseCoopers traveled to Washington with the best-picture envelope, in keeping with the academy's policy of zealously guarding the names of winners. (Nicholson had a second envelope on stage in case the link-up didn't go as planned.)" [LA Times]
- Adorable sleeping cat is probably dreaming of a world of a gazillion laser pointers. [http://bit.ly/15f9Ijz]
- An interview with Tommy Edison, who reviews movies. Not a terribly unusual thing... except that Tommy Edison is blind. [http://bit.ly/13kuose]
- The Wilhelm Scream, probably the most recognizable cry of agony in the history of cinema, gets a peculiar replacement. [http://chzb.gr/XBBu4F]
- Goat plays peekaboo... or just wants you to stop staring at it. [http://bit.ly/126ZGn0]
- The latest of Conan O'Brien's hilarious "Clueless Gamer" where he snarks all over a popular video game. [http://bit.ly/X8dolu]
- Seven tips on how to write better fiction from F. Scott Fitzgerald. [http://bit.ly/13kVM9u]
- A dog chew toy that has a mute button. [http://bit.ly/YxIChA]
@pourmecoffee: If sequester occurs, Xbox Live players must control 15 minutes of air traffic for every hour of play. Your government thanks you
@FakeJimVendeHei: It's why Daddy drinks RT @sesamestreet: The Word on the Street is ... reporter! How do you explain the word "reporter" to a preschooler?
@igorbobic: Welp, there's that MT @BarackObama RT @HuffPostPol: RT this if sequestration was your idea
5:30 pm: Barbara Mikulski, the lawmaker most in need of a really intimidating sobriquet ("The Fury"?) passes the hat for her reelection PAC. [Art and Soul, 415 New Jersey Ave NW]
6:00 pm - 9:00 pm: The New Leaders Council honors people who are probably your age but way more successful than you. Michael Breen, Kate Chapek, Jon Favreau and Patrick Murphy are the night's honorees. $10 for tickets. [Local 16, 1602 U Street NW]
6:30 pm: Dean Heller came into a lot of debt in an attempt to advance his career. Luckily, he can retire some of it by inviting a bunch of rich people over and having them write him checks. It's good to be the
king senator. [Bobby Van's Grill - 1201 New York Ave NW]
5:30 pm: Mike Fitzpatrick gets an assist from the Big Orange himself, John Boehner. If you're a purveyor of tobacco and/or wine products and a terrified-looking intern asks you for all your Merlot and/or Marlboro Reds, don't ask any questions. [Capitol Hill Club, 300 First Street SE]
6:00 pm: Dan Coates is the beneficiary of a fundraiser at the Online Lenders Alliance Townhouse. We're pretty sure the Online Lenders Alliance meets in an underground icy lair where they monitor the activity of the worlds supervillains and in their spare time plunge working people into bankruptcy. John Thune is scheduled to attend. [Online Lenders Alliance (OLA) Townhouse, 330 Maryland Ave NE]
6:30 pm: David Vitter, the member of Congress who couldn't be more happy about his party's shift from moral issues to economic ones, raises some dough for his reelection. [Clark Hill PLC, 601 Pennsylvanie Ave NW]
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