Per the United Nations, today is the first International Day of Happiness, though we're not sure if that's possible
on the ten-year anniversary of the war in Iraq while White House tours are suspended. The Tea Party Caucus has been inactive for months, though its members would prefer the lapse be considered a temporary reduction in the size of government. And the president's limousine broke down in Jerusalem, meaning it's only a matter of time until Uber becomes a government contractor. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, March 20th, 2013:
SENATE PASSES CR, DELAYS GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN FOR SUPER LONG TIME (SEPTEMBER!!!!) - Also, it's a terrible piece of legislation. Mike McAuliff and Sabrina Siddiqui: "The U.S. Senate passed a bill Wednesday to keep the federal government running after March 27, approving a six-month spending bill that adds to the unpopular cuts of "sequestration." The $984 billion "continuing resolution" passed 73 to 26. It makes additional across-the-board cuts of 1.9 percent to 2.5 percent to various categories of spending on top of the $85 billion in cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 -- the infamous deal that created the failed supercommittee and the resulting budget sequestration that slices $1.2 trillion over a decade. Lawmakers on all sides have hammered the blunt cuts as 'stupid' and 'irresponsible', yet resorted to the same strategy in this new funding measure because they have been unable to agree on anything else. A congressional source familiar with the negotiations -- speaking freely on the condition of anonymity -- explained that when the six-month bill was originally agreed to in principal last fall, all sides expected that the sequester would be replaced. But sequestration remains, and under the Budget Control Act, Congress had to spend less over the rest of this year than the original agreement contemplated." The House is expected to vote tomorrow. [HuffPost]
Meanwhile in the House, shenanigans of the highest order: "Democrats voted present to force more Republicans to vote against the Republican Study Committee's (RSC) budget. Democrats hoped that by getting their members to vote present instead of against the budget, it might be approved by the House. That would have allowed Democrats to train their campaign ads on the RSC budget, which would boost the Social Security age to 70 and cut Medicare benfits, including for people now 59 years old. The RSC blueprint would balance the budget in four years. Only 14 Democrats voted against the RSC budget, along with 118 Republicans." [The HIll]
Oh, and the House voted down the Senate's budget today.
ANY FRIEND OF ROBERT MENENDEZ IS A FRIEND OF THE FORMER ABRAMOFF LOBBYIST PISSED AT THINGS - HuffPost Hill's Former Abramoff Lobbyist Pissed At Things was having a great time yesterday at Equinox, stealing the patrons' cellphones for their contact lists. Then he read in Politico that Salomon Melgen met President Obama and courted Harry Reid. "FALPAT likes this Melgen character. He is Team Abramoff material," he writes. "I also like that he hugged-up to Harry Reid (he is a great relationship deny-er). We had conservatives, liberals, Blue Dogs and the Velvet Mafia locked-up tight. What we were missing was a brown guy." Thanks, FALPAT!
JUSTICE HONCHO IS DUNZO - Ryan Reilly: "Associate Deputy Attorney General Steven Reich, who has overseen the Justice Department's handling of congressional investigations into Fast and Furious and Aaron Swartz, will depart the Justice Department on April 1. Reich, formerly senior associate White House counsel for President Bill Clinton, joined the Justice Department in June 2011. 'I am grateful to Steve for his tireless advocacy on behalf of the Department of Justice over the last two years," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement released by the Justice Department." [HuffPost]
DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Everyone knows unemployment persists because American workers aren't skilled -- that is, there aren't enough workers skilled at liking terrible pay. From the Associated Press: "America's lower-income workers have posted the biggest job gains since the deep 2007-09 recession -- but few are bragging. As a workforce sector, those earning $35,000 or less annually are generally pessimistic about their finances and career prospects. Many see themselves as worse off now than during the recession, a two-part Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey of workers and employers shows....Yet 44 percent of employers surveyed said it's hard to recruit people with appropriate skills or experiences to do lower-wage jobs, particularly in manufacturing." [AP]
DOUBLE DOWNER - At the federal level, some Republicans want to call every form of government assistance "welfare" in an effort to make it look bad. In Pennsylvania, Republicans want to rename the state's Department of Public Welfare so it doesn't look bad. Unfortunately for them, the change costs too much money. "The acting head of Pennsylvania's Department of Public Welfare said Tuesday the state can't afford a legislative proposal to change its name to the Department of Human Services. Secretary Bev Mackereth said the change would cost about $8 million, and she would support the idea if not for its hefty price tag." [AP]
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OBAMA IN ISRAEL: U.S. INVESTIGATING USE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS IN SYRIA - NYT: "President Obama said Wednesday that the United States was investigating claims that chemical weapons had been used in Syria the day before and that he was 'deeply skeptical' of the Syrian government’s assertion that the insurgency had deployed such weapons. The president’s remarks were surprisingly strong in tone and suggested that if Washington finds evidence that such weapons had been used he would hold the Syrian government responsible.... Mr. Obama’s remarks, at a news conference in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, were his first public reaction to the reports on Tuesday that chemical weapons had been used in Syria. Both sides in the conflict have accused the other of responsibility but there has been no independent evidence that the weapons were used." [NYT]
Obama and Netanyahu, whose relationship could be charitably characterized as "strained," completed burying the hatchet over their shared annoyance at Chuck Todd: "President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took digs at NBC News White House correspondent Chuck Todd today after he asked three questions during the joint press-conference in Jerusalem. 'Chuck, how many you got?' Obama asked Todd... 'These are Talmudic questions, they have reiterations,' Netanyahu joked, as Todd protested that he was allowed four questions because 'Passover starts in a few days.'" [Politico]
The strongest and most indestructible American-made car broke down. Someone please leave China the keys with a note to jiggle the handle when tapping into our strategic oil reserves. CNN: "The official limousine awaiting President Barack Obama's arrival in Israel malfunctioned after its driver refueled it using gasoline rather than diesel fuel, an official said Wednesday. The limo failed to start, and required towing in Jerusalem at 10 a.m. local time. Obama, who landed in Tel Aviv around noon, was not in the country at the time the limo was towed. A second presidential limo was brought to transport Obama." [CNN ]
COLORADO GOV SIGNS LANDMARK GUN CONTROL LEGISLATION - Christina Wilkie: "Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) signed three major gun control measures into law on Wednesday morning, just hours after the state's Department of Corrections chief, Tom Clements, was shot and killed at home. The new legislation represents the culmination of a battle between Hickenlooper and national gun rights advocacy groups that began on a cordial note, but ended acrimoniously on both sides. The three laws will ban gun magazines with a capacity of more than 15 rounds, require background checks for all firearms sales (with exceptions made for antique guns and 'bona fide' gifts between immediate family members), and impose a fee on background checks that covers the cost to the state of performing them. The laws are scheduled to go into effect July 1." [HuffPost]
CHARLOTTE MAYOR LEADING CONTENDER FOR DOT - Thankfully the rumors of Thomas the Tank Engine being on the shortlist have been overblown -- that dude hates high speed rail. Bloomberg: "President Barack Obama is considering Charlotte, North Carolina, Mayor Anthony Foxx for secretary of transportation, according to two people familiar with the matter. Foxx, 41, has been a proponent of street car and light-rail projects as mayor of the city, where the Democratic National Convention was held last year. He was first elected in 2009 and re-elected in 2011. Obama also is considering Deborah Hersman, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board, for the position, according to one of the people, both of whom asked for anonymity because the deliberations haven’t been made public. The president is considering candidates from within the transportation department as well... In last year’s presidential campaign, Foxx received national attention as the mayor of the city that hosted the Democratic convention where Obama was renominated as the party’s presidential candidate. As co-chairman of the host committee, he was involved in a fundraising effort that fell $12.5 million short of its goal." [Bloomberg]
In other administration news: "President Barack Obama has asked Jeff Zients to stay on as acting budget director, the White House said Monday, a move that takes him out of the running to become trade chief. White House spokesman Jay Carney said Zients, who had been the front-runner to take over as Trade Representative, would remain in his current job, confirming a Reuters report. A source familiar with the White House plan said Obama decided he needed Zients to stay on the economic team at a time when the Office of Management and Budget, or OMB, was playing a critical role in dealing with across-the-board budget cuts, known as the sequester." [Reuters]
NetJets, a private jet company owned by Berkshire Hathaway that allows individuals and companies to buy a share of a private jet, has retained the services of Baker Botts. There is a history of NetJets asking for lower taxes despite Warren Buffett's insistance that his taxes be raised.
Republican pollster John McLAughlin, whose surveys missed the mark in 2012, is very upset: @jmclghln: No upgrade on USAir Shuttle this am #HillaryClinton #MrsWeiner n posse clogging first Bet still @ govt rate? Not showing them poll data You're probably doing her a favor, guy!
TEA PARTY CAUCUS, WE BARELY KNEW YE - Roll Call: "Democrats slam the group as a haven for radicals while conservatives tout membership among their bona fides, but the fact is Rep. Michele Bachmann’s Tea Party Caucus has been inactive for several months. The caucus, much heralded and well-covered by the press when it was created in 2010 as a congressional conduit for the national movement of the same name, has not announced a public meeting since July, and the group’s Twitter account has been silent since September. 'To say we haven’t been real active is an understatement. We haven’t done anything,' said Texas Republican Rep. Joe L. Barton, a member of the group." [Roll Call]
WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL PAGE OVERLOOKS IRAQ ANNIVERSARY - Now Katharine Weymouth is going to have to send Iraq one of those belated birthday cards with an animal on the front making a funny face with an "Ooops!" caption. Amanda Terkel: "In the months leading up to the Iraq War, The Washington Post ran 27 editorials in favor of invasion, according to a count by veteran PBS journalist Bill Moyers. This week, around the 10-year anniversary of the war, it has yet to print any editorials or columns on the subject. Media outlets have been publishing their Iraq War anniversary coverage on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, since Americans learned that the U.S. invaded Iraq the night of March 19. The New York Times, for example, centered its coverage on Wednesday, with several op-eds on Iraq and an editorial looking back. But so far, The Washington Post editorial page hasn't run a single column or editorial addressing the war. In an email to The Huffington Post, Fred Hiatt, the Washington Post's editorial page editor, said there will be "a couple of pieces coming this week." In 2003, the Washington Post editorial board -- like many others in the media at the time -- supported the invasion of Iraq and viewed the war as inevitable." [HuffPost]
Apologies in advance for the vomit you're about to splatter all over your keyboard/smartphone: "Richard Perle, the former chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board and a leading advocate for the war in Iraq, said Wednesday that it was not reasonable to ask whether the war was worth it. NPR 'Morning Edition' host Renee Montagne asked, 'Ten years later, nearly 5,000 American troops dead, thousands more with wounds, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead or wounded. When you think about this, was it worth it?' 'I've got to say, I think that is not a reasonable question. What we did at the time was done in the belief that it was necessary to protect this nation. You can't, a decade later, go back and say, "Well, we shouldn't have done that,"' Perle responded." [HuffPost's Luke Johnson]
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Dog photobombs Craigslist apartment listing.
- The latest installment of "7 Sites You Should Be Wasting Time On Right Now." [http://huff.to/160tTCo]
- Guy at Magic-Pacers game refuses to share his ice cream with his girlfriend. [http://bit.ly/ZctNkR]
- Kate the WASP celebrates St. Patrick's day. [http://huff.to/16JIinG]
- Was the Death Star's destruction an inside job? [http://chzb.gr/11bMZmo]
- The Baby Bullet reimagined as a something way... creepier. [http://bit.ly/sv0bJj]
- There are two women out there who still receive Civil War pensions. [http://gaw.kr/138NWke]
- An animated version of "Calvin & Hobbes," history's greatest comic. [http://huff.to/11cnHV5]
@TVietor08: Anyone else half expecting @JeffreyGoldberg to grab the mic and start answering Qs at the Obama/Bibi presser?
@whitneysnyder Google gives us a New York Times headline from hell pic.twitter.com/BR6DvAMN6m
@frates: Fist bumping has officially jumped the shark when Chuck Schumer and Barbara Mikulski do it on the Senate floor.
5:30 pm: Lisa Murkowski continues to insure herself against another M-U-R-K-O-W-S-K-I situation with a fundraiser featuring appearances by Lamar Alexander and John Hoeven. [Rosa Mexicano - 575 7th Street NW]
6:00 pm: The editor-in-chief of Elle and president of Gucci America host a dinner lauding ten of Washington's leading lady luminaries. Jill Biden, Kirsten Gillibrand, Alyssa Mastromonaco and Susan McCue are among those being honored. [Villa Firenze, 2800 Albermale Street NW]
6:30 pm: Shelley Moore Capito fills her Senate campaign coffers with an assist from her (likely future co-worker) Rob Portman. [Monocle Restaurant, 107 D Street NE]
6:30 pm: John Thune passes the hat for his Heartland Values PAC. The event will be held at Wolfgang Puck's The Source, Washington's most flyover state-y dining establishment. [575 Pennsylvania Ave NW]
7:00 pm: The Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation hosts a dinner for Ed Perlmutter and, man, take it from us: The bros at the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation know how to get down. [Cava Mezze, 527 8th Street SE]
12:00 pm: Dean Heller, just about the only swing-state Republican Senate candidate who didn't screw the pooch in November, hosts a lunchtime debt retirement fundraiser. [Bistro Bis, 15 E Street NW]
5:00 pm: In what is easily the most fit pairing of individuals in American political history, Paul Ryan appears at a fundraiser for Aaron Schock's reelection campaign. [Washington, IL]
6:00 pm: If you follow the North Star you'll always be able to find your way back to... Amy Klobuchar's fundraiser. The Minnesota senator raises cash for her Follow the North Star Fund. [B Smith's, 50 Massachusetts Ave NE]
6:30 pm Lookie here: Cory Booker for Senate gets an injection of green at a Newark fundraiser. [Newark, NJ]
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