POLITICS

HUFFPOST HILL - Person Invokes Constitution, Is Obviously Guilty

05/21/2013 06:01 pm ET | Updated Jul 21, 2013

Harry Reid set a date for when your hopes of a functioning Senate will once again be dashed. Lawmakers are trying to reduce the number of people necessary to inspect catfish, though it's unclear whether anyone will be left to means-test the catfish. And Michele Bachmann is confident God will undo Obamacare, assuming He has the energy to do so after punishing society for gay marriage. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, May 21st, 2013:

REID SETS CORDRAY VOTE FOR JULY - Jen Bendery: "The likelihood of a knockdown fight over the filibuster this summer increased on Tuesday as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pulled back a vote on the confirmation of Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Cordray is a contentious nominee because 43 Republicans have demanded changes to the structure of the CFPB before they will approve any nominee to run it. That means Republicans can deny Democrats the 60 votes needed to begin debate on a CFPB nominee. President Barack Obama gave Cordray a recess appointment in January 2012, which Republicans have challenged as illegal, citing a recent court case that invalidated other recess appointments. Reid indicated Tuesday that he would bring Cordray's nomination to a vote in July, and a Senate Democratic aide said that vote will come at a time when Reid is ready to launch into a broader fight over all of Obama's stalled nominees. The 'plan is to wait until immigration is complete before engaging in total all-out nom[ination] fight,' said the aide." [HuffPost]

MCCONNELL WON'T BLOCK IMMIGRATION BILL - The Hill: "Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will not try to block immigration reform from reaching the floor, despite complaints from some conservative leaders. McConnell on Tuesday praised the Gang of Eight’s work and said he is 'hopeful' of passing comprehensive immigration reform legislation through the Senate. McConnell indicated he would not block a vote on a motion to proceed to the legislation crafted by four Democrats and four Republicans. 'The status quo is not good; the current situation is not good,' McConnell said about the nation’s immigration system, which his colleagues frequently describe as broken." [The Hill]

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted on a resolution promoting the ideals of World Press Freedom Day. Asked about the resolution, passed in the wake of news that DOJ subpoenaed AP journalists' phone records and classified a Fox News reporter as a possible criminal conspirator, John McCain told Preston Maddock that he's all for the First Amendment, kinda: "Well I'm all for world press freedom, except when they criticize me. Then I'm for censorship, especially The Huffington Post." Thanks, senator!

SPEAKING OF THAT.... Ryan Lizza: "The Obama Justice Department has seized the phone records of numbers that are associated with White House staffers and, apparently, with Fox News reporters." [New Yorker]

LEAHY BACKS HEMP AMENDMENT - Ariel Edwards-Levy: "Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) introduced an amendment to the farm bill Monday that would allow farmers to grow industrial hemp, an aide told HuffPost. The 'Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013' would exclude industrial hemp, which is not a drug, from classification as 'marihuana,' which it is not, removing it from the federal laws against growing pot, and allowing for regulation by the states. Wyden told HuffPost he was looking for a chance to talk to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who is floor-managing the farm bill, about the provision. 'For me, what's important is that people see, particularly in our state, there's someone buying it at Costco in Oregon,' Wyden said in a brief interview in the Capitol. 'I adopted what I think is a modest position, which is if you can buy it at a store in Oregon, our farmers ought to be able to make some money growing it.' Tom Murphy, the national outreach coordinator for Vote Hemp, which aims to legalize hemp farming, tells HuffPost: 'We just receive word from rural Vermont that Sen. Patrick Leahy will support the amendment.'" Leahy's support is a big boost, as he had previously blocked an attempt to insert it into the bill in the Ag Committee. Here's our fun story on all that.

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Tyrika Meade started working at the sunglass stand in Union Station six weeks ago. She said she earns $8.25 an hour on an irregular schedule. "I like the job but the pay is just not right," Meade, 19, said in an interview. So she joined an estimated 150 workers striking Tuesday to protest low wages at workplaces that are funded by federal contracts. She said an organizer had approached her recently while she was working. "They said in order to get higher pay we need people to actually protest against the fact that we are getting paid minimum wage," she said. Meade and two dozen other workers and labor activists chanted slogans against bad pay Tuesday morning at Union Station, home of Amtrak, along with dozens of retail and food stores. Meade's manager approached her as the group was marching in a circle outside an entrance to the D.C. Metrorail. "He came up and asked me did I have anything in the kiosk, I told him no," Meade said. "And he said, 'Don't come back.'" [With HuffPost's Dave Jamieson]

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IRS OFFICIAL WILL INVOKE THE FIFTH - LA times: "A top IRS official in the division that reviews nonprofit groups will invoke the Fifth Amendment and refuse to answer questions before a House committee investigating the agency’s improper screening of conservative nonprofit groups. Lois Lerner, the head of the exempt organizations division of the IRS, won’t answer questions about what she knew about the improper screening – or why she didn’t reveal it to Congress, according to a letter from her defense lawyer, William W. Taylor 3rd. Lerner was scheduled to appear before the House Oversight committee Wednesday. 'She has not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation but under the circumstances she has no choice but to take this course,' said a letter by Taylor to committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, R-Calif. The letter, sent Monday, was obtained Tuesday by the Los Angeles Times." [LA Times]

OTHER PEOPLE WHO'VE TAKEN THE FIFTH - Courtesy HuffPost Hill's Paranoid Self-Loathing GOP Lobbyist and his Special Secret Friend, here is a partial list of some other great Fifth-takers: 1) Mark McGwire. 2) Jack Abramoff. 3) Solyndra executives 4) Salahis. 5) Michael Corleone [Eds: not true, but whatever]. 6) Dave Chappelle. 7) Oliver North. 8) Tobacco executives. 9) Ken Lay. Thanks, PSLGOPL & pal!

MARY PAT: BACK OFF BAIN - Today we got scooped on stories about Mary Pat Bonner and the Center for American Progress' corporate funding. We quit. Ben Smith and Evan McMorris-Santoro: "A top liberal super PAC in the 2012 election had undisclosed financial ties to the private equity firm Bain Capital -- something that some people close to the group say interfered with its core mission of attacking Bain veteran Mitt Romney's business record. American Bridge 21st Century PAC was launched in 2012 as part of a multi-pronged Democratic effort to define and defeat the Republican nominee, a project of David Brock, a former conservative reporter best known as the founder of the liberal media monitoring group Media Matters. By last January, it had amassed a vast store of opposition research, most of it focused on Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital -- and on the hard-edged private equity practices that would help define the Republican as an out-of-touch millionaire. But in January, as Romney’s nomination -- and the line of attack -- became clear, American Bridge’s top fundraiser took a stand. In a series of meetings through the first half of 2012, several people close to the group confirmed, fundraiser Mary Pat Bonner demanded that the group avoid any public attacks on Bain. That's because, two sources said, two top Bain executives are key contributors to the network of organizations maintained by Brock and Bonner, which includes Media Matters and American Bridge. And some familiar with the group’s work say it deliberately pulled public punches against Bain -- though not against Romney -- through much of the year." [BuzzFeed]

And here's Ken Silverstein's piece on CAP's corporate funding.

INHOFE WILL VOTE FOR OKLAHOMA DISASTER AID, DESPITE VOTING AGAINST SANDY AID - The senator insists that the forthcoming bill will aid areas affected by the storms, unlike the Sandy relief bill, which aided areas affected by the storm. Christina Wilkie: "Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe (R) said on Tuesday that federal aid to tornado-ravaged parts of his home state will be 'totally different' than a Hurricane Sandy aid bill he voted against late last year. Speaking on MSNBC, the lawmaker said that in the case of Hurricane Sandy, 'everybody was getting in and exploiting the tragedy that took place.' However, he said, 'that won't happen in Oklahoma.'...Inhofe said the Sandy Relief bill 'was supposed to be in New Jersey,' but 'they were getting things … in the Virgin Islands, fixing roads there, and putting roofs on houses in Washington, D.C.' Both Inhofe and Coburn voted to slash aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy, with Inhofe saying he considered the full proposed aid amount to be a 'slush fund.' While Northeastern states like New Jersey and New York suffered some of the worst damage from Hurricane Sandy, the storm affected 24 U.S. states in total during October of 2012. Sandy carved a destructive path from the Caribbean Sea to the Great Lakes, where it produced 25-foot waves in Lake Huron." [HuffPost]

Three of Oklahoma's five reps voted against Sandy aid, so this should be interesting/tremendously embarrassing: "During a Tuesday stake-out with reporters, Boehner was asked repeatedly about a timeline for a disaster aid package and whether Republicans will require that its cost be matched by spending cuts. He demurred each time. 'We'll work with the administration on making sure that they have the resources they need to help the people of Oklahoma,' Boehner said. The last time Congress passed a disaster aid package was in January, in response to Hurricane Sandy. Nearly 180 House Republicans voted against the $50.5 billion package, in large part because they were demanding that it be offset with spending cuts elsewhere." [HuffPost's Jen Bendery]

CARNEY EQUATES SCANDALS TO BIRTHERISM - T-minus one week until Carney bursts out in tears during a briefing, runs out of the room with his hands cupped over his face and straight to Edelman's Washington offices where he will spend the rest of his professional days representing retired politicians selling memoirs. WaPo: "When CBS News’ Major Garrett asked whether questions about the AP investigation were partisan, Carney acknowledged that Congress might have 'legitimate questions' on that or other issues. So Garrett followed up and asked if questions related to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s fundraising for the Affordable Care Act were also legitimate. Carney grew irritated and responded by referencing conspiracy theories about the president’s birthplace. 'You know, we could go down the list of questions -- we could say, what about the president’s birth certificate? Were that -- was that legitimate?' Carney responded." [WaPo]

John McCain has apparently retired his Jitterbug in favor of something a bit more complex: "Senator John McCain just interviewed Apple CEO Tim Cook about the company's taxes and offshore profits. But the kicker came at the end, when McCain stopped his line of questioning by asking, 'Why the hell do I have to keep updating apps on my iPhone?' McCain does have a point. It's really annoying to pop open the App Store every time there's a new update. We wish iPhones worked more like Android phones in that respect, letting you update apps automatically." [Business Insider]

INSPECTORS GENERAL HAMSTRUNG BY SEQUESTRATION - If you're looking to steal a stapler -- or say one thousand staplers -- now is your time. Amanda Terkel: "The government's inspectors general aren't well-known among the public, but they are essential in rooting out waste, fraud and abuse in the federal bureaucracy -- one of the few goals that both Democrats and Republicans agree on. The recent findings by the Treasury Department's IG that the Internal Revenue Service had been scrutinizing conservative organizations applying for nonprofit status highlighted the importance of these independent watchdogs. But sequestration is tying the hands of the IGs, who are facing a $100 million cut overall. There's now less money to pursue investigations and fewer qualified staff members to investigate claims, and the disbursement of funds, such as stimulus dollars and Hurricane Sandy relief, will receive less scrutiny and oversight. It will also likely become harder to recover wasted taxpayer money. As the Federal Times reported, IGs uncovered more than $93 billion in potential savings in FY 2011 -- a $35 return for every $1 of investment." [HuffPost]

Jeanne Shaheen and John McCain are catfishing but sadly it doesn't involve finding Lindsey Graham a fake girlfriend. National Journal: "[O]n Tuesday, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and John McCain, R-Ariz., plan to target... an Agriculture Department catfish-inspection program that would cost $14 million a year in wasteful spending, they say. The problem is that the Food and Drug Administration already has catfish inspection under its control. (The USDA handles inspection of meat, poultry, and eggs, while the FDA handles all other foods.) The USDA program was established by the 2008 farm bill, the last such package passed, and it’s one of dozens highlighted last month in the Government Accountability Office’s annual report identifying redundancies in programs...[the program] would mean that as many as three agencies would be inspecting catfish and other seafood facilities." [National Journal]

MICHELE BACHMANN CERTAIN GOD WILL SMITE OBAMACARE - And Lo, He saw that His flock was demoting employees to part time to lower overhead and it was Good. "Speaking with Focus on the Family founder James Dobson in an exchange first captured by Right Wing Watch, Bachmann expressed optimism that the House's latest repeal effort -- a bill introduced by the Minnesota Republican and passed last week by a vote of 229-195 -- would have a different outcome than the previous 36...'And I think before his second term is over, we're going to see a miracle before our eyes, I believe God is going to answer our prayers and we'll be freed from the yoke of Obamacare,' she said. 'I believe that's going to happen and we saw step one last week with the repeal of Obamacare in the House. We have two more steps. We serve a mighty God and I believe it can happen.'" [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Of all the things Phoenix the Cat decided to say, it settled on "Al Gore."

TEXAS MOBILIZES FOR WAR ON CHRISTMAS - Anyone who has ever driven around Houston in December knows from the abundance of Christmas lights that Texans take Jesus' birthday VERY seriously. Amanda Terkel: "Christmas may be seven months away, but Texas is ready for it. State lawmakers there waged their own battle against the so-called War on Christmas on Friday, passing legislation,House Bill 308, that allows public school teachers to say 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Hanukkah' and display Christmas trees, nativity scenes or menorahs. Winter displays must represent more than one religion or include secular symbols... 'Teachers have enough on their plate to worry about [whether] the school district's going to be sued or if they can call a Christmas tree a Christmas tree,' said state Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R), who sponsored the legislation." [HuffPost]

COMFORT FOOD

- A group of enterprising hipsters built a speakeasy in a New York City water tower. [http://bit.ly/10iir0L]

- A selection of notable commencement speeches from [http://bit.ly/13Gb7QX]

- A supercut of the recurring gags from "Arrested Development." [http://bit.ly/YX8hFh]

- For a fee you can now advertise your product on a hipster's beard... or any old beard, for that matter. [http://bit.ly/13I66qU]

- A survivor of the Oklahoma tornado found their dog while giving a live television interview. [http://cbsn.ws/17Wkq2w]

- Hamster tries to wiggle its way through a cardboard tube, fails, realizes it needs to lose weight. [http://huff.to/16KbTiF]

- Twelve actors and their forgotten directorial endeavors. Vin Diesel directed an indie. For real. [http://bit.ly/1a1F1yS]

TWITTERAMA

@GingerGibson: I'm pretty sure Patty Murray is just explaining how legislation gets passed to Ted Cruz right now. It's like real life School House Rock.

@pourmecoffee: I wish a senator would ask Tim Cook why all the songs in Apple commercials have to be so Twee.

@AshleyRParker: Leahy announces it's Franken's birthday and everyone in SJC applauds: "I was going to go out and see my wife and daughter…" he says, sadly.

ON TAP

TONIGHT

6:00 pm - 8:00 pm: A host of political and media bigwigs gather to celebrate the launch of Karen Finney's new weekend show on MSNBC. [5102 Yuma Place NW]

6:00 pm: Provisional Third Amigo, Kelly Ayotte, is fighting for her political life. A fundraiser with a bunch of government relations types might help. [R.B. Murphy and Associates, 220 E Street NE]

6:30 pm: As if he really needed the help, John Barrasso passes the hat for his reelection. The invite touts a "VIP Guest," which will undoubtedly be John Boehner's future rasta pothead son-in-law. [Charlie Palmer, 101 Constitution Ave NW]

6:30 pm - 8:00 pm: Rand Paul, the Senate's most recalcitrant member, continues his against the grain ways with a fundraising dinner hosted by Akin Gump and Google. [1101 New York Ave NW]

7:00 pm: Jean Shaheen, the senator from New Hampshire who is not fighting for her political life, attends a campaign function with Barbara Mikulski and Martin O'Malley.

TOMORROW

12:30 pm: Mark Pryor tries to offset Mayors Against Illegal Guns' money -- not to mention that of any organization interested in flipping the Senate -- with a fundraiser. [116 Club, 234 3rd Street NE]

12:30 pm: Dean Heller tries to unload some of his debt by plying his benefactors with fettuccine. [Acqua Al 2, 212 7th Street SE]

6:00 pm: Yet another opportunity for you to bankroll FREEDOM: Mike Crapo solicits donations for for his Freedom Fund. All contributions will benefit FREEDOM. [Acqua Al 2, 212 7th Street SE]

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