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HUFFPOST HILL - Mitch McConnell Wondering Why He Wasn't Nicer To Ashley Judd

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Tim Huelskamp introduced an amendment to ban gay marriage in the Constitution, a document written by men who showed their respect to the institution by having sex with their slaves. The GOP elite is rethinking the wisdom of electing Republicans as a political strategy. And Congress has decided to let interest rates rise on student loans, because the bill to stuff puppies in a sack and toss them in the pond was stuck in committee. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Monday, July 1st:

SNOWDEN STILL SITTING AROUND, MAYBE PLOTTING - Reuters: "Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden has broken his silence for the first time since he fled to Moscow eight days ago to say he remains free to make new disclosures about U.S. spying activity. In a letter to Ecuador seen by Reuters, Snowden said the United States was illegally persecuting him for revealing its electronic surveillance program, PRISM. He also thanked Ecuador for helping him get to Russia and for examining his asylum request." [Reuters]

Snowden statement: "In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you." [Wikileaks]

SHE'S IN - Luke Johnson: "Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced Monday that she would challenge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in 2014. ... A poll conducted by the Senate Majority PAC in late May showed Grimes and McConnell tied in a hypothetical matchup. Even though he represents deep-red Kentucky, McConnell, a five-term senator, is very unpopular in the state. An April Public Policy polling survey showed him with a 36 percent favorability rating, while 54 percent disapproved of his job performance." [HuffPost]

HUELSKAMP STANDS UP FOR THE STRAIGHTS - Nothing says respect for the Constitution like a Tim Huelskamp Penthouse Forum letter scrawled at the bottom of it. Jen Bendery: "As promised, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) introduced legislation late Friday to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage. The bill already has 28 Republican cosponsors, none of whom are particularly surprising. But it will be interesting to see whether House Republican leaders throw any support behind it, particularly now that the Supreme Court has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) previously cosponsored a similar Federal Marriage Amendment that failed to advance in July 2006. That vote was the last time Congress has voted on such a proposal. Requests for comment from Boehner's and Cantor's offices were not returned. Some other notable Republicans who voted for the 2006 constitutional amendment aren't currently cosponsoring Huelskamp's bill. Among them are House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.). A McMorris Rodgers spokeswoman told HuffPost she was unclear on where the congresswoman stands on Huelskamp's bill. "At this time, I’m not sure if she plans to cosponsor the legislation," said the spokeswoman." [HuffPost]

OBAMA CHARM OFFENSIVE WORKS SOMEWHERE - Nicholas Kulish and Michael Shear: "After receiving the most ecstatic welcome of his weeklong trip to Africa, President Obama on Monday called for a new partnership with the continent, one that would help sustain its recent run of tremendous economic growth while broadening the rewards to as many people as possible. ... Asked whether the United States is doing enough for Tanzania, [President Jakaya] Kikwete offered high praise, but joked that he would not say that Americans were doing enough. 'The U.S. is doing a lot, but if I say the U.S. has done enough, the president won't listen to my new requests,' he said, prompting laughter from the audience and Mr. Obama. 'But so far, so good.'" [NYT]

HOW TECH WORKERS GET HOSED IN THE IMMIGRATION BILL - Chief hose correspondent Dave Jamieson: "Of the many agreements struck in the Senate immigration bill passed Thursday, one of the most critical came courtesy of two long-standing adversaries: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO labor federation. After an impasse on guest worker visas helped derail an earlier reform effort, business and labor managed to sort out their differences this time around, settling on a deal that had a little something for everybody. Businesses essentially won an expansion of the foreign guest worker visas they've come to rely upon, while organized labor got to see meaningful protections written into the legislation for the sake of both U.S. and foreign workers. But when it came to the visa issue, there was one workforce that didn't have much of a lobby on Capitol Hill: high-skilled U.S. tech workers, like software engineers. The final Senate bill would expand the number of H-1B visas that allow U.S. tech companies to bring foreign workers here temporarily. Labor advocates have long maintained that unfettered guest worker programs have a way of depressing wages for American workers while exposing foreign ones to exploitation. [HuffPost]

STOP INSULTING RURAL AMERICA, VILSACK TELLS CONGRESS - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told HuffPost today that screwing up the farm bill is very rude. "What I'm fearful about is the consequences to folks out in rural America and the message it's sending to folks out in rural America. This is a place where most of our food, a good deal of our water, all of our energy and a disproportionate amount of our military comes from and I think rural folks deserve better from their government." Yes, the rural man, in whose everloving name was built the U.S. Senate, has long been made to suffer in American politics.

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Janina Riley noticed a woman muttering behind her in the checkout line as she paid for food at a Giant Eagle grocery store in Pittsburgh last April. "I can't believe she's buying that big-ass cake with food stamps," the woman said, according to Riley. Riley, 19, had just used a government-issued debit card to pay for most of her groceries, which included a cake for her son that said "Happy First Birthday Xavier" in a theme from the movie "Cars." She glared at the women for a second, then decided to confront her. "I was just like, 'Shut the fuck up,'" Riley said. "You don't know what I'm doing with these food stamps." But many Americans do not want to let people on food stamps eat cake. This sentiment is particularly prevalent among conservatives in Congress. Cash register resentment of the sort directed at Riley feeds Republican animus toward the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. [HuffPost]

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BACK-TO-SCHOOL SPECIAL! MORE DEBT.... "College students taking out new loans for the fall term will see interest rates twice what they were in the spring – unless Congress fulfills its pledge to restore lower rates when it returns after the July 4 holiday. Subsidized Stafford loans, which account for roughly a quarter of all direct federal borrowing, went from 3.4 percent interest to 6.8 percent interest on Monday. Congress' Joint Economic Committee estimated the cost passed to students would be about $2,600. 'It's kind of surprising; that's a big jump,' said Rebecca Ehlers, an Iowa State University senior majoring in math." [Associated Press]

THIS IS THE FUTURE - Flacks fight on twitter and parties jab at each other through goofy YouTube videos. We feel so sorry for whatever intern was forced to do the singing for this. Steven Dennis: "Senate Democrats frustrated by Republican objections to forming a House-Senate conference committee on the budget have made a cartoon anthropomorphizing their long-suffering budget resolution. It’s sort of the 'How a Budget Resolution Doesn't Become A Law” version of “How a Bill Becomes a Law.'" Watch if you're not prone to second-hand embarrassment. [Roll Call]

DC is the ninth snobbiest city in the U.S. Only ninth? Travel + Leisure]

THE LATEST FROM THE ASHES OF THE IRS SCANDAL - Sam Stein: "The Inspector General's office looking into the Internal Revenue Service's screening practices for groups applying for tax-exempt status may not have specifically investigated tea party groups. But its investigation did primarily center on a universe of groups that included conservative organizations and not progressive ones. The question over how TIGTA's investigation was structured has become significant over the past week after reports emerged that progressive organizations had also been placed on the IRS's internal Be On The Lookout (BOLO) lists for groups requesting 501(c)(4) status." [HuffPost]

TYRANNY: "Public libraries will be part of the federal government's sweeping consumer-education campaign on health care reform, President Barack Obama's administration announced Monday." [HuffPost's Jeff Young]

REVENGE OF THE FLAMINGO-SHAPED DISTRICT BOUNDARIES - Alex Isenstadt: "No one disputes Republicans used the once-a-decade redistricting process to lock in their House majority — almost certainly through 2014 and possibly until the next round of line-drawing in 2020. But the party could pay a steep price for that dominance. Some top GOP strategists and candidates warn that the ruby red districts the party drew itself into are pushing House Republicans further to the right — narrowing the party’s appeal at a time when some GOP leaders say its future rests on the opposite happening. If you’re looking for a root cause of the recurring drama within the House Republican Conference — from the surprise meltdown on the farm bill to the looming showdown over immigration reform — the increasingly conservative makeup of those districts is a good place to start." [Politico]

TEXAS BROS DOFF HATS TO WENDY DAVIS - Jason Cherkis: "After Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis' 11-hour filibuster helped defeat a controversial anti-abortion bill aimed at severely cutting access to abortion services across Texas, even her Republican colleagues had to express their admiration. 'Quite a few very respectfully told me that they thought I did an incredible job, that they admired what it takes to do something like that,' Davis told The Huffington Post in an interview Sunday. 'They understand the stress and the pressure that I was under, not only because of what the physical demands of that are, but also the mental demands of it ... I appreciated the comments afterward.'" [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Puppy needs practice using stairs.

PUTIN: YOU CAN STAY BUT YOU HAVE TO BE NICE - "President Vladimir Putin suggested Monday that American fugitive Edward Snowden might be allowed to stay in Russia, and said the Russians would never turn Snowden over to the United States. 'If he wants to go somewhere and somebody will host him -- no problem,' Putin said in televised remarks during a news conference in Moscow. 'If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: He must stop his work aimed at harming our American partners.' It appears, the Russian president added, that Snowden has no such intention. 'So he must choose for himself a country to stay in and move there,' he said. 'Unfortunately, I don’t know when this will happen. If I knew I would tell you now.'" [LA Times]

COMFORT FOOD
by @bradjshannon!

- Cat got your tongue hands? [http://bit.ly/12a5zcR]

- World-class gymnast and pole dancer shows off some of the toughest moves. [http://bit.ly/12a5WUH]

- This incredible collection of engraved zippos of the Vietnam War is up for auction. [http://bit.ly/12a61rw]

- Here's a mag-lev superconductor cruisin' the strip -- the mobius strip. [http://bit.ly/12a6kTe

- 15 seconds of a kitten eating pancakes. [http://bit.ly/12a6yts]

TWITTERAMA

@JoshDorner: Will Snowden's statement include the helpful suggestion not to use WikiLeaks as your travel agent?

@daveweigel: Sure, Grimes looks strong now, but wait until ProgressKY tries to "help" her. #KYsen

@jbendery: Elizabeth Warren just emailed. Subject line: "I need you right now, Jennifer." !

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