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The administration insisted it could hold Bashar al Assad "accountable" without regime change, refusing to rule out the possibility of a beer summit. John McCain was caught playing poker on his phone during a use-of-force authorization hearing, but it's really great to know the checks and balances still work. And buoyed by African-American support, a stop-and-frisk opponent is leading the New York mayoral race. If you think about it, all those NYPD officers feeling up people in Crown Heights were inadvertently working as de Blasio canvassers. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013:

LAWMAKERS SKEPTICAL OF LATEST BOMB STIMULUS - Mike McAuliff and Sabrina Siddiqui: "The Obama administration's push to strike Syria ran into a skeptical Congress Tuesday, even after the commander-in-chief briefed top lawmakers at the White House on his intent to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for alleged use of chemical weapons. While House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said they would support Obama's call for targeted missile strikes, most other members of Congress who attended later meetings on Capitol Hill were unwilling to commit to an attack that they feared could either lead to escalating involvement in a new Middle Eastern war or prove insufficient to do any good. 'Once you open this can, what's going to come out?' said Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), describing himself as 'extremely reluctant' to back a strike. Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel assured members of Congress that an attack on Assad did not mean the start of a new, open-ended conflict. 'President Obama is not asking America to go to war,' Kerry said at a hearing Tuesday before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations -- a hearing that was twice interrupted by protesters. Kerry said that even if Assad fought back with further atrocities, the United States and its allies could respond short of going to war." [HuffPost]

Hillary Clinton supports military action against Syria: "HILLARY CLINTON WEIGHS IN: An aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tells ABC's DANA HUGHES that 'Secretary Clinton supports the President's effort to enlist the Congress in pursuing a strong and targeted response to the Assad regime's horrific use of chemical weapons.'" [ABC News]

KEEP CALM AND KERRY ON: SECRETARY OF STATE FUMBLES 'BOOTS ON THE GROUND' ANSWER - Short of confusing "boots on the ground" with a failed C&C Music Factory comeback album, it couldn't have been much more awkward. Luke Johnson: "Secretary of State John Kerry at first refused to rule out the possibility of 'boots on the ground' in Syria in a response to a question from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) in a congressional hearing Tuesday -- only to shut the door minutes later in a follow-up question. In the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing over proposed U.S. intervention in Syria's civil war, Kerry pointed to the possibility that a cache of chemical weapons could fall into the hands of a terrorist group to make the case for military action. 'I don't want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to a president of the United States to secure our country,' he said. Menendez asked whether that meant the U.S. could send combat troops, and Kerry stumbled for an answer. 'Well, assuming in going to protect those weapons, whether or not they had to answer a shot in order to be secure, I don't want to speak to that,' he said. Trying to recover, Kerry gave the 'bottom line': "I'm absolutely confident, Mr. Chairman, that it is easy, not that complicated, to work out language that will satisfy the Congress and the American people that there's no door open here through which someone can march in ways that the Congress doesn't want it to while still protecting the national security interests of the country.'" [HuffPost]

But how can we stop Assad from going all in on the river card? continuing his atrocities? WaPo: "As the hearing continues, our ace photographer Melina Mara reports she spotted Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) 'passing the time by playing poker on his iPhone during the hearing.' We eagerly await the photographic proof, but generally trust Melina’s sharp eye." [WaPo]

#moralauthority: "In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq's war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein's military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent." [Foreign Policy]

SEQUESTER HARMING WASHINGTON - Don't worry; smokeshow interns and PR consultants mostly unaffected. Mike DeBonis: "Mayor Vincent C. Gray marshaled several top aides Tuesday to make the case that seven months after they went into effect, the federal budget cutbacks known as sequestration have started to take a toll on the city’s economy. The officials made their case in four charts." The charts are actually pretty startling. [WashPost]

SPEAKING OF THINGS HARMFUL TO WASHINGTON - Christina Wilkie: "A well-known aide to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), has left his job on Capitol Hill in order to start his own public relations firm. Kurt Bardella's last day working for the House was Friday. A spokesman for Issa said the congressman 'is excited for him and confident he will be successful.' Bardella told HuffPost his new firm, Endeavor Strategic Communications, already has clients, including a group in Colorado that's backing efforts to recall two state senators. Bardella's departure follows a tumultuous seven years in Washington, during which the ambitious and fiercely loyal spokesman was touted as rising star. But all that ended in 2011, when Issa fired Bardella after the staffer was caught forwarding email exchanges he'd had with reporters to New York Times journalist Mark Leibovich, who was writing a book about Beltway power structures. Six months later, Issa rehired Bardella in a new role, and a spokesman for Issa said Bardella had agreed not to participate further in Leibovich's book." [HuffPost]

From the DOL: Vice President Joe Biden will visit the U.S. Department of Labor on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013, to conduct the swearing-in ceremony for Thomas E. Perez as the 26th U.S. Secretary of Labor.

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - For nearly two years, Tom Allen clocked into his job at a defense hardware plant in Lansing, Mich. in the afternoon to start a 12-hour shift, usually operating a metal lathe machine. The hours were long, but the overtime pay was welcome. Still, at the end of the week, Allen said, he'd get home Saturday morning at 5:30 a.m. so tired he'd sleep until dinnertime. "By Sunday night you felt pretty good," Allen, 63, said in an interview. "Then it started all over again." But when the company, Demmer Corporation, told him he had to work on Saturdays and Sundays as well, Allen refused. "I literally told them, 'I'm not going to have a heart attack and die in the traces just so you guys can make a little extra money.'" Demmer fired him in December 2010 and has appealed his unemployment claim, saying he had no proof he'd been promised only 60 hours and he had no right to skip shifts. In August, a Michigan court sided with Demmer. [HuffPost]

DOUBLE DOWNER - Today, two-thirds of American workers are on the job at least 40 hours per week, with 25 percent working longer and nearly 7 percent putting in more than 60 hours, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The entrepreneurial spirit is our holiest ghost, and slacking is downright un-American. And whereas technology was supposed to make work easier and give everyone more free time, for some people, bedside smartphones have made work relentless. Studies have shown that overwork leads to excessive stress and devastating health problems… People ought to wonder on a day like Labor Day, when friends and neighbors and family have gathered, when ice-cold beer cans are sweating in a bucket and hot dogs sizzle on the grill, when pride swells in the American way of life -- why don't we do this more often? If more time off could benefit both individual human beings and the broader economy, why don't we have more long weekends? Why isn't every Monday a Labor Day? [HuffPost]

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SENATE NEARING USE-OF-FORCE RESOLUTION - NBC News: The top senators on the Foreign Relations Committee are nearing an agreement on a new resolution authorizing the use of force in Syria, ranking member Sen. Bob Corker told reporters Tuesday at the Capitol. Corker said he and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., met privately with President Barack Obama at the White House after a larger meeting with congressional leaders and key committee members. 'Based on the conversation we just had in the Oval Office, I think that we are in agreement with regard to what the authorization needs to address,' Corker said Tuesday...that's the fine line Menendez, Corker and Senate leaders are trying to walk as they craft the new resolution -- narrowing the scope of the administration's authority in a way that many Democrats want without losing support from McCain and fellow hawkish Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. ." [NBC News]

GOP LEADERSHIP SUPPORTS SYRIA STRIKE - John, I will give you D.C. warmongering. WSJ: "House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), in brief comments after the meeting Tuesday, said only the U.S. has the capability to stop Mr. Assad and warn others about the use of chemical weapons. 'This is something that the United States as a country needs to do—I'm going to support the president's call for action,' Mr. Boehner said... House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) echoed those concerns in a statement released after the meeting, saying, 'America's credibility is on the line.'... Mr. Cantor, a staunch supporter of Israel, warned that the violence in Syria is spilling over into other countries and threatens to imperil U.S. allies in the region. 'It is not just an abstract theory that the Syrian conflict threatens the stability of key American partners in the region,' he said. 'It is a reality.' Mr. Cantor didn't mention Israel by name." [WSJ]

The Washington establishment is so united on this issue you'd think we were giving banks money: "House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday said the use of chemical weapons in Syria was 'outside the circle of civilized behavior' and 'cannot be ignored' by the United States. 'We must respond,' Pelosi said." [The Hill]

John McCain wants more things to go boom: "A day after warning that a vote by Congress against military action in Syria would be 'catastrophic,' Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he might vote against the use of force resolution himself if it’s too weak." [WaPo]

The U.S. and Israel wants its enemies to know that they're so missile crazy they'll fire those suckers at THE OPEN OCEAN. This is the diplomatic version of lighting your cigar with a stack of $100s. Times: "Israel and the United States tested a new air-defense system on Tuesday morning, launching a missile from deep in the Mediterranean Sea that caused consternation in Syria and Russia given the heightened tension in the region as the Obama administration weighs a military strike in Syria...Myriam Nahon, a spokeswoman for the Defense Ministry, declined to answer questions about whether the test had been connected in any way to the situation in Syria, saying only that such tests are 'conducted periodically,' and 'it happens whenever it has to happen.'" [NYT]

ICYMI: MCDONNELL KNEW OF GIFTS AND FINANCIAL AIDE - It's going to be fun in the coming weeks and months to watch establishment outlets try to avoid using the word "lie" (Gov. McDonnell, recently uncovered documents reveal, has an elastic relationship with reality).WaPo: "Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell was aware of gifts and financial help provided by a wealthy Richmond area businessman during the same months the governor and his wife took steps to help his company, according to people familiar with documents and interviews gathered by federal investigators. For example, McDonnell (R) was present at a charity auction in 2011 when the chief executive of Star Scientific, which makes a dietary supplement, successfully bid on a fashion tour of New York for the governor’s wife in front of a crowd of onlookers, witnesses said. Separately, the executive, Jonnie R. Williams Sr., flew the governor and his wife on a weekend trip to Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, over Labor Day weekend last year. And Williams repeatedly allowed the governor, his sons and staff to play golf and buy golf gear at elite Richmond area country clubs, running up more than $7,000 on Williams’s tab, according to the documents turned over to authorities." [WaPo]

CHRISTIE DITCHES RAND PAUL FOR DINNER WITH WIFE - If only the dinner were at a romantic, candlelit bistro in Aimes. John Celock: "Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R) will travel to New Jersey next week to campaign for Republican U.S. Senate nominee Steve Lonegan, but Gov. Chris Christie (R) won't be there to greet him. Christie announced Tuesday that he plans to go away with his wife for her birthday instead of joining Paul at a rally to boost Lonegan in the state's Oct. 16 special U.S. Senate election. Paul, a possible 2016 presidential candidate, is traveling to the Garden State in an effort to boost Lonegan, a tea party favorite who has been trailing Democrat Cory Booker in the polls. Christie said Tuesday in a video posted on his state YouTube channel that he plans to skip the Paul rally. The move comes weeks after Christie, also a possible 2016 presidential candidate, publicly feuded with Paul on a series of domestic and foreign policy issues. The back-and-forth included Paul accusing Christie of being focused on government spending, while Christie described Paul's foreign policy views as 'dangerous.'" [HuffPost]

Our far-flung correspondents: "WESTFIELD, N.J. -- The star of the TLC television show 'Cake Boss' said that people should stop focusing on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's weight and focus instead on the Republican's record." [HuffPost's John Celock]

REPUBLICANS FAIL TO CREATE JOBS - The Republican National Convention was a financial dud for Tampa Bay, meaning that 2,000-square-foot addition The Pink Pony made to its champagne room was for naught. Tampa Bay Times: "Local officials recently celebrated a study concluding that the Republican National Convention generated $214 million in direct spending across eight counties across Tampa Bay, and $404 million once you factor in a 'multiplier' effect of people spending and re-spending all that money. For a dissenting view, meet University of South Florida economist Philip Porter. 'If there was an impact, it was negative,' Porter said last week in an email response to an inquiry from the Tampa Bay Times. It's the latest in nearly 15 years of conclusions that run counter to the optimism of civic boosters and promoters of blockbuster events...Porter says the RNC fails to show up in tax revenue and taxable sales statistics for Hillsborough County. For the evidence, he says, look at this: From August 2010 to August 2011, sales tax revenues in Hillsborough grew at 5.88 percent -- faster than in the rest of the state, where growth was 5.44 percent." [Tampa Bay Times]

That's odd. We thought we wasted a lot of money down there.

DE BLASIO POISED TO AVOID RUNOFF - Quinnipiac: "With 47 percent of black voters and 44 percent of women voters, New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio surges to 43 percent of likely voters in the Democratic primary for mayor, passing the 40 percent cutoff and possibly avoiding a runoff, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Former City Comptroller and 2009 Democratic nominee William Thompson is at 20 percent, with 18 percent for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, 7 percent for former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, 4 percent for Comptroller John Liu, 1 percent for former Council member Sal Albanese and 8 percent undecided...In today's survey, women likely Democratic primary voters go 44 percent for de Blasio, 19 percent for Thompson and 18 percent for Quinn. Men go 41 percent for de Blasio, 20 percent for Thompson and 18 percent for Quinn. Black voters go 47 percent for de Blasio, 25 percent for Thompson and 6 percent for Quinn. White voters go 42 percent for de Blasio, 28 percent for Quinn and 16 percent for Thompson. " [Quinnipiac]

C-SPAN FINALLY WINNING A POPULARITY CONTEST - New York Magazine scrutinized Congress' Twitter accounts to determine where its members 24-year-old new media directors get their information: "Topping the overall list of most followed accounts are four D.C.-based political news outlets, which, thanks to their bipartisan appeal, are followed by around 60 percent of members of congress. But taking a look at the top twenty accounts divided by party shows zero overlap beyond the Hill, Politico, Roll Call, and CSPAN: Although they like a few of the same publications, Democrats and Republicans tend to lack interest in ... each other. Also of note in the party breakdown: President Obama is only the eighth most-followed account among Democrats in Congress, which seems odd. On the Republican side, John Boehner, apparently the world's most interesting tweeter, is hogging two spots in the top ten." [NY Mag]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a cat waving.

This is what happens when you let William Howard Taft in: "Have you heard about the giant Woodrow Wilson who showed up at Nats Park during the last homestand? Well, it wasn’t affiliated with the team...Let Teddy Win provided a helpful link to the Beat Woody Facebook page — 'I ran for President and won. Now I am running all over the Washington metropolitan area, covering the streets of the nation’s capital and its surroundings,' reads the bio on the site, which is barely two weeks old.

COMFORT FOOD

- Gentleman -- and we use that term deliberately here -- waxes poetic as he is arrested. [http://bit.ly/17hhtE7]

- Web game asks players to identify languages. [http://bit.ly/17k2mcX]

- "Hitsong" parodies every techno single produced in the last five-to-seven years. [http://bit.ly/1fwt6Me]

- In Russia, the only thing more crooked than the politics is the parking.[http://bit.ly/15wMB1C]

- Lunchbox museum is filled with lunchboxes. [http://bit.ly/15R1wIi]

- "Get Lucky" as performed by a retro Super Nintendo music composition game. [http://bit.ly/17H4LV8]

- Awkward moments, as cataloged by BuzzFeed. [http://bit.ly/17FI2J0]

TWITTERAMA

@daweiner: CUT TO: Rand Paul: "We must fight White House attempts to drag us into another senseless war. It's a no-Boehner." FLASHES DEVILISH GRIN

@AndrewStilesNRO: Pro-intervention: Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, France. Anti-intervention: John Bolton

@jonlovett: Senators ask questions the way toddlers tell jokes. You only know it's over because they stop talking.

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