Huffpost Politics

HUFFPOST HILL - House Republicans Clinging To Guns, Religion, Obamacare

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Phil Gingrey lamented that he is "stuck here making $172,000 a year," echoing the kitchen table conversations happening all across this country every day. Max Baucus invited executives to Montana to "boost our state's economy by finding Montana solutions for Montana jobs," though we're pretty sure he did so to boost Max Baucus' net worth by finding ConocoPhillips solutions for Max Baucus' post-Senate lobbying gig. And Republicans are adding so many demands to this Fall's fiscal battles that we'll soon be means-testing public school parents and Labor Day will be rechristened "Ronald Reagan Memorial Minimum Wages Kill Growth Day, Brought To You By Northrop Grumman." This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, September 18th, 2013:

HOUSE REPUBLICANS DON'T WANT TO GIVE BACK OBAMA'S GIFTS - National Review: "A debate among congressional Republicans over a potential line of attack on Obamacare is pitting their pocketbooks against the chance at political gold. At issue is a requirement in the law that congressional staffers purchase their health insurance in the exchange markets. The Office of Personnel Management recently ruled that the federal government can continue providing a subsidy to use in the exchange markets, which critics such as Senator David Vitter have railed against as a special exemption from the law for Congress. But at a closed-door conference meeting this morning in the Capitol basement as they discussed a proposal to reverse the ruling, some lawmakers were more concerned about their own well-being. 'Before you support this, go home and talk to your wife,' [Editor's note: Or, erm, your husbands?] said Representative Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, who warned colleagues the change would amount to a 7 percent cut to their paychecks. Representative Joe Barton of Texas...[estimated the change] would cost him $12,000. 'That's a burden. And it's a burden on our staff, too,' [he said]...Capitol Hill aides, [Rep. Phil Gingrey] said 'may be 33 years old now and not making a lot of money. But in a few years they can just go to K Street...and make 500,000 a year. Meanwhile I'm stuck here making $172,000 a year.'" [National Review]

Just let all that sink in for a moment... More on congressional salaries and perks here.

REPUBLICAN SENATORS NOT ON BOARD WITH THE WHOLE 'SHUTTING DOWN THE GOVERNMENT TO DEFUND OBAMACARE EVEN THOUGH THAT WON'T WORK' PLAN - Sam Stein and Sabrina Siddiqui: "As House Republicans prepare to vote this week on a continuing resolution that would defund Obamacare, several Senate Republicans continue to think they're playing a losing hand. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) told The Huffington Post that he still thinks demanding that President Barack Obama's health care law be defunded in order to avoid a government shutdown is a 'dumb idea,' as he deemed it last July. 'I said it was the dumbest idea I'd ever heard of,' Burr said. 'I still think it's a dumb idea, because you can't defund Obamacare.' The North Carolina Republican added that he hadn't determined how he'd vote on a continuing resolution, because it wasn't clear what type of bill Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to bring to the floor. But a source close to Burr said he opposes a strategy that would tie an effort to defund the health care law to the government funding measure...Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), likewise, told HuffPost he was reluctant to sign onto the 'Defund Obamacare' effort being pushed by his fellow Republicans...And Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) shot down the idea during a Wednesday appearance on CNN." [HuffPost]

We guess Sean Penn wasn't available: "The rumors are true: On Wednesday night, during a special two-hour edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox News will air an exclusive interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The interview is conducted by FNC senior correspondent Greg Palkot and former Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a Fox contributor. Michael Clemente, the executive vice president for news at Fox, said in a statement that the interview came together on Sept. 7, when 'Kucinich advised me that he believed he could secure an interview' with Assad." [National Journal]

WE'RE NOT MAKING THIS ONE UP - Radley Balko has the story of masked DEA agents who raided the wrong house, stomped on some elderly women and have refused to identify themselves, which has made it nearly impossible for them be sued. So the judge ordered the women to pay the masked gunmen's court costs. They're broke, so he ordered their Social Security disability checks garnished, because this is America. [HuffPost]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Paul LePage brags about cracking down on welfare fraud, despite questionable results. "People who think the state could better balance its budget by cracking down on welfare fraud should have been disappointed with Gov. LePage's radio address last week. Despite spending $700,000 a year on eight additional fraud inspectors who fielded about 1,100 leads, the governor reported that only 45 cases of alleged fraud were referred to law enforcement." [Portland Press Herald]

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REPUBLICANS HOPING TO CORNER DEMS WITH OBAMACARE VOTE - Examiner: "With House Republicans poised to exclude funding for Obamacare from a continuing resolution needed to fund the government, vulnerable Senate Democrats could soon face another tough vote on the unpopular health care law -- and Republicans are eager to force it...House Republicans appear to be coalescing around the idea that forcing Senate Democrats to strip the budget bill of the provision defunding Obamacare could boost their own political standing heading into the mid-term election cycle. At a closed-door meeting of House Republicans Wednesday, other members echoed Scalise's remarks, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., urged members to remain focused on the bigger political picture. 'What will happen in the next two weeks will come back to us during elections,' McCarthy said, according to a source in the room." Um, yes. It certainly might. [Examiner ]

Just as he lets Merlot wash down his gullet, John Boehner lets "that shit roll off my back." The Hill: "Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) used some salty language Wednesday to brush off criticisms he's faced over his leadership skills. 'People say a lot of things about me,' Boehner told GOP lawmakers in a closed-door meeting, according to two people who attended. 'People outside this room. People inside this room. I just let that s--t roll off my back.'... Conservatives have rapped him for not pushing hard enough in fiscal fights, while Democrats have said he is allowing the Tea Party to push him around." [The Hill]

The "Morning Joe" hosts and contributors have a weird thing about Ambien.

MAX BAUCUS JUST DOESN'T CARE ANYMORE - David Dayen: "The CEOs of the nation's largest companies [are] participating in the Montana Economic Development Summit, billed as an effort to 'boost our state's economy by finding Montana solutions for Montana jobs.' That may sound like a regional concern, but the non-Montana titans of industry in attendance include Google CEO Eric Schmidt; Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg; Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk; and many more, including executives from Ford, Boeing, Hewlett-Packard, ConocoPhillips, Oracle, FedEx and Delta Airlines. Sponsors of the event include even more behemoths, like Walmart, Pfizer, Pepsi, Microsoft, Nike, Lockheed Martin and dozens more... the convener of the event, Max Baucus, happens to chair the Senate Finance Committee, the key tax-writing panel in the upper chamber. And when he throws an event, nominally about 'bringing jobs to Montana,' corporate America recognizes that this gives them another opportunity to dole out favors to the senator who wants to lead a massive rewriting of the nation's tax laws, designed to lower corporate rates and allow companies to bring back money stashed overseas with impunity. In fact, every corporation associated with the Montana Economic Development Summit has a stake in the tax reform debate, and most have officially lobbied for favorable treatment." [New Republic]

Chuck Schumer wants Janet Yellen as Fed chair, which makes sense given how much she hates Four Loko. Mike McAuliff and Zach Carter: " Influential Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, threw his weight behind Janet Yellen on Wednesday, saying she was his pick to head the Federal Reserve. Yellen, the Fed's current vice chair, is the top choice of many on the left. Deep opposition to President Barack Obama's presumed first choice, former White House Economic Adviser Larry Summers, forced Summers to pull his name from consideration last week. 'Now that Summers has pulled out, I think the president should choose Yellen,' Schumer told reporters on Capitol Hill. 'She's an excellent choice.'" [HuffPost]

AMERICANS FOR NOTHING: ATHEIST PAC LAUNCHES - Amanda Terkel: "On Wednesday, the Center for Humanist Activism launched the Freethought Equality Fund PAC, which it's billing as the first nontheist political action committee with a full-time paid staff. 'I am pleased that we're able to meet this need for political representation for atheist, humanist, and other freethinkers,' Roy Speckhardt, the group's executive director, said in a statement. 'To be able to provide financial assistance to candidates who support secular government will benefit all Americans, including those who value the absence of government entanglement in religious beliefs.' The PAC will back humanist, atheist and agnostic candidates at all levels of government. Freethought's coordinator, Bishop McNeill, told The Huffington Post that it would also be open to supporting candidates who identify with a religion if they are committed to protecting the separation of church and state and defending the civil liberties of secular Americans." [HuffPost]

Wendy Davis will announce her political plans early next month: "Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D), who catapulted to national attention in June for her marathon filibuster of an anti-abortion bill, plans to announce the next steps in her political career on Oct. 3...Many Texas Democrats have been urging Davis to run for governor, hoping she would succeed Gov. Rick Perry (R), who later signed into law the abortion restrictions Davis fought so hard to stop. Davis would likely face the state's conservative attorney general, Greg Abbott, in a gubernatorial race. Perry has announced he would not be seeking reelection." [HuffPost's Amanda Terkel]

'DON'T VOIR, DON'T DIRE' HEADED TO COURT - Lydia O'Connor: "A legal battle between two rival pharmaceutical companies may consequentially resolve another, bigger debate: whether gays and lesbians may be excluded from a jury based solely on their sexual orientation. San Francisco's Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday will revisit a 2011 antitrust case between Abbott Laboratories and GlaxoSmithKline. In the case, GSK argued that Abbott had unfairly upped the price of the HIV-fighting drug Norvir by 400 percent in order to boost sales of its other HIV drug, Kaletra. GSK claimed that Abbott did so in order to harm competitors -- including GSK -- whose drugs must be taken with Norvir. While the price hikes sparked a backlash among AIDS advocates and the gay community, the court ultimately ruled in Abbott's favor. GSK is now appealing that decision, citing Abbot's rejection of a gay man as a potential juror as a move that should have been blocked by Batson v. Kentucky, a 1986 case establishing that a person may not be excluded from a jury because of race. Whether Batson also applies to sexual orientation may be answered by the case." [HuffPost]

WHERE ARE THE PRISON JERBS? - Don't expect any prison job truthers to challenge the 93 percent unemployment rate among the incarcerated. Ryan Reilly: "The federal prison population has grown so large that the federal Bureau of Prisons can no longer reasonably expect to meet its goal of employing a quarter of prisoners, according to an internal Justice Department review. Government-owned Federal Prison Industries operates 83 facilities staffed by federal inmates, who make products like office furniture and military apparel for federal agencies. But since 2009, FPI has been losing an average of $31 million per year, despite average net sales of $753 million. Additionally, it employs just 7 percent of the total federal inmate population, the lowest percentage in over 75 years...DOJ's inspector general found that FPI hasn't been employing as many inmates because it has been trying to make up for declining revenues, which officials blamed on the fact that it is no longer mandatory for federal agencies to purchase certain products from FPI..." [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a dog singing along to an accordion

BILL CLINTON CALLING THE HILL MORE THAN AN AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE LOBBYIST - NO ONE TELL HIM ABOUT FACETIME. Politico: "Bill Clinton is more than a decade removed from the White House, but if you were to look at the cellphone bills of some House Democrats, you wouldn't know it. For a select group of Capitol Hill lawmakers -- call them the Bill Clinton Caucus -- the former president is a familiar voice on the other end of the line. Sometimes Clinton is on the hunt for intel on competitive congressional races in districts he'll be traveling to. At other times, he wants to know about pending bills or to see what kind of messaging his party will be using. Or the former president might just be calling to check in and shoot the breeze...Clinton's Hill call list consists mostly of the House Democrats who served in his administration, who supported his wife's unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign or who got to know him well while he was in the White House. One of the people he's in touch with is Rep. John Garamendi, a longtime pol who served as Clinton's 1992 California campaign chairman and who then landed a post in the Interior Department." [Politico]

COMFORT FOOD

- Someone strapped a GoPro camera on an eagle. Steve Miller's fantasy come to life. [http://bit.ly/1bpRguB]

- How to make Siracha sauce in your kitchen. [http://bit.ly/19ek1FH]

- An honest trailer for "World War Z," which, as the narrator correctly points out, is just a half-baked zombie movie... WITH BRAD PITT. [http://bit.ly/1aTNPx0]

- That time Ben Affleck appeared in a 1989 Burger King commercial. [http://bit.ly/1f3SziU]

- This beer koozie shuts down cell signals so you will actually talk to your friends. More importantly, you won't drunk dial your ex. [http://bit.ly/1emlkbP]

- A map charting all the sasquatch sightings across the U.S. and Canada. Apparently there are millions of upright furry beasts meandering around North America. [http://bit.ly/1eOWnaa]

- Guy turned on his faucet and beer came out. [http://huff.to/1brzBCJ]

TWITTERAMA

@chucktodd: Vogue has now posted its Rand Paul spread. vogue.com/magazine/artic... // "I'll take, 'things I never I'd tweet' for $100, Alex"

@pourmecoffee: Hello, my name is Congress. How can I sabotage the economy today? Let me tell you about my specials, malignant neglect and crisis by design

@indecision: The University of Alabama still has segregated sororities? Shocked to discover Alabama has universities.

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