POLITICS
10/14/2013 06:00 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

HUFFPOST HILL - Fiscal Deal Near, Staffers Search For Work Clothes Beneath Mountains Of Beer Cans

Members of Congress didn't reek of booze today, suggesting a fiscal deal might be near. The shutdown has caused Michelle Obama's vegetables to deteriorate so badly you'd think they were a program aimed at helping poor kids. And the GOP erroneously told its supporters that New Jersey's special Senate election is tomorrow (it's Wednesday). You know the GOP is in poor shape when it can't even suppress the right voters anymore. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Monday, October 14th, 2013:

REID & MCCONNELL NEARING DEAL - Roll Call: "The emerging plan would reopen the government until Jan. 15, 2014, and extend the debt limit into February -- but it would not address the medical device tax, which many Republicans and Democrats would like to repeal. A source familiar with the negotiations explained that Majority Leader Harry Reid pushed to get the repeal of the tax removed from the negotiations...It appeared likely that the deal would punt the question of turning off automatic spending cuts, known as the sequester, to another round of budget talks, with a deadline of Dec. 15. But under one proposal, if the sequester came into effect there would be increased flexibility to deal with it. While nothing's finalized and things could change as talks continue, with an expected Senate Republican Conference meeting Monday evening, it looks like talks are leading toward including a requirement that the Health and Human Services Department certify that the agency is able to verify the incomes of those receiving subsidies to buy health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges. That win for Senate Republicans would be paired with a Democratic victory in delaying a scheduled reinsurance tax under Obamacare that would hit in 2014 and run for three calendar years in order to create a pool of reserve funds for insurance company losses. Insurers in the exchanges are required to cover higher-risk individuals (such as those with pre-existing conditions). Unions had pushed for that delay." [Roll Cal]

@dcbigjohn: Sen Cruz refuses to say whether he'll block any debt/shutdown deal that does not address Obamacare... Also unclear if Sen Cruz wont stand in way of senate deal but publicly and privately press House GOP to "hold the line" as he has in past

@stebruskCNN: McCain says Republicans will ultimately go for deal. Asked why, he opened poll in his hand and said "74% blame Republicans", that's why

Not a supercommittee: "[T]he so-called supercommittee being created as part of this compromise would have limitations on its power. Members would not have to come up with their own budget deal, [a] source said. Instead, they would 'be instructed to attempt to come up with a spending level so that appropriations committee could write bills prior to the CR deadline on Jan 15th.' This solution makes more sense, giving the constant bemoaning among lawmakers that they want to return to regular order and the general concern among members of the appropriations committees that their power has been usurped during these past few years." [Huffpost's Sam Stein]

A Democratic source adds: "The framework of the deal is a 3 step process. First a budget conference, then CR, then debt ceiling. Items still being discussed are whether debt ceiling will include extraordinary measures and therefore go longer than Feb. 15th also what Democrats would get for income verification. Budget conference would end on or around December 15th, CR to January 15th, and Debt Limit to February 15th if no extraordinary measures." [HuffPost's Sam Stein]

@robertcostaNRO: I hear Sen leaders agreed to cancel WH mtg b/c they were making fast progress on Hill, wanted to focus on that process

@kasie GOP Senate caucus meeting delayed until Tuesday morning.

IT'S WEDNESDAY, GUYS - @GOP: Tomorrow is the #NJSen special election. Make sure you get out to the polls and vote!

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Government shutdown strikes again in North Carolina: "More needy families in North Carolina will begin feeling the pinch of the shutdown Monday, as the state suspends its Work First program, a federally funded program also known as Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF). State Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Julie Henry confirmed that, as of Monday, DHHS has instructed county offices that 'no new approved applications for Work First should be processed because of the unavailability of federal funds.' The short-term assistance program is designed to help families stay off welfare by supplying limited cash benefits, child care, food stamps and Medicaid for up to three months." [WRAL.com]

DOUBLE DOWNER - Five ways a prolonged government shutdown steals food from babies.

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POLL: GOP INCREASINGLY BLAMED FOR BUDGET CRISES - Ariel Edwards-Levy: "Nearly three-quarters of Americans disapprove of Republicans' handling of the budget crisis, according to an ABC/Washington Post poll released Monday. Disapproval of the GOP, which has risen steadily since just before the government shutdown began, is now at 74 percent, up 11 points from late September. A majority of Americans are also discontented with Democrats' role in the budget negotiations. But disapproval ratings for Democrats in Congress and for President Barack Obama, both of which started at a lower level than disapproval of Republicans in Congress, have remained largely unchanged in the past two weeks. Sixty-one percent of Americans now dislike congressional Democrats' handling of the crisis, while 53 percent dislike Obama's. Those are rises of only 5 points and 3 points, respectively, from before the shutdown began. Republicans themselves are increasingly negative about their lawmakers. In the latest survey, Americans who identified as Republican were about evenly split on congressional Republicans' performance, with 47 percent giving them a thumbs-down. Sixty-three percent of "very conservative" Republicans, however approve." [HuffPost]

HEALTH EXCHANGES FARING WORSE IN STATES WITH OPPOSITION GOVERNORS - Remember that sad room where Homer Simpson's stockbroker worked? That's where we imagine Obamacare navigators work in red states. Jeff Young: "In Washington, D.C., (population 632,000), the drive to enroll the uninsured into health coverage under President Barack Obama's health care reform law is backed by the city government, federal funding and more than 200 local workers helping people apply for benefits. In Prince William County, Va., (population 430,000), 30 miles south of the U.S. Capitol, there's pretty much just Frank Principi. Principi is the executive director of the Greater Prince William Community Health Center in Woodbridge, a nonprofit clinic. The center is home to 14 doctors, nurses and dentists who care for 10,000 low- and middle-income patients a year, and it charges uninsured people on a sliding scale based on income. It's also the only place in the county where those who want to use the health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act can go for certified, in-person help with their applications... the reach of Obamacare's enrollment drive is expected to vary widely. Fewer uninsured people are expected to get coverage in places like Virginia, which is doing next to nothing to help its residents sign up, than in places like the District of Columbia, which embraced the law's goals." [HuffPost]

ERIC CANTOR MADE KING OF THE HOUSE, DEMOCRATS UPSET - The Hill: "House Democrats are fuming about a rule change adopted by Republicans just before the government shut down on Oct. 1, arguing it shows GOP leaders closed agencies intentionally. Under long-standing House rules, any member of the chamber can bring a measure to the floor. But Republicans altered the rule governing legislation to fund the government so that only House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) holds the power to make such a motion. The practical effect of that change became apparent on Saturday, when Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, tried to bring the Senate-passed continuing resolution (CR) to the floor, only to be shot down...Under the standing rules of the House, any member can make a 'privileged' motion 'to dispose of any amendment' when a 'stage of disagreement' between the House and Senate 'has been reached on a bill or resolution.' That privilege, though rarely used, offers a roundabout way for the minority party to force votes on the floor. But in the last hour of Sept. 30, Republicans on the House Rules Committee altered the rule governing the CR debate so that such a motion "may be offered only by the Majority Leader or his designee." Explaining the change, Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) made no attempt to disguise the Republicans' motivations. The alteration was made, he said, to prevent Democrats from bringing the Senate's 'clean' CR to the floor, just as Republicans were calling for a conference on the competing bills." [The Hill]

SCOTT WALKER TOTALLY DIGGING BIG GOVERNMENT Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "Gov. Scott Walker's administration used phantom job transfers this year to give double-digit pay raises to two employees and a smaller raise to a third, quickly switching them from one post to as many as three others and then back to their original jobs. The biggest pay increase -- $14,416 a year -- went to a longtime state economist who helped expose flaws in jobs statistics that were hurting the governor's recall election chances, a Journal Sentinel review has found. Last month, the administration had to backtrack and recoup a retroactive pay raise given to the hardline head of the Capitol Police after the newspaper reported that Chief Dave Erwin and his top deputy had been moved on paper to ghost jobs for two weeks and then back to their real posts at much higher salaries. That makes at least five state employees who were given raises that skirted state limits...Rank-and-file state workers received a 1% general pay raise in July, the first general increase in four years for most employees, and they are scheduled to receive another 1% raise in July 2014." [Journal-Sentinel]

SQUIRRELS TEARING APART MICHELLE OBAMA'S GARDEN - First they came for the radishes, and I didn't speak out because the First Lady is a socialist.... Politico "Michelle Obama's celebrated White House garden is overrun with weeds and wildlife -- yet another victim of the shutdown, according to a popular blogger on all things food-related at the White House. 'The vegetables filling the 1,500 square-foot plot are now rotting away on the vines and in the boxed beds, thanks to the mandate for 'minimal maintenance' placed on the skeletal crew of National Park Service gardeners who remain on duty at 1600 Penn.,' reports Eddie Gehman Kohan, the creator of Obama Foodorama, a website that chronicles the administration's food initiatives...Mushrooms and weeds are popping up. The tomatoes and basil are out of control. The sweet potatoes have been relinquished to 'worm food.'... A White House source told Obama Foodorama that under the shutdown gardeners are not allowed to harvest any of the crops. They are only allowed to water the garden and remove trash -- restrictions that preclude raking, weeding, or clearing out dead leaves." [Politico]

ICYMI: CRUZ WINS VALUES VOTER SUMMIT STRAW POLL - Please don't encourage him, people. WaPo: "If there was any doubt whether conservatives want Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) to run for president, that was banished Saturday night when he won the Values Voter Summit straw poll with 42 percent, giving him a double-digit advantage over his nearest competitors. Cruz won the Family Research Council Action's contest -- often seen as an early indicator of which candidates would fare well in a GOP presidential primary -- while Ben Carson, a rising star in conservative circles, came in second, according to the group's news release. Both Carson and former GOP Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum -- who ran for president in 2012 -- received 13 percent of the vote, though Carson had one more vote than Santorum. GOP Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) came in fourth and fifth, respectively, with 6 percent and 5 percent of the vote." [WaPo]

PAY ATTENTION TO MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE: ED HENRY - Is it just us or would White House press secretaries be really good at managing a polygamous marriage? Jack Mirkinson: "Fox News correspondent Ed Henry walked out of a White House press briefing after being repeatedly ignored by spokesman Jay Carney on Friday. Henry attempted to ask Carney a question twice, but Carney called on other people instead. After the first time, Henry could be seen shaking his head and muttering something to colleague Major Garrett. After the second time, Henry angrily got up and left the room. The briefing continued without him." [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a bear playing tetherball.

STATUE OF LIBERTY REOPENS - Oh man, what if World War II veterans protested the landmark's closure by storming Liberty Island via amphibious landing? Times: " For the first time since the federal government shut down on Oct. 1, the Statue of Liberty was open to visitors, financed, for now, by the State of New York...As of Sunday, under a deal negotiated by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, New York will pay theNational Park Service $61,600 per day so that its personnel can operate the Statue of Liberty while the federal government remains shut down. The agreement is one of several between states and the federal government to allow popular national parks, including the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore, to reopen during the shutdown...A performer who dresses up like Lady Liberty and poses for pictures with tourists -- using a concealed stepladder for extra height -- was also pleased about the reopening. Fewer tourists had been visiting, she said, and those who came did not want to give her any money." [NYT]

COMFORT FOOD

- "Brides Throwing Cats" visualizes what would happen if newlyweds substituted cats for bouquets. [http://bit.ly/1fiboAs]

- Animation depicting one reporter's interview with James Brown in the 1980s. The Hardest Working Man in Show Business was a big fan of Reagan. [http://bit.ly/13Xbarq]

- A street vendor in Manhattan sold original Banksy artwork. Only a handful were sold. [http://bit.ly/1cNDbIa]

- Patient dog is served a luxurious sushi dinner. [http://bit.ly/zUB8Tp]

- Photographer in Philadelphia took portraits of men who harassed her in the street. [http://bit.ly/GZkumO]

- The world's oldest known melody, a Hurrian Hymn from 1400 BCE, performed. [http://bit.ly/17d7pxT]

- String quartet performs Macklemore's "Thrift Shop." [http://bit.ly/1brRtKD]

TWITTERAMA

@MikeGrunwald: Ted Cruz is telling the NY Giants they're about to clinch a playoff spot.

@timothypmurphy: what time is the debt ceiling

@daveweigel: Rand Paul, no! MT @DailyMailUS: Kentucky man quits his 9-to-5 life to live in underground Hobbit hole dailym.ai/GVgUus

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