HuffPost Hill had a great Halloween, though we were upset by the negative response to our costume, "Slutty Grover Norquist." Congress pulled off a group costume for the ages when its members dressed up as the scariest thing in the world: Congress. And a guy dressed as a pirate ambushed a political event featuring a guy dressed as a can, but this is Washington, so it's quite possible Halloween had nothing to do with it. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, October 31st, 2013:
COMMITTEE PASSES BILL EXPANDING NSA POWERS, THOUGH WE'RE NOT SURE WHICH POWERS THEY STILL DON'T HAVE - We're guessing the NSA already knew how the vote was going to go down. Matt Sledge: "Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) pushed through the Senate Intelligence Committee on an 11-4 vote a bill that enshrines the bulk collection of Americans' phone call records into law, and expands the agency's authority to track foreign nationals who enter the United States...critics immediately charged that it does little more than offer a fig leaf for the NSA's controversial surveillance operations...Feinstein's bill effectively transforms into law the NSA's internal policies for the bulk collection of data on who Americans call, when, and for how long. The bill would codify already-existing limits on the use of that database, and expand reporting requirements. The bill does add some new checks on the NSA's powers: It would expand criminal penalties for the misuse of intelligence capabilities. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees many of the NSA's programs, would also be empowered to appoint a friend-of-the-court lawyer to weigh in when a case presented a "a novel or significant interpretation of the law." [HuffPost]
JOE BIDEN SWEARS IN CORY BOOKER... YEP - At least he didn't make odd jokes about frisking his family. He's learning. Mike McAuliff: "Cory Booker, the former Democratic mayor of Newark, was sworn in as a United States senator from New Jersey just after Thursday noon, winning a standing ovation and some chuckles for a couple of awkward moments. He was escorted into the Senate chamber by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), whom Vice President Joe Biden addressed first as "Frank" -- the name of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, whom Booker is replacing. Biden was there to read Booker the oath of office. 'Come on up here, Frank ... Bob,' the vice president said, correcting himself. Sitting in the chamber were dozens of other Democrats and three Republicans, including the only other African-American senator at the moment, Tim Scott (R-S.C.). Booker is the first African American elected to the Senate since Barack Obama won the presidency. Scott, Roland Burris and Mo Cowan -- the latter two served only briefly -- were all appointed to fill vacancies between elections." [HuffPost]
@mkraju: Biden also said to me as he was leaving classified briefing on Iran: "I'm concerned it's Halloween, and the weather may be bad."
Mike McAuliff has the Frank/Bob video.
DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - The food stamp cliff is upon us! One-hundred percent trick. "About 900,000 veterans and 5,000 active duty troops face cuts in their food stamp benefits beginning Thursday as $5 billion is automatically trimmed from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program for low-income families....Of the active duty troops, 'military members who receive SNAP tend to be made up of members in junior pay grades with larger than average household sizes,' Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Defense Department spokesman, said in August in commenting on the potential for benefit cuts 'Military members normally 'promote out' of the need for additional subsistence benefits, due to the corresponding raises in basic pay and other allowances as one moves to a higher pay grade,' Christensen said in an e-mail statement. 'It's a small population but it's a vulnerable population,' Joye Raezer, executive director of the National Military Families Association, said of the active duty military families receiving food stamps." [Military.com]
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HIGH-PROFILE NOMINEE CLEARS COMMITTEE - Jen Bendery:
"The third and final of President Barack Obama's nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, bringing the Senate that much closer to a partisan blowout over whether any of those nominees will get a floor vote. The committee voted 10-8, along party lines, to confirm Robert Wilkins, whose nomination now heads to the Senate floor where fellow D.C. Circuit nominees Patricia Millett and Nina Pillard are awaiting votes. The Senate will hold a procedural vote on Millett's nomination later Thursday, a vote that Republicans are lining up to filibuster. Republicans insist that while they don't have any problems with the nominees themselves, they don't think the D.C. Circuit is busy enough to warrant filling its three vacant seats -- a point contested by Democrats both on its merits and on the grounds that the president has a constitutional duty to fill empty courts. Currently, the 11-member court has four Democrat-appointed judges and four Republican-appointed judges, meaning it's not coincidental that confirmation of Obama's nominees would tip the court's balance Democratic. Republicans have also falsely been charging Obama with 'court-packing" for trying to fill those empty seats.'" [HuffPost]
The seven types of assholes in Washington.
MEANWHILE, SENATE GOP FILIBUSTERS CIRCUIT COURT NOMINEE - Jen Bendery: "Senate Republicans filibustered one of President Barack Obama's top judicial nominees on Thursday, the clearest sign yet that the Senate may be heading for a messy partisan showdown that could result in Democrats revamping Senate filibuster rules. The Senate voted 55-38 to advance D.C. Circuit Court nominee Patricia Millett. Democrats needed 60 votes to clear a procedural motion, which meant they needed at least five Republicans to join them. In the end, only two did: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska). Three senators voted "present." The failed vote is a blow to Obama and Democrats, who gave a major push to Millett's campaign this week. Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and others held a Tuesday press conference highlighting Millett's background as a Supreme Court appellate lawyer and a military spouse. Just before the vote, Leahy, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, railed against Republicans for planning to filibuster an 'outstanding' nominee like Millett. He warned that Democrats may be forced to take 'drastic measures' if Republicans keep obstructing key Obama nominees for political reasons, suggesting that Democrats may change Senate rules to strip Republicans of their power to filibuster certain nominees." [HuffPost]
...ANNNND MEL WATT - It's the first time since Reconstruction the Senate filibuster the nomination of a sitting member of Congress so... good thing it was a black guy. WaPo: "Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a vote on the nomination of Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The delaying tactic was the latest episode in a contentious series of battles over President Obama's nominees and could pave the way for a renewed focus on whether Democrats want to change the chamber's rules. The Senate voted 56 to 42 to proceed to a vote on Watt's nomination -- shy of the 60 votes required to end debate. Some Senate Democrats have suggested they may change Senate rules to allow for swifter and easier confirmation of nominees. They also reacted with disgust to the GOP's rejection of Watt, noting that sitting members of Congress are very rarely rejected for Cabinet-level posts. (No sitting member of Congress has been denied a Cabinet position since 1843, for example, though FHFA isn't a Cabinet-level position.) Conservative groups have lined up to oppose Watt's nomination because of his call for more federal involvement in the home mortgage industry." [WaPo]
Joe wants the guns to come out: "Vice President Joe Biden, long a defender of tradition in the United States Senate, said Thursday it might be time to change the institution's rules after Republicans blocked yet another one of President Barack Obama's nominees. 'I think it's worth considering,' Biden said after the GOP nixed the appointment of Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) to oversee the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Biden presided over the session in his role as president of the Senate after swearing in the new New Jersey senator, Cory Booker (D). Biden was asked specifically if the rules should be changed so that a simple majority of senators could confirm nominees. Normally, it takes three-fifths of the Senate, or 60 votes, if one party decides to obstruct someone." [HuffPost]
RAND PAUL DOESN'T UNDERSTAND PLAGIARISM - Maybe he'd understand the gravity of the situation if people starting using "word socialism" instead of "plagiarism" and "reallocation of thoughts" instead of "lifting passages from Wikipedia." Nick Wing: "Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) continued to deny reports on Thursday that he'd stolen substantial sections from the Wikipedia entries of two movies and used them in speeches. There are undeniable similarities between Paul's speeches and the Wikipedia entries, which are written by community members and not official in any sense. MSNBC's Rachel Maddow reported earlier this week that Paul had lifted a number of sentences from the Wikipedia entry on the film "Gattaca" during a recent speech in Virginia. BuzzFeed followed up with a report that found another instance of Paul stealing from a Wikipedia entry on "Stand and Deliver" during a speech on immigration earlier this year...'In the course of a 25 minute speech, Senator Paul described the plot of a movie attributed it to the primary sources -- the movie -- in no way insinuating they were his own thoughts or ideas,' his office said in a statement to BuzzFeed. 'If the text had been submitted for academic publication, of course it would have been footnoted. Only in Washington is something this trivial a source for liberal media angst.'" [HuffPost]
GRASSLEY DEFIES GRASSLEY RULE - Roll Call: "Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, said Wednesday that only his personal office employees will enter the federal health care exchange established by the Affordable Care Act -- his committee staff will not... the Iowa Republican...authored the original provision to require members and staff to enter the exchange, and he intended for all staff to be subject to the exchanges. In the drafting process, Democrats exempted leadership and committee staffs. But Grassley had the option to place all of his employees, regardless of their position, on the exchange. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., Senate Democratic Conference Secretary and Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., chose to require that all of their staffers, including those in leadership and on committees, enter the exchange...When CQ Roll Call asked Grassley about the other leaders who opted to place all of their staff on the exchange, Grassley responded: 'I'm following the law based on what the Secretary of the Senate said.'" [Roll Call]
This town update: "It's Halloween on Capitol Hill and it was supposed to be the day of the can. The walking, human-sized soup can, that is, which serves as the mascot for the Can Kicks Back campaign, a millennial-friendly initiative drawing attention to the national debt by urging lawmakers to stop kicking the can down the road. The Can Kicks Back folks were having a press conference Thursday outside the Capitol, featuring Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and John Thune, R-S.D., when an 'Argghhh' coming from a man dressed as a pirate interrupted the action. 'Corporate Pirate Argghhh,' the gentleman yelled. 'I endorse everything, but raising corporate taxes! Keep your hands off my corporate booty that I've stashed away in the Caribbean,' the pirate yelled. The pirate was Alex Lawson, who serves as the executive director of Social Security Works. Lawson decided to crash the press conference and call out the Can Kicks Back campaign for not coming from the grass roots, but astroturfing instead." [US News and World Report]
SYRIA: CHEMICAL WEAPONS, PEOPLE BEING DESTROYED - Yet Bashar al-Assad still can't access Healthcare.gov, and that's the real tragedy. NYT: "The international chemical weapons watchdog said on Thursday that Syria had met an important deadline for the 'functional destruction' of all the chemical weapons production and mixing facilities it declared to inspectors, rendering them inoperable, under a deal brokered by Russia and the United States. While some experts depicted the announcement as a milestone, the measures left President Bashar al-Assad in control of a declared 1,290 metric tons of chemical weapons that are supposed to be destroyed by mid-2014, and an array of conventional weapons used in the country's bloody civil war, in which over 100,000 people have died. 'The Assad regime continues to use artillery, air power and siege tactics against civilians, with thousands killed every month,' the British Foreign Office said in a statement. While the destruction of facilities is 'an important first milestone, it brings no relief to the Syrian people.'" [NYT]
E.W. JACKSON: OBAMA WOULD MAKE SCHOOLS 'TEACH HOMOSEXUALITY' - Really, though, Jackson is glossing over the fact that we need to greatly reduce class size before we can even hope to get the homosexual message across to our kids. Mollie Reilly: "E.W. Jackson, Republican candidate for Virginia Lieutenant Governor, claimed during a 2012 interview that President Barack Obama would force schools to start 'teaching all children homosexuality.' In an interview with Christian activist Dean Welty uncovered by Right Wing Watch, Jackson criticized Obama for supporting same-sex marriage, claiming the president 'shakes his fist at God' and that any self-professed Christian who backs him is 'twisting themselves into pretzels to justify' their support for Obama. 'No Christian has any excuse for remaining in a party that has in effect declared war on God,' Jackson said. Jackson continued, '[Obama] will use.. the power of the federal government to force schools to start teaching all children homosexuality.' In another 2012 video surfaced by RWW, Jackson said he wanted to see gay individuals 'delivered.'" [HuffPost]
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a kitten kissing a woman's face.
HAVING A CRACK-SMOKING MAYOR ISN'T THE WORST THING EVER, TORONTO - But, that said, welcome to the club. AP: "Toronto's police chief said Thursday they have recovered a video deleted from a computer that appears to show Mayor Rob Ford smoking from a crack pipe. Police Chief Bill Blair said he was 'disappointed' after viewing the video, but that there was nothing in the video that would provide grounds to press charges. Blair said the video will come out when Ford's friend and sometimes driver, Alexander Lisi, goes to trial on drug and extortion charges. Blair did not say who the computer belonged to or provide further details. He said the video, recovered from a computer hard drive, 'depicts images that are consistent with those previously reported in the press.' Ford faced allegations in May that he had been caught on video puffing from a glass crack pipe. Two reporters with the Toronto Star said they saw the video, but it has not been released publicly. The Associated Press has not seen it and Ford maintains he does not smoke crack and that the video does not exist. Ford angrily yelled at reporters on Thursday to get off his property before he left his house in the morning. He didn't respond to questions shouted at him." [HuffPost]
- Truer facts about the cuttlefish. [http://bit.ly/1dSzQrTz]
- What if David Attenborough narrated Miley Cyrus' VMA performance? [http://some.ly/1cqEJbD]
- This guy is the Savion Glover of finger snapping. [http://bit.ly/17ZRCC5]
- A real time map of births and deaths worldwide. [http://bit.ly/19SSg7u]
- The origins of 32 superstitions. [http://huff.to/16oKeCX]
-When there will be more dead Facebook users than living ones? [http://bit.ly/16j8A0Y]
- Blooper reel from "Back to the Future." [http://bit.ly/11XCBB4]
@daveweigel: At noon, Cory Booker will be sworn into the Senate. At 12:01, the Daily Caller will publish an exclu about how Booker is not actually in DC.
@dannyyadron Meant to call the ACLU and got the FBI. Very different sets of questions.
@jbarro: Would you tell Michelangelo to stop painting? RT @jidts07: @jbarro Stop criticising everything/everyone.
@SirPatStew: Happy Halloween. http://t.co/ugLBMzAeNF
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