HUFFPOST HILL, sponsored by API - John McCain Saves Baby From Being Juggled, My Friends

12/06/2013 04:23 pm ET | Updated Feb 05, 2014

Republicans have charged Kathleen Sebelius with incompetence, so it totally makes sense that they're now wondering why President Obama didn't meet with her more. Pundits who think the "botched Obamacare launch" narrative will carry Republicans through the midterms should remember three simple words: "Mississippi Republican primary." And Rick Santorum compared himself and his fight against Obamacare to Nelson Mandela's crusade against Apartheid. In this analogy, we can only assume that F. W. de Clerk would be Barack Obama... our black president. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Friday, December 6th, 2013:

OBAMACARE WEBSITE STILL SUCKY - Jeff Young: "As many as one in 10 enrollments through HealthCare.gov aren't accurately being transmitted to health insurance companies, a federal official disclosed Friday. According to a preliminary assessment by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the main Obamacare website is submitting accurate information about enrollees to health insurance companies about 90 percent of the time, agency spokeswoman Julie Battaile said during a conference call with reporters Friday. From Oct. 1 to Nov. 30, the error rate was closer to one-fourth, she said." [HuffPost]

@tymatsdorf: My wife, juggling groceries and a newborn in the rain, got a helping hand from @SenJohnMcCain. Pushed her cart to car. Thank you, Sen.

FAIL: "Four current members of Congress voted in 1986 against the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, which demanded freedom for Nelson Mandela and imposed stiff economic sanctions to end minority white rule in South Africa. The apartheid bill opponents, however, are now praising Mandela, who died Thursday at age 95. Still-serving members of Congress who voted against a Senate-approved version of the bill on Sept. 12, 1986, include Reps. Joe Barton, R-Texas, Howard Coble, R-N.C., Ralph Hall, R-Texas (who was a Democrat at the time), and Hal Rogers, R-Ky." [USNews.com]

CAN A SCRAPPY GANG OF HOUSE REPUBLICANS SAVE CHRISTMAS? - Obviously they can. With Sam Stein: "A coalition of House Republicans is preparing a letter to send to their party's leadership pleading for an extension of long-term unemployment insurance, a rare positive sign for the plan's legislative prospects. The members are currently trying to pick up additional signatures for the letter, which may be sent to leadership either Friday or Monday, according to a House aide. A spokesman for Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) told the Las Vegas Sun and confirmed to The Huffington Post that the congressman would be among those signing on. Several sources said Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) is leading the effort, meanwhile, but Gibson's office ignored requests for comment. At a time when Congress appears unlikely to pass an extension of federal unemployment benefits before they expire on Dec. 28, a show of support from members of the House majority could provide a bit of a boost. Still, the prospects of an extension passing seem low, meaning benefits for 1.3 million long-term jobless Americans will likely stop abruptly after Christmas." [HuffPost]

Holiday shopping for that person in your life who has everything? Why not get them a Ted Cruz coloring book?

Rich guy tries to survive under Obamacare. JM Rieger: "Turns out Americans without employer-based health insurance might not be the only ones hit with higher insurance premiums. Rep. Michael McCaul, Congress' second richest member, took to the House floor this week to criticize the Affordable Care Act. The Texas Republican, with an estimated net worth of at least $114 million, said he lost his health care plan and his premiums on the D.C. Health Exchange went up significantly, impacting his family." [Roll Call]

This year's most beautiful Christmas card.

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - As the national unemployment rate goes down, Washington seems like it's losing interest in helping the long-term unemployed -- which is too bad, because long-term unemployment is as miserable as ever. Mike Schillim of Warren, Mich., said he made $65,000 last year as a materials manager for an automotive company. He was let go last December and he's been on unemployment since then. His benefits are about to run out. "We're not going to have Christmas," he said. Schillim, 59, contacted HuffPost in response to a story soliciting emails from unemployed Americans. He said he wants people to bear witness to what's happening. "I don't want people to think we're not looking for jobs," he said in a phone interview, rattling off the names of websites like Monster.com and CareerBuilder as he described the process of flinging resumes into an online void and never getting a response. [HuffPost]

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OBAMA RARELY MET WITH SEBELIUS DURING EXCHANGE BUILD-UP - Maybe if the guy had fewer hip hop barbecues and more hip hop cabinet meetings we wouldn't be in this mess. Politico: "Amid the Obama administration's endless rounds of finger-pointing and blame-shifting, scant if any attention has been paid to the amount of time and executive leadership the president personally devoted to implementing his signature legislative achievement...A new Government Accountability Institute (GAI) analysis finds that from July 12, 2010, to Nov. 30, 2013, the president's public schedule records zero one-on-one meetings between Obama and Sebelius. Equally shocking, over the same period, the president's calendar lists 277 private meetings with his other Cabinet secretaries (excluding full Cabinet meetings). Given these startling findings, and the fact that the White House calendar did not reflect meetings prior to July 12, 2010, GAI researchers then performed a second analysis using another respected recorder of presidential activity, the POLITICO presidential calendar. The results: Just one April 21, 2010 entry was found listing a White House meeting between Obama and Sebelius--and even that was a joint meeting with then Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner." [Politico]

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HOUSE AND SENATE NEARING DEAL ON PACIFIC TRADE PACT - Times: "Negotiators from the House and Senate are nearing an agreement that would "fast-track" the sweeping trade deal the Obama administration is negotiating with a dozen Pacific nations, officials said Thursday. Such fast-track authority is generally considered a prerequisite for achieving a major trade pact, as it would ensure that the package cannot be filibustered or subject to amendment by Congress, giving confidence to the foreign partners negotiating with the United States that any deal they agree to will stick. A congressional aide close to the negotiations said that both sides had made significant progress on reaching a fast-track deal, also known as trade-promotion authority. But the aide, who declined to speak on the record because of the delicate nature of the talks, emphasized that an agreement was not complete. Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Representative Dave Camp, Republican of Michigan and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, have been working on a deal for months. They are expected to bring forward a bill next week, during the last few days Congress will be in session this year. But the plan still faces several obstacles, including opposition from some Democrats and Republicans in the House. Aides doubted that the fast-track legislation would reach a floor vote this year, given the crowded the Congressional calendar." [NYT]

THAD COCHRAN TO RUN FOR ANOTHER TERM - Three things the Republican Party does not need right now: 1. Virginia Foxx proposing an alternate immigration reform bill that eliminates birthright citizenship. 2. Any Louie Gohmert statement on Nelson Mandela's passing. 3. A no-holds-barred primary battle in Mississippi. NPR: "Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., said Friday he will seek a seventh term in 2014, setting the stage for a contentious contest that pits the Republican establishment against the Tea Party wing. There had been speculation that Cochran, who turns 76 on Saturday and had raised relatively little cash, would retire rather than run again for the seat he first won in 1978. In October, Tea Party-backed state Sen. Chris McDaniel announced he would seek the GOP nomination whether or not Cochran ran again, and he criticized the veteran incumbent's vote to end the federal government shutdown. Soon after, McDaniel received the endorsements of three influential conservative outside groups: Club for Growth, Senate Conservatives Fund and Madison Project. SCF's superPAC arm, Senate Conservatives Action, ran a statewide television ad in support of McDaniel last month." [NPR]

WATCHDOGS DROP LAWSUIT AFTER IRS PROPOSES NEW 'DARK MONEY' RULES - Paul Blumenthal: "Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and three campaign finance watchdog groups dropped their lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service over its rules for nonprofit political activity on Friday, after the agency began a rulemaking process last week. The lawsuit brought by Van Hollen, Democracy 21, the Campaign Legal Center and Public Citizen was intended to force the IRS to begin crafting new rules governing the political activity of so-called social welfare nonprofits organized under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code...The IRS regulations regarding the permissible amount of political activity by a social welfare nonprofit were at the heart of the lawsuit. The statute governing these nonprofits states that they must be 'exclusively' focused on their main social welfare purpose, while the regulation opens the door to some political activity by saying they must work 'primarily' on that purpose...In the proposed rulemaking issued on Nov. 26, the IRS asked for recommendations from the public on defining the amount of permissible political activity by these groups. The rulemaking also lays out a number of proposed rules defining political activity. Van Hollen and the watchdog groups warned in a press release that they 'will closely monitor the IRS proceedings' and if 'the agency fails to adopt new regulations to properly implement the tax laws and prevent groups from misusing the laws to obtain 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status, the lawsuit will be filed again.'" [HuffPost]

RICK SANTORUM COMPARES HIMSELF TO NELSON MANDELA - Paige Lavender: "During an appearance on Fox News Thursday night, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) discussed the death of Nelson Mandela, saying the former South African president fought "great injustice" just like Republicans who are battling Obamacare. 'Nelson Mandela stood up against a great injustice and was willing to pay a huge price for that. That's the reason he's mourned today, because of that struggle that he performed,' Santorum said. 'But you're right, I mean, what he was advocating for was not necessarily the right answer, but he was fighting against some great injustice, and I would make the argument that we have a great injustice going on right now in this country with an ever-increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people's lives, and Obamacare is front and center in that.'The statement... came after Fox News host Bill O'Reilly claimed Mandela 'was a great man, but he was a communist.''I would never attack Nelson Mandela,' O'Reilly said next." [HuffPost]

PATRIOT ACT AUTHOR WANTS JAMES CLAPPER PROSECUTED - Though don't expect Jim Inhofe to chain himself to the Keystone Pipeline anytime soon. The Hill: "Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr., the original author of the Patriot Act, says Director of National Intelligence James Clapper should be prosecuted for lying to Congress. 'Lying to Congress is a federal offense, and Clapper ought to be fired and prosecuted for it,' the Wisconsin Republican said in an interview with The Hill. He said the Justice Department should prosecute Clapper for giving false testimony during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in March. During that hearing, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked Clapper whether the National Security Agency (NSA) collects data on millions of Americans. Clapper insisted that the NSA does not -- or at least does 'not wittingly' -- collect information on Americans in bulk. After documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA collects records on virtually all U.S. phone calls, Clapper apologized for the misleading comment. The intelligence director said he tried to give the "least untruthful" answer he could without revealing classified information. Sensenbrenner said that explanation doesn't hold water and argued the courts and Congress depend on accurate testimony to do their jobs." [The Hill]

GUN MANUFACTURERS HAVE BANNER YEAR AFTER NEWTOWN - If there was one lesson we all took away from the tragedy in Connecticut last year, it was to be bullish about Smith and Wesson. Zach Carter: "American gun sales have been climbing for nearly a decade, but they have surged under President Barack Obama -- particularly after the Newtown, Conn., school shooting in December 2012. According to FBI data, the number of firearm background checks has risen dramatically during the Obama era. In 2005, there were nearly 9 million background checks performed. In 2008, the year before Obama took office, there were 12.7 million background checks. Through the first 11 months of 2013, that figure totaled more than 19 million, only about 500,000 shy of the total for all of last year. Background checks aren't a perfect proxy for legal gun sales -- some firearms can be purchased without them, and not every background check results in a sale -- but the data are compelling, particularly given the financially extraordinary year that major gun manufacturers have enjoyed since the Newtown tragedy." [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here are some dogs and cats having issues.

STAFFERS CIRCULATE POEM ABOUT CONGRESSIONAL GIFT RULES - Cut the NEA all you want, your tax dollars will still subsidize poetry. WaPo: "It can't be easy for federal employees to keep track of all the government rules on holiday gifts and work parties, nor could it be fun to read through the dull legal language. That's probably why the U.S. Office of Government Ethics created a poem in 1994 to help federal workers -- even contractors -- understand the guidelines. The agency sends the poem to government ethics officials every year, updating when necessary to reflect changes. In 2009, the ethics office added stanzas about gifts from foreign governments and the lobbyist-gift ban. This year, it made more edits to explain the current foreign-gift limit." [WaPo]

An excerpt:

"Part two six three five of the 5 CFR
Explains in detail the relevant bar.
It defines the term gift
To mean all things worth money.
That's NBA tickets or jars full of honey.

Some gifts may be taken but some are verboten.
The source is the key - it's the rule that I'm quotin'.
When from me or others
The source seeks some act,
I must find an exception or I could be sacked

Even others who give can cause problems for me.
If my job prompts the giving - my position, you see.
But lucky for me,
Some exceptions exist.
They're in subpart B and should not be missed."

COMFORT FOOD

- A website has collected every GIF on Wikipedia. Prepared to be educated in a most repetitive fashion. [http://bit.ly/18qfizX]

- Supercut of awkward meals from movies. [http://huff.to/IWeptj]

- Exploring the tunnel systems under San Francisco, which we can only assume have something to do with Shanghaiing. [http://bit.ly/18ogpQS]

- Creating an interesting beat by playing the same drum in a variety of environments. [http://bit.ly/IWgKnZ]

- With all apologies to Alfonso Cuaron, ice is truly man's worst enemy. [http://huff.to/1blRFIO]

- "Home Alone" re-enacted by pugs. [http://bit.ly/1dUtol9]

- Video from aboard a fighter jet, en route to the danger zone, one assumes. [http://bit.ly/18oNwHd]

TWITTERAMA

@elisefoley: Good idea for messing with people: Click off the record on gchat. Say nothing, then go back on the record. If they ask, say "never mind."

@pourmecoffee: Unemployment drops to 7% on Obamacare fears.

@KagroX: It would be wrong to politicize the death of someone they once hoped would die in prison for his political views.

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