POLITICS
12/11/2013 05:34 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

HUFFPOST HILL - Conservatives Realize Paul Ryan Not Fiscal Leader, Actually Satan

The buzz about Nelson Mandela's memorial service centers on a group selfie, who greeted whom and whether it was crashed -- because Madiba's farewell was actually a teenager's house party. A Republican congressman equated Kathleen Sebelius to South Korea, probably because the Health and Human Services secretary has a robust biotech sector and smells of fermented cabbage. And a bill from Eric Cantor would end subsidies for political conventions. "Jason Chaffetz's Doritos Taco Loco© Keynote Address " has a great ring, dontcha think? This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, December 11th, 2013:

MCCONNELL OPPOSES RYAN/MURRAY BUDGET DEAL - Daily Caller: "Add the Senate’s top Republican to the list of those who will oppose the new budget deal, which conservatives are blasting for blowing through the mandated spending caps on government spending next year. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will vote against the deal brokered by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, a knowledgeable source close to the Kentucky Republican told The Daily Caller on Wednesday. While the budget proposal is expected to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate, McConnell joins a growing list of Republican senators -- including Marco Rubio of Florida, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Rand Paul of Kentucky -- who oppose the deal...McConnell’s opposition to a deal that the House GOP leadership -- including Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor — have fully embraced isn’t much of a surprise. He has long spoken in support of keeping what’s known as the sequester cuts intact." [Daily Caller]

@costareports: The AM talk radio buzz: publicly "disappointed" in Ryan/deal, but privately, they're not going to launch a RINO campaign anytime soon

Conservative activists are bugging John Boehner more than an empty bowl of mixed nuts: "House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) took a hard swing Wednesday at conservative groups opposing the newly announced bipartisan budget deal. 'You mean the groups that came out and opposed it before they ever saw it?" he said in a response to a reporter's question. Before the deal was even announced on Tuesday, Heritage Action and Americans For Prosperity stated their opposition to it. Following the announcement, Club For Growth said it would oppose the deal and include it on its congressional scorecard. 'They're using our members and they're using the American people for their own goals. This is ridiculous,' Boehner said loudly. 'Listen, if you're for more deficit reduction, you're for this agreement.'" [HuffPost's Luke Johnson]

IN RIGHT DIRECTION, A STEP TAKEN - Sam Stein: "The umbrella advocacy group representing organizations hurt by sequestration urged lawmakers on Wednesday to accept a two-year budget deal negotiated by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.). NDD United, a coalition of 3,200 organizations affected by the federal budget cuts, called the framework that was announced on Tuesday 'a step in the right direction' that would 'allow for some much needed reinvestment in our nation’s eroding defense and domestic priorities.'" [HuffPost]

MEET THE REPUBLICANS IN FAVOR OF JOBLESS BENNIES - All seven of them. With Sam Stein: "A small group of moderate House Republicans have urged their leaders to rescue the federal unemployment benefits scheduled to run out for more than a million long-term jobless Americans at the end of the year. Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) led the effort, with assists from Reps. Joe Heck (Nev.), David Joyce (Ohio), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), Michael Grimm (N.Y.), Peter King (N.Y.), and Jon Runyan (N.J.). They sent a letter Tuesday to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.)." [HuffPost]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - For one happy week in January, Casey O'Connell and her husband, Gerry Ferguson, both had jobs. Ferguson, an Iraq war vet, had been out of work 15 months when he landed employment with Pennsylvania's workforce development system. For two years, O'Connell had been working in customer service for a heating oil company. "Great, now we can finally save up and buy a house," O'Connell, 28, remembered thinking at the moment they became a two-earner family. She said she had grown up in apartments and relished the opportunity to give her children a traditional home in this Philadelphia suburb. Then she lost her own job. "You've got to be kidding me," O'Connell said, recalling her disbelief and anger. "This is the worst timing. We were thinking we were going to be able to catch up on all these bills. It sucked." Unemployment insurance at least prevented them from falling further behind on the bills, but O'Connell is about to lose the weekly $270 she gets. She's among the 1.3 million jobless workers set to lose their unemployment insurance Dec. 28 unless Congress acts, and Congress seems reluctant to act. The House of Representatives goes on vacation after this week, the Senate after next. [HuffPost]

UPSIDE DOWNER - After rising steadily every year since the start of the Great Recession in 2007, food stamp enrollment may have finally peaked and begun its decline. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program rolls surged to 47 million in the summer of 2012, prompting Republicans to label Barack Obama "the food stamp president" and decry out-of-control welfare spending. But in September, enrollment fell to 47.3 million, down from 47.7 million in September 2012, as the Christian Science Monitor first reported. The enrollment numbers for September 2012 may have been partially inflated by disaster benefits made available to Louisiana residents affected by Hurricane Isaac, but the trend remains the same: Last September's food stamp numbers represent the third consecutive monthly drop and the first year-to-year decline in six years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's data. [HuffPost]

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GOP LOOKING TO OVERHAUL PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY PROCESS - Things need to change soon because candidates will soon be asked to start a small business and raise a nuclear family on the debate stage. CNN: "A handful of Republican Party officials is quietly advancing a new batch of rules aimed at streamlining a chaotic presidential nominating process that many party insiders viewed as damaging to the their campaign for the White House in 2012, multiple GOP sources told CNN. In a series of closed-door meetings since August, handpicked members of the Republican National Committee have been meeting with party Chairman Reince Priebus in Washington to hash out details of a sweeping plan to condense the nominating calendar, severely punish primary and caucus states that upend the agreed-upon voting order and potentially move the party's national convention to earlier in the summer, with late June emerging as the ideal target date. No party convention has been held that early since the steamy summer of 1948, when Republicans nominated Thomas Dewey as their standard bearer in Philadelphia. The 17-member special rules subcommittee tasked with reforming the nominating process, appointed with little fanfare at the RNC's summer meeting in Boston, is also considering ways to limit the number of Republican primary debates in 2016, though the group has yet to agree to any specific rules related to debates. The 2012 campaign saw an eye-popping 20 Republican debates, in addition to an array of multicandidate forums." [CNN]

SEBELIUS TESTIFIES ABOUT HEALTHCARE.GOV LAUNCH - NYT: "The number of people selecting health insurance plans in the federal and state marketplaces increased in November at a brisk pace, bringing the total to date to nearly 365,000, or more than triple the number who signed up in October, the Obama administration said on Wednesday... The new data became available as Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, prepared for another confrontation with Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who called a hearing Wednesday to investigate the rollout of President Obama’s health care law. At the hearing, Ms. Sebelius said the federal government had made contractual commitments to spend $677 million on information technology for HealthCare.gov and had paid out $319 million through October. At the hearing, Ms. Sebelius said the federal government had made contractual commitments to spend $677 million on information technology for HealthCare.gov and had paid out $319 million through October...In addition, Ms. Sebelius said that the Obama administration was creating a new position of chief risk officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency that runs the health care website. The first job for the new official is to assess risks in information technology contracts on which the agency spends more than $5 billion a year." [NYT]

One GOP committee member compared Sebelius to South Korea: "Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) insulted either Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius or a U.S. ally Wednesday in a testy back-and-forth over Obamacare, in which he compared her answers to something he'd hear from the 'Republic of Korea.' Shimkus was attempting to get Sebelius to admit that the cost of providing preventive services under the Affordable Care Act will raise insurance premiums. But she was not buying it, arguing instead that preventive services lower costs...'It's like talking to -- the Republic of Korea or something,' he said. The Republic of Korea is an American ally, generally known as South Korea. It does not have a reputation for being difficult to talk to. North Korea, which is notoriously difficult to deal with, is known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea." [HuffPost's Mike McAuliffe]

YIKES - This is the collar-tuggingest story of the day. Ryan Reilly: "The home of the chief of staff to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) was searched by law enforcement officials in connection with a child pornography investigation, the Tennessee Republican said Wednesday. Ryan Loskarn, who was named Alexander's chief of staff in 2011, has been placed on administrative leave without pay, according to a statement from Alexander. 'I am stunned, surprised and disappointed by what I have learned,' Alexander said. 'The office is fully cooperating with the investigation.'" [HuffPost]

Politico's Glenn Thrush: "To say this has cast a pall over the Hill and our newsroom is an understatement."

Alexander has appointed David Cleary to be his next CoS. From Alexander's release: "David Cleary has served as Alexander’s legislative director since 2011 and as Republican staff director for the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee since 2012. He has been working with Alexander since 2006. Cleary previously served as a staff member on the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce under then-Chairman John Boehner (R-Ohio), and as a legislative analyst for the U.S. Department of Education."

CANTOR BILL MANAGES TO HUMILIATE DEMOCRATS AND SCREW THE SICK AND VULNERABLE - If the bill found a way to deport gay people to France it would be the Carl Yastrzemski of conservative legislation. Roll Call: "The 'Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act,' named after a 10-year-old girl who died in October following an 11-month battle with an inoperable brain tumor, would end $12.5 million in funding for party nominating conventions and authorize the money for pediatric research grants instead. It’s the latest iteration of a proposal House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., unveiled in April and is sponsored by Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss. 'They’re politicizing the death of a child by naming the bill after her,' a Democratic leadership aide told CQ Roll Call on Tuesday. 'That’s pretty disingenuous and callous to use a tragedy like hers to advance something partisan.'...Incensed Democrats note the measure won’t necessarily move money to the NIH — it would only authorize appropriators to do so...A number of prominent Democrats sent out a “Dear Colleague” letter Tuesday, saying that if the money is ultimately appropriated, the bill would add about four-tenths of 1 percent to the roughly $3.6 billion the NIH spent on pediatric research last year — and the letter claims the real issue for NIH funding is the sequester." [Roll Call]

RUBIO ENROLLS FAMILY IN OBAMACARE - Tampa Bay Times: "One of Obamacare's biggest critics is now officially covered under the federal health care exchange: Sen. Marco Rubio. 'Senator Rubio spent time looking at all the options and decided to enroll through the D.C. exchange for coverage for him and his family,' spokeswoman Brooke Sammon told the Buzz. Rubio took the federal subsidy afforded to lawmakers and staff — a perk worth up to 75 percent of monthly premium costs — that some Republicans wanted to kill off. Some lawmakers who have enrolled in the exchange (The Washington Post is keeping a list) have rejected the taxpayer-funded employer contribution, which is far more generous than most workers get. Sammon did not say what led Rubio to decide the health care plan was better than what he could have gotten on his own. But those who wanted to keep their employer coverage — and that subsidy — were directed to use the exchange, called DC Health Link. In addition to the subsidy, Rubio and other federal employees also got to pick from far more plans than ordinary people and had access to special customer service to ease their sign ups. 'Senator Rubio is following the law, even though he opposes it,' Sammon said." [Tampa Bay Times]

The photographer who snapped a picture of President Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt taking a selifie at Nelson Mandela's memorial service speaks out.

POOR PEOPLE SHOULD BE LIKE RAUL LABRADOR'S MOM: SON - Dave Jamieson: "On a conference call with reporters earlier this week, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) said he doesn't support an increase in the federal minimum wage. Rather than demanding better pay, Labrador said, fast-food workers who've been going on strike should instead try to acquire more skills through their employers, like his single mother did. 'My mom worked at McDonald’s,' Labrador said, according to Boise State Public Radio. 'And she decided she wanted to make more money, so she got into the management program at McDonald’s. And that’s how you move up the chain. It’s not by demanding that minimum wage is raised, it’s by actually acquiring the skills. That’s the way that people get ahead in life.' Labrador's remarks echo a common argument used by the restaurant industry and its backers when opposing a minimum wage hike -- that opportunities abound for ambitious fast-food workers, so long as they're willing to seek them out. But there's research showing that such opportunities are quite limited." [HuffPost]

HuffPost asked for more info on Raul Labrador's mom's career in fast food but Labrador's office ignored the request.

MORE STEVE STOCKMAN WEIRDNESS - Betsy Woodruff: "Stockman has just $32,000 cash on hand per his latest filings (and $163,000 in debt). And he’s been beleaguered by allegations of ethics violations since entering office. Plus, with the primary set for March 4, he has less than three months to pull off a statewide victory — or, at least, to win enough votes to send the race to a runoff…. And there’s trouble brewing in his own district. Enter Dwayne Stovall. Stovall announced about six months ago that he would challenge Cornyn in the Republican primary. His announcement didn’t get much play (Have you ever heard of Stovall? Didn’t think so), but Stovall, who has tea-party support, lives in Stockman’s district and knows the congressman. In fact, he tells National Review Online that the two had breakfast together a few weeks ago, and that Stockman told him then that he didn’t plan to run for Senate. 'I asked him, ‘If you don’t run, will you endorse me?’' Stovall tells me. 'He said, ‘Yeah, I’ll endorse you.''" Weird. [National Review]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a dog playing whack-a-mole with a kitten

MANDELA SIGN INTERPRETER ACTUALLY JUST A FAN OF GESTICULATION - AP: "The sign-language interpreter on stage at Nelson Mandela’s globally broadcast memorial service was a faker who was waving his arms around meaninglessly, advocates for the deaf said Wednesday. The allegation raised questions of how and why he managed to insert himself into a supposedly secure event attended by scores of heads of state, including United States President Barack Obama. As one world leader after another took the stage in a gigantic soccer stadium to pay homage to Mandela, the man at arm’s reach from them appeared to interpret for the deaf at the hours’ long memorial so the world’s deaf population could understand the historic event. The allegation of the use of a bogus sign interpreter was yet another example of bad organization at the service Tuesday. Other problems included breakdowns in public transportation that hindered mourners from getting to the soccer stadium and a faulty audio system made the remarks of world leaders inaudible for many. Police also failed to search the first wave of crowds who rushed inside the stadium after authorities opened the gates just after dawn." [AP]

COMFORT FOOD

- Sixteen-year-old does incredible Elvis impression. [http://bit.ly/1bxQXfb]

- Genetic similarities between family members as demonstrated by split images. [http://bit.ly/1f7nfhW]

- "Mulled Wine," the final (we hope) "Blurred Lines" parody of the year. [http://huff.to/1e5MlkK]

- A map showing every country that contributes ingredients to a single jar of Nutella. [http://bit.ly/18BwcvF]

- An interactive map showing the most densely and sparsely populated parts of the globe. [http://bit.ly/1bvKgXv]

- An internet history of the showerbeer, which we're pretty sure used to be called the Joe Namath. [http://bit.ly/1e5DVtQ]

- Be sure to report all loitering clowns to the local authorities. [http://bit.ly/1aRNjcr]

TWITTERAMA

@ByronTau: The productivity of an email thread is inversely proportional to the number of people CCed on it.

@timothypmurphy: "Fake sign language interpreter at a international memorial" was a Leslie Nielsen character, right?

@mollyesque: Clever Paul Ryan strategy: "Quick, guys, let's make a deal while Ted Cruz is out of town."

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