Huffpost Politics

HUFFPOST HILL - Easily Distracted Nation To Pause In Remembrance Of... That Thing

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Tomorrow we recall a change in America's attitudes about guns that would ultimately be undone by 8,000 Fox News segments on the knockout game. A new report confirms that America's prisons are in disarray, probably because big government is impeding the free exchange of cigarettes. And Chris Christie is denying involvement in a disastrous bridge closure, meaning the news cycle can only get more bridge-and-tunnel-y if Tim Bishop is implicated in some kind of Hampton Jitney drug cartel. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Friday, December 13th, 2013:

REPUBLICANS: JUST NOT THAT INTO UI - With Sam Stein: The House of Representatives has left town for Christmas vacation, making it all but certain that unemployed workers will lose their federal benefits on Dec. 28, as they are currently scheduled to do. But if you think that 1.3 million longterm jobless Americans taking a financial hit would be a hot topic for the lawmakers still in town, you'd be wrong. Senate Democrats have conceded they'll miss the deadline to extend the benefits and have begun hatching plans to renew them retroactively in the new year. Senate Republicans, meanwhile, don't seem to have given much thought to the matter at all. On Friday, The Huffington Post asked a number of Republican senators whether there have been discussions within their caucus about the expiring unemployment insurance. "None," said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). "There has been no discussion. It has never come up." "I haven't heard any discussions yet," said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). "It is not in the budget so I don't expect that it is going to come up," said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). "I think we need to look at it. I'd like some more information," said Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.). "But there really hasn't been any discussion." [HuffPost]

Meanwhile, Democrats' plan is to do something in January something something...

CAP REVEALS CORPORATE SPONSORS - Like a race car. Ryan Grim: "The Center for American Progress has for years faced a tension between its call for campaign finance transparency and its unwillingness to disclose its own donors. CAP, a liberal nonprofit with an advocacy arm, has company in Washington when it comes to opaque funding -- a phenomenon that gained attention last week when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) demanded that banks disclose financial contributions to Washington think tanks that often act effectively as lobbyists without being required to register as such. Warren's shot was aimed at the group Third Way, but it could apply to groups across the spectrum. CAP has come under particular scrutiny because of its progressive politics and connections to the Obama administration…. A CAP official provided HuffPost with a list of its 2013 corporate donors, which include Walmart, Bank of America, Citigroup, defense contractor Northrop Grumman, as well as insurance, pharmaceutical, auto and tech companies." [HuffPost]

FARM BILL HAS MO' - David Rogers: "Farm bill talks moved into the final stretch Friday with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas saying 'we’re moving right down the path' toward a House-Senate conference report in January. 'Very optimistic, we’re closing in,' echoed Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) after an early morning session with Lucas. 'There’s no question in my mind that we’ll be able to come together and have a farm bill that we can take action on in January.'" Super bowl. [Politico]

REID ENDS CONFIRMATION-PALOOZA, SETS UPCOMING SCHEDULE - If you or someone you know wasn't confirmed by the Senate in the last two days, you're clearly need more friends. Roll Call: "The Senate’s leaders have reached an agreement that will bring to an end days of round-the-clock sessions following a series of noon votes. 'This schedule’s been extremely difficult for everyone,' Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in announcing the deal, which essentially allows votes that would have taken place late Friday and Saturday to instead occur at the usual hour of 5:30 p.m. on Monday. Reid said he spoke with his counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, to come up with the path forward. 'On Tuesday, we’ll begin consideration of the budget. On Wednesday, the defense bill. After that, we’ll address further nominations … the most important one is Janet Yellen to be on the Federal Reserve,' Reid said...The Senate’s next session will be at 1 p.m. Sunday, but it should be a sparsely attended because Reid has announced there will be no votes..The chamber’s been in session continuously since 2 p.m. Wednesday, burning time off and working through a series of contested nominations to executive and judicial posts. By the time the chamber gavels out on Friday, following the noon vote sequence, it could reach 48 hours of continuous session." [Roll Call]

ONE YEAR AFTER HORRIFIC SCHOOL SHOOTING, AMERICA RESPONDS BY MAKING THINGS WORSE - From the same part of our brains that acknowledged the obesity epidemic but still released the Double Down comes its even more illogical response to gun violence. Jen Bendery: "It's been a year since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre that left 20 first-graders and six staff dead, which means it's been a year of congressional inaction in response to one of the most horrific mass shootings in U.S. history. The political arguments for and against new laws have been rehashed for months. Republicans, by and large, throw up a wall to any new gun control measures, warning they would infringe on a person's constitutional right to bear arms. Democrats, meanwhile, plead for action on items like tighter background checks on gun sales. Gridlock transpires, momentum is lost, lawmakers move on. But what about on a more personal level? Does the constant wave of mass violence -- the Aurora, Colo. theater shootings; the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard shootings; the Tucson, Ariz. shootings that nearly took the life of former Rep. Gabby Giffords; and, obviously, the Sandy Hook shootings in Newtown, Conn. -- affect mindsets, even if it doesn't change politics? The Huffington Post talked to a random sampling of 16 lawmakers, in both parties and both chambers, to see if they view gun violence through a different lens since the nation was shaken by the Sandy Hook shootings. In each case, we asked them the same question: It's been a year since Newtown. How has your view of gun violence in America changed since then? It turns out that most politicians' views haven’t changed at all. If anything, Sandy Hook and its fallout only hardened pre-existing beliefs." [HuffPost]

Also there was a school shooting today.

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Last week Laureen Crane of McKees Rocks, Pa., received a letter from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry informing her that her federal unemployment benefits would end on Dec. 28. She called the department to ask why and they explained that the program was ending because Congress had not reauthorized it. They told her to "keep watching the news." Crane, 63, fears she'll be forced into premature retirement. She lost her accounting job for an airplane parts manufacturer in May and hasn't had any work since, aside from seven weeks with a temp agency. "All I'm doing right now is praying to God to see me through all this," she said. "If I can't get back to work I can't pay taxes. And that's not helping this country." [HuffPost]

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BRIDGE AND TUNNEL GOVERNOR ACCUSED OF IMPROPER BRIDGE MANAGEMENT - Amanda Terkel: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) sought to quell mounting questions over whether his administration used the busiest U.S. bridge in a political retribution scheme, holding a lengthy press conference Friday where he gave his first extended remarks on the issue since the controversy erupted. Christie essentially admitted that some of his top appointees at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey screwed up, but he insisted there was no political motivation behind what they did, and said he had not known what was happening. 'I'm responsible for everything that happens in this government. ... I didn't know anything about it, but I'm responsible,'... The problems began on the morning of Sept. 9, when New Jersey drivers attempting to cross the George Washington Bridge by one of the three access lanes in Fort Lee, N.J., found two of the lanes closed... The closures were ordered by David Wildstein, a high-ranking Port Authority official and Christie ally, without the knowledge of the Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye, who was appointed by the governor of New York. Wildstein's boss, Christie appointee and former New Jersey state Sen. Bill Baroni, defended the closure, saying it was necessary for a traffic study. Foye said he was never informed of the study, and he ordered the lanes reopened on Sept. 13 when he found out what had happened. Just weeks before the closures, Fort Lee's Democratic mayor, Mark Sokolich, refused to endorse Christie's reelection bid. On Sept. 12, Sokolich said he believed Wildstein's actions were 'punitive,' although he later backed off that accusation." [HuffPost]

TIMES WITHHELD MISSING AMERICAN'S CIA TIES FOR SIX YEARS - Michael Calderone: "The New York Times revealed Friday that it withheld reporting on missing American Robert Levinson’s ties to the CIA for six years, one day after The Associated Press acknowledged withholding that detail for three years. ABC News also said Friday that the network had known of Levinson’s CIA ties “for years.” ABC News said that Levinson's family and U.S. officials had urged the network not to disclose the information for fear that his life could be put in increased danger. Levinson, a retired FBI agent, disappeared off the coast of Iran in March 2007. The U.S. government had maintained since then that Levinson was working as a private investigator looking into cigarette smuggling at the time of his disappearance. But as the AP revealed Thursday, that "was just a cover story." In a deeply reported piece that could be turned into a plot on "Homeland," the AP described how Levinson was secretly paid to do intelligence gathering for the agency, an "extraordinary breach of the most basic CIA rules." Behind closed doors, several officials working with Levinson resigned or were reprimanded over the rogue mission. The Huffington Post learned Friday morning that the Times had also been aware that Levinson was working for the CIA and declined to report it. The paper published a piece by Barry Meier later on Friday, 'A Disappearing American Spy, and a Scandal at the C.I.A.'" [HuffPost]

RUBIO RESPONDS TO LYING ACCUSATION BY CLAIMING ADVANCE KNOWLEDGE , POSSIBLY TELEPATHY - What can't he do? Luke Johnson: "Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) rejected the criticism that he came out against the bipartisan Ryan-Murray budget agreement before reading it, saying Friday on CBS' 'This Morning' that he knew the 'details' of the plan before it came out. 'I knew full well all the details of the important parts that were in it. In fact, they had been leaked days in advance, they had been leaked hours in advance,' he said Friday. 'There was an understanding in this building, including from among our conferees about what it included, and it had fundamental things we were well-aware of.' He went on, 'For example, that it broke the budget caps that Congress had imposed on itself just two years ago and actually will increase the amount of money we have to borrow. It had elements in there, for example, that will make it easier for Democrats to come back to Congress and raise taxes by waiving something called the budget point of order, which is a technical term internally but basically it means they can come back with 51 votes in the Senate and raise taxes. Those two reasons alone are reasons to oppose this.' Within minutes of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wa.) announcing a budget deal that would gradually raise spending levels, Rubio released a statement charging that the deal makes it 'harder for more Americans to achieve the American Dream.' The deal also reduces the deficit by $20-$23 billion by hiking airline fees and requiring federal employees to kick in more to their pensions." [HuffPost]

OUR PRISONS ARE AWFUL: REPORT - Not everyone can land laundry duty. Ryan Reilly: "The ballooning cost of the overcrowded federal prison system is an 'increasingly critical threat' to the Justice Department’s ability to fulfill its mission, the department's inspector general said in a report released Friday, which outlined the dual crisis the system faces. "First, the costs of the federal prison system continue to escalate, consuming an ever-larger share of the Department’s budget with no relief in sight," said Michael Horowitz, the DOJ inspector general. "In the current era of flat or declining budgets, the continued growth of the prison system budget poses a threat to the Department’s other critical programs – including those designed to protect national security, enforce criminal laws, and defend civil rights. Second, federal prisons are facing a number of important safety and security issues, including, most significantly, that they have been overcrowded for years and the problem is only getting worse," he continued. "Since 2006, Department officials have acknowledged the threat overcrowding poses to the safety and security of its prisons, yet the Department has not put in place a plan that can reasonably be expected to alleviate the problem.' Horowitz said that addressing the problems will require the efforts of the entire Justice Department, not just the Bureau of Prisons." [HuffPost]

MARYLAND GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE WOULD BE FIRST OPENLY GAY GOVERNOR - Sorry, Jim McGreevey. Laura Bassett: "EMILY's List, an increasingly powerful group that helps get progressive women elected to office, will announce on Friday that it is supporting Heather Mizeur in the race for Maryland governor. If elected, Mizeur would be the first female governor of Maryland and the first openly gay governor in U.S. history...Mizeur has represented Montgomery County in the Maryland House of Delegates since 2006. She faces two better-known male opponents in next year's Democratic primary: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Attorney General Douglas Gansler. The current governor, Martin O'Malley (D), cannot run again due to term limits. Mizeur, who is viewed as the most progressive of the three candidates, has been a champion for health care reform during her time in the Maryland legislature. She led successful efforts to allow young adults to stay on their family’s insurance plans until they turn 25 and to help minors enroll in public health coverage. She also fought to increase low-income women’s access to Medicaid family planning services. President Barack Obama appointed her in 2009 to the Executive Committee of the Democratic National Committee and the State Legislators for Health Reform Task Force." [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is an adorable duckling.

TERROR PLOT FOILED IN KANSAS - Gulp. AP: "An avionics technician from Kansas was arrested Friday as he planned to drive a vehicle full of explosives into a terminal at Wichita's Mid-Continent Regional Airport, authorities said. Terry Lee Loewen, 58, was charged with one count each of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to damage property and attempting to provide support to terrorist group al-Qaida. Authorities said he was trying to support "al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula." The materials inside the vehicle were "inert" and "at no time was the safety of travelers or members of the public placed in jeopardy," U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said. Investigators said Loewen is an avionics technician who lives in Wichita and works at the airport. He had been under investigation for about six months, after he made online statements about wanting to commit "violent jihad" against the U.S. The statements were made in a conversation with an FBI employee unbeknownst to Loewen, Grissom said. Authorities said they believe Loewen acted alone. No other arrests are expected." [AP]

COMFORT FOOD

- A sign language interpreter deciphers the undulations of that guy from Nelson Mandela's memorial. [http://bit.ly/1dxEtUo]

- Bobcat just wants to be affectionate. [http://bit.ly/1bC9Nyo]

- A video on how the stop-motion AT-AT scene from "Empire Strikes Back" was filmed. [http://bit.ly/1hRDWSG]

- The trailer to the second season of "House of Cards" is online. [http://bit.ly/1dbI8XE]

- Ten Germans try to pronounce "squirrel." [http://bit.ly/1csdiIw]

- Pets who are really into the holidays. [http://huff.to/1j3PMdP]

- The year in movies summed up in seven minutes. [http://bit.ly/Jj0RrM]

TWITTERAMA

@KagroX: Remember, whatever you're thinking, it's too soon.

@lizzeohreally: good listener email: "what is Santa's CANADIAN POSTE CODE?"

@stefanjbecket: World's Least Ambitious Terrorist Plotted to Bomb Kansas Airport

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