POLITICS

HUFFPOST HILL - Obama To Prohibit Members Of Congress From Owning Guns

01/03/2014 05:59 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

It was cold today, with temperatures plummeting from "excited Instagrams of hot cocoa" levels to "Pat Robertson will surely say something hilarious about global warming" ones. Obamacare use is expected to spike next week -- you'll be able to identify new enrollees in your doctor's waiting room by whether or not they're loudly talking on a free, government-provided cell phone. And President Obama issued a number of executive orders that would keep guns out of the hands of those deemed legally insane. We won't entirely spoil it for you, but this ends in another government shutdown. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Friday, January 3rd, 2014:

OBAMA ANNOUNCES NEW REGULATIONS ON BACKGROUND CHECKS - Kiss the Second Amendment goodbye, clingers. Jen Bendery: "The White House inched forward Friday with two new executive actions aimed at boosting the federal background-check system...some states have raised concerns about ambiguous wording that makes it difficult to determine who should be barred from purchasing a gun. The first proposed rule change, by the Department of Justice, expands the definition of the statutory term 'committed to a mental institution' to clarify that the prohibition on firearms purchases applies to people subjected to involuntary outpatient as well as inpatient commitments. The rule also clarifies that 'adjudicated as a mental defective' and 'committed to a mental institution' include persons who are found incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect; persons lacking mental responsibility or deemed insane; and persons found guilty but mentally ill, regardless of whether these determinations are made by a state, local, federal or military court... The second proposed rule change, by the Department of Health and Human Services, allows certain entities covered by patient privacy protections to submit additional information to the background-check system. The administration notes that nothing in this rule would require reporting on general mental health visits or legally prevent someone from having a firearm just because he or she sought treatment." [HuffPost]

MORE GREEN SHOOTS FOR FARM BILL - Derrick Cain: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told Agri-Pulse today that he fully expects a long-term farm bill to be completed in Congress by the end of the month…. 'It should be done, hopefully, in the next two weeks.'" "Cain" is a really good name for an agriculture reporter. [Agri-Pulse]

SPOTTED by our favorite Paranoid Self-Loathing GOP Lobbyist: Jimmy VandeHei, flying business class (not first class!) in his cabana gear, from MIA to DCA this evening. "I would've said hello, but I was a little embarrassed because I send my corporate money to HPH," says PSLGOPL. Welcome back to This Town, VendeHei!

NOT SPOTTED: the predicted logistical apocalypse of Obamacare's first week.

CANTOR OUTLINES JANUARY VOTES - Sadly there's no agenda item on reinstating Korean day in the Longworth Cafeteria. Roll Call: "The Virginia Republican’s memo, obtained by 218, lays out the obvious items of business: passing conference reports for the farm bill and for legislation funding the nation’s water programs, plus an appropriations bill for the remainder of fiscal 2014... Cantor also told lawmakers to familiarize themselves with other initiatives that could come to the floor in the weeks ahead, such as a possible Iran sanctions resolution that has been on the back-burner since late last year...The House is also expected to act on legislation aimed at regulatory 'red tape' that Republicans blame for curbing job creation and economic growth. Cantor has his sights on a package of bills — drafted by GOP Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Ohio Republicans Bill Johnson and Bob Latta — 'aimed at improving the federal and state relationship when dealing with hazardous waste” and overhauling the Environmental Protection Agency’s 'regulatory process.'" [Roll Call]

NOT IN CANTOR'S MEMO (also obtained by your trusty newsletter): unemployment benefits.[Hang in there!]

@kasie: Boston mag profiles Ayotte -- "who declined to be interviewed for this article, yet agreed to be photographed for it"

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - If the number of conference calls held on a bill reflected its chances of passage, an extension of unemployment benefits would have become law weeks ago. Unfortunately for the 1.3 million Americans who saw their benefits expire on Dec. 28, the constant phone calls haven't facilitated any legislative success. Two more calls were hosted on Friday, one by congressional Democrats and the other by the Obama administration. The former promoted a new report showing that $400 million has been drained from state economies this week alone by the lapse in unemployment insurance. Democrats have used the state-by-state breakdowns inside the report to generate follow up stories by local news outlets. And on the call, Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), the highest-ranking Democrat on the House committee that oversees unemployment insurance, said that one of the main components of the Democrats' strategy has been to pressure Republicans through the press. "Our office has been distributing materials on long-term unemployment and the end of unemployment insurance to a vast array of media throughout this country," Levin said. "And we've been tracking ... the vast array of responses both in articles and in editorials, which have been overwhelmingly supportive of extension." [HuffPost]

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EXPECTED SPIKE IN OBAMACARE USE NEXT WEEK - The Hill: "The number of people seeking to use their new ObamaCare coverage for the first time is expected to spike next week. Representatives from healthcare companies, trade groups, and the Obama administration told The Hill that many who obtained new coverage under the law are using this week to learn about their plans and set up preliminary appointments...The administration and healthcare groups have been bracing for the latest test of the law after enrollment deadline delays and processing errors at HealthCare.Gov created an administrative nightmare for insurers. Two worries are paramount. The first is that a sizable number of consumers who show up at the doctor’s office will discover that they don’t have the insurance they thought they purchased. A second is that people have enrolled in ObamaCare, but have to make a payment. Some will discover they don’t have the insurance they thought they purchased as a result." [The Hill]

@daveweigel: Talked to possible 2016 D prez candidate Brian Schweitzer today. He agrees w/ NYT re: clemency for Snowden.

CONSERVATIVES UPSET OVER FILLING OUT FORM - In all fairness, that is what the Stamp Act was. Ryan Reilly: "Requiring Catholic institutions to sign a form to get out of the Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate isn't a 'substantial burden' requiring immediate intervention from the nation's highest court, the Obama administration argued Friday. 'With the stroke of their own pen, applicants can secure for themselves the relief they seek from this Court -- an exemption from the requirements of the contraceptive-coverage provision -- and the employer-applicants’ employees (and their family members) will not receive contraceptive coverage through the plan’s third-party administrator either,' Solicitor General Donald Verrilli wrote in a motion to the Supreme Court. Several Catholic nonprofits have asked the Supreme Court to grant an injunction preventing them from having to sign a form to get an exemption from the Obamacare provision requiring their insurance plans to cover contraception. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted the nonprofits a temporary injunction late Tuesday, just hours before the mandate was set to take effect, and asked the government to respond by Friday. It isn't clear when Sotomayor or the rest of the court will rule on whether to extend the injunction as the case is appealed." [HuffPost]

SAM STEIN SCIENCE SHAMING - Our country is falling behind in the sciences, evidenced in part by the fact that if you bring up the laws of gravity, someone will invariably reply that we need to deregulate gravity to spur job growth. Sam Stein: "The United States is losing its global dominance in the field of biomedical research, and sequestration is only partially to blame. New research published in The New England Journal of Medicine this week shows that America's global share of money spent on biomedical research went from 51 percent to 45 percent from 2007 to 2012. The study, conducted by five academics and market analysts and titled 'Asia's Ascent — Global Trends in Biomedical R&D Expenditures,' blames the drop on a decline in private industry investment into research and development accounts. Over that same five-year period, the global share of United States, private, industry research and development expenditures declined from 50 percent to 42 percent. Public funding, meanwhile, stayed relatively stable. America's loss has been Asia's gain. In the five-year period examined, the overall expenditures from the U.S. (both public and private) into biomedical research declined by 9 percent when adjusted for inflation. Asian-Pacific expenditures, by contrast, increased by 51 percent; China alone saw a 313 percent increase." [HuffPost]

MIKE HUCKABEE DISTANCING HIMSELF FROM LINDSEY GRAHAM - RINO cooties! Amanda Terkel: "Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) wants to be clear: He has not endorsed Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Huckabee spoke up after a clip of him was used in a recent pro-Graham ad paid for by the South Carolina Conservative Action Alliance. The ad features Huckabee praising Graham's support for Israel and doggedness on the Benghazi controversy, calling him a 'conservative champion of peace through strength.' According to the Columbia, S.C., newspaper The State, the ad aired Wednesday during the Capital One Bowl game between South Carolina and Wisconsin. In a statement on Thursday, Huckabee clarified that he has not endorsed Graham, and said he was upset that the group had misrepresented his praise of the senator...Graham, who is often criticized by conservative activists for being too moderate, isfending off four primary challengers in his 2014 reelection bid." [HuffPost]

If you haven't already, read David Brooks' new anti-weed op-ed, if only because it'll make you realize that pot would've made "The Social Animal" bearable.

STEVE STOCKMAN, NOW ACCEPTING BITCOINS - The best thing about the internet is if you poke holes in it overvalued digital currency comes out. Business Insider: "Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) is the outsider's outsider — what other Texan would spend a freezing New Year's hundreds of miles away in New York City? But there he was last night at the launch event for the NYC Bitcoin Center, located just up the street from the New York Stock Exchange. Stockman's attendance was a favor to Center founder Nick Spanos, a real estate developer and Bitcoin enthusiast. Spanos helped phone bank on Stockman's most recent Congressional campaign. The Center itself is still in something of a planning stage, existing more as a statement about Bitcoin itself, though it plans on hosting a hackathon later this month...[Stockman] is now accepting Bitcoin for his Senate campaign against incumbent John Cornyn."[Business Insider]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here are some fashionable dogs.

COMFORT FOOD

- Here's what happens when you fire boiling water out of a water gun in sub-zero temperatures. [http://bit.ly/JzcWJp]

- BuzzFeed ponders the things we do drunk that would be terribly awkward during the daytime. [http://bit.ly/1cO1tjV]

- Recreating the most romantic scenes in cinematic history... with a dog. [http://huff.to/1f17flq]

- What does 12,000 gallons of fermenting beer look like, you ask? Why, this is what 12,000 gallons of fermenting beer looks like!. [http://bit.ly/19QrJWy]

- Because World War Two wasn't deadly enough, a German construction worker was killed by an unexploded 70-year-old bomb. [http://bit.ly/JOwmcB]

- Found footage of New York City in 1990, back when residents would assume "farm to table" was a children's book. [http://bit.ly/1khmJ7c]

TWITTERAMA

@claremalone: DC media in nutshell: "Though the atmosphere w/in The Post was described as civilized, one person said, there has been some awkwardness."

@stefanjbecket: When's Aspen Ideas? RT @DylanByers: Can you imagine how terrifying it would be to get stoned with David Brooks and Tina Brown?

@pourmecoffee: Clay Aiken may run for Congress. Top 2 American Idol finalists should get a seat in Congress. That should be how it works.

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