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HUFFPOST HILL - Chris Christie Suddenly Appalled By Bullying

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The Arctic temperatures that beset the nation this week are letting up, meaning Mother Nature's oil industry stimulus is coming to an end. Marco Rubio has no problem with letting his state address its poverty problem, even though the "Wipin' It Off Here, Boss Job Creation Act" has a terrible ring to it. And Garden State residents are so petrified of Chris Christie's highway retribution that they're now afraid to answer that most Jersey of questions: "What exit?" This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, January 8th, 2014:

THE HIGHWAY'S JAMMED WITH BUONO VOTERS ON A LAST CHANCE POWER PLAY - Chris Christie's advisers ordered shut several lanes of the George Washington Bridge as retribution to the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee. It's only a matter of time until "protection" is added as a line on Garden State pay stubs. Bergen Record: "Private messages between Governor’s Christie’s deputy chief of staff and two of his top executives at the Port Authority reveal a vindictive effort to create 'traffic problems in Fort Lee' by shutting lanes to the George Washington Bridge and apparent pleasure at the resulting gridlock...The documents obtained by The Record raise serious doubts about months of claims by the Christie administration that the September closures of local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge were part of a traffic study initiated solely by the Port Authority...“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Bridget Anne Kelly, one of three deputies on Christie’s senior staff, wrote to David Wildstein, a top Christie executive at the Port Authority, on Aug. 13...Other top Christie associates mentioned in or copied on the email chain — all after the top New York appointee at the authority ordered the lanes reopened — include David Samson, the chairman of the agency; Bill Stepien, Christie’s re-election campaign manager and the newly appointed state GOP chairman; and Michael Drewniak, Christie’s spokesman...'I feel badly about the kids,' the person replied to Wildstein. 'I guess.' 'They are the children of Buono voters,' Wildstein wrote, making a reference to Barbara Buono, the Democratic candidate for governor, who lost to Christie in a landslide in November." [NorthJersey.com]

CHRISTIE SHOCKED THAT THREE CLOSE AIDES THAT HE PERSONALLY APPOINTED -- ONE OF WHOM IS A CHILDHOOD FRIEND -- COULD ACT LIKE THIS - We look forward to this guy overseeing the Justice Department in 2017. We'll see you at our arraignments. Amanda Terkel: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) denied any involvement in a political payback scheme carried out by some of his top aides on Wednesday, saying the whole thing was 'inappropriate and unsanctioned.' 'What I've seen today for the first time is unacceptable," Christie said in a statement. 'I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge.' 'One thing is clear: this type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions,' he added." [HuffPost]

[SENT AT 1:45 PM] @dorseyshaw: The last time Chris Christie's name was mentioned on Fox News was yesterday at 2:16 PM pic.twitter.com/HajvfTQ2Nf

RUBIO: LET MISSISSIPPI TACKLE THE POVERTY PROBLEM - Marco Rubio has come to the conclusion that we have a national economic problem that government action is capable of ameliorating. How? "I know from my time in the Florida legislature that if states were given the flexibility, they would design and pursue innovative and effective ways to help those trapped in poverty." HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! For whatever it's worth, Florida is one of the states refusing to expand Medicaid, and has a higher poverty rate than the U.S. in general.

RUBIO: FEDS SHOULD PAY LOW WAGE WORKERS - Now this is interesting. Rubio: "[A]llowing the states greater control doesn’t mean Washington gets to wash its hands of this problem. There will still be a role to play for the federal government. We should pursue reforms that encourage and reward work. That’s why I am developing legislation to replace the earned income tax credit with a federal wage enhancement for qualifying low-wage jobs. This would allow an unemployed individual to take a job that pays, say, $18,000 a year – which on its own is not enough to make ends meet – but then receive a federal enhancement to make the job a more enticing alternative to collecting unemployment insurance." There's plenty to hate from the right and the left about this proposal, but it's something, at least. Might this conversation about inequality actually lead somewhere?

Like a general manager leaving his ball club to go work for Scott Boras, Erica Elliott is leaving Kevin McCarthy's office for the lobbying shop at Crowell & Moring.

Hiccup: Yesterday we wrote that the Senate had passed an extension of long-term unemployment insurance when it had only cleared the first of, oh, 7,239 legislative hurdles (give or take) to do so.

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BOEHNER WORKING ON IMMIGRATION 'PRINCIPLES' - Not to be confused with his man principles, which involve eating at diners. WSJ: "House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) both included an immigration rewrite among the top 2014 priorities they outlined during a closed-door meeting with the GOP ranks, lawmakers said after the gathering. Mr. Boehner told Republicans on Wednesday that he expected to release a set of GOP principles in the coming weeks. The speaker had announced in November that Republicans, including House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.), planned to draft the guidelines before bringing any immigration bills to the House floor...Mr. Boehner told lawmakers Wednesday that '‘This is an issue we have to deal with and I continue to believe that,' said Rep. Matt Salmon (R., Ariz.). Republicans have said they want to address immigration laws in a step-by-step fashion, rather than the sweeping, bipartisan bill passed by the Senate last year. Mr. Boehner on Wednesday reiterated his pledge that leaders would not allow negotiators to subsume any narrower bills passed by the House into the broad Senate bill, which includes a controversial path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already living in the U.S. Some conservative Republicans said Wednesday that addressing the divisive issue would be a mistake at a time when all attention should be trained on the implementation of President Barack Obama’s health-care law." [WSJ]

2014: GOP STILL FOCUSING ON ABORTION - It worked so well in 2012, so why fix it if it ain't broken, y'know? Laura Bassett: "As the Senate takes up a measure to extend unemployment insurance, Republicans in the House of Representatives are looking to make 2014 another banner year for anti-abortion laws. A panel of 12 men on the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on a bill Thursday that would deny tax subsidies to women and small businesses who purchase health insurance plans that include abortion coverage. The bill only makes an exception for rape and incest victims and women who would die without abortion care, which opponents say could prompt the IRS to audit any woman who claims one of these exceptions. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has also promised to fight for a rider in the appropriations package Congress is expected to pass next week that would allow employers to refuse to cover contraception in their health insurance plans for moral reasons. And the Republican National Committee has announced it plans to delay its annual winter meeting this year so that members can attend the annual March for Life, an anti-abortion rally in Washington, D.C." [HuffPost]

RICHARD BURR PULLS A JUDICIAL MULLIGAN - Sam Stein and Jen Bendery: "On Tuesday, the Obama administration confirmed it was pulling back a judicial nominee in Florida after it became apparent that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) would not allow a vote, even though the nominee was originally his own recommendation. But Rubio isn't the only Republican senator holding up a judicial nominee he previously supported. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) is also refusing to advance Jennifer May-Parker, a nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, though Burr previously put May-Parker forward for the post. In a July 2009 letter to the White House, a copy of which was obtained by The Huffington Post, Burr recommended May-Parker for the slot and described her as having "the requisite qualifications to serve with distinction." Obama formally submitted her nomination to the Senate in June 2013. But May-Parker hasn’t moved since because Burr is withholding his "blue slip" to the Senate Judiciary Committee -- a de-facto rule in the committee that allows a senator to advance or block a nominee for his or her home state. Fellow North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan (D) has submitted her blue slip. Burr hasn't said why he's holding up May-Parker, and there is urgency to the delay: The North Carolina judicial seat, empty since 2005, is the longest-standing court vacancy in the country." [HuffPost]

The over/under on how much of this blue-slip stuff Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy will put up with is April 1. Anybody want the under?

@susancrabtree Obama revolving door Auto safety chief who oversaw Toyota case cashes out to Chrysler's lobbying firm http://bit.ly/1hwnM1k#.Us3JKP2Guq8.twitter … via @DCExaminer

TWO HOUSE DEMS RETIRING - Now if the GOP can just make it through the year without any of its members suggesting that vaginas are intelligent beings that can prevent pregnancy from rape, then it'll be set. The Hill: "Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) will retire at the end of their terms, they announced Wednesday afternoon.

McIntyre's decision gives Republicans a huge pickup opportunity in his North Carolina district that's vexed them for years, and makes him the latest centrist congressman who has decided to retire. McCarthy's Long Island district could also be competitive for Republicans.

VIRGINIA RECOUNT COULD TIP BALANCE IN STATE SENATE - Because the AG recount just wasn't enough suspense. Times Dispatch: "Del. Lynwood Lewis, D-Accomack, is clinging to a 10-vote lead over Republican Wayne Coleman in a state Senate special election with control of the chamber in the balance. The State Board of Elections updated the tally this afternoon after an error in the tally of provisional ballots erroneously indicated that Coleman led by 190 votes. Local election officials are conducting a canvas of the results today. The contest appears headed for a recount. With all precincts reporting on Tuesday night, Democrat Lewis led by just just 22 votes out of 20,379 cast. The state Senate is now split with 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans. The lieutenant governor has the tiebreaking vote on most issues. If Democrats retain Northam’s Senate seat and win a Jan. 21 special election for the Loudoun state Senate seat of Attorney General-elect Mark R. Herring, the chamber will remain split and the new lieutenant governor’s tiebreaking vote would tip the balance to the Democrats. [Times Dispatch ]

CIA SUED OVER MANDELA MYSTERY - Not a great stretch for America's intelligence gathering agencies. Matt Sledge: "A transparency researcher sued the Central Intelligence Agency on Wednesday for the release of potentially embarrassing files on Nelson Mandela, the South African freedom fighter and Nobel Prize laureate who died last month at the age of 95. The CIA's records could help solve a decades-old mystery: whether the agency helped put Mandela in prison, for 27 years, after an informant tipped apartheid security forces off to his location. Definitive proof of that claim, often made by the agency's critics, has been hard to come by. His New York Times obituary last month said the allegations have been 'neither substantiated nor dispelled.' In December, just days after Mandela's death, MIT graduate student Ryan Shapiro filed a Freedom of Information Act request for all CIA records referencing Mandela. With no response yet, Shapiro is moving ahead with a lawsuit, a step frequently taken to extract records from the secretive agency. Shapiro, the filing says, 'anticipates that the records to which he seeks access will begin to answer the following questions: What was the extent and purpose of the U.S. intelligence community’s surveillance of Nelson Mandela prior to his arrest? What role did the U.S. intelligence community play in Mandela’s arrest and prosecution?'" [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a lonely dolphin.

CHINESE UNSURE ABOUT 'AMBASSADOR COUGHING UNTIL DEATH' - In Chinese, Max Baucus' name translate phonetically to what would easily be the most disturbing fortune cookie message you'll ever crack open. Fortune: "Mostly, though, many businesses in China seem blasé about the Baucus nomination. U.S. companies operating in that country are more interested in making steady progress on the range of issues facing China, including choking pollution, a slowing economy, and the need for economic reforms. They are encouraged that Baucus isn't promoting only one cause. 'You don't want anybody rocking the boat with just one issue,' says one veteran banker with China experience. They also know Baucus is coming here to execute the Obama administration's China policy, not craft a new one...Baucus's surname in Chinese has been the source of humorous predictions for his tenure. It only took a couple hours before Baucus became 'Bao Ke Si,' a phonetic translation, in which Bao means 'you're guaranteed,' or 'I assure you'; Ke means 'cough' and Si means 'dead,' or 'death.' In other words, you're guaranteed to cough to death. There's been some grumbling about how Baucus doesn't speak Chinese, doesn't have family ties to the country, and doesn't have the affability of current U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke, who visited his ancestral village in Guangdong and was photographed buying his own coffee at a Starbucks before boarding his initial flight to Beijing." [Fortune]

COMFORT FOOD

- John Green tests life hacks. [http://bit.ly/1dwzfHd]

- An alien species would be terrified of us if given a summary of our biology and behavior. [http://bit.ly/KEp8cI]

- Don't jump on frozen trampolines, no matter how awesome it will make you feel. And believe us, you will feel awesome. [http://bit.ly/1fby7iS4]

- Dog does terrible impression of dog siren. [http://bit.ly/1aHTKzO]

- Footage of Jerry Lewis' unreleased holocaust clown film has surfaced. [http://bit.ly/KwT3md]

- The French translate English-language movies peculiarly. [http://bzfd.it/JFX0VH]

TWITTERAMA

@KagroX: Chris Christie seems like a guy we should give the NSA keys to.

@ArmstrongDrew: Imma let you finish Chris Christie, but Robert Moses was the most retribution-wielding tri-state power broker of all time.

@ddayen: Didn't Christie's scotching of the Hudson River tunnel, also for political reasons, doom the entire state of New Jersey to traffic jams?

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