A group of people who only have to worry about their job security once every six years failed to agree on extending long term unemployment insurance. Rand Paul took a dig at Chris Christie's political troubles while Jeb Bush, we can only assume, gleefully rolled around his carpet, making snow angels and punching the air in excitement. And during his mea culpa press conference, Christie suggested that his staff's retribution may have morphed into an actual traffic study -- we look forward to his office publishing 'Is There A Traffic Jam On The Bridge? Evidence From My Ruthless Meting Out Of Vengeance.' This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, January 9th, 2014:
HOORAY! Paul Blumenthal: "Millionaires occupy the majority of seats in Congress for the first time since ethics laws mandated personal financial disclosures, according to a new Center for Responsive Politics report. Out of 534 members of Congress -- there was one vacant seat -- 268 have an average net worth of more than $1 million." [HuffPost]
UNEMPLOYMENT EXTENSION DEATHWATCH - Just as it appeared the Senate was poised for a breakthrough on extending federal unemployment insurance for another year, things took a turn for the worse, and lawmakers left the chamber Thursday afternoon without holding a vote. Three of the six Republicans who'd helped the Senate advance an unemployment bill through the first 60-vote hurdle on Tuesday complained bitterly that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had declined to let them offer amendments. When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) asked if there would be votes on GOP alternative language, Reid said there would not. The day's events imperil the already slim chances that an unemployment extension gets through the next 60-vote hurdle in the Senate, let alone through Congress as a whole. More than a million long-term unemployed Americans, meanwhile, have been left hanging since the end of last month. [With HuffPost's Sam Stein and Mike McAuliff]
FARM BILL DEATHWATCH - The FBDW is back! David Rogers: "House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas conceded Thursday that final action on a farm bill conference report is now likely to slip into late January — a major blow to himself and an ominous turn for the bill itself. 'It needs to be done as soon as possible but the issues are of such magnitude I can’t go until I get the issues addressed,' Lucas said. The Oklahoma Republican admitted to immense frustration — and some surprise — at the full dimensions of the standoff now between Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Lucas’s own ranking Democrat, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, over dairy policy. 'I don’t know that I understood how just hard the positions were by the two interested parties,' Lucas said in a hallway interview. 'No one has shown any flexibility whatsoever.'" These two teams just don't like each other! [Politico]
Stabenow just now offered mad props to conference committee counterparts. "We've all come into this wanting to get it done," she said. "We like each other and we want to get it done." Then she peaced out.
BEGICH WAS IN HAWAII AT INDUSTRY CONFERENCE DURING RAZOR-THIN UNEMPLOYMENT VOTE - If Republicans actually believed in long-term unemployment insurance, this could be serious campaign fodder. The Hill: "Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) missed a procedural vote on extending unemployment benefits to deliver a speech to a lobby group in Hawaii, The Hill has learned. Begich delivered a keynote speech Wednesday morning to the American Aviation Issues conference, an annual event hosted by the American Association of Airport Executives. He also held two fundraisers for his hotly contested Senate race and met with Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) to discuss Alaska-Hawaii issues, according to a Begich aide. Hawaii and Alaska elected officials often work closely together on national issues to help give the states more clout...He also missed the confirmation vote on Monday evening to confirm Janet Yellen as the new chairman of the Federal Reserve. A Begich aide pointed out that the senator is the co-chairman of the Senate Aviation Caucus, and says the engagement was set months ago, long before the vote was scheduled." [The Hill]
OBAMA CONSIDERS REINING IN NSA - All of that clicking on the phone is giving Angela Merkel headaches. AP: " President Barack Obama is expected to rein in spying on foreign leaders and is considering restricting National Security Agency access to Americans' phone records, according to people familiar with a White House review of the government's surveillance programs. Obama could unveil his highly anticipated decisions as early as next week. On Thursday, the president met with congressional leaders at the White House to discuss the review, while White House staff planned to meet with privacy advocates. Representatives from tech companies are meeting with White House staff on Friday. The White House says Obama is still collecting information before making final decisions. Among the changes Obama is expected to announce is more oversight of the National Intelligence Priorities Framework, a classified document that ranks U.S. intelligence-gathering priorities and is used to make decisions on scrutiny of foreign leaders. A presidential review board has recommended increasing the number of policy officials who help establish those priorities, and that could result in limits on surveillance of allies." [AP]
DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Karen Myers of Cantonment, Fla., is one of the long-term jobless left waiting for answers from Congress. She said she lost her job supervising customer service for a hospital in July. She had just switched to federal benefits last month after running out of state benefits, so she was at the very beginning of her federal unemployment compensation claim when she learned the aid would end. "I have six grandchildren, so Christmas was very small because I don't know if I'm going to get any money after January," Myers, 57, said in a phone interview. When Myers began receiving federal benefits in December, she had the impression there would be several months of assistance. "I think there should be a better way," she said. "I don't know what that is. There should be a better way to handle these types of things. [HuffPost]
Haircuts Jim Manley (h/t Jim Manley), Arthur Delaney (h/t/ Arthur Delaney).
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CHRIS CHRISTIE TALKS AND TALKS AND TALKS AND TALKS... STILL IN TROUBLE - Standing at what appeared to be a very small but fancy hotel bar, the New Jersey governor this morning addressed the bridge closure scandal engulfing what is left of his administration. Amanda Terkel: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) apologized to the residents of his state Thursday, saying he had fired his deputy chief of staff and cut ties with his top political adviser after learning they had carried out a mean-spirited political payback scheme that caused massive traffic jams around the country's busiest bridge. 'I apologize to the people of Fort Lee, and I apologize to the members of the state legislature,' said Christie. 'I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team. There is no doubt in my mind that the conduct that they exhibited is completely unacceptable and showed a lack of respect for their appropriate role of government and for the people that we're trusted to serve.' 'Mistakes were made, and I'm responsible for those mistakes,' he added. Thursday's press conference in Trenton was the first time Christie spoke publicly about the scandal since emails came out Wednesday morning linking members of his inner circle to it. He said in a statement Wednesday evening that he'd had no knowledge of what had happened, and he canceled all public events Wednesday in order to, he said, get to the bottom of the controversy." [HuffPost]
RAND PAUL BURN - Keith Laing: "Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said on Thursday that he wonders 'who did this to me' when he is stuck in traffic jams like the ones created by lane closures on the busiest bridge in the U.S. apparently ordered by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R-N.J.) administration last year. 'I know how angry I am when I’m in traffic,' said Paul, who has tangled with Christie before, when he was asked by reporters at the Capitol for a comment on the Christie allegations. 'I’m always wondering who did this to me,' Paul continued." [The Hill]
CHRISTIE AIDE TAKES THE FIFTH - Associate of thuggish New Jersey Governor takes the fifth: no one at the DGA should be paid today. Their work is already done. NBC News: "An appointee of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at the center of an apparent plan to engineer a monster traffic jam as an act of political payback was held in contempt Thursday after he refused to answer questions from state lawmakers. The appointee, David Wildstein, invoked the Fifth Amendment, which offers protection against self-incrimination. 'On the advice of counsel, I assert my right to remain silent,' he said repeatedly at the hearing, convened by the transportation committee of the state Assembly. The committee is investigating why lanes that funnel traffic from Fort Lee, N.J., to the George Washington Bridge were closed in September, resulting in days of gridlock. Emails published Wednesday by The Record newspaper and other news organizations show Wildstein mocking concerns that school buses were stuck in the mess. Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the Democrat who chairs the committee, disputed that Wildstein had the right under state law to decline to answer questions. The committee voted to hold him in contempt, a misdemeanor. The chairman asked Wildstein questions anyway — including about an email from Christie’s deputy chief of staff to Wildstein last August that said: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Wildstein declined to answer every time, saying either himself or through his lawyer that he had a constitutional right not to." [NBC News]
U.S. ATTORNEY ENTERS FRAY - Somewhere, Eric Schneiderman is salivating to the point of drowning. Reuters: "[Christie's] announcement came as the office of the U.S. attorney in New Jersey said it would launch an inquiry into claims that Christie's staff was behind the traffic jam after a local mayor declined to endorse Christie's re-election bid...U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman has opened a probe into the lane closures, his spokeswoman said. 'The Port Authority Office of Inspector General has referred the matter to us, and our office is reviewing it to determine whether a federal law was implicated,' Rebekah Carmichael said in a statement." [Reuters]
The federal investigators face an uphill climb: "What seems to be missing, however, is a clear connection to an alleged violation of federal public corruption statutes. Democratic state Sen. Ray Lesniak, a lawyer, was vague when asked what criminal statute might be in play. 'There’s gotta be dozens of state and federal criminal law violations,' he said. There's no allegation that Christie or any of his top aides profited financially from shutting down two access lanes in Fort Lee, N.J., snarling traffic in the town and on the George Washington Bridge for several days. And if the Christie administration had jammed phone lines instead of traffic lanes, it would have violated federal law. But making a federal corruption charge stick against anyone in the administration, based on the information that has been made public, could be a stretch." [HuffPost]
OBAMACARE TO COVER BREAST CANCER PREVENTION DRUGS - Good luck messaging this one, Reince. Amanda Terkel: "Certain medications that are intended to prevent breast cancer will be fully covered under Obamacare, in new guidance set to be issued by the Department of Health and Human Services Thursday morning. Women at increased risk of breast cancer can receive so-called chemoprevention drugs, including tamoxifen and raloxifene, without a co-pay or other out-of-pocket expense. Under Obamacare, most health insurance companies and employer plans must offer certain preventive services at no cost to patients. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network praised the announcement in a statement Thursday...The new coverage comes after the U.S. Preventive Services Task Forcerecommended in September that women at increased risk of breast cancer, due to age, family history or other factors, take drugs such as tamoxifen and raloxifene. The panel said it found "adequate evidence" that treatment with one of those drugs 'can significantly reduce the relative risk (RR) for invasive ER-positive breast cancer in postmenopausal women who are at increased risk for breast cancer.'" [HuffPost]
RODELL MOLLINEAU LEAVING AMERICAN BRIDGE - Guess Chris Christie let him off it, amirite? Jon Ward: "Rodell Mollineau, the president of Democratic opposition research group American Bridge, is stepping down next month to work as an independent consultant, he announced Thursday. Mollineau, 37, a former spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), will join the board of Bridge and continue to work with the group on key races, he told The Huffington Post. But his departure will allow him to work on outside projects and free him up to work for a 2016 presidential campaign, if the opportunity arises...Mollineau helped start American Bridge in April 2011, building the group up to an outfit of 25 researchers and 19 trackers in the 2012 presidential cycle. Bridge was responsible for catching Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin's comment about 'legitimate rape.' Republicans started their own group to counter Bridge, called America Rising, in 2013." [HuffPost]
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here's a dog enjoying snow.
FBI TO RELEASE REPORT ON KILLING OF BOSTON BOMBING PERSON OF INTEREST - Ryan Reilly: "The internal FBI probe into the deadly shooting of a Russian immigrant who was being interviewed in Florida in May about his links to the Boston Marathon bombing suspect is "definitely" something the bureau will release down the line, FBI Director James Comey told reporters Thursday. Ibragim Todashev, a friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed by an FBI agent while being questioned about his relationship with Tsarnaev. There were conflicting accounts about whether Todashev was armed when he allegedly attacked an agent. News reports quoted sources who saidthat Todashev was going to sign a statement confessing his involvement in a 2011 murder when he allegedly lunged at an agent, who was accompanied by other law enforcement officials. The Boston Globe's editorial board recently called on Comey to release the report, saying the lack of information raises serious questions. "Was Todashev armed? Couldn’t the trained law enforcement officials on the scene, including two Massachusetts state troopers, have subdued a potentially crucial witness in a nonlethal way?" the board asked." [HuffPost]
- Lake Michigan is now filled with giant ice spheres -- that or mythical polar bear eggs. [http://bit.ly/1e8xljG]
- Hi-res photos of dawn and dusk from around the world. [http://huff.to/KEiS3V]
- Cat gives hug. [http://bit.ly/1cSrGtd]
- Photos from the highest hotel rooms on earth... and we don't mean the ones in Amsterdam where guests stuffed a towel under the front door. [http://bit.ly/19Vl1nS]
- Polar bear cub takes first steps. [http://bit.ly/1erzC7s]
- Hungary has an award-winning rope skipping team. Behold. [http://bit.ly/1imv1GJ]
@BrettLoGiurato: Christie Has Sister Soul-Search Moment
@latimesmuskal: At 115 minutes, the Chris Christie news conference is still shorter than some traffic waits at the GWB.
@KagroX: You Won't Believe This One Weird Trick For Studying Traffic
@delrayser: A "legitimate traffic study" is one that can't get you pregnant.
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