POLITICS

HUFFPOST HILL - John Boehner Wants To Put The 'Fun' Back In 'Superfund'

01/14/2014 06:05 pm ET | Updated Jan 25, 2014


John Boehner doesn't believe the West Virginia chemical spill warrants new regulation, though when discussing chemical fallout, it's hard to trust someone who glows orange. An appeals court ruling on net neutrality could undermine your ability to stream porn, sports and cat videos read The Nation and Mother Jones online. And budget cuts have left National Institutes of Health funding below George W. Bush levels. Rarely is the question asked: Is our scientific research funding? This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, January 14th, 2014:

CHRISTIE DURING STATE OF THE STATE: 'MISTAKES WERE CLEARLY MADE' - And traffics were clearly jammed. Amanda Terkel: "With the 'Bridgegate' scandal hanging over his administration, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) took a moment at the beginning of his State of the State address Tuesday to address the controversy.'The last week has certainly tested this administration. Mistakes were clearly made. And as a result, we let down the people we are entrusted to serve. I know our citizens deserve better. Much better,' he said. 'I'm the governor and I'm ultimately responsible for all that happens on my watch -- both good and bad. Now without a doubt we will cooperate with all appropriate inquiries to ensure this breach of trust does not happen again.' 'But I also want to assure the people of New Jersey today that what has occurred does not define us or our state,' he added. 'This administration and this legislature will not allow the work that needs to be done to improve the people's lives in New Jersey to be delayed. I am the leader of this state and its people and I stand here today proud to be both. And always determined to do better.' Governors typically use state of the state addresses, given at the start of each year, to put forward big policy ideas. But while Christie's aides were promoting the governor's ideas on education reform in the lead-up to the speech, the scandal that has engulfed his administration in the past week was hard to ignore." [HuffPost]

SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH FUNDING BELOW BUSH LEVELS - Sam Stein: "The omnibus appropriations bill put together by House Appropriations Chair Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Senate Appropriations Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) sets funding for the National Institutes of Health at $29.934 billion for the next year. That represents a $1 billion increase from where NIH's funding levels stood in 2013, after sequestration, transfers and the re-programming of funds affected the agency. But the NIH budget target falls short of what both the White House and Senate Democrats wanted. House Democrats said it was $714 million less than 'the 2013 enacted level' of $30.648 billion. According to the NIH's own numbers, meanwhile, it is approximately $950 million less than its 2012 level. In fact, the number is lower than during President Barack Obama’s first year in office and, when adjusted for inflation, is lower than it was in every year but the first of the George W. Bush administration. [HuffPost]

"An Iran Hawk's Case Against New Iran Sanctions" - AIPAC has lost Jeffrey Goldberg. Someone should check in with Sheldon Adelson. Goldberg: "For years, Iran hawks have argued that only punishing sanctions, combined with the threat of military force, would bring Tehran to the nuclear negotiating table. Finally, Iran is at the table. And for reasons that are alternately inexplicable, presumptuous and bellicose, Iran hawks have decided that now is the moment to slap additional sanctions on the Iranian regime. The bill before the U.S. Senate, which has 59 co-sponsors at last count, will not achieve the denuclearization of Iran. It will not lead to the defunding of Hezbollah by Iran or to the withdrawal of Iranian support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. What it could do is move the U.S. closer to war with Iran and, crucially, make Iran appear -- even to many of the U.S.'s allies -- to be the victim of American intransigence, even aggression. It would be quite an achievement to allow Iran, the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism, to play the role of injured party in this drama. But the Senate is poised to do just that. HuffPost Hill has a better idea: Let's not do that! [Bloomberg]

HEALTHIER PEOPLE SIGNING UP FOR OBAMACARE - Ipsos: "The biggest question that has surrounded the launch of the Affordable Care Act healthcare exchanges is whether they could attract enough 'young invincibles' to make the enterprise financially sustainable. Or, would 'adverse selection' saddle the system with older, sicker customers whose healthcare costs would eventually drive the exchanges out of business?….[Our] data strongly suggests that the earliest adopters – the individuals who fought through the worst of the Healthcare.gov snafus – were disproportionately suffering from major health issues. This makes sense because you would have to be very concerned with your health to deal with that challenges of the first month of the federal exchange website. However, every month since then, the health mix has become more balanced. In the first few weeks of January 2014, our data indicates that the exchanges are actually recruiting more healthy people than sick people. If this trend continues, the exchanges might be sustainable after all" [via HuffPollster]

A LITTLE LATE, DUDE: KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED RENOUNCES TERROR - However we doubt his guards at Guantanamo will let him paste that 'Coexist' bumper sticker on his cell wall. With Ryan Reilly and Myriam Francois-Cerrah: "The mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks now says that the use of violence to spread Islam is forbidden by the Quran, a major shift away from the more militaristic view he had put forward previously. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's thinking is detailed in a first-of-its-kind 36-page manifesto obtained by The Huffington Post. In a departure from his previous stance, which led the Guantanamo Bay prisoner to tell a military commission, 'it would have been the greatest religious duty to fight you over your infidelity,' KSM, as he's known in intelligence circles, instead seeks to convert the court to Islam through persuasion and theological reflection, going so far as to argue that 'The Holy Quran forbids us to use force as a means of converting' and that reaching 'truth and reality never comes by muscles and force but by using the mind and wisdom.'" [HuffPost]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Legislation to bring back unemployment insurance for over a million long-term jobless Americans failed to clear the Senate on Tuesday, leaving no clear path forward. Republicans complained Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wouldn't let them try to amend the legislation, and Reid responded that Republicans had been whining about procedure to obscure their opposition to restoring the benefits. "The question is: Are Republican filibustering unemployment benefits or are they not?" Reid said on the Senate floor before the vote. "This has obviously been fixed," countered Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Benefits lapsed for 1.3 million workers on Dec. 28, thanks to congressional inaction. Each week since the lapse, another 70,000 laid off workers reach the end of their state benefits, which in most cases last six months, and find that the federal benefits that previously helped millions of workers won't be helping them. Lawmakers knew about the looming deadline for a whole year but did nothing until it was too late. [With HuffPost's Sam Stein]

What do Dems have up their sleeve for saving the benefits, aside from inviting unemployed people to the State of the Union? Maybe some tax extenders, maybe some doc fix. Not too much. Now that the Senate has flubbed unemployment, they gotta move on to funding the government. Then they gotta go on vacation. See you in late January, unemployment insurance.

DOUBLE DOWNER - Marcia Carroll of Staunton, Va., is one the people whose benefits stopped last month. She said she'd lost her job as a warehouse materials handler in July. Since losing her unemployment insurance, she's already begun missing payments. "Today I got three cancellation notices: my car insurance, my cable bill, my light bill," Carroll, 43, said in a phone interview Monday. "I don't have a fancy house, I don't have no credit card bills. [When I had the benefits] I could pay what I needed to pay. When you go from $340 a week to zero a week you eat a lot of peanut butter." Carroll said she's applied for warehouse jobs, retail jobs and temp jobs, and companies have either told her she's overqualified or not called back at all. Between filling out online applications this week, she's been watching Congress on C-SPAN. "None of them care about the working person," she said, calling the congressional debate "a little pissing contest." [HuffPost]

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BOEHNER ON WV SPILL: NO MORE REGULATIONS -

Sabrina Siddiqui: "House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday that no new regulations are needed after a chemical spill in West Virginia last week left more than 300,000 people without safe tap water. He suggested the incident was not the result of less environmental and energy regulation but of the Obama administration's failure to enforce existing rules. 'The issue is this: We have enough regulations on the books. And what the administration ought to be doing is actually doing their jobs,' Boehner said at a press conference. 'Why wasn't this plant inspected since 1991?'...Boehner's comments came in response to a question on whether the spill at a storage facility operated by Freedom Industries, which involved chemicals that are used to clean coal, was a 'tradeoff' for the lax environmental and energy regulation favored among Republicans. Questions have been raised about why the Elk River storage facility was not inspected at the state or federal level since 1991, as well as why its construction was permitted so close to the largest water treatment plant in the state. Current laws in West Virginia, where the coal industry forms the heart of the economy, require inspections for chemical production facilities, but not for facilities used for chemical storage." [HuffPost]

CHRISTIE WAS WITH FIRED AIDE DURING BRIDGE CLOSURE - You know what this distinctly tri-state area scandal is missing? 9-11 references! Pete King should find a way to involve himself just on principle. Journal: "Gov. Chris Christie was with the official who arranged the closure of local lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 11, 2013 — the third day of the closures, and well after they had triggered outrage from local officials beset by heavy traffic. It isn’t known what, if anything, Mr. Christie discussed with David Wildstein that day, when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official was among the delegation of Mr. Christie’s representatives who welcomed him to the site of the World Trade Center for the commemoration of the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks there. Christie spokesman Colin Reed said, 'Of course, Governor Christie attended the September 11th ceremony as he has done every year since he took office. He had numerous interactions with public officials that morning, including representatives of the Port Authority. They were all there for one reason – to pay tribute to the heroes of 9/11.'" [WSJ]

Not your month, dude: @GovChristie: We have a moral obligation to education our children. youtube.com/watch?v=cFzrCz… #Flashback

DEMOCRATS NOT BUDGING ON MINIMUM WAGE - We await the GOP's counterproposal to replace the minimum wage entirely with a plan to deposit $7 an hour into a closet index fund. Dave Jamieson: "While they're willing to haggle over the finer points of a minimum wage hike, congressional Democrats said Tuesday that they will not lower their nominal proposal of $10.10 per hour as some Republicans have asked, saying they don't want to lock in a wage floor that's too low. 'We're willing to negotiate,' Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who proposed the minimum wage bill in the Senate, said at an event hosted by the Economic Policy Institute. 'But $10.10 is a bottom line. We cannot go below that.' With the backing of the White House, Harkin and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) have proposed raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2015 and pegging it to inflation. But for now, most of the bargaining power rests with Republicans. Harkin suggested Tuesday that Senate Democrats don't yet have the 60 votes necessary to block a filibuster, and leaders in the GOP-controlled House have shown little appetite for a minimum wage boost, claiming it would burden businesses." [HuffPost]

Bill O'Reilly even came out in favor it. "Ten bucks is okay with me," he shrugged.
NET NEUTRALITY TAKES HIT IN COURT - Not to brag or anything, but the weather is just fine here in email. Until Comcast figures out how to make us pay for priority delivery. Reuters: "A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday struck down the government's latest effort to require internet providers to treat all traffic the same and give consumers equal access to lawful content, a policy that supporters call net neutrality. The Federal Communications Commission did not have the legal authority to enact the 2011 regulations, which were challenged in a lawsuit brought by Verizon Communications Inc, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said in its ruling. 'Even though the commission has general authority to regulate in this arena, it may not impose requirements that contravene express statutory mandates,' Judge David Tatel said. Although the three judge panel were unanimous about the outcome, one wrote separately that he would have gone even further in restricting the FCC's authority." [Reuters]

LINDSEY GRAHAM DEFENDS CROOKED MAN - In a totally unrelated story, Crooked Man is very important to Lindsey Graham's reelection. Journal: "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) says Roger Ailes is getting a raw deal in a new biography, at least as far as immigration is concerned. The book quotes Mr. Ailes offering a harsh prescription for illegal immigrants. But Mr. Graham, an architect of last year’s Senate immigration bill, said in an interview that the chief of Fox News supported fixing the broken immigration system and that his network was “far more balanced” in covering the debate than it had been during the 2006-2007 effort. Mr. Ailes has also been quoted on the record supporting the immigration overhaul, including its most contentious piece, a path to citizenship for those here illegally. 'I met with him at least three to four times in person and talked to him a lot,' Mr. Graham said. He said he and others aggressively courted Mr. Ailes in hopes of toning down what Mr. Graham described as vocal opposition on Fox in the past. 'People who observed the debate noticed that the tone was different and not so one-sided. It wasn’t ‘amnesty’ every 15 minutes.'" [WSJ]

THE U.S. GOVERNMENT IS HERE TO PUMP ::CLAP:: YOU UP - Thanks to Barack Hussein, you can now talk to your friends on your Obamaphone while you use your ObamaPenisPump (featuring Joe Biden's smiling mug, natch) while the NSA listens in to report conservative political activity to the IRS. Reuters: "Penis pumps cost the U.S. government's Medicare program $172 million between 2006 and 2011, about twice as much as the consumer would have paid at the retail level, according to a government watchdog's report released on Monday. The report by the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services said Medicare, the government health insurance system for seniors, paid nearly 474,000 claims for vacuum erection systems, or VES, totaling about $172.4 million from 2006 to 2011. Yearly claims for the devices nearly doubled from $20.6 million in 2006 to $38.6 million in 2011. According to the Mayo Clinic, penis pumps are one of a few treatment options for erectile dysfunction. Government waste is a major issue in budget talks in the U.S. capital as lawmakers try to reach agreement on a $1 trillion spending bill." [Reuters]

Elsewhere in America's ongoing efforts to help people: "Gov. John Kitzhaber’s staff hastily ended his scheduled one-on-one interview with KATU News on Thursday morning barely four minutes after it had begun when KATU began asking about problems with Cover Oregon's website. Kitzhaber was in Portland to discuss Cover Oregon’s new enrollment numbers even as he admitted the exchange’s costly and all-important website will likely not be functioning for the foreseeable future." [KATU]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a traumatized cat.

POLITICO EDITORS TO MEET WITH WAPO OVER PLAYBOOK CONTROVERSY - Looks like Erik Wemple's is never going to get birthweek mention. Michael Calderone: "Politico editor-in-chief John Harris and chief executive Jim VandeHei are expected to visit The Washington Post on Wednesday to discuss the paper's recent scrutiny of chief White House correspondent Mike Allen and his influential Playbook newsletter, according to a source familiar with the meeting who is not authorized to discuss it. The Politico higher-ups are scheduled to sit down with both editorial page editor Fred Hiatt and media critic Erik Wemple, who has aggressively covered Allen and recently suggested the Politico star writer rewards Playbook advertisers with favorable coverage. After digging through Playbook's archives, Wemple concluded in November that 'the special interests that pay for slots in the newsletter get adoring coverage elsewhere in the playing field of Playbook.' A few years ago, it was Politico's Allen breaking the "Salon-gate" scandal at the Post; he reported the paper planned to allow lobbyists and executives the opportunity to pay for off-the-record access to Post editors and reporters at exclusive salons. Now it's the Post, through Wemple, that's asking Politico questions about blurring the line between editorial and business interests. So far, Allen has been silent on the matter. He didn't answer Wemple's queries prior to publication or at a public event after the story ran on Nov. 20." [HuffPost]

COMFORT FOOD

- Footage of Virgin Galactic's low-orbit spacecraft. [http://bit.ly/19syfrN]

- Meet the dirtiest man in the world -- he hasn't bathed in 60 years. [http://bit.ly/1dnAqMz]

- Dog learns to hit snooze button. [http://huff.to/1aCIZ5B]

- T-shirt gatling guns will forever change the face of shirt-based warfare (also halftime shows). [http://bit.ly/1hnO17y]

- History's most influential burgers. [http://ti.me/1d3hlL8]

- Ask Siri about religion and she/it will respond with so much circumspection that a politician would be jealous. [http://huff.to/JZlCcb]

- Video of a computer trying to learn how to walk. This is the beginning of the end. Protect the fire. [http://bit.ly/1dtl5vz]

TWITTERAMA

@GrahamDavidA: Good thing he'll never face Ohio voters again RT @EvanMcSan Obama: “it is wonderful” to see the miami heat back at the WH

@pourmecoffee: Unshaven Christie in plain t-shirt: I want to talk about loyalty. What do any of you (burp) know about loyalty? Nothing. Someone beer me.

@nickbaumann: You're Not a Real Journalist, Area Person on Internet Says

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