The Senate cot threat level was lowered from red to green when Ted Cruz backed off his demands for another Obamacare vote. David Vitter wants food stamp recipients to have official IDs, either because he is mean or thinks that people are committing voter fraud by purchasing apples. And funding for expanded Acela service was removed from the budget -- just another example of Congress making it difficult for wealthy people to get around in this world. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, January 16th, 2014:
GOP RECONSIDERING THAT WHOLE BUDGET THING - For a long time the GOP treated the budgets the way parents treated homework: No fun till it's done. Now the GOP is cool with everyone watching TV. National Journal: "House Republicans are quietly discussing the option of not writing a budget in 2014, a maneuver that would free up time on the legislative calendar and protect GOP lawmakers from a potentially damaging vote in an election year. The idea of Republicans skipping this year's budgetary process seems odd when considering the House GOP made history last year by attaching a policy rider called 'No Budget, No Pay' to a debt limit extension. That measure tied lawmakers' salaries to budgets being written in both chambers and paved the way for a budget agreement between House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray. But unbeknownst to some lawmakers at the time – and still some today – is that 'No Budget, No Pay' was a one-year provision. It is now expired. This, combined with the fact that Ryan-Murray set spending figures for the next fiscal year anyhow, has some House Republicans wondering if a budgeting process this year is really necessary...A senior House GOP leadership aide confirmed there is a push coming from "political types" for House Republicans not to get engaged with a budget this year." [National Journal]
No budget, no pay! LOL
Harry Reid supports medical marijuana now. His super-calm demeanor suggests he actually has for quite. some. time.
OH C'MON: CRUZ BACKS DOWN FROM OBAMACARE VOTE THREAT - David Rogers: "A landmark $1.1 trillion spending bill neared final passage in Congress Thursday as conservative resistance collapsed in the Senate and Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz softened his demands for a vote first on funding for President Barack Obama’s health care plan. Cruz took the floor to speak on the issue and was expected to still propose an amendment. But the outcome is no longer in doubt and under a leadership agreement, the Senate will vote on cloture this evening and then move immediately to passage. Just hours before, Republicans coming out of a party lunch had said Cruz was insistent on offering his amendment even with the government facing a deadline Jan. 18, when a short term funding resolution expires. It was déjà vu all over again given the Texan’s prominence in events leading up to last October’s shutdown. Though as a practical matter the risk was more delay than crises. And Cruz’s gambit seemed aimed at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as much as the Affordable Care Act. Indeed, the spending bill at issue passed the House easily Wednesday on a 359-67 vote after an hour of debate governed by a Republican-backed rule that allowed no amendments. Reid set out to achieve the same result by using his position to block amendments. Soon after the House bill arrived, he moved Wednesday night to fill the two legislative “trees” which can be used to attach amendments or motions to refer a bill back to committee." [Politico]
The Senate advanced that budget thing just now.
DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - From the mailbag: "I will turn 62 this month. I cannot find a job. I have a doctorate and have worked in education for over 25 years. I have applied for everything even remotely connected including babysitting and temp jobs with no success. I must take my Social Security early. Has anyone considered how this will impact our economy? I am sure I am not the only person with this problem. With an unemployment extension I might be able to continue my search. What is going through their minds? I'm sure they must realize this inaction will create a burden on the welfare system. Many young families must resort to that remedy. I am so disgusted. I would love to put my skills to use. I feel I have much to contribute. I suggest all republicans try to live on 300$ a week for a month." [Hang in there!]
HuffPost Hiccup: Yesterday we joked in the intro that the Olbermann amendment to the Constitution was nearly ratified by two-thirds of the states. A depressingly small number of you reminded us that it actually takes three-quarters of the states to ratify a constitutional amendment. Let's all go back to civic class.
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LAWMAKERS UNVEIL REWORKED VOTING RIGHTS ACT - Ryan Reilly, Mike McAuliff and Jen Bendery: "House and Senate lawmakers unveiled bipartisan legislation on Thursday that would repair -- and broaden -- a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act struck down last year by the Supreme Court. The bill would expand the power of federal courts to stop discriminatory voting changes before they are implemented by lowering the bar for plaintiffs seeking a preliminary injunction of a law in any federal court in the country. It would also update the formula that determines which parts of the country require pre-clearance for voting changes to include places with recent voting rights violations, and create 'uniform transparency requirements' to keep communities informed about voting changes.... the Supreme Court halted that oversight last summer when it ruled that it was time to update the formula... [Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat] Leahy signaled later that he's not too concerned about finding Republicans to support the bill. 'This is not going to be filibustered in the Senate,' he told reporters. The bill also faces an uphill climb in the Republican-controlled House. But Conyers pointed out the measure already has four or five GOP cosponsors and said Sensenbrenner has been talking with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) about moving it forward. He also noted that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made some remarks about the issue “that were certainly not hostile.” [HuffPost]
MCCONNELL RESOLUTELY DISAPPROVES EPA REGS - Kate Sheppard: "Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is seeking to block new rules from the Environmental Protection Agency regarding carbon emission limits for coal-fired power plants before the rules are even finalized. On Thursday, McConnell announced that he is filing a 'resolution of disapproval' to stop the EPA 'from imposing its anti-coal regulation.' The senator wants to employ the little-used Congressional Review Act of 1996, or CRA, which sets up an expedited process for Congress to overturn regulations from the executive branch. The only time the law has been wielded successfully was in 2001, when Republicans used it to block new ergonomics rules from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued during the Clinton years. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) tried to employ the law in 2010 to block the EPA's finding that greenhouse gases pose a threat to human health, but the measure failed (despite drawing yes votes from six Democrats). Still, there is one definite advantage for McConnell in turning to the law: A CRA resolution requires only a simple majority to pass." [HuffPost]
BUDGET DEAL SCREWS TRAIN RIDERS - No matter what happens to America's railways, America's tweets about America's railways will remain insufferable. Pro tip: Filter out "wi-fi is terrible," "don't they know this is the quiet car" and "who needs to stop in Aberdeen, anyway." Sam Stein: "The Amtrak riders who live in the infamous Acela corridor lost out in the bipartisan budget deal reached between House and Senate appropriators this past week. Not only does the deal not authorize a single cent more for high-speed rail construction and services, it actually rescinds money from one account, the Next-Generation High-Speed Rail program. It also rescinds $4,419,000 from the Northeast Corridor Improvement program, which aims to improve existing Amtrak lines in the region. In all, the bill authorizes $1.39 billion for Amtrak capital and operating expenses. That's about $45 million more than where things stood after sequestration took effect. But it's $28 million less than pre-sequestration funding levels, leaving rail advocates shaking their heads and congressional backers questioning their fellow lawmakers' priorities." [HuffPost]
DEMS PUSHING IMMIGRATION IDEAS AHEAD OF DEBATE - And a group of Democrats from both chambers wants states to grant in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants. This contrasts sharply with the GOP education plan for immigrants, which primarily involves yelling at people with accents to learn English. Elise Foley: "The funding would offer considerable help for many hoping for an affordable chance at higher education. Undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children, often called Dreamers, can receive in-state tuition in 19 states, including those represented by the four lawmakers who signed on to the bill. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) proposed the bill, and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) are original co-sponsors. The legislation would create the American Dream Grant program to provide $750 million over a decade in need-based financial aid to states that provide in-state tuition and financial aid to undocumented students. It would be paid for by the increasing the fee for student F-1 visas from $200 to $350, according to Castro's office. The legislators estimated that 1.8 million Dreamers could be aided by their bill." [HuffPost]
Compassionate conservativism: "Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) on Wednesday introduced legislation to require food stamp recipients to produce a valid photo ID every time they purchase food with their Electronic Benefits Transfer card. Under the Food Stamp Fraud Prevention and Accountability Act, anyone caught using someone else’s EBT card illegally would be banned from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. 'Using a photo ID is standard in many day-to-day transactions, and most of those are not exclusively paid for by the taxpayer dollars,' Vitter said in a press release Wednesday. 'Food stamps have more than doubled in cost since 2008 and continue to grow in an unsustainable way.' Vitter’s bill comes after an October system glitch that temporarily disabled the spending limit on EBT debit cards, leading some recipients to take advantage by exceeding their normally allotted cap." [HuffPost]
GOP INSISTING IT FILIBUSTERED UNEMPLOYMENT AID ON PRINCIPLE - Like that scene from American Psycho when Patrick Bateman stabs that homeless guy. A man must have a code. Mike McAuliff: "Republicans filibustered a Democratic bill to restore unemployment benefits to more than one million Americans because they were standing on principle, lawmakers said. 'People, if you pay 'em for years and years, they won't look for a job,' said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), putting his feelings in perhaps the starkest terms of a number of senators interviewed by HuffPost....'Republicans actually have principles,' said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who argued that it didn't matter to him that Democrats were likely to use GOP opposition to the extension of benefits as a campaign issue. 'I certainly ran because we're mortgaging our children's future. We're bankrupting this nation.' Other members of their party -- especially those among the half-dozen who tried to cut a deal to extend the insurance -- were more nuanced in their reasoning for blockading the Democratic bid to help the long-term jobless, about 70,000 of whom run out of benefits each week that Congress doesn't move to extend them. But their reasoning still boiled down to principles that weighed heavier on their minds than thoughts of the people whose benefits they cut off, and who can't find jobs in the still-recovering economy. More than 1.3 million people who have been unemployed for over 6 months lost their federal benefits at the end of December. That number could rise to about 5 million by the end of the year if Congress fails to act." [HuffPost]
NSA REFORMERS EXPECTING TO BE DISAPPOINTED BY PRESIDENT'S SPEECH TOMORROW - Of course, the NSA is already aware of their impending sadness, and what Jeff Merkley's kids are researching for their latest history papers. The NSA recommends Yale's history department's website as a resource on the Franco-Prussian War. Matt Sledge and Sabrina Siddiqui: "President Barack Obama is set to announce his vision of surveillance reforms in a speech on Friday, and National Security Agency critics in Congress are bracing for disappointment. The New York Times reported Wednesday that Obama was likely to accept a limited set of incremental changes, and hand the larger decisions to Congress -- which is deeply divided over reform proposals...'What I'm expecting is very modest changes, simply based on the press reports,' said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who was among the first lawmakers to introduce legislation to reform the NSA's activities after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's leaks began in June. Merkley co-sponsored a bill with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in June that would declassify the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinions used to justify surveillance. Despite picking up more than a dozen backers from both sides of the aisle, the Merkley-Lee bill, like most proposed legislative fixes to the NSA, remains stalled in Congress. Merkley told HuffPost it's ultimately up to Senate leadership to advance any measures that seek to reform the scope of surveillance" [HuffPost]
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a talented puppy.
TV REALLY DOESN'T CARE ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE - If only the exponential accumulation of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere were younger, cuter and blonder. Kate Sheppard: "Climate change got more coverage on broadcast news in 2013 than in the previous few years, but the issue still didn't get nearly as much attention as it did in 2009, Media Matters found in a new analysis. ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox together featured more coverage in 2013 than they did in 2012. The amount of airtime granted to climate change on both the Sunday shows and the nightly news was up, too -- to a total of 27 minutes, and an hour and 42 minutes, respectively, for the entire year. The progressive media watchdog group Media Matters totaled the time broadcasters devoted to climate change for a new report released Thursday. The Media Matters report deemed overall coverage of climate change 'tepid,' and noted there were many news events in 2013 that created opportunities for coverage, including carbon dioxide levels that exceeded 400 parts per million in May, President Barack Obama's major climate policy address in June, and the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment in September...Coverage peaked in 2009, the year of the Copenhagen climate summit and the release of hundreds emails stolen from climate scientists. It was much lower for the three years that followed." [HuffPost]
- How to win an Oscar, in one chart. [http://huff.to/1i20Xmf]
- British commentary of American football. [http://bit.ly/KlyU2g]
- 'American Psycho' remade with British hipsters. [http://bit.ly/1dvkh9A]
- Someone strapped a camera on a falcon and this is the footage of it -- like someone north of The Wall -- hunting crows. [http://bit.ly/1m9clu6]
- Ten animal hybrids that -- unless you're a beefalo breeder -- you did not know existed. [http://bit.ly/1mbS7Tf]
- Etymological journey of the day: Tracing the origin of the use of 'crib' to mean 'home.' [http://n.pr/1daNbWx]
- My 1992 diary features pages from the author's preteen years in Nebraska. [http://bit.ly/1aSSait]
@PeterHambyCNN: Sent this Snapchat to SenatorRandPaul. He called me 30 minutes later. pic.twitter.com/EvpHfehODc
@OKnox: Respectful reminder that cross-party seating at the State of the Union is like a comb-over. It looks weird and fools no one.
@StevenTDennis: Congress slapping themselves on the back for completing their basic job — funding the government — 3 and a half months late.
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