John Boehner doesn't want to run for president because he likes to play golf, something he has never done with a president of the United States. In what was either a lapse in editorial judgement or a flagrant bid for a slot on "The Five," Andrea Mitchell cut away from an on-air discussion of the NSA to break news about Justin Bieber. And Clay Aiken will likely run for Congress, a development that should provide support for down ticket campaigns like William Hung's comptroller bid. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Friday, January 24th, 2014:
JOHN BOEHNER IS THE GOD-DAMNED GREATEST - Hell of a man. Peter Cooney: "U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said on Thursday he had no interest in running for the White House, declaring on NBC's 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno' he was not about to give up red wine and cigarettes to be president. Asked by Leno whether he ever thought of running for president, Boehner replied, 'No.' 'I like to play golf. I like to cut my own grass,' said Boehner, the top Republican in Congress. 'I do drink red wine. I smoke cigarettes. And I'm not giving that up to be president of the United States.'" Hell no you can't![Reuters]
The speaker also offered an unprompted defense of his tan.
FOOD STAMP SURFER BETTER WATCH HIS BACK - The farm bill's around the corner and Eric Cantor is tired of the food stamp surfer's badass jewelry. David Rogers: "House farm bill conferees are being alerted to a likely meeting Monday morning at which the Agriculture Committee leadership is hoping to finalize agreement on a conference report that can come to the floor next week. 'Conversations are ongoing and we remain optimistic that we can reach agreement in time to be on the floor next week,' reads a Republican staff memo sent out Friday and picked up by committee Democrats to alert their own staff and member offices. 'If we are to be on the floor next week then we will need to file the conference report on Monday,” the memo says." [Politico]
KIT BOND SUDDENLY LOBBYING FOR MEDICAID EXPANSION - The road from "Obamacare will destroy the economy as we know it" to "We gotta expand Medicaid to help the urban poor" is paved with lobbying dollars. AP: "As a Republican senator, Kit Bond voted against the federal health care overhaul. Now lobbying for a prominent business group, Bond is pushing Republican legislators in his home state of Missouri to embrace a key provision of the law by expanding Medicaid eligibility. Bond said Friday that the potential to reap billions of dollars more in federal funding is simply too important for Missouri to pass up, especially for hospitals that otherwise could get stuck with higher costs for treating the uninsured. 'While I was and still am one of the loudest opponents of Obamacare, I'm getting involved in Medicaid reform now because if our State sits on the sidelines, I'm concerned hospitals in rural and inner city Missouri won't survive,' Bond said in an email. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry declined to say how much it is paying Bond's consulting firm. But chamber President Dan Mehan said Bond already has met with Republican legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon about the potential to expand Medicaid eligibility." [AP]
Haircuts: David Corn (h/t disgruntled colleague), Seth D. Michaels (h/t Seth D. Michaels).
DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Lawmakers are almost getting somewhere on restoring unemployment insurance to the 1.3 million workers whose benefits lapsed last month. Sort of. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) told reporters Friday that he's been talking to a handful of Senate Republicans during this week's congressional recess about how to pay for the benefits in a way that would make them happy. "We've made significant movement in terms of trying to address the biggest concerns a significant number of Republicans have had," Reed said, mentioning Republican Sens. Dean Heller (Nev.), Susan Collins (Maine) and Rob Portman (Ohio). "I don't want to presume we've got a solution but we're working awfully hard to get one," Reed said. "We're looking at different approaches." [HuffPost]
DOUBLE DOWNER - Shannon Gaiser of Butler, Pa. pressed the issue of unemployment insurance with her congressman, Rep. Michael Kelly (R-Pa.), and got a form letter response explaining his position. "Given the most recent unemployment rate of 7 percent, the lowest level in 5 years, temporary emergency benefits for the long-term unemployed would not be authorized, even if Congress did extend the program for an additional year," the letter said. (Federal unemployment programs provide fewer weeks of benefits as jobless rates decline, but extra weeks would still be available in Pennsylvania.) Gaiser, 36, didn't have high hopes lawmakers would vote to save the benefits before their December recess, so she and her husband, an out-of-work machinist, planned ahead. "I knew that they may not vote it in so I had been saving and doing what I could to so at least most of our bills were covered in January," Gaiser said. "[I was] hoping they would come back and do some kind of short-term extension." They didn't. With a 2-year-old and another baby on the way, Gaiser said she cashed out her 401(k) retirement plan, which she said yielded about $8,000 after taxes and penalties. She hopes it's enough money to last until one of them finds work. "It's scary," she said. [HuffPost]
Spotted: Joe Biden and security detail on the 5:00 pm NYC-bound Amtrak.
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OBAMACARE SIGNUPS CONTINUING - Sam Stein: "Hundreds of thousands of people have chosen private health coverage under Obamacare so far in 2014, continuing the accelerated pace of enrollments from the end of last year. The Obama administration said Friday that more than 3 million people have now signed up for private plans through the federal and state health insurance exchanges, including more than 800,000 in January...The numbers are 'as of this week,' according to an administration official, which puts Obamacare on pace to have more than 1 million people pick a plan this month. Added to the approximately 2.2 million people who signed up for coverage between October and the end of December, Obamacare enrollments are expected to total more than 3.23 million at the end of January. The numbers are reassuring for supporters of the Affordable Care Act, who were worried that the pace of sign-ups for private plans would slow in January and February, before picking up again as the March 31 enrollment deadline for 2014 coverage approached. But they are still shy of initial projections from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which originally expected 4.4 million people to sign up for a plan by the end of January." [HuffPost]
Union membership in the private sector ticked up last year, which might explain that increase in thuggery you've noticed.
ADMINISTRATION'S DECISION ON KEYSTONE DUE LATE SPRING - WSJ: "The Obama administration is set to complete a critical phase of its Keystone XL pipeline review next month, setting the stage for President Barack Obama to make a call on the politically charged decision in the thick of the midterm campaign season. The State Department, which has been studying the project for years, aims to release a report on the environmental impact of the proposed pipeline extension in early or mid-February, people inside and outside the government familiar with the decision said Thursday. That would put Mr. Obama on track to make a decision by May or June. Until now, Obama administration officials have been vague about the timing of the State Department review. Officials have released no timetable for a decision and a series of delays in considering the project have left some observers thinking it could stretch beyond the November midterm elections. The State Department has described the environmental study as highly technical and involved, accounting for the time taken to date. An administration official said the State Department didn't want to 'rush out' the report, wanting to abide by the regulations and 'legal hoops.'" [WSJ]
E-CIGARETTE LOBBYING PICKS UP - It's not just douchebags outside of clubs with names like "Ský" who are advancing the cause of e-cigarettes. K Street is, too. Politico: "Big players in the tobacco world are betting the new electronic devices will surpass regular cigarette sales in the next 10 years, a multi-billion dollar boon for an industry that’s seen its profits tank over the last 50 years. But the Food and Drug Administration is set to decide soon whether the e-cigarette market should remain the Wild West, unfettered by strict advertising and other rules that apply to normal cigarettes. The looming FDA decision and increased attention on Capitol Hill and state capitals have set off a lobbying frenzy in Washington and across the country. The industry remembers what happened the last time government stepped in — millions of Americans extinguished their smoking habit. So this time Big Tobacco will fight just as hard — or harder — to protect its turf, even if means reigniting the Tobacco Wars." [Politico]
RNC DENOUNCES NSA SPYING - That is until President Jeb Bush renews the program over the wishes of appeasement-crazy Democrats. Jon Ward: "The Republican National Committee passed a resolution at its winter meeting Friday, denouncing domestic electronic surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency and calling on Republicans to seek a special investigative committee in Congress. The RNC resolution advises Republican lawmakers to call for a special committee that could 'reveal' the extent of the NSA's spying and 'hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance.' The resolution also calls on Republicans to seek to 'amend Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make it clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity, phone records and correspondence -- electronic, physical, and otherwise -- of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court.'" [HuffPost]
Here's Jon Ward's overview of the rule changes being adopted at the RNC's convention.
CLAY AIKEN PLANNING RUN FOR CONGRESS - Should he win, reality show participants might soon be able to form their own caucus. WRAL: "Pop singer Clay Aiken is assembling a political team for a run at the Democratic nomination in the 2nd Congressional District, sources told WRAL News on Thursday. Aiken, a Raleigh native, is expected to make an official announcement next month, sources said. Sources said Aiken has talked to Democratic consultants Betsy Conti, Nation Hahn and Gary Pearce about possibly helping with a run for Congress. He also has spoken with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, sources said. Former state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco and Durham attorney Houston Barnes have already announced plans to seek the Democratic nomination in the 2nd District, which is now held by Republican Congresswoman Renee Ellmers." [WRAL]
FORMER SENATE AIDE FACING CHILD PORNOGRAPHY CHARGES FOUND DEAD - WaPo: "Jesse Ryan Loskarn, a former aide to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) who faced charges of possessing and distributing child pornography, hanged himself and died Thursday in a Maryland home, his family and police officials said Friday. Loskarn was found dead around noon Thursday in the basement of his parent's house in Sykesville, Md., according to the Carroll County Sherrif's Department. Loskarn died after hanging himself, according to Bruce Goldfarb, a spokesman with Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Maryland. Known as a fast-rising GOP operative, the 35-year old began his career working for House lawmakers, moved next to the Senate Republican messaging shop and finally served as chief of staff to Alexander." [WaPo]
That time Andrea Mitchell had to interrupt a discussion about the NSA to break news about Justin Bieber's arrest. Oh to be a fly on the wall of the Mitchell/Greenspan household tonight...
POLITICO RANKED THE STATES - "Game changing" was not a metric, thank God: "Politico Magazine rounded up 14 different state rankings from reputable sources like the Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the FBI, and on important factors such as high school graduation rates, per capita income, life expectancy and crime rate. Then we averaged out each state’s 14 rankings to come up with a master list—atop which sits none other than New Hampshire." [Politico]
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a cat lion.
JAY CARNEY SHAVES HIS BEARD - Meaning he also had to turn in his collection of mason jars and Band LPs (we hear he played "Tears of Rage" while he shaved). CNN: "White House Press Secretary Jay Carney emerged in the daily press briefing Thursday with a fresh look: His recent beard was gone. 'The time had come to shave. Here I am, the old me,' Carney said to amused reporters. He said he shaved it himself at home Thursday morning for a couple of reasons. First, he jokingly said the rumor was that ABC's Ann Compton had a bet that he would be clean-shaven before Tuesday's State of the Union speech and he didn't want Compton to lose money. He also said that President Obama's chief speechwriter, Cody Keenan, who recently grew a full beard, is a 'daily reminder of the insufficiency of my efforts.'" [CNN]
- "Billy Jean" on a ukulele. [http://bit.ly/1aQcLUf]
- And here's a dude who MacGyvered a bass from balloon and spring. [http://bit.ly/1hsTiKj]
- Bad Lip Reading, the NFL edition. [http://bit.ly/19SjRcA]
- A woman who passed away in the 19th century is buried in a New Jersey parking lot, which gives "What exit?" a dire, existential new meaning. [http://bit.ly/1hs4s1P]
- How fast are you going right now? In terms of spinning around the Earth's rotational axis, this chart can help. [http://bit.ly/1g4I3v2]
- A 34-minute supercut of Ron Swanson. [http://bit.ly/1dVxQiL]
@samsteinhp: future attack ad: "Clay Aiken says he wants to creep up, invisibly, and "watch you in your room." North Carolina can't trust Clay Aiken"
@ajentelson: Looking forward to when Danny's grown up so I can tell him how I was *there* for the Great Gmail Outage of Aught '14. "Daddy, what's email?"
@pourmecoffee: Gmail is back up, and now all of my messages automatically bcc: "firstname.lastname@example.org" which doesn't seem right.
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