A poll finds most Americans view the State of the Union as little more than that thing that interrupts NCIS: Los Angeles. Arizona Republicans are fighting for their right to make congressional districts resemble the outline of a badminton racket. And Michelle Obama will invite recently-outed NBA player Jason Collins to join her for the State of the Union address. Collins' presence will send a powerful message: Even people who aren't that good at their jobs deserve the same rights as the rest of us. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Monday, January 27th, 2014:
STATE OF THE UNION: WHAT PEOPLE CARE ABOUT - Pew: "For the first time since Barack Obama took office in 2009, deficit reduction has slipped as a policy priority among the public. Overall, 63% say reducing the budget deficit should be a top priority for Congress and the president this year, down from 72% a year ago. Most of the decline has come among Democrats: Only about half of Democrats – 49% – view deficit reduction as a top priority, down 18 points since last January... the public’s agenda continues to be dominated by the economy (80% top priority), jobs (74%) and terrorism (73%). As in past years, the lowest-rated priorities are dealing with global warming (29%) and dealing with global trade (28%). (Click here for an interactive showing the public’s priorities since 2002.) Deficit reduction had surged as a policy priority during Obama’s first term: Between 2009 and 2013, the share citing the deficit as a top priority rose 19 points. In the current survey, majorities of Republicans (80%) and independents (66%) continue to say reducing the budget deficit should be a top priority for the president and Congress. However, just 49% of Democrats view this as a top priority, the lowest percentage since Obama took office. A year ago, 67% of Democrats rated cutting the deficit as a top policy goal." [Pew]
FARM BILL FINALIZED - House Agriculture chairman Frank Lucas has announced the farm bill conference committee is all done: "We are putting in place sound policy that is good for farmers, ranchers, consumers, and those who have hit difficult times. I appreciate the work of everyone who helped in this process. We never lost sight of the goal, we never wavered in our commitment to enacting a five-year, comprehensive farm bill. I ask my colleagues to join me in supporting its passage."
The food stamp cuts, via Billy House: "One of the most contentious parts of the bill -- the amount of a cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps -- has been resolved with a compromise cut of about $8.7 billion to $9 billion over 10 years, according to aides to members of the committee." [National Journal]
A $9 billion food stamp cut is twice what Senate Democrats approved, less than a quarter what House Republicans wanted. Shouldn't be hard to get that through both chambers.
DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Pasted from the mailbag, a note from someone whose unemployment insurance ended last month: "I am a 60-year-old woman and has worked and paid my taxes since the age of 18 years old. This is the first time I have found myself in a situation of depending my unemployment insurance. Americans such as myself are in dire need of extensions. Do you realize what this could cause? Homelessness, hunger a rise in petty crime. These funds we receive only helps to stimulate the economy... they are spent on daily necessities such as food, rent, clothing, gas, utilities, etc. I'm in a position where I'm not sure if iI'll be able to pay rent on the first. This is a very serious situation. We as Americans need your help! Please listen to the outcry of our pleas. Please act on the bill sooner than later. We need action! Loyal voters are crying out for help on this matter." [Hang in there!]
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RADEL RETIRING FROM CONGRESS - Unless Barbara Mikulski has a cache of KRS One bootlegs that she's been keeping from us, Congress has lost its premier rap expert. Politico: "Rep. Trey Radel resigned from Congress on Monday, ending a once promising career that collapsed after the Florida Republican was caught buying cocaine from a federal law enforcement agent. Radel, 37, spent nearly a month in a rehabilitation facility late last year before returning to Congress after the winter recess. He sent a letter on Monday to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announcing his resignation, saying it 'is my belief that professionally I cannot fully and effectively serve as a United States Representative to the place I love and call home, Southwest Florida.' He said that 2014 has already 'been tremendously positive as I focus on my health, family and faith.' His resignation is effective Monday at 6:30 p.m. It’s up to Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott to schedule a special election for Radel’s seat. His southwest Florida district is solidly Republican — Mitt Romney won the district with 61 percent of the vote. The race for Radel’s seat had begun even before he decided to resign. Republican Paige Kreegel, a former state representative, has already launched a campaign for the 19th District. Kreegel, who finished third to Radel in a 2012 primary, has drawn the support of a super PAC, which has raised $1 million with the intention of helping him win the seat." [Politico]
THIS TOWN - Katherine Shaver: "One of the lawyers hired by the Town of Chevy Chase to evaluate potential legal challenges to the Purple Line light-rail project is the brother of a key congressional committee chairman, leading some transit advocates to question whether the town is trying to buy political influence. Robert L. Shuster, an attorney with the firm Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, is the brother of Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The town hired the law firm in December on a monthly basis, so far paying a total of $40,000 for two months. The town council is scheduled to vote next month on whether to award an 18-month legal contract for $360,000." [WashPost]
ALEC SUPPORTED KEY OBAMACARE PROVISION -
Who knew that healthcare reform also did away with the direct election of senators? Sam Stein: "A new catalyst for angst over President Barack Obama's health care law is a provision that allows states to recoup the cost of long-term care for Medicaid patients after they die. Conservative outlets in recent weeks have warned that under the Medicaid estate recovery program, a 'state can seize your assets to pay for care after you're forced into Medicaid by Obamacare.' The Washington Times called it a potential 'cash cow for states to milk the poor and the middle class.' RedState.com called it the 'Medicaid asset-seizure bonanza.' But like most horror stories involving Obamacare, some history and nuance are getting lost. As noted by the Washington Post and Think Progress, the provision is actually decades old. It was established in 1965 and enhanced in 1993, when Congress required states to institute the provision for deceased Medicaid recipients 55 years or older. In fact, the idea was so well established prior to Obamacare that prominent conservative policy group American Legislative Exchange Council has been a consistent supporter. In 2013, the group encouraged states to 'conduct a study to examine the estate recovery program ... and determine options the state has to improve recovery under and increase the efficacy of the program." In September 2004, ALEC put out a report calling on states to enhance the enforcement of estate recovery programs." [HuffPost]
MAJORITY OF AMERICANS NOT REALLY INTERESTED IN THE STATE OF THE UNION - Ariel Edwards-Levy and Emily Swanson: "The pattern of State of the Union addresses failing to make much of a dent in public opinion isn't new, or unique to Obama's presidency. It's held largely true for the past five presidents' addresses. A new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows the State of the Union may be of minor importance to most Americans. Only 35 percent said that they watched last year's address, and even fewer -- 6 percent -- said that they could recall its contents 'very well.' Another 23 percent said they remembered it 'somewhat well,' while a combined 70 percent said they didn't remember it very well (28 percent) or didn't remember it well at all (42 percent)...The new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows that few Americans think he'll be able to change their opinion. Only 9 percent admitted the possibility that the address might change their views, while 65 percent said that the address will most likely confirm what they already think about the president and his positions" [HuffPost]
WARNER ON WARNER LOVE - It's going to be really fun watching Mark Warner do everything in his power to not be seen too much with Terry McAuliffe over the next ten-and-a-half months. Samantha Lachman: "Former Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) has chosen to endorse Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) over former lobbyist and Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, The Associated Press reported Monday. John Warner, who is of no relation to Mark Warner, retired in 2009 after serving 30 years in the Senate. Mark Warner was elected to the Senate in 2008 and is currently serving his first term. In an interview with The Associated Press, the elder and Warner praised Mark Warner for showing bipartisanship in an increasingly divided Congress. 'You see him crossing that aisle to try to form teams to solve problems,' John Warner said. 'That's so essential.' Mark Warner lost to John Warner in a 1996 campaign for the Senate. The AP pointed out that when Mark Warner became Virginia's governor in 2002, the two politicians set that race aside and went on to collaborate on issues such as defense funding and transportation infrastructure. This isn't the first time John Warner has gone against his own party and tipped the odds in a Democrat's favor. In 1994, the stalwart Virginia lawmaker refused to endorse Republican Oliver North's bid for Senate. The move ended up bolstering Democratic Sen. Chuck Robb, who was reelected by a narrow margin." [HuffPost]
JASON COLLINS, BOSTON BOMBING SURVIVORS AMONG SOTU GUESTS - The president should troll the GOP by inviting former Solyndra executives and unemployed former ACORN organizers. Jen Bendery: "An openly gay professional basketball player and two survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing will be among those sitting with the first lady during Tuesday night's State of the Union. The White House announced early Monday that Jason Collins will sit with Michelle Obama and Jill Biden when President Barack Obama gives his annual address to the nation. Collins made history in April 2013 when he became the first professional basketball player to come out as gay. Also seated in the first lady's guest box will be Carlos Arredondo and Jeff Bauman, survivors of the Boston Marathon attack in April; Gary Bird, a fire chief from Moore, Okla., which was hit by a devastating tornado last year; Joey Hudy, a 16-year-old entrepreneur and intern at Intel; and Kathy Hollowell-Makle, who was named District of Columbia Public Schools' Teacher of the Year. The White House will announce more guests in the lead-up to the president's address. Other notables heading to the State of the Union include conservative radio show host Sean Hannity, a guest of Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), and Chad Henderson, a guest of Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas). Henderson caused a stir in October when, amid problems with Obamacare's federal website, he told reporters that he successfully signed up for health care, only to reveal later he did not." [HuffPost]
ARIZONA GOP TRYING TO CONTROL REDISTRICTING - We've seen this type of thing before. Arizona Democrats might want to look up California hotel deals near the border. AZ Central: "The Legislature’s Republican leadership is asking a federal court to toss out the congressional districts created by an independent panel and let them do the drawing in time for this summer’s primary election. In arguments Friday before a panel of three federal judges, lawyers for the Legislature said only state lawmakers have the authority to draw the boundaries for Arizona’s nine congressional districts. But attorneys for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission say voters gave that duty to the commission when they approved a ballot measure in 2000. Proposition 106 took the line-drawing power away from lawmakers and placed it in the hands of a five-member panel. Since then, the commission has gone through two redistricting cycles, producing new congressional districts based on the results of the U.S. census done in 2000 and 2010. But the commission’s recent work was dogged by controversy, as Republicans complained it tilted unfairly to benefit Democrats. Of the nine newly drawn districts, three were deemed competitive, with a central-Phoenix district specifically created to give candidates of either major party a shot at the seat. All three seats were won by Democrats in 2012, and all three are being hotly contested in the 2014 campaign." [AZ Central]
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here are two zenned-out cats.
STEVE STOCKMAN FOUND! - Though we were secretly hoping for a Lisa Nowak situation, we're glad that the congressman is alive and well. Amanda Terkel: "Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) has barely been seen in the past month, despite all the legwork that needs to be done in his uphill bid to defeat Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). He's missed 17 straight votes since Jan. 9, and he's largely been a nonentity on the campaign trail. But on Monday, Stockman finally decided to make his existence known again, insisting he has been traveling abroad on official duties as well as spending time campaigning in Texas. In comments to Breitbart News, Stockman said he traveled to Russia, Egypt, Israel and England as part of an official 10-day congressional delegation trip....An Associated Press story last week mentioned that a congressional delegation led by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) met with Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour on Jan. 19. No new press releases have been posted on Stockman's site since Dec. 12. 'There was 5 of us on the trip. They were laughing at the whole steve is missing thing,' Stockman told Breitbart via text message from London. He also claimed that reporters knew about the official trip and simply 'pretended' he was missing." [HuffPost]
- Grammies singing Grammy songs. [http://huff.to/1mP5cPM]
- In our next lives, we hope to be reincarnated as this skateboarding Australian cat. [http://huff.to/1jXTfru]
- Eight-week-old husky is the platonic ideal of cute. [http://bit.ly/1e2XVN2]
- For some reason a SodaStream ad featuring Scarlett Johansson is being banned from the Super Bowl because it teases its competitors. It might have something to do with divestment but this is Comfort Food. [http://bit.ly/1n7UbMv]
- Golden retriever takes a bath. [http://bit.ly/1mPbYFk]
- The first live-streaming HD camera is being installed aboard the International Space Station. [http://bit.ly/MmfD2z]
@dorseyshaw: These two should volunteer to resurrect that show Wife Swap. twitpic.com/dtlcxn
@mikebarb: Chris Christie just played a nimble round of ping pong with 13 year old, employing "a gentle slam" as he put it. Christie won.
@benjysarlin: And they say bipartisanship is dead RT @NickBaumann: .@NRO weighs in on Macklemore: http://t.co/tGIYym3xp9
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