Tonight is the State of the Union address -- or, as it's known around the cabinet, "that night the Transportation, Energy and Interior secretaries draw straws to see who gets to catch up on Downton Abbey." Millions of Americans mourned the passing of Pete Seeger, while millions of mistaken bros played "Old Time Rock & Roll" in solidarity. And 92 years ago today, the Knickerbocker storm, the worst in Washington's history, killed 98 people. Its devastation was second only to WMATA not responding to your complaint tweet about snow-related single tracking. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, January 28th, 2014:
SOTU: PROGRESSIVES PREPARING TO BE DISAPPOINTED - As if they're ever doing anything else. Jen Bendery: "Progressives will be up on their feet cheering at Tuesday night's State of the Union when President Barack Obama announces that he is raising the minimum wage for federal contractors. But their celebration will end quickly if the president pushes another of his priorities: the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. Obama has been urging Congress to use its 'fast-track authority' to sign off on the still-unfinished deal between 12 Pacific nations. If lawmakers agree to fast-track the measure, they wouldn't be able to offer amendments and would have to take an up-or-down vote on whatever deal the administration eventually reaches. The TPP has the backing of corporate interest groups, but liberals have balked over its potential to undermine environmental, public health and labor standards, as well as ship U.S. jobs overseas. The White House has yet to find a House Democratic cosponsor for it. Liberal Democrats say the TPP has no place in a State of the Union address centered on income inequality. 'It's impossible to argue for a better wage and a higher standard of living for Americans with the TPP,' said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. 'It's completely counterintuitive.' The president needs to 'think long and hard about extending this TPP trade agreement, which is not going to be good for working families,' Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Friday on MSNBC." [HuffPost]
There will be four, count 'em, four SOTU responses: A House Progressive Caucus response, a GOP response from Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a tea party response from Mike Lee and one from Rand Paul because, oh heck why not, Rand Paul. Which State of the Union response is right for you? National Journal helps you decide.
One shot of this guy in the chamber and everything else will be forgotten: "Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) has invited 'Duck Dynasty' star Willie Robertson as his guest to the 2014 State of the Union address, the Times-Picayune reports. 'Willie is thankful for this opportunity and honored to attend,' McAllister said, according to the Times-Picayune. 'I look forward to the two of us representing the Fifth District in D.C. this evening and bringing some diversity to our nation's capitol.' Willie is the son of Phil Robertson, who was temporarily suspended from the A&E show after making anti-gay and racially insensitive comments in an interview with GQ." [HuffPost]
What would President Mitt Romney's first official State of the Union contain? We did some speculatin'
PARANOID SELF-LOATHING GOP LOBBYIST HOMES IN ON HOPELESSNESS, POINTLESSNESS OF SPEECH - Our favorite Paranoid Self-Loathing GOP Lobbyist, finished eating his leftover emergency rations from the Y2K crisis, weighs in on #SOTU: "This speech doesn't matter, almost everything he does doesn't matter. He's in the downward spiral of no one giving a shit. No one cares. All the Dems want to talk about is Hillary. The Senate is very likely gone. The party is over. His team knows it too. It's exactly like Bush. There is not a single thing about their trajectories that is different." Thanks, PSLGOPL!
HOUSE PASSES SWEEPING ANTI-ABORTION BILL - Laura Bassett: "The House of Representatives passed a bundle of abortion restrictions Tuesday that would dramatically reduce the number of health insurance plans that cover the procedure. The vote was 227 to 188, with one lawmaker voting present The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 7), sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), would prohibit insurance plans sold in the new health care exchanges from covering abortion, and it would eliminate tax benefits for small businesses that purchase insurance plans covering abortion. The bill would also prevent the District of Columbia from using its own locally raised funds to subsidize abortion care for low-income women. Currently, more than 80 percent of private health insurance plans include abortion coverage, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research group. The bill would not actually prevent federal taxpayer dollars from funding abortion because the Hyde Amendment has already done that for more than three decades." [HuffPost]
FARM BILL HATERS - Though the farm bill unveiled Monday night by a bipartisan panel of House and Senate lawmakers contains $9 billion in cuts to the food stamp program, the amount is far less than Republicans wanted….The conference committee's bill, which combines legislation from each chamber, would trim the program by roughly 1 percent. The cut is too big for some Democrats, and too small for some Republicans, but the bill's authors hope it's just right for moderates in each party….Committee member Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), who announced he'd vote against the measure, said the fact it's not as bad as it could have been isn't much of a consolation. "Supporters of the farm bill say, 'Well, really it could be a lot worse. You should just be happy. It's $8.6 billion. You should declare victory,'" McGovern said. "Well, those people who are going to be adversely affected by that $8.6 billion cut -- I don't feel a lot of victory." [HuffPost]
DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Brian Krueger said he's been hearing from lots of friends and neighbors in Mount Horeb, Wis., since the local newspaper reported he'd be attending the president's State of the Union address. The callers have been surprised not only that Krueger is a guest of his congressman, freshman Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), but also that Krueger has been unemployed for longer than a half-year. "They honestly didn't know what was going on," Krueger said. "I think it's just a matter of becoming aware, 'Hey I didn't know my neighbor was going through this hard time.'" Krueger, 47, is one of the 1.3 million Americans whose unemployment insurance disappeared Dec. 28 because Congress failed to reauthorize federal benefits for the long-term jobless. Pocan is one of several Democrats who invited an unemployed constituent to be a guest for President Barack Obama's speech Tuesday night in an effort to highlight the lapsed benefits. [HuffPost]
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GOP OBAMACARE REPLACEMENT WOULD ALLOW DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN - If only the ERA weren't "redundant." Amanda Terkel: "Three Senate Republicans unveiled an alternative to Obamacare Tuesday, offering their party a path forward if the GOP is ever successful in its ongoing attempts to repeal the health care reform law. Calling it 'common-sense, patient-centered reforms,' they argued that it will 'reduce health care costs and increase access to affordable, high-quality care.' While it gets rid of the individual mandate, it also does away with some of the Affordable Care Act's more popular provisions, including ones meant to prevent women from facing discrimination by insurers. The Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility, and Empowerment (CARE) Act, put forward by Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), would essentially lower rising health care costs by asking individuals to pay a greater share. By 'sensitizing' patients to how much various health care resources cost, they may make smarter decisions, according to their thinking. But the burden may not fall on everyone equally. One of the most popular provisions of Obamacare was barring insurers from discriminating against women and charging them higher premiums than men. A 2012 report by the National Women's Law Center found that 92 percent of the best-selling insurance plans charged a 40-year-old woman more than a 40-year-old man for coverage, even for plans that did not cover maternity services." [HuffPost]
CHRIS CHRISTIE'S NUMBERS TANK - Sadly for the governor, it's impossible in the universe we inhabit to berate statistics into submission. NBC News: "Chris Christie’s political future looks to be in serious danger with more Americans believing the embattled New Jersey governor is lying about the bridge closure scandal than telling the truth, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Christie’s overall standing has taken a major hit in the survey, with just 22 percent of Americans viewing the Republican New Jersey governor favorably -- down from 33 percent in October. Twenty-nine percent now view Christie unfavorably, versus 17 percent a few months ago. Christie has denied ordering or knowing anything about the traffic jam-inducing George Washington Bridge lane closures, but 44 percent believe that Christie mostly is not telling the truth. By comparison, 42 percent say he’s mostly telling the truth. That’s a significant shift from an NBC/Marist poll taken earlier this month, when 44 percent of respondents said he was mostly telling the truth (compared to 33 percent who said he wasn’t)." [NBC News]
AIPAC REVERSES COURSE, DEFENDS DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ ON IRAN - Jen Bendery: "Just two weeks ago, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee was going after Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) for not backing a controversial Iran sanctions bill. But a Monday report reveals the powerful lobbying group has quietly reversed course and is now defending its otherwise fierce pro-Israel ally. The Washington Free Beacon first reported earlier this month that AIPAC was urging key supporters in South Florida to demand that Wasserman Schultz explain why she isn't supporting the sanctions bill pushed by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). AIPAC has been lobbying hard for the measure, despite warnings from the White House and foreign policy experts that it could upset a delicate, six-month agreement between Iran and six negotiating countries to curtail Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for relief from some existing sanctions. HuffPost reported Jan. 15 that Wasserman Schultz, also the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, spoke forcefully against the bill in a private meeting at the White House with about four dozen House Democrats. But in a Jan. 24 letter obtained Monday by the Washington Free Beacon, AIPAC’s Southeastern states director, Mark Kleinman, issued a strong defense of Wasserman Schultz. The letter also claims the HuffPost story was "inaccurate," but doesn't say why." [HuffPost]
SENATE AIDE LEAVES SUICIDE NOTE - Absolutely no silver linings in this situation. Ryan Reilly: "Former Senate aide Jesse Ryan Loskarn, found dead of an apparent suicide last week after he was arrested on federal child porn charges in December, said he was abused as a child in a letter published online by his mother. 'I found myself drawn to videos that matched my own childhood abuse,' Loskarn wrote in the letter, which his mother said was found after his death. 'It’s painful and humiliating to admit to myself, let alone the whole world, but I pictured myself as a child in the image or video. The more an image mirrored some element of my memories and took me back, the more I felt a connection.' Loskarn, 35, hanged himself on Jan. 23 in his parents' Maryland home. He said in his letter he'd been planning to kill himself since his arrest, because 'the news coverage of my spectacular fall makes it impossible for me to crawl in a hole and disappear. I’ve hurt every single human being I’ve ever known and the details of my shame are preserved on the internet for all time. There is no escape.' He apologized to the children who appeared in the images allegedly found on his hard drive, and said he was not trying to use his abuse as an excuse." [HuffPost]
OLD TIMEY EXECUTIONS ARE THE NEW THROWBACK - And you thought you were soooooo cool with that chambray buttondown. AP: "With lethal-injection drugs in short supply and new questions looming about their effectiveness, lawmakers in some death penalty states are considering bringing back relics of a more gruesome past: firing squads, electrocutions and gas chambers. Most states abandoned those execution methods more than a generation ago in a bid to make capital punishment more palatable to the public and to a judicial system worried about inflicting cruel and unusual punishments that violate the Constitution. But to some elected officials, the drug shortages and recent legal challenges are beginning to make lethal injection seem too vulnerable to complications...In recent years, European drug makers have stopped selling the lethal chemicals to prisons because they do not want their products used to kill. At least two recent executions are also raising concerns about the drugs' effectiveness. Last week, Ohio inmate Dennis McGuire took 26 minutes to die by injection, gasping repeatedly as he lay on a gurney with his mouth opening and closing. And on Jan. 9, Oklahoma inmate Michael Lee Wilson's final words were, 'I feel my whole body burning.'" [HuffPost]
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is "Downton Abbey" with cats.
PETE SEEGER DIES - There isn't much more that can be said about the guy, but we will say that we always wished he were our kindergarten teacher. Times: "Pete Seeger, the singer, folk-song collector and songwriter who spearheaded an American folk revival and spent a long career championing folk music as both a vital heritage and a catalyst for social change, died on Monday in Manhattan. He was 94. His death, at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, was confirmed by his grandson Kitama Cahill Jackson. Mr. Seeger’s career carried him from singing at labor rallies to the Top 10 to college auditoriums to folk festivals, and from a conviction for contempt of Congress (after defying the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s) to performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at an inaugural concert for Barack Obama. For Mr. Seeger, folk music and a sense of community were inseparable, and where he saw a community, he saw the possibility of political action. In his hearty tenor, Mr. Seeger, a beanpole of a man who most often played 12-string guitar or five-string banjo, sang topical songs and children’s songs, humorous tunes and earnest anthems, always encouraging listeners to join in. His agenda paralleled the concerns of the American left: He sang for the labor movement in the 1940s and 1950s, for civil rights marches and anti-Vietnam War rallies in the 1960s, and for environmental and antiwar causes in the 1970s and beyond." [NYT]
We suggest you take a moment to read the transcript from Pete Seeger's 1955 testimony before the House Unamerican Activities Committee.
- Intrepid dude learns how to dance in a year, documents his journey. [http://bit.ly/1d6oOtl]
- Roving Comfort Food correspondent Ilyse Hogue sends us the Penguin Slip Video Generator. [http://bit.ly/KHdwVf]
- Here is Lorde's birth certificate, for some reason. [http://bit.ly/L6tMiV]
- Google is trying to make its Glass product fashionable. Good luck with that. [http://bit.ly/1i6kwY3]
- How colors got their names. [http://bit.ly/1fjNnYs]
- Vin Diesel uploaded a 7:30 minute video of him dancing to Katy Perry and Beyonce. [http://ti.me/1dLCdXR]
- A scene from the "The Shining" with The Caretaker digitally removed. It's like "Garfield Minus Garfield," but even creepier. [http://bit.ly/1b1Os5V]
@CarrieNBCNews: Fun fact: the tradition of guests attending the SOTU began in 1982, 10 years before the 1st documented use of slang verb "to troll"
@chriswilsondc: So many quizzes! Which publication desperate to hit its traffic goals for January are you?
@daveweigel: Area Man Too Young to Have Opinion About Pete Seeger
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