More than 3 million Americans enrolled in Obamacare, though it's unclear if they had previously been subjected to a death panel or if this was the first time they had been condemned to die by the administration. Wendy Davis has weakened her stance on abortion rights, but hasn't specified what color tennis shoe will symbolize her fight for political expedience. And people are shocked that PBS is running a documentary bankrolled by a wealthy big business advocate. Next thing you know PBS will air a show casting the early 20th century British aristocracy in a positive light. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, February 12th, 2014:
SENATE AGREES TO LET COUNTRY FUNCTION - Ted Cruz walking home with his head down, the sad Charlie Brown music playing in the background. Mike McAuliff and Sabrina Siddiqui: "The Senate moved quickly Wednesday to boost the nation's debt limit, voting to extend the Treasury Department's borrowing authority into the spring of 2015. Passage of the measure, which allows the government to pay for the spending previously enacted by Congress, grants Treasury officials authority to lend above the current debt limit of $17 trillion until March 15 next year. The move comes just a day after the House passed the bill, although some senators led by Ted Cruz (R-Texas) had threatened to try to filibuster it. The Senate voted 67 to 31 to overcome the procedural hurdle -- with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and several other GOP leaders joining the Democrats -- and then voted 55 to 43 to pass the bill. Cruz later lamented a lost opportunity to achieve the sorts of cuts he thinks are necessary to bring balance to the federal budget. 'If you look historically, the last 55 times the debt ceiling has been raised, 28 of those times Congress has attached meaningful spending restrictions,' Cruz told reporters just off the Senate floor. 'Indeed, historically it has been the most effective leverage that Congress had, and today Congress decided to abdicate that leverage, abdicate its leadership.'" [HuffPost]
Wisdom from Raul Labrador: - "I think this is an opportunity for Republicans to show the American people that Republicans are serious about cutting spending and having a pro-growth agenda, and the Democrats are not serious about it," said Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) after the House passed its bill yesterday. "What they want to do is put more people on the dole."
CITIZENS UNITED DOOM SCENARIO ACTUALLY HAPPENING? John Hudson: "In a first of its kind case, federal prosecutors say a Mexican businessman funnelled more than $500,000 into U.S. political races through Super PACs and various shell companies. The alleged financial scheme is the first known instance of a foreign national exploiting the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in order to influence U.S. elections. If proven, the campaign finance scandal could reshape the public debate over the high court's landmark decision." [Foreign Policy]
SOCIALLY CONSERVATIVE JUDICIAL PICK TICKS OFF DEMOCRATS - Jen Bendery: "President Barack Obama has now infuriated abortion rights advocates, civil rights leaders and Democratic lawmakers in his push to confirm a Georgia judicial nominee they argue is too socially conservative. NARAL Pro-Choice America announced Wednesday that it is launching a new campaign to defeat Georgia state Judge Michael Boggs, whom Obama nominated in December to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. The group is alarmed by votes that Boggs took -- as a state legislator in the early 2000s -- to 'channel funds to anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers and make a parental consent law even more extreme,' according a petition emailed to NARAL supporters... Boggs has already come under fire from civil rights icons Joseph Lowery and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) -- both of whom were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Obama -- for a vote Boggs took in opposition to removing the Confederate insignia from Georgia's flag. They teamed up with Georgia's Democratic congressional lawmakers in December to urge Obama to rescind Boggs' nomination and start the process over." [HuffPost]
DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - When Senate Democrats fell just one vote short of advancing a bill to restore long-term unemployment insurance last Thursday, Russ Holton wept. "Imagine that, a 44-year-old man crying while watching TV," he said. He had watched the vote on C-SPAN 2. A day later, his cable provider cut him off because he hadn't paid the bill. Holton is one of the 1.7 million long-term unemployed people missing out on federal benefits because Congress stopped providing them in December. Six years ago, he was making $85,000 per year at his job in tech sales. Today, the seams of his life are fraying. He applied for food stamps and broke his contract with Verizon to get a cheaper, pay-as-you-go phone. His electrical company nearly cut him off before a friend helped him make the minimum payment. His Internet remains connected, but that's the next to go. Filling up his gas tank would be impossible if not for the gift certificates he's gotten from friends. He's borrowed money from his parents to stay afloat, but he shudders at how dire his financial situation may eventually get. "It is probably an inevitability that I will have to file for bankruptcy just to get out of it all," he said. The economic ripple effects of the lapse in unemployment insurance are already being felt. Across the country, people who counted on the federal government to keep them afloat until the next job materialized are cutting back on things like utilities and food. A depressing sense that this is the new normal has begun to set in. [w/ HuffPost's Sam Stein]
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THAT TIME HOUSE REPUBLICANS VOTED AGAINST DEBT THEY SUPPORTED - Sabrina Siddiqui: "A large number of House Republicans voted against raising the nation's borrowing cap Tuesday, even though they supported a budget in December that required a debt ceiling increase. And an even larger number voted exactly a month ago for the omnibus bill that actually made that spending law. A total of 201 lawmakers cast votes against allowing the U.S. Treasury Department to borrow more money to pay for the bills that Congress had voted to incur. Of those, 139 had previously voted for the budget bill authored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that set spending levels at $1.012 trillion in 2014 and $1.014 trillion in 2015. And 143 of them voted for the spending bill that appropriated the funds laid out in that budget. While a debt ceiling hike with no strings attached was always going to be unpopular among Republicans, by voting against it, many members contradicted their support for the Murray-Ryan budget... Reps. John Barrow (D-Ga.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah), the only two Democrats who opposed the debt limit bill, also voted for the budget and the appropriations." [HuffPost]
OBAMACARE ENROLLMENT UP TO 3.3 MILLION - AP: "The Obama administration says about 1 million people signed up for private insurance under the health care law in January. That extends a turnaround from early days when a dysfunctional website frustrated consumers. Numbers released Wednesday show nearly 3.3 million people signed up from Oct. 1 through Feb. 1. Enrollment is gaining ground, but the government's initial target of 7 million by the end of March still seems like a stretch. Officials aren't able to say how many of those who've signed up were previously uninsured -- the law's ultimate test. The latest numbers show wide gaps between states. At least 10 states have met or surpassed sign-up targets. Surprisingly, the worst performers include four jurisdictions where the law has strong support: Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon and the District of Columbia." [AP]
This is like Obama's fifth ring not expanding: "Saturday is National Youth Enrollment Day for Obamacare, a day designed to help make up for youth recruitment time lost while HealthCare.gov was down last year. It will be marked by a broad array of events, from Head Start information sessions to pub crawls. The day will also feature a HealthCare.gov outage that came as a surprise to the White House allies who have been planning Feb. 15 enrollment activities for weeks. 'We just found that out,' said Aaron Smith, co-founder of the recruitment group Young Invincibles. 'Obviously it’s unfortunate.' 'It’s not ideal,' another Obamacare ally said." [BuzzFeed]
CHRISTIE DIGS OUT OF HIS HOLE THE BEST WAY POSSIBLE: ALIENATING WORKING PEOPLE AND PRAISING GEORGE W BUSH - Is it too soon to say the guy is just angling for a Fox News job? Luke Johnson: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Tuesday criticized Democrats' focus on income inequality, speaking in Chicago in one of his first major public appearances since his administration was engulfed by scandal. 'You want income equality? That is mediocrity,' he said. 'Everybody can have an equal, mediocre salary.' 'The debate that needs to be had between the two parties needs to be: Do we want equality of income, or greatness of opportunity?' he added. 'The opportunity for greatness excites the American people much more.' During an hour-long question-and-answer session with Greg Brown, the chairman and CEO of Motorola Solutions Inc., Christie also took the opportunity to praise former President George W. Bush. 'The guy won two national elections,' Christie said. 'How easy has that looked the last 8 years. He was, first, an outstanding political candidate. And I think he was grossly underappreciated by his own country and his own party as a politician.' 'No one ever had a question where he stood, either foreign or domestically,' he added." [HuffPost]
ET TU, BIG BIRD? - PBS is airing an anti-worker documentary funded by a corporate activist. Once "Antiques Roadshow" is replaced by a program in which private equity executives price long forgotten and undervalued companies, the network's transformation will be complete. PandoDaily: "On December 18th, the Public Broadcasting Service’s flagship station WNET issued a press release announcing the launch of a new two-year news series entitled 'Pension Peril.' The series, promoting cuts to public employee pensions, is airing on hundreds of PBS outlets all over the nation...However, neither the WNET press release nor the broadcasted segments explicitly disclosed who is financing the series. Pando has exclusively confirmed that 'Pension Peril' is secretly funded by former Enron trader John Arnold, a billionaire political powerbroker who is actively trying to shape the very pension policy that the series claims to be dispassionately covering. In recent years, Arnold has been using massive contributions to politicians, Super PACs,ballot initiative efforts, think tanks and local front groups to finance a nationwide political campaign aimed at slashing public employees’ retirement benefits. His foundation which backs his efforts employs top Republican political operatives, including the former chief of staff to GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey (TX). According to its own promotional materials, the Arnold Foundation is pushing lawmakers in states across the country “to stop promising a (retirement) benefit” to public employees." [Pando Daily]
WENDY DAVIS BLURS ABORTION POSITION - We'll let you know if Dennis Kucinich starts lobbying for war with Iran. Laura Bassett: "Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis (D) muddied her stance on abortion rights this week, telling the Dallas Morning News that she could support some version of a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But three of her biggest pro-abortion rights backers -- EMILY's List, Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice America -- did not flinch at the news. 'Abortion later in pregnancy is very rare and often happens under heartbreaking and tragic circumstances, and like the majority of Americans, Wendy Davis believes that these personal health care decisions should be between a woman and her doctor,' said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Votes…. Davis said that she could support a 20-week ban if it deferred more to the woman and her doctor, and if it had exceptions for fetal anomalies and the health of the mother. The anti-abortion bill she filibustered last summer included a 20-week ban without those two exceptions and a number of other provisions that threatened to shut down a majority of the abortion clinics in Texas." [HuffPost]
RAY NAGIN FOUND GUILTY ON CORRUPTION CHARGES - If there isn't already a corruption walking tour of New Orleans, some enterprising Crescent City resident needs to get on that right quick. AP: "Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was convicted Wednesday on charges that he accepted bribes, free trips and other gratuities from contractors in exchange for helping them secure millions of dollars in city work while he was in office, including right after Hurricane Katrina. The federal jury found Nagin guilty of 20 of 21 counts against him. He sat quietly at the defense table after the verdict was read and his wife, Seletha, was being consoled in the front row. Before the verdict, the 57-year-old Ray Nagin said outside the New Orleans courtroom: 'I've been at peace with this for a long time. I'm good.' The Democrat, who left office in 2010 after eight years, was indicted in January 2013 on charges he accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and truckloads of free granite for his family business in exchange for promoting the interests of local businessman Frank Fradella. He also was charged with accepting thousands of dollars in in payoffs from another businessman, Rodney Williams, for his help in securing city contracts." [AP]
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a kid enjoying a joy ride.
THE RNC IS STEALING BEATZ - Not content with doing away with Grandma's Social Security, the GOP is now pillaging rap music. Roll Call: "Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., might not be 'booty poppin’ in a headstand,' but he did vote for Obamacare, and the Republican National Committee would like you to know — in seven web ads attacking 2014 Senate Democrats that seem to lift beats from B.o.B. featuring 2Chainz’s song 'Headband.' The 40-second Web-only spots...hit Pryor, along with Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Mark Udall of Colorado and Mark Warner of Virginia, all of whom are up for re-election in 2014. 'Out of work? It’s tough out there,' the ad reads, before splicing together clips on the health care law and a Congressional Budget Office report about its impacts on the job market (which, of course, lacks the context for what the report really said, because … YOLO, it’s 40 seconds)." [Roll Call]
It's so cold that hoses are vomiting ice cube s [http://bit.ly/1g7MYss]
- An app that teaches you how to write like Ernest Hemingway. [http://www.hemingwayapp.com/]
- Shakira's latest music video -- without the music -- is nightmarish, [http://bit.ly/1kCn5EU]
- Meet a 70-year-old bodybuilder. [http://bit.ly/1fZiW8g]
- Texas sportscaster drops a nuclear truth bomb about NFL prospect Michael Sam, who recently came out of the closet. [http://bit.ly/1iP7IG6]
- Cooking a can of ravioli in lava. [http://bit.ly/1j51txe]
- Scared straight... but for liberal arts students. [http://bit.ly/1bN91QP]
@bendimerio: Ayn I Raaaaand, I Raaaaaand so far awayyyyy
@irin: OH in the MSNBC.com offices: "Can Mitch McConnell have it all?"
@nycsouthpaw: Geaux directly to jail.
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