HUFFPOST HILL - Ted Cruz Choo-Choo-Chooses You... Unless You're Gay

02/13/2014 05:26 pm ET | Updated Feb 13, 2014

Like everything else in This Town©, today's snow arrived with great expectations but ended up contributing to Washington's slush problem. Louie Gohmert is poised to helm the Natural Resources Committee, because America deserves a geological watchdog who thinks the Earth was formed six-thousand years ago. And Ted Cruz introduced legislation to help states fight marriage equality, because that is exactly how Ted Cruz would prepare for Valentine's Day. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, February 13th, 2014:

BAD IDEA SUDDENLY GOOD - Just amazing. Mike McAuliff: "Many Republican senators recently said they opposed renewing long-term unemployment benefits on principle -- particularly the principle that they didn't like the crummy scheme Democrats came up with to pay for the aid. It turned out the principle applied only to the unemployed. Nearly all GOP senators voted Wednesday for the very same plan when it was aimed at helping people who retired early from the military.... 'I'm tired of these supposed pay-fors where you spend money the first year, and you don't pay for it, what, until 10 years later. It's literally a joke,' said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).... [Rob] Portman, Johnson, [Susan] Collins and all but three other senators who were present Wednesday voted that day to repeal the military retiree cut -- and pay for it with the same extension of Medicare cuts at which they scoffed to cover unemployment benefits." [HuffPost]

MCCONNELL CRITICIZED OBAMA PROPOSAL, THEN SOUGHT MONEY FOR IT - Courier-Journal: "Two years ago, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor to deride President Barack Obama for a speech that called for developing biofuel from algae — dismissing it as nothing more than a 'pipe dream.' 'I think the American people realize that a president who’s out there talking about algae when they’re having to choose between whether to buy groceries or to fill up the tank is the one who’s out of touch,' McConnell thundered. But a few years earlier, McConnell himself worked to obtain a $30 million grant for a company that wanted to build a plant in Springfield, Ky., to turn algae, switchgrass, corn cobs and other such materials into ethanol — a plant that ultimately was never built and a grant that was never spent. And each time McConnell interceded on behalf of the Nicholasville-based company Alltech or the federal government took action to help, its founder and president wrote a check to McConnell’s campaign or the Republican Party of Kentucky. Though others in Kentucky’s delegation supported the grant application, including U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, none except McConnell received contributions from T. Pearse Lyons, Alltech’s founder and president, according to the Federal Election Commission website." [Courier-Journal]

B-List stars gather for D.C. statehood!!! "They are more than 3,000 miles away from snowy D.C., but a group of actors are taking up the issue of the District’s statehood at an event Thursday in palm-tree-studded Los Angeles. The Creative Coalition, a nonpartisan political advocacy organization for the entertainment industry, will be hosting the 'Voices of Impact Dinner' to encourage those in Hollywood to send a message of the need for D.C.’s statehood. Washington currently does not have voting representation in Congress...Actor Tim Daly — who is the group’s president — is expected to attend along with actors including Jeremy Piven, Omar Epps, Evan Handler, Kate Walsh and Richard Schiff, who portrayed Toby Ziegler on 'The West Wing.'" [Politico]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Mary Lowe of Ironton, Ohio, lost her job as a restaurant manager last February. At the age of 43, she has been turned down by potential employers who have told her she's "overqualified." "It's not like I'm holding out for that $15-per-hour job," she said. "I've applied to everything from restaurants to call centers to secretary." … Lowe's become exasperated as she's followed Congress' debate over the benefits. Last week, she wrote one of her senators, Rob Portman (R-Ohio), to ask why he voted against restoring the insurance. In an automatic email response, Portman said he would only support the benefits if lawmakers found budget cuts or revenue increases to offset the cost. "Failure to pay for the extension would have added to the nation's historic debt, causing more uncertainty for the economy and making it harder to create jobs," Portman said in the form email. But Lowe had only written Portman after he voted against a version of the bill that was deficit neutral. Democrats had paid for the bill with "pension smoothing," an adjustment to the way companies calculate pension contributions. Many lawmakers have previously supported the idea, but some outside analysts consider it a gimmick. Portman told HuffPost he didn't like the proposal. "They wanted a pay-for, they got a pay-for," Lowe said. "I just don't understand." [HuffPost]

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SEBELIUS MET REGULARLY WITH OBAMA PRIOR TO DISASTROUS HEALTHCARE.GOV LAUNCH - If you like your Healthcare.gov alibi, you can keep it. The Hill: "Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was in frequent contact with President Obama and senior White House aides before the disastrous launch of the federal ObamaCare exchange last year. While Sebelius has said the president was not aware of HealthCare.gov’s problems, more than 750 pages of documents obtained by The Hill through a Freedom of Information Act request show she made scores of visits to the White House. The documents reveal that Sebelius met with or attended calls and events with Obama at least 18 times between Oct. 27, 2012, and Oct. 6, 2013, including at least seven instances in which the two were scheduled to discuss the new healthcare law, according to the secretary’s draft schedules. She had breakfast or lunch with Pete Rouse, considered one of Obama’s closest advisers, at least three times. Moreover, Sebelius had scheduled calls or meetings with Valerie Jarrett, an Obama confidante, and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough. Sebelius also met with or had calls with Chris Jennings, then a White House senior healthcare adviser, at least seven times in the roughly yearlong period. The schedules suggest Sebelius was an active White House presence in the months leading up to the botched rollout, and raise new questions about why Obama wouldn’t have known about the problems that were exposed on Oct. 1." [The Hill]

SECRETS SECRETS ARE NO FUN, SECRETS SECRETS HURT SOMEONE PASS DEBT CEILING EXTENSIONS - Unlike copies of Hustler, embarrassing votes can't be slipped into paper bags. Roll Call: "In a major departure from procedure during Wednesday’s climactic vote on suspending the federal debt limit, the Senate kept some senators’ votes secret while the nearly hourlong tally was under way — a move that has drawn sharp criticism from Capitol Hill reporters...On an average day, any C-SPAN viewer would know how senators voted in real time because votes are read aloud... But on Wednesday, the clerks did not name names. Instead of announcing the rolling vote tally as the vote went along on the critical motion to limit debate on the debt limit measure, senators were allowed to cast their votes in relative secrecy. Overlooked at the time, it has since caught the attention of numerous reporters...Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s spokesman Adam Jentleson gave CQ Roll Call a statement explaining the switch. 'After the vote began, it was quickly clear that Republican leaders were struggling to deliver enough votes to clear the 60-vote hurdle upon which they had insisted instead of a simple majority, and a potentially catastrophic default suddenly seemed possible. At Senate Republicans’ request, the clerk did not call the names during the vote to make it easier for Republican leaders to convince their members to switch their votes,' he said." [Roll Call]

DOC HASTINGS TO RETIRE, LOUIE GOHMERT NEXT IN LINE FOR TOP NATURAL RESOURCES SPOT - Good lord. WaPo: "Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, announced Thursday that he won't seek reelection in 2014. 'Last Friday, I celebrated my 73rd birthday, and while I have the ability and seniority to continue serving Central Washington, it is time for the voters to choose a new person with new energy to represent them in the people’s House,' Hastings said in a statement... His seat is considered likely to remain in GOP hands. It went 60-38 for Mitt Romney in the 2012 election. Hastings's exit leaves his chairmanship open. Next in line would appear to be Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), the committee's third-ranking GOPer. The second-ranking Republican, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), has already served the maximum six years as chairman of the committee." [WaPo]

TED CRUZ INTRODUCES ANTI-GAY MARRIAGE BILL - Alternately, he could just show up to every gay marriage within driving distance of his house and filibuster it. Luke Johnson: " It seems Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has taken up a new cause in Congress -- defending states' right to regulate marriage.Amid a wave of court decisions striking down anti-gay marriage laws in states, the Texas Republican introduced a bill to the Senate Wednesday to amend U.S. law 'with regard to the definition of 'marriage' and 'spouse' for Federal purposes and to ensure respect for State regulation of marriage.' Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is the bill's only co-sponsor so far. The bill's authors sent out a release about the bill Thursday afternoon, saying 'it will ensure the federal government gives the same deference to the 33 states that define marriage as the union between one man and one woman as it does to the 17 states that have chosen to recognize same-sex unions.'...Cruz's bill comes after Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) introduced a bill in Januarycalled the 'State Marriage Defense Act Of 2014,' which would require federal agencies to look into a person's "legal residence" when determining marital status and how federal law would be applied." [HuffPost]

Tell us what you really think, John: 'It's no secret that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) isn't the biggest fan of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), whom he's called 'wacko bird' and 'crazy.' And in the wake of Wednesday's debt limit vote, a dramatic affair for Senate Republicans that was spurred by Cruz, McCain has made his feelings about his junior colleague clear once again. 'The Minority Maker' is the headline on a Wall Street Journal editorial published Thursday that McCain dubbed his latest 'Must-read' on Twitter. 'Ted Cruz hurts his party by forcing a meaningless debt-ceiling vote,' reads the subhead on the piece. The editorial criticizes Cruz's insistence on a 60-vote threshold for cloture in order to advance a House-passed bill that would raise the debt ceiling for one year with no strings attached. Senate Republicans had been hoping to pass the bill without drama or delay, and even weighed the possibility of granting unanimous consent for a simple-majority vote that would allow Democrats to "own" the debt limit increase." [HuffPost's Sabrina Siddiqui]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is another adorable child enjoying a joy ride.

BARNEY FRANK STILL WANTS HEROIN LEGALIZED - Sam Stein: "Former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass) hasn't changed his general philosophy toward the criminalization of certain drugs, even in the wake of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman's death from a suspected heroin overdose. If a substance doesn't pose a danger to anyone but the user, then it should be legalized and regulated, Frank says. That includes heroin. 'It doesn't make sense for society to prohibit the substance because it causes deaths,' Frank said in an interview with The Huffington Post. 'I have read about more alcohol-related deaths than heroin-related deaths.' One of the more outspoken critics of the war on drugs, Frank has argued for heroin’s legalization and regulation in the past. Several months ago, he offered a theoretical test for determining whether a substance should be outlawed. 'If it affects me,' he said, then it is 'none of your business.' But if it “affects the way I deal with other people,” then there is a case for prohibition. As Frank sees it, heroin only affects the person using it, except for when he or she feels compelled to steal money to purchase the drug. But that alone is not a strong case for prohibition, Frank said at the time. And neither, in his estimation, is Hoffman’s death." [HuffPost]

COMFORT FOOD

- School administrators announce a snow day with their own version of "Ice Ice Baby." [http://bit.ly/1c1u5Gm]

- Matt Damon makes fun of Ben Affleck for "Gigli," among other things. [http://bit.ly/1gApIlw]

- A rundown of the hit songs of 2000, though we're pretty sure we've been putting up with Savage Garden since the dawn of time. [http://bit.ly/1hgNg3j]

- The trailer for a ping pong match between a world champion and a robot. [http://bit.ly/1eTzVuz]

- Cows lose it after being let out into the pasture for the season. [http://bit.ly/1doDTeB]

- Cats and dogs who hate kisse. [http://bit.ly/1hgOiMZ]

- Will It Beard is a website devoted to sticking things in this man's beard. Enjoy. [http://bit.ly/1lFJiQp]

TWITTERAMA

@elisefoley: I worry when I work from home that if I don't tweet, people will think I'm not working. So hey bosses, look at me, I'm here at my computer!

@jess_mc: YES INSTAGRAM EVERYONE'S SMALL PORCH HAS BEEN SNOWED ON

@indecision: Ted Cruz believes marriage is between one man and one woman who statistically won't vote for him.

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