POLITICS
03/11/2014 05:19 pm ET | Updated Mar 11, 2014

HUFFPOST HILL - Actually Funny Thing Confounds, Angers Washington

Republicans are incredulous that President Obama sat for an interview with Zach Galifianakis instead of intently stringing pieces of red yarn between newspaper clippings on a cork board labeled "LOIS LERNER TRUTHZ." While Harry Reid's opponents are playing checkers, he's playing 11-dimensional chess getting ready to punch them in the throat. And Twitter was down this afternoon, forcing our staff to repeat aloud each other's witticisms and saying "Whoa, if true" while distributing printouts of sensational articles. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, March 11th, 2014:

OBAMACARE ENROLLMENT RATE DECLINES - WaPo: "About 4.2 million people have signed up for health plans on Obamacare exchanges through the end of February, making it unlikely that the Obama administration will hit the estimate of 6 million enrollees by a key deadline at the end of March. Whatever momentum appeared to be building in January dropped off in February, as the number of sign ups fell below the administration's expectations. The numbers -- which were released a day before Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies on the Hill -- also show young people aren't enrolling at rates officials had hoped. That group is key because they are generally presumed to be healthier and less costly to the overall program. About 900,000 people signed up for exchange coverage in February, according to the latest monthly enrollment report from the Department of Health and Human Services. That’s down from the 1.14 million people who signed up in January, and it falls well short of the Obama administration’s original enrollment goals. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees exchanges, projected that 1.27 million people would enroll in February alone. The estimate comes from a September CMS memo, weeks before the rocky Healthcare.gov rollout." [WaPo]

CONGRESS PASSED CANCER FUNDING TODAY - After months of gridlock, we're still a little suspicious that there's some kind of link between increased cancer funding and a loosening of Dodd-Frank. Sam Stein: "The United States Senate agreed by unanimous consent on Tuesday morning to divert federal funds from party conventions towards pediatric research. The Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, the pet project of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), now heads to President Barack Obama's desk for his signature. And while the White House has not yet commented on the legislation (and did not do so for this article), it seems unlikely that the president would do anything other than sign his name and celebrate the roughly $12.6 million a year that is now available for the National Institutes of Health. The bill's passage marks a rare bit of political accord in Washington, D.C. But it also obscures the difficult, sometimes acrimonious, terrain that the legislation had to traverse. And for defenders of the NIH, the political landscape was already complicated: While the medical research community is certainly glad to receive any additional funding, some are concerned that the modest gains under the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act will stall efforts to reverse entirely the budget cuts of the past year." [HuffPost]

Sam Stein on why Mediscare will never go away.

This is going to be a thing eventually: "Rumors were rampant on Tuesday morning that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) was threatening to resign from Congress unless House GOP leadership granted him a waiver to continue serving as chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. But no sooner had reporters begun asking the obvious suspects ('You're the fourth call on this already,' one Republican leadership aide told The Huffington Post) did the gossip get shot down...Issa has not hidden the fact that he would like House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to waive the Republican Party's limit on serving atop a committee for two consecutive sessions." [HuffPost's Sam Stein]

HOUSE DEMS DOING DISCHARGE PETITION ON UNEMPLOYMENT TOMORROW - Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives will try to restore long-term unemployment insurance to 2 million workers using a rare parliamentary maneuver on Wednesday. The procedural move, called a discharge petition, requires a majority of House members to sign on in support of discharging a bill from committee that has otherwise stalled. Democrats were unable to hit the threshold needed -- 218 votes -- for another recent discharge petition on minimum wage legislation, so it's unlikely they'll succeed with unemployment benefits. But Democrats hope merely raising the issue puts pressure on Republicans. "If my colleagues want to vote against the extension, I respect their right to disagree; but failing to even allow a vote goes against the very progress that families and our constituents demand," said Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), who will file the petition. [w/ HuffPost's Elise Foley]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Paul Ryan says the government safety net may protect Americans from the vicissitudes of life, but that handouts leave people unfulfilled in a more profound way. "The left is making a big mistake here. What they're offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul," the Wisconsin Republican said in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week. "People don't just want a life of comfort. They want a life of dignity -- of self-determination." But most Americans don't think handouts steal dignity from the poor, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. And few think there's anything dignified about working for bad pay. Ryan cited free school lunches as an example of something less-than-dignified, but by a 63 percent to 19 percent margin, most Americans said that giving free food to poor people does not undermine their dignity. And although Ryan's speech highlighted his belief in "the dignity of work," the poll suggests not all work automatically pays in dignity. Only 30 percent of Americans said they think people working in low-wage jobs that don't pay enough for basic expenses gain dignity from those jobs simply by virtue of working. Fifty-eight percent said they think a job needs to at least cover basic living expenses to give a person dignity. [w/ HuffPost's Emily Swanson]

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DIANNE 'IT'S CALLED PROTECTING AMERICA' FEINSTEIN SUDDENLY NOT CRAZY ABOUT DOMESTIC SURVEILLANCE - Mike McAuliff: "Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) delivered a devastating broadside against the CIA Tuesday, alleging that the agency was trying to intimidate Congress and may have broken the law in spying on Senate staffers. Feinstein, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was responding to CIA charges that Senate staffers had hacked CIA computers to learn that the spy agency was in fact spying on the people charged with overseeing its activities...Feinstein...hammered the agency in a morning Senate floor speech, saying that the CIA knew of every step the Intelligence Committee staffers took and that the CIA provided all the documents that the agency later questioned...Feinstein also rattled her own saber, noting that the CIA official who referred the matter to the Justice Department was himself at the center of the very CIA interrogation techniques her committee is currently investigating. The Intelligence Committee has prepared a secret, 6,000-page report on the agency's interrogation programs that is expected to outline a number of illegal activities and bring into question the value of such programs. The remarkable flare-up stems from an agreement between the CIA and the committee that the agency could monitor the committee's use of the agency's computers, which were provided to Senate staffers in a secure room at the CIA. Staffers were able to analyze millions of documents on the computers in order to create the report on CIA interrogation techniques." [HuffPost]

REID TRIED TO WARD OFF TOUGH REELECTION - Politico: "Harry Reid isn’t on Nevada’s ballot this year, but he may as well be. The shrewd Senate majority leader is putting the strength of his formidable political machine behind a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor whose fate could have major implications for Reid’s own three-decade congressional career. The race is rapidly becoming a proxy war between Reid and popular Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, who is viewed by both parties as the toughest potential challenger to Reid in 2016. If a Democrat were to win the lieutenant governor’s race, it’s widely believed that Sandoval wouldn’t challenge Reid, since it would mean turning over the governorship to a Democrat if Sandoval won. But that calculation changes if a Republican captures the lieutenant governor’s seat in November." [Politico]

LAWMAKERS MORE LIKELY TO MEET WITH DONORS: STUDY - Kind of like at strip clubs how if you don't have any money, a legislative correspondent gives you a lap dance. Amanda Terkel: "[A] new study by two graduate students, conducted through field research, provides fresh evidence that money truly does equal access. Specifically, the study found campaign donors are more likely than regular constituents to get meetings with lawmakers or high-ranking officials. Joshua Kalla at Yale University and David Broockman at University of California, Berkeley worked with the grassroots progressive group CREDO Action in conducting the study. The experiment was embedded in the group's actual lobbying efforts last summer around a bill to ban a chemical, targeted at 191 members of Congress from one political party. CREDO sent each of the 191 congressional offices a meeting request. The offices were randomly assigned to receive either a request describing the prospective attendees as 'constituents' or one describing them as 'donors.' No other details about the individual were provided, and the letters were identical in all other aspects. What they found was that the requests with donors resulted in significantly more meetings with members of Congress or their top staffers. In contrast, the constituents more often saw their meeting requests rejected or punted to lower-ranking aides." [HuffPost]

Another new study points to significant environmental damage stemming from NAFTA: "A report due to be released Tuesday aims to offer an object lesson to President Barack Obama: Free trade deals have high costs in unintended consequences for the environment, people's way of life, and local sovereignty. The report by the Sierra Club and other groups in Canada and Mexico, released on the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement, summarizes more than 100 nonprofit, government and scholarly studies of NAFTA, and draws a damning picture. Perhaps hardest hit is Mexico, according to the report, where expanded trade in agricultural products came at the expense of smaller farmers, who couldn't compete with a surge in pesticide-heavy factory farms. Small farmers resorted to cutting down forests to farm more land, and still failed. A boom in mining came at the expense of local landowners, with subsequent industrial pollution." [HuffPost]

PRESIDENT APPEARS ON 'BETWEEN TWO FERNS,' CONSERVATIVES UPSET HE DIDN'T SPEND THE TIME THINKING ABOUT BENGHAZI - Somewhere, Mitch McConnell's scheduler is furiously arranging a meet-and-greet with the Capitol Steps. Ashley Alman: President Barack Obama makes his debut on comedian Zach Galifianakis' web-based talk show 'Between Two Ferns' Tuesday. White House aides told the New York Times the president is appearing on the show to encourage young people to enroll in Obamacare through Healthcare.gov. Obama cracked several jokes throughout the video, telling Galifianakis running for president a third time would be like making a third "Hangover" movie -- which Galifianakis did in 2013. 'Didn't really work out very well, did it?' Obama said. The president did promote Obamacare, saying 'I think it's fair to say that I wouldn't be with you here today if I didn't have something to plug.' But Galifianakis asked Obama about other topics, including building his presidential library 'in your home country of Kenya' and what it would be like when no one would let him win at basketball anymore." [HuffPost]

Everytime a president laughs, another healthcare.gov visitor drops dead: "For some Republicans, it was funny until the conversation turned to health care. Other conservatives found the whole thing undignified, and called it a distraction from the real issues. Still others saw it as further evidence of Hollywood's liberal bias, and wondered what was the point of comedy that was deferential to authority. At least two members of Congress, Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) and Rep. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.), weighed in with their displeasure...Dan Senor, former foreign policy adviser for President George W. Bush, suggested the appearance was beneath the office of the presidency: "President Obama on #BetweenTwoFerns had me longing for this intv of PM Thatcher asserting the dignity of her office: http://bit.ly/1fnGdPn'" [HuffPost's Andrew Perez]

Winning: "Obama’s 'Between 2 Ferns' now #1 referral to HealthCare.gov"

Guy in mansion enjoys the good life: "Vanity Fair contributing editor Jim Windolf [asked] ["Game of Thrones co-creators David] Benioff and [D.B.] Weiss about the recent rumors that President Obama receives screeners of the show to watch before the general public. In an e-mail, they jointly reply, 'One perk of being the most powerful man in the world: yes, you get to see episodes early.'" [Vanity Fair]

Fired Politico reporter Joe WIlliams writes about his post-Politico job selling shoes: "I didn’t realize the stamina that would be necessary, the extra, unpaid duties that would be tacked on, or the required disregard for one’s own self-esteem. I had landed in an alien environment obsessed with theft, where sitting down is all but forbidden, and loyalty is a one-sided proposition. For a paycheck that barely covered my expenses, I’d relinquish my privacy, making myself subject to constant searches. 'If you go outside or leave the store on your break, me or another manager have to look in your backpack and see the bottom,' Stretch explained. 'And winter's coming -- if you're wearing a hoodie or a big jacket, we'll just have to pat you down. It's pretty simple.'" [Atlantic]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a cat who loves water.

NEXT PRESIDENT GETTING A NEW CAR - You get a bomb-proof tank-like limo! You get a bomb-proof tank-like limo! Everybody gets a bomb-proof tank-like limo! Time: "The Secret Service is proceeding with development of a new presidential limousine to replace the Cadillac model currently used by President Barack Obama, according to a new General Services Administration contract posting. The new vehicle is expected to be ready for the inauguration of the next president—whomever she or he may be. Classified armor development for the new rolling Oval Office has been underway since last year. The government is now seeking bidders to integrate that armor into a new design for 'The Beast,' as the heavily-protected vehicle is popularly known, with options for the final construction stages. Details of the new design, like the old, are highly classified and contractors must meet strict security requirements just to get a peek at what they will be asked to build." [Time]

COMFORT FOOD

- "The Wolf of Wall Street" but with Sesame Street characters. [http://bit.ly/1nfCAF3]

- Online model inadvertently pumps up the jam. [http://bit.ly/PpaF6O]

- Audi distributed at 64-page guide to its dealerships on how to throw a hipster party. [http://bit.ly/1ngX3ZU]

-A marijuana DUI commercial that is airing in Colorado. [http://bit.ly/1qtjc6w]

- Behind the scenes at the Ms. Senior Arizona Pageant. [http://bit.ly/1dMtglN ]

- Teachers read tweets about themselves. [http://bit.ly/1dMXEfM]

- A person plays ping pong against a robotic arm. [http://bit.ly/1i9Cav6]

TWITTERAMA

@markos: It’s not the first time Obama has done a parody interview. Remember those Super Bowl O’Reilly ones?

@jesseberney: Thin Mifepristones RT @LisaMcIntire: If only RT @politico: Pro-life groups say Girl Scouts are selling abortion along with their cookies.

@owillis: white house press corps trying to get to the bottom of between two ferns comedy technique. valuable use of time, guys.

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