POLITICS
03/14/2014 05:54 pm ET

HUFFPOST HILL - Are Dad Jeans Obama's Katrina?

President Obama defended his dad jeans, which is basically a rehashing of the flag pin controversy but for his under-35 constituents. The U.S. government wastes money on manufacturing pennies, say some traitors who hate Abe Lincoln and are awful. And Scott Brown has formed an exploratory committee in New Hampshire, presumably to help him locate New Hampshire. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Friday, March 14th, 2014:

YES, THE KOCH BROTHERS ARE OUTSPENT BY UNIONS - What a clever observation. Tomorrow on Huffpost, Paul Blumenthal and Dave Jamieson have some additional observations: "As Senate Democrats build their midterm campaign on attacks tying the political agenda of Charles and David Koch to Republican candidates, conservatives have argued with cherry-picked data that the political might of labor unions is much greater than the billionaire brothers. A Koch spokesperson recently called Koch spending 'drops in a bucket' compared to what unions spend. The comparison suggests, no doubt unintentionally, just how powerful the Kochs really are. To make their influence seem small, two brothers, their corporation and a couple hundred of their friends must be compared to the political muscle of 14.5 million dues-paying union members throughout the country. But even when compared to all of organized labor, the Kochs' political spending is plenty more than just drops in a bucket. In fact, it amounts to at least a quarter of all union spending." Tomorrow morning on HuffPost!

SENATE UNEMPLOYMENT VOTE WILL BE CLOSE - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will have no margin for error when he brings a new bill reauthorizing unemployment benefits to the Senate floor for a vote this month. Five Republican senators have signed on to the measure, which would apply the benefits retroactively and pay for the roughly $9.5 billion cost through an accounting gimmick known as pension smoothing, raised custom fees in 2024 and an adjustment to payment procedures for single-employer pension plans. Early indications are that those five -- Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) -- will be the only Republicans to support the bill. A spokesman for Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), who supported early compromises to pass unemployment insurance, said that he would not back this bill because it lacked 'credible reforms.'" [w/ HuffPost's Sam Stein]

Also nay: Kelly Ayotte. But Tom Harkin is yay. Lookin' good, unemployment bill.

JOHN BOEHNER THINKS OREGON SUCKS - He is also miffed at New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. Stop ruining John Boehner's breakfast, you guys. Yuxing Zheng: "House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, this week accused Oregon and several other states of 'cheating' and 'fraud' to avoid cuts to food stamps. 'Since the passage of the farm bill, states have found ways to cheat, once again, on signing up people for food stamps,' Boehner told reporters Thursday, according to NPR. 'And so I would hope that the House would act to try to stop this cheating and this fraud from continuing.' Critics blame states for making an end run on federal policy intended to cut what they saw as a bloated program. Some now question whether the farm bill, which included $8 billion in food stamp cuts over 10 years, will see much savings. Gov. John Kitzhaber this week decided Oregon would become the fourth state to join New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania in avoiding the cuts." [Oregonlive.com]

STUPID PENNIES WON'T GO AWAY - Blame it on the couch cushion lobby and its deep-creviced backers. Sam Stein: "Though it may be largely shunned by Americans and costs the government more money to make than it's actually worth, the penny is not going anywhere, at least until the year 2015. The Washington Post reported on Monday that the cost of producing the copper-ish coin -- it's only 2.5 percent copper -- in 2013 once again exceeded its value. The same was true of the nickel, the penny's chunkier, slightly more valuable cousin. All told, the U.S. Mint lost $105 million last year by producing pennies and nickels. The penny cost 1.8 cents to mint; the nickel cost 9.4 cents. And yet, rather than stop wasting money producing pocket change, the U.S. government has decided to take its time. President Barack Obama has called for a comprehensive review to assess the future of currency and to develop alternative options for both the penny and the nickel. An administration official told The Huffington Post that 'no conclusions have been made and we are doing research in FY 2015.' 'This is the first comprehensive review of coins that has been done,' the official said. 'So we are undertaking all of this to make sure it is studied extensively.'" [HuffPost]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Ricki Ward of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. told HuffPost Tuesday that she expects to be evicted next month. She said she has worked all her life from paycheck to paycheck and raised two kids as a single mother. For the past five years, Ward worked in offices, retail stores and fast food before being laid off from a customer service job for a cable provider in March 2013. Ward said she suspects she is having difficulty finding work because of her age. "I took the year that I graduated from high school off of my resume, and I started getting calls," Ward said. "Yet once they saw me, I wasn't what they wanted for their front counter. I'm 59 years old, but I'm a very young 59 years old. I keep myself in good shape. I'm nowhere near ready to stop working." She said her landlord has been fair with her, and that she has received some help from family and friends, but she keeps falling further behind. "It's so humiliating to have to have everybody else try to take care of you," Ward said. "It's just not what I'm used to. I've worked all my life." [HuffPost]

DOUBLE DOWNER - The D.C. government is putting homeless families in rec centers, the Washington City Paper reports. Harpersville, Ala. is throwing debtors in jail, the Nation reports. [Hang in there!]

Haircuts: Kate Sheppard (h/t Kate Sheppard), Mike Madden and Aaron Weiner (h/ts Jenny Rogers)

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PAUL RYAN TO MEET WITH THE CBC - We've been reaching peak awkwardness between prominent Republicans and the African-American political community quite a lot the last few years, between Mitt Romney at the NAACP, Rand Paul lecturing at Howard University students and now this. National Journal: "Republican Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, whose remarks about inner-city poverty were described by another member of Congress as a 'thinly veiled racial attack,' has accepted the invitation of the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss poverty. CBC Chairwoman Marcia Fudge and Rep. Gwen Moore sent a letter to Ryan, saying they were 'deeply troubled' and offended by his remarks on Bill Bennett's influential Morning in Americaradio show Wednesday about a 'tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working, and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.' Ryan has since said that he was 'inarticulate' in making those comments. 'I was not implicating the culture of one community—but of society as a whole. We have allowed our society to isolate or quarantine the poor rather than integrate people in our communities.' Fudge and Moore pushed back against the idea that isolation is the main culprit behind poverty, saying that the problem is instead a lack of resources." [NJ]

OBAMACARE OBAMACARE OBAMACARE OBAMACARE OBAMACARE OBAMACARE OBAMACARE OBAMACARE OBAMACARE - Bloomberg: "President Barack Obama’s health-care law is fueling an explosion in early television advertising before November’s congressional elections, with close to half the commercials attacking the measure. More than 66,000 ads in U.S. House and Senate races aired through March 9, more than triple what candidates and allied groups aired during a comparable period four years ago, according to New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, which tracks advertising. Most of the ads spotlight health care, underscoring how the Affordable Care Act -- Obama’s signature domestic achievement -- may become a defining issue determining whether Republicans maintain control of the House and Democrats keep their Senate majority for the last two years of his presidency. More than 30,000 of the ads had an anti-Obamacare message, a 12-fold increase from four years ago, according to data compiled by CMAG. The anti-Obamacare spots accounted for 45 percent of all ads, up from 12 percent during the comparable period leading up to the 2010 midterm elections." [Bloomberg]

MAJORITY OF AMERICANS SEE PUTIN AS STRONGER LEADER THAN OBAMA - Then again, you have to consider the overweighting of people turned on by shirtless men who hug polar bears. RealClearPolitics: "While Vladimir Putin is wildly unpopular in the United States, most Americans see him as a stronger leader than President Obama, according to a YouGov/Economist survey. Only 12 percent of poll respondents have a very favorable or somewhat favorable opinion of Putin, and nearly 70 percent see him somewhat unfavorably or very unfavorably. Yet, 78 percent consider him as either somewhat strong or very strong. Obama has a significantly higher favorability rating than Putin (47 percent), but just 45 percent of Americans see him as very strong or somewhat strong. And 55 percent believe the opposite. Despite this overall perception of Obama as relatively weak compared to Putin, 42 percent of those polled believe that the U.S. president uses 'too much power' and 45 percent say he has “exceeded the limits of authority granted” by the Constitution." [RCP]

SCOTT BROWN OFFICIALLY FORMS EXPLORATORY COMMITTEE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE - Reporters now eagerly await the first time he refers to it as "The Green Mountain State." Paige Lavender: "Former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) announced Friday he has formed an exploratory committee for another Senate run, this time in the state of New Hampshire. 'I’m going to stop complaining and get involved again'" Brown said. 'So I am announcing that I have formed an exploratory committee to prepare a campaign for the U.S. Senate.' Brown made the announcement at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua. 'Together we're going to make 2014 a great Republican year in New Hampshire and all around this country,' Brown said. 'A big political wave is about to break in America, and the Obamacare Democrats are on the wrong side of that wave,' Brown continued." [HuffPost]

Scott Brown and Fox have parted ways... until the latter begins to promote the political ambitions of the former ad nauseum: Fox News has terminated its contract with former Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., ahead of his expected move toward a Senate bid, the network announced Friday. 'Scott Brown’s contributor agreement was officially terminated today once he notified FOX News of his intention to form an exploratory committee to run for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire,' Bill Shine, the network’s executive vice president of programming, said in a statement." [Roll Call]

NEW ABORTION RESTRICTIONS BEING INTRODUCED ACROSS COUNTRY - Laura Bassett: "Conservative state lawmakers are showing no signs of fatigue this year in their quest to chip away at access to legal abortion. There are currently 282 abortion restrictions pending in state legislatures, compared to the 267 bills that were pending at this point last year...The same kinds of bills are being introduced this year, mandating extended waiting periods before abortions, placing gestational limits on when the procedure can be performed, requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at hospitals, tightening parental consent laws, requiring clinics to meet strict building standards and placing restrictions on medication abortion... Missouri is leading the pack, with 32 restrictions pending in the state legislature, despite the fact that the state only has one abortion clinic. The state House already passed one bill tripling the mandatory waiting period before abortions from 24 to 72 hours...Two state legislatures, Mississippi and West Virginia, have recently advanced or passed bans on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy -- a direct challenge to the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling, which protects legal abortion until viability. Arizona lawmakers passed a similar law, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck it down, and the Supreme Court declined to review that decision in January. Alabama state lawmakers also advanced a draconian set of abortion restrictionsthis month, one of which would make it a crime to perform an abortion after the fetal heartbeat can be detected." [HuffPost]

MARYLAND SENATE ADVANCES MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION BILL - Got that marijuana. Got that marijuana here. Paige Lavender: "The Maryland state Senate advanced a marijuana decriminalization measure on Friday. The senate voted 36-8 on a Senate Bill 364, which would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. The bipartisan bill, passed by the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee one week earlier, is sponsored by state Sens. Bobby Zirkin (D) and Allan Kittleman (R). The bill would punish adult offenders with fines and force minors to attend substance abuse classes. State law currently ranks the possession of limited amounts of marijuana as a misdemeanor subject to no more than 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. According to the Washington Post, the bill now goes to the House of Delegates, where similar legislation died in committee in 2013." [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - A "First Kiss" parody with dogs and cats.

OBAMA ADDRESSES DAD JEANS - Vladimir Putin would never wear dad jeans. Such a strong leader. WaPo: "President Obama went on 'On Air with Ryan Seacrest' Friday morning, where he talked about his trip to a Gap store, attacks on his dad jeans and 'Between Two Ferns.' His defense of his jeans was prompted by a conversation Seacrest had with a Gap employee who helped Obama pick out sweaters for his wife Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha Obama. Apparently, she was thinking that Obama should perhaps update his wardrobe during his visit, too. 'I’ve been unfairly maligned about my jeans,' he said. 'The truth is, generally I look very sharp in jeans. There was one episode like four years ago in which I was wearing some loose jeans mainly because I was out on the pitcher’s mound, and I didn’t want to feel confined while I was pitching, and I think I’ve paid my penance for that. I got whacked pretty good. Since that time, my jeans fit very well.'"

COMFORT FOOD

-A candidate for student body president made a pitch-perfect "Wolf of Wall Street" campaign spoof. [http://bit.ly/1kRujFp]

- Who's more famous than Jesus? The Times analyzes the most famous historical figures.[http://nyti.ms/1cG0uow]

- How "First Kiss" would have gone if they used normal people. [http://bit.ly/1qDo1tU]

- The high stakes, take-no-prisoners world of walking contests. [http://huff.to/1iKyWww]

- A metal band with a parrot lead singer. [http://thebea.st/1lBXPMK]

- A pretty spot-on parody of "Sherlock." [http://bit.ly/1fDo0lI]

TWITTERAMA

@paigelav: Someone pointed out earlier that this is actually pie *month* (3/14)… so if anyone needs an excuse to eat pie every day, there you go.

@GlennThrush: Just read this line in an old NYMag clip: 'If any campaign has a shot at Total Message Control in '08 it is Team Hillary.'

@jnthnwwlsn: If we send Congress to Crimea, nothing'll ever happen there again. MT @jonathanweisman US aid awaits deal on IRS regs http://t.co/Pn6VHlpqt0

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