POLITICS
03/25/2014 06:32 pm ET Updated Mar 25, 2014

HUFFPOST HILL - Hobby Lobby Just Wants To Send Its Kid To Sunday School Without You Bothering It

The Supreme Court heard arguments over whether corporations are people, but Mitt Romney did not file an amicus brief, my friend. Three members on the Foreign Affairs Committee have financial holdings that could be negatively impacted by Russian boycotts, so be on guard if Alan Grayson says Arseniy Yatsenyuk wants Americans to die quickly. And Mitch McConnell's campaign ran an ad that featured the loathed Duke Blue Devils winning the National Championship in 2010. As far as Kentucky political sins go, this is even worse than being caught swilling Tennessee bourbon while riding a New Jersey thoroughbred around Pimlico.This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, March 25th, 2014:

Mitt Romney Selfies are a deeply sad phenomenon that won't go away, according to BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski.

Ruh roh, Harry Reid: "The Federal Election Commission is probing two payments that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made to his granddaughter’s jewelry company. In a letter sent Friday to Reid’s campaign treasurer, the election law enforcement agency said that 'holiday gifts' was not an acceptable description of two payments totaling $16,786.93 to 'Ryan Elisabeth' on Reid’s 2013 year-end campaign finance report. The two payments were made in mid- and late-October 2013 and are paid for out of campaign funds earmarked for Reid’s 2016 primary campaign. 'The report is accurate, the expenditure was for holiday gifts. The campaign complied with all FEC rules,' said Chris Anderson, a spokesman with Reid’s campaign." [Politico]

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS DOOMED - Not only would it be administratively difficult to give benefits back to the long-term jobless, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday, but it would be bad policy, too. "I told the president I would consider this as long as it was paid for and as long as there were provisions attached that would actually help the economy and help people get back to work," Boehner said during a press conference. "Those conditions have not been met." Boehner's remarks suggest that even if the Senate passes a bill reauthorizing benefits for the 2 million Americans who've missed out since December, the House would not consider the legislation. Since 2008, Congress has repeatedly reauthorized long-term unemployment insurance for people out of work six months or longer. But the federal benefits lapsed in December, and it doesn't seem like they're coming back. [HuffPost]

This is one of those times when everyone ignores CBO's analysis of a bill's job creation potential. Why? Eh, no reason.

REID DROPPING IMF PROVISION FROM UKRAINE BILL - Sabrina Siddiqui: "Senate Democrats threw in the towel Tuesday on a bid to secure reforms at the International Monetary Fund as part of a Ukraine aid bill, marking a major blow to President Barack Obama as he meets with allies in Europe. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) announced that the only way to provide Ukraine with economic assistance quickly was to remove the IMF provision from a Senate aid package due to widespread Republican opposition. 'It appears we have a way to move forward on Ukraine,' Reid told reporters on Capitol Hill. 'I feel very strongly about IMF reform. We need to get that done … as quickly as we can. But the main thing is to get the aid now.' Reid added that he spoke with the White House, which requested the IMF language, about the decision. 'Of course they're disappointed,' he said. The Senate bill would have increased the U.S. contribution to the IMF, adding roughly $63 billion to the U.S. quota for the fund. It cleared a procedural vote Monday in its curr ent form by a vote of 78-17. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that his members would not support the aid bill unless the IMF language was dropped, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) indicated the bill wouldn't pass muster in the lower chamber...some House Democrats acknowledged that the White House was complicating the process of providing expeditious aid to Ukraine by renewing the debate over a contentious subject like the IMF. McConnell quoted some of those lawmakers Tuesday and said it was a 'step in the right direction" for Reid to back away from the issue.'" [HuffPost]

@chadpergram: Senate sets up passage on #Ukraine aid bill for Thursday without IMF.

"We had about half the House that didn’t understand what we were doing," said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) about the farm bill that recently became law. [SouthwestFarmPress.com]

BRIAN SCHATZ ANGLING TO BE TOM HARKIN'S SOCIAL SECURITY SUCCESSOR - The new senator from Hawaii's going to take the baton from retiring Iowa senator on Social Security, America's bulwark against mom and dad moving in. "Senator Schatz has been a strong leader on my legislation to expand Social Security -- support that has been critical in appealing to Americans of all ages, not just seniors," Harkin said in a statement. "Tom and I have had several conversations and he thinks it's especially important to have leadership in my generation on this issue because Social Security is solvent and it can be and should be a viable program well into the future," Schatz told HuffPost Hill. "It's the most successful anti-poverty program in American history and I think we ought to be talking about how to make it work better and expand it for Social Security recipients rather than seeing what kinds of cuts we ought to entertain."

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Oh no, Gwyneth Paltrow's getting a divorce! "We have been working hard for well over a year, some of it together, some of it separated, to see what might have been possible between us, and we have come to the conclusion that while we love each other very much we will remain separate." [Gawker]

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SIX MEMBERS OF CONGRESS HAVE FINANCIAL STAKES IN RUSSIAN SANCTIONS - Wearing white before Memorial Day and owning shares in Gazprom: major no-nos. Mike McAuliff and Christina Wilkie: "As members of Congress and the Obama administration scramble to respond to the increasing threat posed by the Russian military in Ukraine, economic sanctions are emerging as the United States' preferred method of exercising its leverage. Late Monday, the Senate moved ahead on approving President Barack Obama's request to enact broad penalties in the future against Russian officials and businesspeople who are engaged in what the Treasury Department deems corruption, bribery or misuse of public funds. The House has passed a similar measure and is considering further steps in legislation scheduled for a markup Tuesday in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. But for a half-dozen members of Congress, including three on the Foreign Affairs Committee, who hold significant amounts of stock in Russian companies, these sanctions could prove a sticky problem. A Huffington Post analysis of personal financial disclosure forms filed by lawmakers revealed that six members -- five representatives and one senator -- hold between them a total of as much as $800,000 worth of stock in Russian companies." [HuffPost]

Contra Mitt Romney, President Obama still doesn't believe Vladimir Putin is America's foremost foreign adversary: "With respect to Mr. Romney's assertion that Russia is our number one geopolitical foe, the truth of the matter is that America has got a whole lot of challenges. Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors not out of strength but out of weakness. Ukraine has been a country, [over] which Russia had enormous influence for decades, since the breakup of the Soviet Union. We have considerable influence on our neighbors; we generally don't need to invade them in order to have a strong cooperative relationship with them. The fact that Russia felt compelled to go in militarily and lay bare these violations of international law indicates [that they have] less influence, not more." [HuffPost]

HIGH COURT WEIGHS CORPORATE RELIGIOUS RIGHTS - Laura Bassett and Ryan Reilly: "Justices on the Supreme Court seemed to struggle Tuesday with the question of whether a private company can get out of a federal law by citing the religious beliefs of its shareholders. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a Christian-owned crafts supply chain, and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., owned by Mennonite Christians, are challenging the provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires for-profit companies to include all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives in their health insurance plans. Hobby Lobby's attorneys argue that the law violates the company's constitutional right to religious freedom by forcing it to cover all forms of birth control or pay steep fines. The company's owners are morally opposed to intrauterine devices and emergency contraception, believing it to be a form of abortion, though medical studies have debunked that claim...At oral arguments on Tuesday, the women justices were the most aggressive in their questioning of Hobby Lobby's lawyer, former Solicitor General Paul D. Clement. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan asked whether other companies should be allowed to refuse to cover other procedures, like blood transfusions and vaccines, if employers had a religious objection to such medical treatments...Kagan also suggested that corporations could challenge other federal laws, like minimum wage and family leave requirements and protections against child labor, based on their religious beliefs." [HuffPost]

The nation's federal courts might have their first openly gay, black judge soon. Jen Bendery: " Florida judicial nominee Darrin Gayles just inched a little closer to becoming the nation's first black, openly gay man to serve as a federal judge. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has given the green light to the Senate Judiciary Committee to proceed with Gayles' nomination to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, a committee aide confirmed to The Huffington Post on Tuesday. Specifically, Rubio has submitted his "blue slip" to the committee, a crucial step in the confirmation process whereby a senator can unilaterally approve or block a judicial nominee from his or her home state. Now that both of Gayles' senators have submitted their blue slips -- Florida Democrat Bill Nelson already turned his in -- that signals to committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to move forward with a hearing. Gayles still has to clear the committee and pass the Senate, but Democrats are expected to carry those votes. By turning in his blue slip, Rubio has removed the biggest obstacle to Gayles' confirmation." [HuffPost]

FIRST LADY A TERRIBLE BOSS: REPORT - Bo takedown to follow. New Republic: "...Mrs. Obama’s hyper-motivated, highly accomplished staffers would never publicly admit—is that the first lady’s office can be a confining, frustrating, even miserable place to work. Jealousy and discontentment have festered, as courtiers squabble over the allocation of responsibility and access to Mrs. Obama, both of which can be aggravatingly scarce. Fueling these sentiments, according to former East Wing insiders, is the exacting but often ambivalent leadership style of the first lady herself... the imperative to guarantee results could be paralyzing. 'That was the pressure on us,' one ex-aide told me. 'Don’t do it if it’s not going to be perfect.' Staff knew that every event should produce positive coverage, and that all the angles had to be exhaustively researched and gamed out (not easy with a team of less than 30). But it was never completely clear what the standard of perfection should be. 'There’s no barometer: The first lady having the wrong pencil skirt on Monday is just as big of a fuck-up as someone speaking on the record when they didn’t mean to or a policy initiative that completely failed,'... Former staffers describe a high-stress, high-stakes workplace, in which Mrs. Obama scrutinized the smallest facets of her schedule. Aides in both wings of the White House say she insists on planning every move months in advance and finalizing speeches weeks ahead of time—a rigidity nearly unheard of in today’s chaotic political environment." [TNR]

POT CAUSES THE MUNCHIES… FOR VOTING - Ariel Edwards-Levy: "The chance to vote on marijuana could persuade some voters to show up on Election Day, according to a George Washington University Battleground poll conducted by the bipartisan team of Lake Research Partners and the Tarrance Group. Sixty-nine percent of voters polled said they would be more likely to vote in an election if a proposal to legalize marijuana was on the ballot, while just 13 percent said they'd be less likely. Liberals were even more enthusiastic about voting under those circumstances than conservatives or moderates.Getting voters to the polls during midterm elections is a recurrent challenge for Democrats. No one is suggesting marijuana initiatives as a key get-out-the-vote strategy, but some Democrats hope their inclusion on state ballots could help boost midterm turnout, especially among young voters." [HuffPost]

MCCONNELL CAMPAIGN AIRS AD WITH DUKE VICTORY FOOTAGE -Herald-Leader: "Days before the Kentucky Wildcats play the Louisville Cardinals in the NCAA basketball tournament, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell released an online video Tuesday that shows brief footage of the Duke Blue Devils winning the national championship in 2010. The faux pas was first noticed by Joe Sonka, the news editor for LEO Weekly in Louisville, and it spread quickly through Big Blue Nation, which has no trouble distinguishing the shades of blue worn by Kentucky and Duke. The ad, titled 'Rebuild,' includes a number of scenes of Kentucky at its best as audio plays from a speech McConnell gave to a conservative group earlier this year...Allison Moore, McConnell's spokeswoman, said in a statement, 'The ad was intended to highlight Kentucky's basketball dominance, and obviously the Web ad vendor has become so accustomed to watching national championship celebrations in the Bluegrass State that they made a mistake with one of the images.' 'Obviously we were horrified by the error and quickly changed it,' Moore said." [Herald-Leader]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here are some babies laughing at dogs.

YA.... YA EVER SEEN A DEAD BODY BEFORE? - Alabama ag commissioner candidate Dale Peterson would be proud of this guy. Samantha Lachman: "In a new campaign ad, Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) threatens to make Washington, D.C. squeal like a pig. 'I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm, so when I get to Washington, I'll know how to cut pork,' Ernst, who is running for Senate, says in the ad. Campaign aides told the Des Moines Register that the ad will air on cable TV in the Des Moines area starting Tuesday. 'Washington's full of big spenders,' Ernst says later in the ad. 'Let's make 'em squeal.' Ernst states some of her policy priorities as the ad shows baby hogs peacefully sleeping in their pens." [HuffPost]

COMFORT FOOD

- The happiest counties in America. [http://huff.to/QcuRJr]

- Tuxedo slippers with the smiley face poop emoji can now be yours for $340 [http://bit.ly/1jD7yAU]

- Food porn at its most mouth-watering succulent. [http://bit.ly/1gzya2c]

- Jermaine O'Neal might be the NBA's most irritating free throw shooter. [http://bit.ly/ORI4X2]

- Father pulls his son's loose baby tooth out with a quadcopter. [http://bit.ly/1rvlv9z]

- Dog playing catch in slow motion. [http://bit.ly/1jrqfvP]

- A seven-year-old girl tried to "Catfish" her dad. [http://huff.to/OWw5HA]

TWITTERAMA

@delrayser: OH HEY GUYS GOOD NEWS IT'S SNOWING AGAIN *eats gun*

@KagroX: How do you baptize a corporation?

@brianbeutler: For what practical reasons might a corporation adopt a religious identity *other than* to burden employees, customers, competitors etc?

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