A newly discovered dwarf planet was named after Joe Biden, which makes sense given its erratic orbit and how far removed it is from other planets. House Speaker John Boehner needed to do pass legislation to prevent payment cuts to Medicare doctors, and since the bill was important he prevented his caucus from voting. And police arrested a visitor for bringing marijuana into the Capitol. One assumes it was a visitor, because a staffer would have had the good sense to leave their eighth in his or her Columbia Heights share house. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, March 27th, 2014:
SENATE ADVANCES UNEMPLOYMENT BILL; HOUSE ADVANCES ARGUMENT AGAINST UNEMPLOYMENT BILL - Republicans in the House of Representatives say it's just too late to pass legislation restoring unemployment benefits to the 2 million workers who've missed out since December. The Senate advanced a bill reauthorizing the benefits in a procedural vote on Thursday, setting up passage as soon as next week. Then the ball would be in House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) court. Boehner has voiced opposition to the bill. Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees unemployment insurance, elaborated Thursday on Boehner's recent argument that the Senate measure would be "unworkable" even if Congress approved it -- so lawmakers shouldn't bother. While Congress has reauthorized federal benefits after allowing them to lapse before, the House GOP argument goes, it hasn't reauthorized them after allowing them to lapse for this long. In 2010, congressional dithering caused the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program to lapse for almost two months. The Democrat-controlled House had passed a benefits bill, but GOP filibusters tied it up the Senate. "Given that both the House and Senate were officially on record supporting an extension BEFORE the program expired, States and recipients had a strong signal that an extension would eventually be reached," Ways and Means Republicans said in a press release Thursday. [HuffPost]
DOC FIX VOTE PISSES OFF BACK BENCHERS - "The House on Thursday passed a bill that likely did not have the votes to pass. It was clear that a bill to avert a pay hike for doctors was short on support, so Republican leaders struck a closed-door agreement with Democrats to pass the bill by voice vote while members were not yet in the chamber, according to members and aides from both parties. The bipartisan power move to hold a voice vote allowed members to avoid a tough roll call, which would have forced them either to vote for a bill they do not support or allow doctors who treat Medicare patients to take a pay cut, incensing powerful outside interests. The tactic flies in the face of Speaker John A. Boehner’s pledge to be a transparent and rule-abiding Congress, members and aides said. 'I’ve seen a lot of dumb things, but I’ve never seen anything quite as comical as this,' Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., the longest serving member in the history of Congress, told CQ Roll Call...The bill was supposed to come to the floor early Thursday morning, but the vote was postponed into the afternoon as Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and other leaders huddled with members of their party in a room beside the House floor to try to round up support...Cantor left the room briefly to meet with Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. That’s when the two leaders, with the backing of their respective leadership and committee chairmen, struck an agreement to call for a voice vote on the House floor without objection, members and aides said. Earlier in the day Hoyer said he would have voted against the bill. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., asked if she went along with the voice vote plan, simply said, 'Yes.'" [Roll Call]
Senate's doc fix vote will be on Monday afternoon.
FREE SHERMAN EDWARDS! Hannah Hess: "Capitol Police stationed outside the Senate gallery got a surprise Thursday afternoon when they asked one visitor to empty his pockets in accordance with procedure. Sherman Tyrone Edwards Jr., 32, placed a bag of marijuana on the stand next to the security checkpoint, manned by three uniformed officers." Mondays, man. [Roll Call]
DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - We're getting a ton of email from unemployed people watching Congress. High stakes: "I have never experienced anything like this before in America, I did what I was supposed to do, went to college and i got student loan to pay but no job to support myself or my children. I will take a job any day over unemployment benefits but I just need help so that I don't lose everything that I worked for all my life. (My house is in foreclosure, no car insurance, 401k is maxed out.) I am willing to relocate for job but need funds to do so." [Hang in there!]
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OBAMACARE SIGNUPS REACHES TARGET - Healthcare.gov has proved itself to be the Millenium Falcon of government portals. Sam Stein: "The number of people who have chosen a health care plan through a state or federal exchange topped 6 million on Thursday, putting the administration ahead of revised projections with several days before the enrollment deadline. The number, which was announced by President Barack Obama during a conference call on Thursday, reflects a major uptick in interest in health care coverage ahead of the deadline. The administration has revised that end date a bit so that people in the queue by March 31 have time to complete their application process should they run into issues. Original projections had approximately 7 million people signing up for private plans through the state and federal Obamacare exchanges during the six-month enrollment period. That number was revised significantly downward after major technical problems plagued the federal website upon its launch. By the end of February, however, the administration had rebounded, with an estimated 4.2 million people choosing plans through the exchanges. By March 17, that number had hit 5 million. Since then, there have been an average of 100,000 enrollees a day, to bring the figure up to 6 million. It's unclear what percentage of the new sign-ups are from the pools of the young and/or healthy -- a group of consumers critical to making the program work." [HuffPost]
Healthcare.gov can make the kessel run in 12 parsecs.
If you like your massive overhaul of the nation's healthcare system, you can keep it, if not... shove it. Sam Stein: " Eager to respond to the angst over the Affordable Care Act, a group of six moderate Democratic and Independent senators have introduced a series of policy proposals designed to fix the health care law. The proposals, from Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Angus King (I-Maine), would provide consumers with options for cheaper, less comprehensive coverage, increase the portability of the health plans they already have and ease the financial burdens on small businesses that provide coverage...On Thursday, a leadership aide confirmed to The Huffington Post what was already fairly obvious: there are 'no current plans,' to bring the measures in question to a vote. In a small briefing with reporters on Thursday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) confirmed as much, saying that he didn't believe the group "intended it to be a package" though the possibility remained that a few individual items could be considered. Even then, he added, they're unlikely to make it through the other chamber." [HuffPost]
CHRIS CHRISTIE ABSOLVED BY CHRIS CHRISTIE-APPOINTED INVESTIGATOR - Also, three-out-of-four dentists recommend Chris Christie! AP: "A law firm hired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday that the governor was not involved in a plot to create gridlock near a major bridge as part of a political retribution scheme. The taxpayer-funded report released by former federal prosecutor Randy Mastro relies on interviews with Christie and other officials in his administration and 250,000 documents, many of them emails and text messages. 'We found that Gov. Christie had no knowledge beforehand of this George Washington Bridge realignment idea,' Mastro said at a news conference. He also said the lane closures were not reflective of the way the governor's office generally operates. "We found that this was the action of the few," he said. 'This is not reflective of the whole.' His report comes out ahead of any results from independent investigations by federal prosecutors and a special committee of state lawmakers. Some of the key figures would not cooperate with Mastro's investigation, leading Democrats to question the credibility of the report and its thoroughness." [AP]
PROGRESSIVE GROUPS UNITING TO OPPOSE CORPORATE-BACKED JUDICIAL NOMINEES - While the organizations' chief counsels are sending their corduroy blazers to the cleaners in expectation of a long fight. Jen Bendery: "ith the clock running down on President Barack Obama's time in the White House, more than 30 labor, civil rights and environmental groups are calling on senators to step up their efforts to bring greater professional diversity to the federal bench. 'The professional diversity of the president’s district court nominees depends largely on the selection process of each home state senator, and the candidates they recommend to the White House for nomination," reads a copy of the groups' letter obtained by The Huffington Post. The letter will go out to all senators later Thursday. 'As a U.S. Senator with the constitutional obligation to confirm judges, and the responsibility to recommend nominees for vacancies in your home state, you play a critical role in shaping the composition of our courts.' Signed by groups including Alliance for Justice, Human Rights Campaign and Common Cause, the letter gives pointers for breaking from the long-standing pattern of senators recommending judicial nominees with corporate backgrounds. Namely, the groups encouraged senators to actively recruit lawyers who have worked in the public interest and advocated for civil and human rights, and to consider professional diversity when assembling judicial selection commissions." [HuffPost]
Meanwhile, in lefty jurisprudence: "Progressives in Pennsylvania are scrambling to derail a deal they say the state's U.S. senators are quietly trying to cut with the White House on a package of judicial nominees, which includes a conservative Republican aligned with groups opposed to abortion rights, gay rights and gun control. Keystone Progress, a statewide progressive advocacy group, launched a campaign on Tuesday urging Sens. Bob Casey (D) and Pat Toomey (R) to abandon any plan to recommend corporate lawyer David J. Porter to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Among other things, the group highlights that Porter heads the Federalist Society's Pittsburgh Lawyers Chapter, helped found a coalition that tried to stop Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation, and is a contributor and trustee at the conservative Center for Vision and Values." [Bendery]
JOE BIDEN IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT - If that weren't already obvious, he made a strong play for the Hispanic vote today. Elise Foley: " Vice President Joe Biden gave an impassioned defense of comprehensive immigration reform -- and the undocumented immigrants it would help -- during a speech on Thursday, saying it would boost the economy and improve foreign relations. Speaking at a U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce event, Biden said undocumented immigrants should be given the chance to become citizens and contribute to the country. 'These people are just waiting, waiting for a chance to be able to contribute fully,' he said. 'And by that standard, 11 million undocumented aliens are already Americans, in my view. They just want a decent life for their kids and a chance to contribute to a free society, a chance to put down roots and help build the next great American century. I really believe that. That's what they're fighting for."'Biden's speech came as House Democrats attempt to reignite reform efforts that have been stonewalled in the lower chamber since the Senate passed its comprehensive immigration bill last year. On Wednesday, they launched a longshot maneuver called a discharge petition to try and force a vote on their version of the bill, though House Republican leadership has said it won't get a vote." [HuffPost]
ISSA'S POLITICAL CHARITIES - Mike McAuliff: "Rep. Darrell Issa's latest oversight hearing into the Internal Revenue Service's botched enforcement against tea party and other 'social welfare' groups has revealed a dirty little secret: Many of those groups actually want to preserve the option to run as "dark money" political operations. That revelation came primarily from the prepared testimony of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, who spent much of his time Wednesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee sparring with Republican lawmakers over the pace of releasing documents. But Koskinen also explained that the IRS had implemented all nine recommendations of the inspector general's report that first flagged the so-called targeting scandal. One of those recommendations was to clear up an unacceptable backlog in processing applications for tax-exempt status from groups that had been waiting months. There was a simple way to clear that logjam: All any group had to do to be granted tax-exempt status as a social welfare nonprofit under section 501(c)4 of the U.S. tax code was to swear that it was, in fact, primarily engaged in social welfare work. To make it easy, the IRS decided that groups had to pledge they would confine their political activity to less than 40 percent of their work. Several dozen did so, but 19 declined, Koskinen said. What that suggests to proponents of increased campaign finance disclosure is that such groups are less interested in pursuing social welfare and more interested in pursuing partisan politics -- while keeping their donors hidden." [HuffPost]
THE OTHER COMPUTER GLITCHES THAT HARM PEOPLE - Gerry Smith: "Janette Simon has four chicken legs and five kids to feed. Her freezer is bare. And her latest trip to the food pantry yielded little else for dinner this night: a bag of day-old croissants, a box of Corn Flakes, and some canned goods. She slathers barbecue sauce on the chicken, slides the pan in the oven, and begins her nightly ritual of distracting her five children from hunger. The 44-year-old single mother often skips dinner herself. She hides Ramen noodle packets in her closet to ration food. She tells her two youngest kids to play outside 'so they ain’t thinking about eating.' 'That’s what I have to worry about,' she says. 'I gotta look at these kids with their sad faces and no food.' On the 13th of every month, she has counted on seeing a $600 payment on her food-stamp debit card. But now, that payment is a month late. Simon and thousands like her in North Carolina had enough to worry about before a computer glitch began to fray this basic part of the social safety net." [HuffPost]
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a dog that is super grateful for being rescued.
JOE BIDEN GETS A PLANET - Nature: "The Solar System just got a lot more far-flung. Astronomers have discovered a probable dwarf planet that orbits the Sun far beyond Pluto, in the most distant trajectory known. Together with Sedna, a similar extreme object discovered a decade ago, the find is reshaping ideas about how the Solar System came to be. 'It goes to show that there’s something we don’t know about our Solar System, and it’s something important,' says co-discoverer Chad Trujillo, an astronomer at Gemini Observatory in Hilo, Hawaii. “We’re starting to get a taste of what’s out beyond what we consider the edge.'...The newfound object's official name is 2012 VP113, but the discovery team calls it VP for short, or just 'Biden' -- after US Vice-President Joe Biden. In several years time, after observations have pinned down its orbit, the scientists will submit a name for consideration by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the organization in charge of celestial nomenclature." [Nature]
- The ten best sentences, as ranked by American Scholar. None of them contain the phrase "ultimate drinkability." Glaring oversight. [http://bit.ly/1g4HOKh]
- This guy didn't have to eat 18 Taco Bell Taco Waffles in 6 minutes, but he did, and we are proud to live in the same era as him. [http://bit.ly/1g4GXZQ]
- Bane Cat is sinister, a cat. [http://bit.ly/1dyj7eM]
- Friendly reminder that the entirety of Carl Sagan's original "Cosmos" series is available on YouTube. [http://bit.ly/1lpmozo]
- Mathematical formula for beauty -- there is such a thing -- depicted in creative images. [http://wrd.cm/1h06Udr]
- Dad transforms son into a superhero. [http://bit.ly/1l76zKZ]
- Here is a silly dog. Note the dog, and how it is being silly. [http://bit.ly/1heVHtN]
@daveweigel: You know who else rounded up 6 million people?
@pourmecoffee: Stages of Obamacare Grief
It's bad for people to sign up.
It's bad people can't sign up.
It's bad people signed up.
@elisefoley: Frank Underwood? MT @toddzwillich: Asked Connolly if voice vote of doc fix was sneaky. "You might think that. I couldn't possibly comment."
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