POLITICS

HUFFPOST HILL - Cantaloupe Calf Caucus Wins Again

05/29/2014 06:32 pm ET | Updated May 29, 2014

President Obama is gearing up to have a constructive dialogue on global warming — though considering many House Republicans were affronted by recyclable silverware, we’re not so confident he can succeed. John Boehner told reporters that he isn’t qualified to discuss scientific matters, joining the ranks of the House Science Committee. And Eric Shinseki says his agency is doing all it can to "accelerate access to care throughout our system and in communities where veterans reside." Republicans would prefer he immolate himself on the White House Ellipse while yelling that Tony Rezko was behind the Benghazi cover-up and Common Core... but they concede it’s a start. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, May 29th, 2014:

HOUSE PASSES TAX BREAK, ADDING $300 BILLION TO DEFICIT - Mike McAuliff: "The House Ways and Means Committee pushed ahead a set of tax breaks Thursday that would add another $304 billion to the deficit over 10 years, on top of $310 billion in loopholes it voted for last month. If all the measures were to become law, they would wipe out the deficit savings Congress passed less than two years ago in the deal that headed off the so-called fiscal cliff. In that deal, Bush-era tax cuts were allowed to expire only on income above $400,000, returning about $600 billion to the treasury over 10 years. Many of the loopholes that the tax-writing committee voted to extend Thursday are popular, including breaks for charitable deductions. The biggest change made permanent one of the tax cuts used recently for economic stimulus, called bonus depreciation, which allows companies that would normally have to write off new capital investments over many years to get 50 percent of the break right away. Bonus depreciation has been used in the last two recessions to convince companies to speed up investments to spur the economy. But making the cut permanent -- as well as including things like the planting of fruit vines and trees as eligible investments -- would add $287 billion to the deficit over a decade, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation." [HuffPost]

@PoliticoKevin: .@ChrisMurphyCT will call for an increase in the federal gas tax tomorrow, an aide confirms.

HOUSE APPROVES STEVE KING AMENDMENT BECAUSE IT IS FIGHTING FOR YOU - Sometimes, when we're bored, we play the "Steve King has more influence on American governance than..." game. It's great! And by "great" we mean "deeply troubling and likely to induce a depressive episode." Elise Foley: "The House approved an amendment from King with a 218-193 vote to provide the Justice Department $5 million to investigate the release of criminals from immigrant detention. The amendment comes after a report that the Department of Homeland Security released 36,000 convicted criminals from detention last year while they awaited a final decision on deportation. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said earlier Thursday that he requested a review of those releases. King's amendment remains one of the only immigration-related moves the House has made over the past year, to the frustration of reform advocates, the White House and senators who passed a comprehensive bill in 2013. Although House GOP leaders have said repeatedly they want to address immigration reform, they have not allowed votes on comprehensive bills or smaller measures. Most recently, three amendments on allowing undocumented immigrants to enlist in the military were blocked from getting a vote." [HuffPost]

@ZekeJMiller: WH official: “The President enjoyed an informal, private lunch with Secretary Clinton at the White House this afternoon.”

It wasn't all bad: "The White House proposed a budget this year that would provide $36 million in funding to help law enforcement officials process the nation's massive backlog of untested rape kits. In a sign of approval, the House of Representatives voted Thursday to add another $5 million in funding for this purpose to its Fiscal Year 2015 appropriations bill." [HuffPost's Laura Bassett]

But it was mostly bad: "House Republicans on Thursday blocked a vote that would have added an incest exception to an anti-abortion provision of a sweeping appropriations bill. The criminal justice appropriations bill pending in the House would prohibit any federal funds from being used for abortions, except in cases of rape or if the life of the mother is in danger. The restriction would apply to pregnant women in federal prisons who seek abortions." [HuffPost]

Nobody is more fond of saying "nobody is more" than politicians. Nobody.

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Ewwwww: "The U.S. economy contracted in the first quarter for the first time in three years as it buckled under the weight of a severe winter, but there are signs activity has since rebounded. The Commerce Department on Thursday revised down its growth estimate to show gross domestic product shrinking at a 1.0 annual rate. It was the worst performance since the first quarter of 2011 and reflected a far slower pace of inventory accumulation and a bigger than previously estimated trade deficit." [Reuters]

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SHINSEKI SPEAKS! - Translation: Just gimme some time to fix this so I can bid you asswipes adieu after the midterms, take a cush job at Lockheed Martin and never see your wretched faces again. Igor Bobic: "Faced with growing calls for his resignation, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki penned an op-ed stating his commitment to restoring integrity to a department wracked with scandal over severely delayed treatments at veterans hospitals. In the Thursday op-ed, published by USA Today, the retired U.S. Army four-star general said delayed treatments -- up to 115 days on average at a facility in Phoenix, Arizona -- are 'reprehensible' and that he is taking action to implement recommendations laid out in a new inspector general report. 'We are doing all we can to accelerate access to care throughout our system and in communities where veterans reside,' he wrote. 'I've challenged our leadership to ensure we are doing everything possible to schedule veterans for their appointments. We, at the Department of Veterans Affairs, are redoubling our efforts, with commitment and compassion, to restore integrity to our processes to earn veterans' trust.' The dam appeared to break on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, as several vulnerable Democrats running for reelection -- including Sens. Al Franken (Minn.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) and John Walsh (Mont.) -- joined Republicans in calling for Shinseki's resignation." [HuffPost]

ADMINISTRATION NOT PUTTING PRICE TAG ON AFGHAN POLICY YET - Sam Stein: "The Obama administration's proposal to keep 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan next year was the product of lengthy deliberations. The president faced pressure from his military brass to maintain a robust military presence in the country; from his liberal base, to expedite the withdrawal; from his diplomatic corps, to foster good relations with the next Afghan government; and from his own political advisers, eager to dispel the criticism of a scattershot foreign policy. But for all the ingredients and deliberation that factored into the new Afghan policy, one major component remains vague: How much will it cost? Administration officials don't have an official answer yet. 'We do not have a formal budget number to provide at this stage,' said Caitlin Hayden, an administration spokeswoman, on Tuesday. In various interviews, Tony Blinken, the deputy national security adviser, has estimated that the price tag for Afghanistan will be around $20 billion next year. Placed in the context of the cost of the war so far -- one recent study pegged the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars at $4 trillion to $6 trillion -- this is a drop in the bucket...Blinken's figure of $20 billion is just an estimate. Last year's request by the Pentagon for the Overseas Contingency Operations, the main source of funds for Afghanistan operations, was $79 billion. The U.S. at the time had 32,000 troops in the country. But just because the number of troops will be roughly 70 percent smaller at this time next year doesn't mean the OCO budget will be proportionally less." [HuffPost]

Americans are ambivalent: "Americans are divided over President Barack Obama's plan to pull almost all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2016, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, but few want a commitment longer than the one the president has proposed. Obama announced Tuesday that he plans a gradual drawdown of troops that would leave about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan by the end of this year, cut that in half by the end of 2015 and remove most remaining troops by the end of 2016. Thirty-one percent of Americans in the new poll said the U.S. should stick to that timeline, while 35 percent want to withdraw all troops even sooner. Only 20 percent of Americans, though, said they want a commitment of U.S. forces in Afghanistan 'as long it takes to accomplish [U.S.] goals.' In fact, more Americans (40 percent) think it was a mistake to send troops to Afghanistan in the first place than think it wasn't (36 percent)." [HuffPost's Emily Swanson]

ADMINISTRATION GEARING UP FOR CLIMATE FIGHT - Kate Sheppard: "The fight over carbon reduction requirements for the fleet of existing power plants in the United States is well underway -- and the Obama administration hasn't even released the standards yet. The rules are due Monday, and President Barack Obama himself is expected to announce them, adding to the hype. On Wednesday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report claiming that the expected rules will cost the U.S. economy $50 billion a year and eliminate 224,000 jobs. Karen Harbert, the president and CEO of the Chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy criticized the "unprecedented and aggressive EPA regulations" in a statement...Meanwhile, environmental advocates who have pushed for the EPA to move forward on rules for existing power plants, which account for about 40 percent of U.S. emissions, are also armoring up. The Natural Resources Defense Councilreleased its own paper on Thursday afternoon that touted projected benefits of the rule, claiming that it will save Americans $37.4 billion on electric bills and create 274,000 jobs...But no one expects it to be an easy lift. Monday's announcement will be just the draft standards; those standards won't be finalized until June 2015. And the proposal is expected to allow each state to determine how it will meet the standards. States would have about a year to develop a compliance plan and submit it to the EPA for approval." [HuffPost]

Ask me a different question, chuckleheads: "A reporter asked House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) at Thursday morning's Republican leadership press conference if, given his stated concerns about EPA regulations, 'Are there steps you would support to take action against climate change, and do you think that's a problem?' 'Well, listen. I'm not qualified to debate the science over climate change. But I am astute enough to understand that every proposal that has come out of this administration to deal with climate change involves hurting our economy and killing American jobs,' said Boehner. 'That can't be the prescription for dealing with changes in our climate.'" [Sheppard]

NSA TRIES TO CHANGE NARRATIVE, RELEASES SNOWDEN EMAIL - This borders on absurd. One time, Edward Snowden went to a Church's Chicken and didn't tell ANYONE about the NSA's domestic surveillance program. Instead, he just sat there and ate his Chicken n Cheese... like a dick! Matt Sledge: "The NSA on Thursday released an email sent by former contractor Edward Snowden to the agency's legal office, in an apparent effort by the agency to undermine his claim that he is a whistleblower. But the email does not preclude the possibility that Snowden raised concerns verbally -- and Snowden's supporters have long stated that intelligence agency whistleblowers acting through official channels often face retaliation... The agency asserts that the short email exchange from April 2013, between Snowden and an employee of the NSA's Office of General Counsel, shows he made no effort to raise concerns internally about wrongdoing or abuse...The April 2013 email, moreover, may be irrelevant to whether or not Snowden pursued internal channels. Snowden told the South China Morning Post last year that he began working as an NSA contractor in March 2013 specifically to gather evidence on mass surveillance. His assertion of whistleblower status has always been based on broader claims than that he operated only within documented, internal channels -- and the email may not have been his only attempt to raise questions about the agency's operations." [HuffPost]

SEVEN GOP GOVERNORS NOT COMPLYING WITH ANTI-RAPE RULES ... GREAT - Ryan Reilly: "Republican governors in seven states -- Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Nebraska, Texas and Utah -- are either ignoring or refusing to comply with national standards meant to prevent sexual assault in prisons, according to new information from the Justice Department. The Justice Department gave the governors of all 50 states until May 15 to either say they are in compliance with national standards to prevent prison rape or certify that at least 5 percent of the federal grant funds they receive will go toward bringing them into compliance. Just two states, New Hampshire and New Jersey, certified that they were in compliance, while 46 states or territories promised to dedicate at least 5 percent of their grant funds to meeting the federal standards. In all, out of the 56 jurisdictions where it applies (50 states plus the District of Columbia and five territories), 48 are in compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), which was first passed in 2003. The national standards associated with PREA were finalized in 2012. The eight entities that are not in compliance -- those seven states plus the Northern Marianas Islands -- will lose 5 percent of their grant funds in the coming year... Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R). Pence was a member of the House of Representatives when it passed PREA without objection back in 2003, but he now says that the law would require the "redirection of millions of tax dollars currently supporting other critical needs for Indiana.'" [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here's a goat piggy backing a ride on a bike.

PAUL RYAN GETS CONFUSED FOR ANTHONY WEINER - Well, they do both screw over people... amirite? MLive: "During his address to a group of Republicans gathered for an event at Bucks Run Golf Club Wednesday, May 28, in Isabella County, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's main message was that of praise for Midland Congressman Dave Camp, who recently announced he will not be running for re-election in 2014...Ryan said he was recently confronted by a woman in the Milwaukee airport who wanted to take a photograph with him. It wasn't until after he posed with her for the photo that he found out she thought he was Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker...But the real laughs, and groans, came when Ryan told the story of one of the two times he was confused for a scandal-ridden former New York congressman, Anthony Weiner. Weiner resigned from Congress in 2011 in the wake of a sexting scandal." [MLive]

Ha ha! "They both screw over people" Jokes! Got 'em for days!

COMFORT FOOD

- Lance Stephenson trolled LeBron James so hard last night by... blowing in his ear. [http://bit.ly/1kr5YW1]

- Some solid ways to beat jet lag. [http://bit.ly/1wtQjdk]

- Jon Benjamin -- the voice of Archer and Bob from "Bob's Burgers" -- reads Hal's lines from "2001." [http://bit.ly/1oOHyGq]

- What the first five minutes of 10,000 movies look like... all played at once. [http://bit.ly/1mLxmgY]

- Watch LeVar Burton tear up as his Kickstarter to revive "Reading Rainbow" hits $1,000,000. [http://bit.ly/1pBJSQN]

- All of Roger Sterling's "Mad Men" quips. [http://vult.re/1mvgjOJ]

- We've just discovered "Porn Burger" and hooooo boy, anyone who thinks this is NSFW is awful. [http://bit.ly/1f8CjOF]

TWITTERAMA

@pourmecoffee: Hillary Clinton will be on Fox News June 17. She'll be questioned by guest interviewer Hodor who will just repeat "Benghazi" over and over.

@neetzan: My @Uber driver just confessed to me, unsolicited, that he donated money to George Zimmerman's defense fund. How long till driverless cabs?

@dceiver: A plague that preys on old men with regrettable haircuts would just lay waste to the House Ways And Means Committee

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