HUFFPOST HILL - Congressman Seeks To Entangle America In Domestic Affairs

07/25/2014 04:38 pm ET | Updated Jul 25, 2014

Congress is taking so long to respond to the needs of veterans you’d think it was the VA. Rep. Curt Clawson won this year’s “Guam Capsize Award For Excellence in American Foreign Policy” when he sought to improve relations with the American government. And policy wonks spent the day debating whether a law called The Affordable Care Act is supposed to help people get health insurance. Did you know that "wonk" is K-N-O-W spelled backwards? This is HUFFPOST HILL for Friday, July 25th, 2014

PEOPLE ARE FLIPPING OUT OVER JONATHAN GRUBER - Y'all should chill, suggests Greg Sargent: "The big story of the day is that Obamacare foes have unearthed what they call a smoking gun: Video of Jonathan Gruber, a key architect for the Affordable Care Act, in January 2011 seeming to endorse the argument that subsidies would not be available to those who get coverage on the federal exchange. This seems to bolster the case made in Halbig — that the law never was intended to provide subsidies to the three dozen states without their own exchanges — which, if upheld by the Supreme Court, would gut the law….I’ve tracked down several Gruber interviews and studies that show him discussing these subsidies as national in scope, and undercut the idea that he thought at the time that subsidies wouldn’t go to states without their own exchanges." Obamacare is saved! [The Plum Line]

DARRELL ISSA'S JUST SAYIN' - Jen Bendery: "Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) conceded Friday that, despite his weeks-long effort to subpoena White House political adviser David Simas to testify before his committee, there is no evidence of any wrongdoing by Simas' office. Issa said during a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which he chairs, that he's not demanding that Simas testify because he thinks the White House Office of Political Affairs has inappropriately engaged in political campaign activities. Rather, Issa said, it's the potential for that office to overstep the line in the future that he wants to examine. 'We are accusing neither the president nor this four-person office of any wrongdoing,' Issa said, adding, 'I allege no wrongdoing.'" [HuffPost]

CONGRESS TRYING TO SAVE VA REFORM - "Come back home to the refinery/ Hiring man says "son if it was up to me" /Went down to see my V.A. man he said "Son, the bill's tied up in conferenceeeeee" Sam Stein: "With the likelihood of passing legislation to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs dwindling rapidly, top Republican and Democratic staffers are making a last-ditch effort to find a compromise before the August recess. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), who chairs its counterpart in the House, spoke to each other on Thursday night, according to Miller. It was the first conversation the two have had since Monday, and Sanders aide Michael Briggs characterized it as 'productive.' Meanwhile, committee staffers have spent Friday working on an agreement, and according to Briggs, 'Bernie expects to be talking to Miller again this weekend.' Miller, likewise, seemed to go out of his way to keep the door open to finding a last-minute deal. In a gaggle with reporters on Friday he said that he and Sanders were working toward putting legislation together and that he would stay in Washington, D.C., through the weekend if necessary. 'I don’t intend on going home for the break without a deal,' Miller said. Sanders was in Philadelphia on Friday afternoon to speak at the National Association of Letter Carriers' convention and planned to head to Vermont afterward. But Briggs said Sanders was prepared to return to Washington if it would help. Neither side would go into great detail about what major sticking points remain, but Miller maintained that money was the primary issue. Sanders and VA officials have said that billions of dollars will be needed to cut down on wait times for veterans seeking medical care. Miller has resisted that request and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has called it the equivalent of a blank check, even though Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson has asked for an actual dollar amount ($17 billion)." [HuffPost]

HuffPost Haircuts: Christina Wilkie Sumner, and Arthur Delaney trimmed his sideburns.

ETHICS PANEL INVESTIGATING BOBBY RUSH, ED WHITFIELD - Politico: "The House Committee on Ethics announced plans on Friday to extend separate reviews of Illinois Democrat Rep. Bobby Rush and Kentucky Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield. The two notices from the committee do not detail the charges against the congressmen but said both cases were referred to the panel on June 10. 'The Committee notes that the mere fact of a referral or an extension, and the mandatory disclosure of such an extension and the name of the subject of the matter, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee,’ the notice states...The Office of Congressional Ethics was investigating Rush for potentially using campaign funds for the Beloved Community Christian Church in Chicago. POLITICO previously reported that Whitfield was helping shepherd controversial animal welfare legislation in the House. His wife, Connie Harriman-Whitfield, a lobbyist for the Humane Society Legislative Fund, is urging Congress to support that bill. " [Politico]

GUY WHO REPLACED TREY RADEL IS SORT OF A GOOFBALL - A poor man's King Ralph maybe? John Hudson: "In an intensely awkward congressional hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, freshman Rep. Curt Clawson misidentified two senior U.S. government officials as representatives of the Indian government. The two officials, Nisha Biswal and Arun Kumar, are Americans who hold senior positions at the State Department and Commerce Department, respectively. Although both Biswal and Kumar were introduced as U.S. officials by the chairman of the Asia and Pacific subcommittee, Clawson repeatedly asked them questions about 'your country' and 'your government,' in reference to the state of India. 'I'm familiar with your country; I love your country,' the Florida Republican said. 'Anything I can do to make the relationship with India better, I'm willing and enthusiastic about doing so.'" [Foreign Policy]

You know what would have helped Clawson focus? Cocaine.

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - PASTED: The Email of the Low Wage Worker: "My unemployment benefits ran out in December of 2013. I am working part-time as a Customer Service rep for $11 an hour. I earn about $250 a week. I still put in three or four resumes every single day, but no one is calling. No one is e-mailing me. If it weren’t for a trickle of income from art commissions and the generous donations from a Facebook campaign started by one of my subscribers, I would already be on the street." [Hang in there!]

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HOUSE PASSES MUCH-NEEDED RICH KID STIMULUS - Because if we as a country can't provide Mackenzie and Kyle with new iPads, then what the hell are we doing? Mike McAuliff: "The House of Representatives voted Friday to change a tax credit in a way that would add $115 billion to the deficit and hurt poorer parents while aiding the well-to-do. By a vote of 237-173, mostly along party lines, the House decided to make permanent the child tax credit and expand it to families earning up to $205,000 a year. The credit, which is worth up to $1,000 for each child in a family, would also be indexed to rise with inflation, as would the eligibility thresholds. But the new measure fails to extend the part of the credit that was passed in 2009 to help impoverished families and that currently allows parents with annual earnings as low as $3,000 to claim some of the break. That element expires in 2017. Without it, a family would have to earn at least $15,000 to qualify for the credit. According to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, that means a mom working full time at a minimum wage job would receive no help from the credit -- because she would be earning only $14,500. Indeed, that mom would lose $1,725 under the new bill, while a family of four earning $150,000 would gain $2,200, according to the center's analysis. About 12 million people, including 6 million children, would be pushed further into poverty if the measure became law. Democrats contrasted Friday's vote with the speech delivered Thursday by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, who vowed to make a new GOP push to reduce poverty." [HuffPost]

The House did try to put checks on one particular rich kid, however: "The House of Representatives sent a bipartisan message to President Barack Obama Friday, warning the commander-in-chief that lawmakers do not want him to escalate war in Iraq without first going to Congress for permission. Passed by a large 370 to 40 majority, the resolution declares: 'The President shall not deploy or maintain United States Armed Forces in a sustained combat role in Iraq without specific statutory authorization for such use enacted after the date of the adoption of this concurrent resolution.' It's unclear whether the Senate would pass such a resolution, or whether it would trump the two authorizations to use military force that Congress granted the White House after 2001, both of which remain in effect. Nevertheless, lawmakers intended Friday's vote as a strong signal to Obama that they want him to go to them first, before a crisis might force him to take aggressive military action in a situation that both parties acknowledged could deteriorate even further than it has already." [McAuliff]

WHITE HOUSE BRACING FOR IMPEACHMENT ATTEMPT BY BOEHNER - Sam Stein: "One of President Barack Obama's top advisers said on Friday that he expects House Republicans will ultimately file articles of impeachment against the president. Dan Pfeiffer, a senior aide who has been with the administration since Obama first took office, told reporters that he anticipated that a lawsuit filed by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) over executive actions taken by the president on health care would ultimately not be enough to satisfy some of the more vocal conservatives in Congress. Pfeiffer added that coming executive actions surrounding immigration reform would only stoke the impeachment flames. 'I think a lot of people in this town laugh that off,' said Pfeiffer. 'I would not discount that possibility. I think that Speaker Boehner, by going down this path of this lawsuit, has opened the door to Republicans possibly considering impeachment at some point in the future.' Speaking at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast, Pfeiffer based his prediction on several factors. The first was former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) calling for articles of impeachment to be drawn over the president's executive action allowing certain young undocumented immigrants to stay in the country. The second was a CNN poll released Friday morning showing that while just 33 percent of the country supported impeachment, a full 57 percent of Republicans were in favor of it... Boehner's spokesman Michael Steel emailed the following response to Pfeiffer, 'We have a humanitarian crisis at our border, and the White House is making matters worse with inattention and mixed signals. It is telling, and sad, that a senior White House official is focused on political games, rather than helping these kids and securing the border.'" [HuffPost]

Push polling update: "In the wake of a lawsuit in the works against President Barack Obama, some Republicans like Sarah Palin have been calling for the House of Representatives to go a step further and impeach the president. Two new polls out this week, from CNN and Fox News, both asked the public to weigh in...Despite Fox's one-sided framing of the question, the results of the two polls were strikingly similar. In this case, people turned out to be against impeaching Obama regardless of how the question was phrased. Just 33 percent of Americans in the CNN survey, and 36 percent of voters in the Fox one, supported impeachment -- about the same percentage who favored impeaching the last two presidents." [HuffPost's Ariel Edwards-Levy]

GOP STILL HAMMERING OUT BORDER PLAN - "Alright, so we're nixing tax credits for people who self-deport, any new ideas?" Elise Foley: "With only a week to go before the August recess, House Republicans have yet to coalesce around the specifics of a bill to address the border crisis, but likely will approve less than a third of the funding the president requested. Members said after meeting on Friday that they hope to take up legislation next week that would provide less than $1 billion -- down from the $1.5 billion discussed earlier this week -- to deal with the more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors who have been apprehended crossing the U.S. border illegally since October. The $1.5 billion in funding previously discussed is already far below Obama's $3.7 billion request and the Senate's proposal for $2.7 billion. That issue of funding, and the likelihood that any House package will be attached to measures Democrats oppose, could make it impossible that anything will get done before Congress leaves town for a month. While members mostly agreed they should do something, they still haven't finalized a bill.'There's a lot of nervousness among a lot of the members about a lot of things,' Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) told reporters after the Republican meeting. 'Some are nervous that we won't do anything, some are nervous that we'll do too much. ... These conversations are always fascinating because you'll start with a range of opinions about this far apart, and eventually you begin to see what the consensus is. We are not at that point yet.'" [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here's a cat in a hat.

BUT IS IT GOOD FOR THE CRUZ?, PT 4,327,691 - BuzzFeed: "Sen. Ted Cruz will still hold all State Department nominations despite the fact that it could further delay the U.S. posting an ambassador to Russia, his office said on Friday. 'Yes he still has a hold on noms and wants answers to his basic questions,' Cruz spokesperson Catherine Frazier said. Cruz said earlier this week that he would hold all State Department nominations that are set to come before the Senate until he has answers about the Federal Aviation Administration’s ban on U.S. carriers flying to Tel Aviv in the midst of the Gaza war, which has since been lifted. Cruz accused the Obama administration of using the flight ban as a way to punish Israel: 'The facts suggest that President Obama has just used a federal regulatory agency to launch an economic boycott on Israel, in order to try to force our ally to comply with his foreign policy demands,' he said on Wednesday. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf called the accusation 'ridiculous and offensive.' One of the nominations that could be affected by Cruz’s hold is that of John Tefft, President Obama’s nominee for ambassador to Russia. He is scheduled to have his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations committee on Tuesday. The U.S. has not had a permanent ambassador in Russia since February, when former ambassador Michael McFaul resigned. Meanwhile, tensions with Russia have begun to boil over as the crisis in Ukraine continues." [BuzzFeed]

COMFORT FOOD

- A supercut of computer hacking in 1980s movies. [http://bit.ly/1qEbfyd]

- "Game of Thrones" emojis are coming. [http://uproxx.it/1unnwIR]

- How to disarm a live mine, you know, just in case. [http://bit.ly/1pgVedI]

- Why R.E.M.'s "Out of Time" might be the most politically important album of all time. [http://bit.ly/1onDWwe]

- Infographic showing the best and worst days in stock market history . [http://bit.ly/1rEc87O]

- Kristen Bell stars in a Mary Poppins spoof arguing for a higher minimum wage. [http://huff.to/1rEbB66]

- A cubist interpretation of Tupac. [http://bzfd.it/1rEdXSc]

TWITTERAMA

@daveweigel: Go easy on Rep. Curt Clawson. Why, I hear he turned in a 14-page thesis about foreign policy.

@jpodhoretz: I've said it before: If Hamas had been put in charge of the 2nd Avenue Subway it would have been done by now.

@seungminkim: My fave response of the day: Granger, when asked how children will be returned home (presumed changes to '08 law), she says: "Well, planes."

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