POLITICS

HUFFPOST HILL - Ted Cruz Signs Up For Obamacare, Reportedly Still Alive

03/24/2015 06:01 pm ET | Updated Mar 24, 2015

Dan Coats will retire, affording Evan Bayh the opportunity to come back to the Senate, get all sanctimonious about how much it sucks, nobly retire and then completely sell out. Rand Paul will campaign on a decommissioned aircraft carrier because he wants all aircraft carriers decommissioned... right? And Ted Cruz has to use Obamacare now that he’s leaving his wife’s health plan, so presumably he’ll start showing up to campaign appearances in a comically large neck brace and arm sling to highlight his pain and suffering. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, March 24th, 2015:

LAWMAKERS ODDLY OK WITH ISRAELI SPYING - So that's why we keep seeing Claire McCaskill taping those manilla envelopes to the underside of a bench in Kalorama Park. Sam Stein and Jessica Schulberg: "A report from The Wall Street Journal that Israel spied on U.S.-Iran nuclear negotiations and then fed that information to members of Congress seemed like a shocker at first blush when it published Monday night. While spying is a seedy but accepted part of geopolitics, using intelligence information to sway Congress against President Barack Obama's agenda on Iran was seen as a step too far by senior administration officials cited in the report. But when talk of the story began circulating on Capitol Hill, lawmakers seemed almost uniformly unfazed. Most denied receiving information from the Israeli government, and some questioned whether leaked information about the nuclear negotiations was from Israel, rather than one of the five countries partnering with the U.S. in the talks. 'Actually, one of my reactions was, 'Why haven't they been coming up here sharing information with me?' Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told reporters. "I kinda felt left out, if you know what I'm saying.' 'I will say a lot of times I get more information from foreign ministers who are visiting than I do the White House. I think you all understand what's happening here. You understand who's pushing this out,' Corker continued, implying that the recent Wall Street Journal story was an attempt by the White House to vilify the Israelis… 'I wouldn't say it's the most shocking development of the day,' said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)." [HuffPost]

DEMS SCRAMBLING FOR LEADERSHIP POSITIONING - This ends with Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn serving until they're 120 while the caucus ultimately adds another 50 leadership slots like it did for Clyburn (Congratulations, Vice-Assistant Deputy Leader for Press Conferences on the House Triangle Crowley!). Lauren French: "[Nancy Pelosi] had a favored recruit in Rep. Chris Van Hollen, but his decision to run for retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s Senate seat has opened a power vacuum in the caucus. With an eye to his future, Rep. Joe Crowley has been burnishing his liberal bona fides after getting dinged for being too moderate early in his career. The New York Democrat has also won support from key members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and he’s raised millions in campaign money for colleagues in tight races. Meanwhile, Reps. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Terri Sewell of Alabama, both relative moderates in the caucus, have already started moving up the ladder. Sinema, the first openly bisexual member of Congress, cut an unconventional path to the upper echelon, calling on the president to delay parts of Obamacare and voting against Pelosi on a number of controversial bills...Sewell is known for her sprawling network in D.C., and has earned a reputation within the CBC as a team player who can advance the caucus’ agenda within the party...The coming succession could also be a prime opportunity for Rep. Elijah Cummings, a respected and senior member of the CBC, to move up. He’s battled firebrand Republicans like Darrell Issa of California on national TV, while staunchly defending the administration from attacks." [Politico]

But is it good for the Cruz? Jennifer Jacobs: "Ted Cruz, one of the loudest critics of Obamacare, will soon be using it for health insurance coverage. 'We will presumably go on the exchange and sign up for health care and we're in the process of transitioning over to do that,' Cruz, a Republican candidate for president, told The Des Moines Register Tuesday. Cruz's wife, Heidi, is going on an unpaid leave of up absence from her job at Goldman Sachs to join Cruz full time on the campaign trail, Cruz told the Register." [Des Moines Register]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Kicking people off food stamps is an effective way to reduce the number of people on food stamps. Alanna Durkin: "More than 9,000 Maine residents have been removed from the state's food stamp program since Republican Gov. Paul LePage's administration began enforcing work and volunteer requirements late last year, officials said. The number of people that have been dropped from the program has exceeded even the administration's expectations." [Associated Press]

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HOUSE GOP STILL TRYING TO PRESENT UNITED FRONT - Elise Foley: "House Republicans are hoping they can bring deficit hawks and defense hawks together this week to support a budget -- and avoid an embarrassment if the conference fails to present a unified front on its priorities for the country. They expect to pull off getting a budget through, thanks to an unusual move to vote on two plans and reluctant promises from some fiscal conservatives to support a budget that would increase spending by adding money for defense...The House is set to vote Wednesday on budgets for the government that would significantly cut domestic spending through measures such as ending Obamacare and slashing welfare programs....At odds are defense hawks, who say the budget must provide more funding for the military, and fiscal conservatives, who consider deficit cuts to be the top priority. To resolve the problem, the House will hold votes on two bills: the budget that passed through the Budget Committee last week from Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.), which some conservatives said did not provide enough military funding, and one that adds even more funding to the Overseas Contingency Operation fund. Adding defense money through this fund allows the GOP to avoid violating spending caps created in 2011, although some deficit hawks consider it a gimmick." [HuffPost]



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PUSH IT TO THE LIMIT: RAND PAUL TO CAMPAIGN FROM AIRCRAFT CARRIER - We don't know yet how his people will get all those Liberty University students on board the U.S.S. Yorktown. Igor Bobic: "When the Kentucky Republican makes one of the first stops in his official run for the presidency in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, next month, he will do so with his back to thousands of tons of American steel made to bear some of the deadliest weaponry on the planet -- the U.S.S. Yorktown. The decommissioned aircraft carrier now functions as a floating museum, but participated in South Pacific operations during World War II... The move is likely meant to toughen up Paul's image in a GOP primary field dominated by foreign policy hawks who already have their knives out for him. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who announced his campaign for president on Monday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and even Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a frequent saber-rattler, pose the biggest threat to Paul's presidential aspirations. Paul has also been ramping up his rhetoric against the Islamic State militants. He even endorsed carving out a new state for Iraqi and Syrian Kurds." [HuffPost]

COATS NOT SEEKING REELECTION - And here comes the third act of the Richard Mourdock biopic that will never be made because Richard Mourdock would still not win. CNN: "Republican Sen. Dan Coats won't run for re-election in 2016, ending his political comeback while creating an opening for one by his long-time Indiana rival -- former Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh. The two have swapped the Senate seat since 1989. Coats first retired from it in 1998, dodging what would've been a high-profile challenge from Bayh. Then Bayh retired in 2010, ducking Coats, who'd called his comeback bid unfinished business. Now, as Bayh considers a return of his own -- he's still got $10 million in his campaign bank account from 2010 -- Coats will retire again, he announced Tuesday. Coats, 71, said in a statement that he has 'concluded that the time has come to pass this demanding job to the next generation of leaders.'" [CNN]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here's a bull getting its neck scratched.

REALLY POSITIVE POLITICAL CONTEST EMERGES FROM ERIC GARNER CASE - We never thought we'd see the day when a congressman-elect names a cardboard cutout of Neil Cavuto as his chief of staff, but that day might be at hand. Christopher Mathias: "A dispute between the two candidates vying to replace disgraced Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) escalated on Tuesday, with the campaign of Democratic candidate Vincent Gentile accusing Republican Daniel Donovan of 'doubling down on race-baiting.' The comments were a response to a fundraising email that Donovan’s campaign sent to supporters last week with the subject line “Al Sharpton Coming After Dan, we need your help!.' After the death of Eric Garner -- the unarmed black man who died in July 2014 after being put into a chokehold by a white police officer in Staten Island -- the Rev. Al Sharpton led large protests on the island, where he is an unpopular figure among the borough’s largely white and conservative population. Donovan is the Staten Island district attorney who presided over the grand jury investigation into Garner’s death." [HuffPost]

COMFORT FOOD

- The hottest new board game, "Settlers of Brooklyn."

- A collection of album covers designed by the late Phil Hartman.

- "Sleevebucks," art made on Starbuck's Coffee sleeves.

TWITTERAMA

@sam_baker: Members of Congress Named After Sources of Comfort:
Tom Cotton
Dan Coats
Raul Labrador
Mark Meadows
Mia Love
Roy Blunt

@jesserifkin: Lindsey Graham admitted Republicans don't have an environmental platform, but he'll save paper by transitioning to email by 2019.

@ProfJeffJarvis: Thinkpiece: Publishers should shut down their websites and post only on Facebook

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