POLITICS

HUFFPOST HILL - Stephanopoulos Ties To Clinton Family EXPOSED

05/14/2015 05:40 pm ET | Updated May 14, 2015

George Stephanopoulos has recused himself from moderating any 2016 presidential debates, presumably so a more neutral network personality will be chosen, like Chelsea Clinton or Jenna Bush Hager. Most of the Senate’s presidential candidates have missed a sizable percentage of votes, but they’re quick to note they’re not mathematicians so they can’t comment on fractions. And smoky back rooms filled with white men may not exist any more, but that’s not because of political reform. The white dudes are probably just shivering outside while observing the no-smoking policy at Bobby Van’s. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, May 14th, 2015

SENATE PASSES FAST TRACK AUTHORITY - Senators then retreated to the cloakroom to celebrate and clink glasses topped-off with finely-aged tears of assembly line workers. Mike McAuliff: "The Senate passed a pair of trade protection measures Thursday before voting to start debate on a fast-track bill that President Barack Obama needs to secure his massive and controversial free-trade initiatives with Asia and Europe. One measure, which reauthorizes trade preferences for some African countries, faced little opposition, and passed by a vote of 96 to 1. But the second, a customs and trade enforcement package, was approved more narrowly, with 78 voting in favor and 20 opposed. The package was opposed by the Obama administration and many Republicans because it contains a measure that would crack down on currency manipulation -- particularly by China, the prime offender, but also by several other members of Obama's proposed sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement with 11 Pacific Rim nations. With the currency crackdown passed, lawmakers were willing to let debate start on granting Obama what is known as trade promotion authority. TPA would allow the president to 'fast-track' passage of the TPP deal and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a similarly massive agreement with Europe." [HuffPost]

Check out this amazing story by Laura Bassett about the mysterious murder of a Baltimore nun who knew too much.

Fat lady sung, promptly outsourced declarative crooning to East Asia: "[The House bill] passed easily in the House on Thursday, by a vote of 400 to 25. The legislation passed in a form identical to the version approved by the Senate last week, which President Barack Obama has said he would sign... Assuming Obama signs the Iran bill, he will be required to provide Congress with all documents pertinent to the agreement. In addition, his ability to suspend congressionally enacted sanctions after reaching a deal will be frozen during a congressional review period of 30 to 52 days. At the end of that period, Congress can decide to vote on a resolution of approval or disapproval on the nuclear deal. Alternately, it can elect to do nothing and allow the agreement to be implemented without weighing in." [HuffPost's Jessica Schulberg]

" Wow, Jeb Bush is awful." Dang, Gail!

HOW BOEHNER MET STEEL - From a source close to Steel: "It was a cool night in late 2007, just days before Christmas, and the communications director for the Ways and Means Committee stepped out for a smoke. Michael Steel was at Bobby Van’s Grill that evening at the urging of a senior aide to House Minority Leader John Boehner. Dave Schnittger was eager to hire the genteel North Carolinian as Boehner’s new press secretary. He just needed the Leader’s okay, and a party for a departing Boehner aide seemed like as good a setting as any for an 'interview.' A free moment with the Leader was proving elusive, however, and Steel decided to grab a Camel Light on the sidewalk. Sure enough, Boehner was one step ahead of him, already outside with one of his own. Without Schnitt there to make the connection, the ever-polite Steel kept the conversation light – golf, fishing, the weather – and the Leader stepped back inside. When Schnitt heard that the two had spoken, he rushed the Leader to tell him that the guy outside was the one he’d been hoping to hire as his new spokesman. 'Oh, him?' Boehner grunted with a shrug. 'He’s fine.'" Thank you, cigarettes!

Haircuts: Igor Bobic.

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Wisconsin Republicans wanted to restrict food stamp purchases to healthy foods, but the regional food industry got mad. So they amended their legislation to allow "all types of dairy products," for which the state is renown. State Rep. Andy Jorgensen told HuffPost the amendment essentially defeats the healthy eating purpose of the bill, since it would let a food stamp recipient spend his or her monthly benefit entirely on Dippin' Dots, for instance. "The 'ice cream of the future' is now on the list of what’s acceptable to pay for, but a bottle of ketchup is not," Jorgensen said. A spokesman for the Midwest Food Processors Association, which has led industry opposition to the bill, said the groups remain totally opposed to the legislation. [HuffPost]

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FEINGOLD RUNNING - "I will fight for you with all the vigor with which my former Senate colleagues dislike me. I. Will. Not. Quit." Amanda Terkel: "Progressive Democrat Russ Feingold announced Thursday that he will run for Senate in 2016, hoping to win back the seat he lost six years ago.Feingold made his announcement in a video that was provided in advance to The Huffington Post. In it, he cites issues near and dear to his heart, like taking on corporations and big money in politics, as his justification for running. 'People tell me all the time that our politics and Washington are broken. And that multi-millionaires, billionaires and big corporations are calling the shots,' Feingold says in the video. 'They especially say this about the U.S. Senate, and it’s hard not to agree. But what are we going to do? Get rid of the Senate?' … The race will be a rematch between Feingold and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who defeated him during the tea party wave of 2010. Feingold ran what was widely considered to be a lackluster race that year, and many Democrats have stressed that 2016 needs to be different." [HuffPost]

IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED, TRY, TRY, TRY, TRY AGAIN - Rarely is the question asked: is our Bushes learning? Igor Bobic: "The fifth time appears to be the charm for Jeb Bush.The former Florida governor said Thursday that, if he were president, he would not have invaded Iraq had he known that Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction. 'Knowing what we know now, I would have not engaged. I would have not gone into Iraq,' Bush said Thursday at an event in Arizona. The comments cap off a rocky week for the likely 2016 presidential contender, which began when some conservatives sharply criticized Bush for saying that he would have authorized the Iraq invasion even if he knew then what is now known about the situation. The governor claimed that he misheard the question, posed by Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly last weekend, and that he simply didn't know because it was a "hypothetical." Bush used that same reason to decline several questions about his position on Iraq on the campaign trail. Asked once more, he then said that addressing the issue would prove to be 'a disservice' to fallen troops." [HuffPost]

LEADING POLITICAL OPERATOR JUST WANTED TO MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE - All will be forgiven after his 2017 sitdown with both presidents Clinton. Sam Stein and Michael Calderone: "ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos will not moderate a Republican debate during the 2016 elections after it was revealed on Thursday that he gave $75,000 in donations to the Clinton Foundation. The donations, which were sitting in plain view on the Clinton Foundation website, had gone unnoticed until the conservative Washington Free Beacon began asking questions Wednesday night. ABC News confirmed the donations to Politico Thursday morning...Stephanopoulos' ties to the Clintons weren't exactly state secrets. He served as a top aide to former President Bill Clinton during Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign and his first term in the White House. But Stephanopoulos carefully crafted a post-White House career as an objective newsman, joining ABC News in 1997 as a political analyst and rising to the top of the industry... Up until Thursday, he was the network’s most likely choice to moderate presidential primary debates." [HuffPost]

JERBS - Susanne Craig and Jesse McKinley: "In May 2013, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a program he promised would 'supercharge' the state’s economy and take job creation efforts to a level never seen before. He poured tens of millions of dollars into advertising to push the program, Start-Up New York. In its first full year of operation, the effort created fewer than 100 jobs...One administration official, when asked about the program’s promise, furnished a children’s poem about a blossoming garden: 'Dig In,' by George Shannon. 'Plant a little. Plant a lot,' the poem reads. 'Plant the seeds and bulbs you bought.' There is little question that the state expects a bountiful return, in companies native to New York and imported. Of the businesses currently running, however, just four came from out of state. In some cases, the companies have not even crossed county lines." [NYT]

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES LOVE COUNTRY TOO MUCH TO ACTUALLY FIX IT - Who wants to staff the Department of Justice when you can be taking in the sights and sounds of Harvey, Iowa? CQ: "Through April, Republican Ted Cruz of Texas had missed the most votes of White House hopefuls, according to a CQ Weekly analysis of senators’ attendance. He’s been present for only 74 percent of Senate votes — missing 44 roll call tallies, including on the fiscal 2016 budget resolution and the confirmation of Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Florida Republican Marco Rubio is next in line: he’s missed 32 votes for an attendance of 82 percent. Then comes South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, who has been there for 87 percent of Senate votes this year. The presidential contenders who have stayed most faithful to their day jobs are Vermont independent Bernard Sanders, who has a 98 percent attendance rate, and Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, who boasts an attendance of 99 percent." [Roll Call]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a cat trying to stare down a bird.

COMFORT FOOD

- Send your enemies, rivals and archnemeses farts in a jar.

- Thom Yorke and John Updike are apparently symbols of sexual potency in Iran.

- With Harry Shearer leaving "The Simpsons," this clip from the show is oddly prescient.

TWITTERAMA

@DaveWeigel: Now just imagine the interesting unscreened questions Hillary Clinton would be answering if she, you know, took them.

@pourmecoffee: Jeb Bush: Knowing what we know now, I would not have made Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.

@dceiver: Q: Do you maybe need...medical attention?

Jeb: I think the honorable thing for our species to do is to deny our programming.

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