A Senate committee voted on a bill that might finally end the gridlock over the confirmation of the guy who manages Steven Chu's Twitter account. For a fleeting moment America thought GE might use its tax refund for something other than items featured on "My Super Sweet 16." Jim Inhofe anointed himself the Senate's leading authority on Africa. And the CBO says the budget agreement is the fiscal equivalent of hiding under your desk in a nuclear attack. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, April 12th, 2011 (and Barry Bonds is guilty):
PRESIDENT OBAMA CALLS FOR $4 TRILLION CUT IN DEFICIT - In one of those "no, guys, seriously, THIS ONE is a game changer"-style speeches today, the president outlined a plan to cut the nation's deficit by $4 trillion over the next 12 years. "Now that our economic recovery is gaining strength, Democrats and Republicans must come together and restore the fiscal responsibility that served us so well in the 1990s," he said, implicitly faulting President Bush's fiscal policy. "We have to live within our means, reduce our deficit, and get back on a path that will allow us to pay down our debt." Sam Stein writes that his proposal includes "a mixture of tax hikes, drastic spending cuts, reductions in the Pentagon's budget and smaller entitlement reforms. It would seek to achieve a final balance of three dollars in spending reductions for every dollar generated in additional tax revenue." All this deficit reduction chatter and not ONE PEEP about Barbara Mikulski's costly platinum mouth grill. [HuffPost]
Note to outside-beltway audience: When someone in Washington says "we" should "live within our means" it usually results in a lot more wealthy folks buying big TVs and a lot more poor folks living in the boxes they came in.
HOUSE DEM: BOEHNER DEBT-LIMIT STRATEGY 'AMATEUR HOUR' - Morning Money reported today that John Boehner has been calling Wall Street executives and asking them how long he can hold out on raising the debt limit before the market gets spooked -- as if he can tease the market with default and then back off at the last second without harming the economy. The executives, according to MM, have been warning him against playing games. Once you threaten to default, that injects a fear of default into the market, and you can't just pump the market's stomach and hope it spits it back up. The result will be higher interest rates for years, which means more expensive debt. "I mean, it really shows amateur hour. The notion that he thinks that's how markets work is just stunning," one House Dem chuckled to HuffPost Hill. Boehner spokesman Michael Steel says the market can blame Obama. "Speaker Boehner has made it clear that the American people will not accept an increase in the debt limit that is not accompanied by real cuts and serious reforms to address Washington's out-of-control spending. He has said that for months. At this point, any delay is the result of the White House refusing to get serious about this issue."
PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY WATCH: Just so we're clear what's happening here: Boehner is putting conditions on repaying money that has ALREADY BEEN SPENT.
Paul Ryan, who was at Obama's speech in a curious act of political sadomasochism: "What we heard was not fiscal leadership ... what we heard today was a political broadside from our campaigner-in-chief." Only a bold man would condemn a "political broadside" and then -- three whole words later -- attribute it to the "campaigner-in-chief." Gold star, Paul Ryan.
"This is a big effing
deal social faux pas": Debate is raging over whether Biden fell asleep during the speech, not that HuffPost Hill wold blame him.
Speaking of gripping teevee, Tim Geithner will be on Jim Lehrer's News Hour tonight to talk about the speech.
Mitt Romneybot processed the speech and concluded it performed an illegal operation: "Instead of supporting spending cuts that lead to real deficit reduction and true reform of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, the President dug deep into his liberal playbook for 'solutions' highlighted by higher taxes." [HuffPost's Jon Ward]
Rapid response dreamboat Adam Green says the PCCC is worried: "Americans will be very glad to hear that the President supports raising taxes on the rich. But he needs to take Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare benefit cuts completely off the table."
CBO: BUDGET DEAL WON'T ACTUALLY SAVE THAT MUCH - The Congressional Budget Office released its report today on the budget deal reached last Friday and that is scheduled to be voted on tomorrow. Its report finds that for the current fiscal year the deal won't save the $38 billion that has been burned into your brain over the last week, just a measly $353 million. That's like cutting back on smoking by promising yourself that you will forgo the traditional "post-lunar eclipse cigarette." It's pretty worthless, (almost) literally. [WaPo/AP]
SWIPE FEE FUN: GROUPS SWITCHING SIDES - In the past few days, both the NAACP and Technet -- a lobby that represents banks but also Google and Apple -- have reversed course on interchange reform. (That's the Dick Durbin amendment that will restrict the swipe fees that banks can charge merchants, unless it's repealed.) Technet went from opposed-to-Durbin to neutral and the NAACP "clarified" that it doesn't support Jon Tester's delay of Durbin's new rules. Two wins for Durbin. (Reminder to K Street: We're working on a long story on the lobbying behind the swipe fee fight. Send fun stories to email@example.com)
@SenatorDurbin The @NAACP agrees http://politi.co/gDTnqf #swipefees are "uncompetitive, non-transparent, and harmful to consumers"
Tonight in Roll Call: "Planned Parenthood wasn't always such a partisan lightening rod, writes Roll Call's Bennett Roth. In the 1960s and 1970s the organization that has recently become the prime target of House Republicans drew the support of prominent members of the Grand Old Party: President Richard Nixon signed family planning legislation in 1970 that authorized federal funding for groups such as Planned Parenthood, former Sen. Barry Goldwater's wife was a founding member of Planned Parenthood in Arizona and George H.W. Bush was so supportive of family planning that people called him 'Rubbers.'"
SENATE VOTES TO REFORM CONFIRMATION PROCESS - Now that the deputy special assistant to the special assistant in charge of fetching Ray LaHood his morning coffee qualifies as a confirmable position (and let's be honest: the DSATTSPICOFRLHMC is probably being held up in committee due to some unrelated dispute over funding for a fighter jet), the Senate is moving to unclog the confirmation process somewhat. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee this afternoon voted to send the "2011 Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act" to the whole chamber. The bill, writes Robert Brodsky, "would no longer require a confirmation hearing for many noncontroversial positions, including more than 100 part-time advisory board members. The other positions that would no longer require Senate confirmation were selected because they are not involved in developing policy or setting budget priorities and already report to a Senate-confirmed official, according to Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, I-Conn. They include many communications and legislative affairs officials at agencies throughout the government." [National Journal]
DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed a new law that maintains the state's eligibility for the final 20 weeks of federal unemployment benefits while at the same time cutting the first 26 weeks of state benefits. Missouri Republicans in the state Senate got the idea from Michigan, which cut state benefits from 26 weeks to 20 weeks starting next year. In the "Show Me" state, the six-week cut will take effect immediately. The National Employment Law Project said the reduction in state benefits will curtail federal benefits as well, costing laid-off Missourians an additional 17 weeks. Oops.
BOEHNER 99ER MEETING IS ON - House Speaker John Boehner will meet tomorrow morning with Barbara Lee and Bobby Scott to chat jobs and unemployment, Lee's office told HuffPost. They'll be talking looking for ways Congress could cut spending in order to pay for an additional 14 weeks of unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, including "99ers," folks who've exhausted the maximum 99 weeks. They'd need $16 billion or so in cuts that everybody can agree on, which seems an awfully high bar...
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GOP: TAX INCREASES ARE OFF THE TABLE - In anticipation of President Obama's deficit speech, Republican lawmakers made clear that they will not accept tax increases as a way to lower the deficit. "We don't believe lack of revenue is part of the problem, so we will not be discussing rate of taxes," Mitch McConnell said at a press conference. Eric Cantor took it a step further, assailing rumors of tax increases while developing a really innovative rhetorical strategy: "I find that very unacceptable given we're several days out from Tax Day in this country," he said. "We don't believe that raising taxes is the answer here." The president best not discuss his national parks policy near Arbor Day. [HuffPost Elise Foley]
Tom Coburn, meanwhile, thirsts for chutzpah: "Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who is part of a bi-partisan effort to address the budget crisis, said Wednesday that real reform is possible if he can find more senators 'who have some gonads.' 'Send me some Senators who have some gonads," Senator Coburn said in an interview with conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt." [KBOI]
LINDSEY GRAHAM DEFENDS GOVERNMENT SPENDING - The senator today sharply criticized the budget agreement for scrapping funds for a South Carolina port. But -- wouldn't ya know it? -- he accidentally delivered a heartfelt defense of one of the philosophical cornerstones of Democratic politics in the process. Whoopsie! "If you're a Republican and you want to create jobs, then you need to invest in infrastructure that will allow us to create jobs," he said alongside Rand Paul and Mike Lee at a press conference ostensibly about Social Secuirty. "Congress, Republicans and Democrats, talk about creating jobs. How can you create jobs by shutting a port down that 260,000 people depend on?" Rumor is Graham then tearfully recited passages from Silent Spring. That hasn't been confirmed. [TPM's Benjy Sarlin]
Jim Inhofe: "I'm kind of the official Senate point man for Africa."
Jim DeMint doesn't want to be DeVeep: "I have no interest in that," the South Carolina lawmaker told National Review, "somebody would have to be pretty desperate to do that." We're looking forward to the 2012 attack ad painting whoever the no. 2 Republican as "desperate" ("Jim DeMint thinks Marco Rubio is chasing the dragon of power. Is this really the man you want a heartbeat away from the Oval Office?"). [National Review]
GUN CONTROL ADVOCATES EEK OUT A WIN IN BUDGET - The solidifying conventional wisdom is that women, the poor, Washington D.C. residents, schoolchildren and pretty much anyone whose primary objective in life isn't a lower capital gains tax rate was screwed by Friday's budget agreement. However one lefty issue actually got a little somethin' somethin': gun control. Sam Stein: "[C]ongressional negotiators removed a provision from the final budget deal that would have made it much harder for the government to regulate firearm sales along the Mexico border. The amendment, offered by Reps. Dan Boren (D-Ok) and Denny Rehberg (R-MT), would have prevented federal funds from being used by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to track bulk sales of long guns in Southwest states. Up until late moments in the negotiations, sources familiar with the discussions say, it remained in the text of the final continuing resolution. But sometime before the final deal was announced on Friday night, lawmakers stripped the rider from the bill, in the process providing an incredible rare event during the gun policy debates: a win for the control advocates." [HuffPost]
The number of Americans who think the country is on the wrong track is at one of the worst level since President Obama took office in the wake of the Wall Street metldown. According to the Reutuers/Ipsos survey, 69 percent of respondents think the country is barrelling towards catastrophe. That's roughly 215 million Americans who haven't heard about Starbucks' trenta cups. [HuffPost Pollster]
EVERYONE FALLS FOR GE HOAX - Word quickly spread this morning through Twitter that GE would return its massive 2010 tax refund, worth $3.2 billion. "We want the public to know that we've heard them, and that we know many Americans are going through tough times," GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt said in a statement distributed to media outlets. "GE will therefore give our 2010 tax refund back to the public and allow the public to decide how to spend it." For a brief moment, liberals thought that corporate America had turned a corner and would soon forswear their exorbitant bonuses and Scrooge McDuck gold coin pools. They thought wrong. The whole thing was a ruse set in motion by the Yes Men, the group of activist pranksters. A number of prominent news outlets published the fake news, either in print or through Twitter, including the AP, SLATE and NPR. We're amazed these guys haven't tried to call Scott Walker lately. [HuffPost's Jason Linkins]
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - The president of the Czech Republic was so enamored with a pen that he slyly tried to steal it. Too bad he did so in front of an array of cameras.
YOU TOO CAN STAR IN A LOCAL'S VANITY PROJECT - We were alerted to a casting call for "H Street" which describes itself as "Feature Film - Low Budget/Independent." Here's the summary: "Casting Call sitcom. 'H Street' Please be prepared to for a cold read. We plan to shoot the entire pilot episode of our new sitcom, H-Street. Compensation includes meals, performance credit, and a copy of the project. Further compensation/work would depend upon whether the series is picked up and would be negotiated at a later date." The roles up for grabs include "Charles," who "runs a bar on H Street" and is "annoyed by hipsters" (can you say "tension"!?!), "Mitch," the young Republican staffer who wears bow ties and is not afraid to voice his opinion and "Cammy" who is "a young intern who is passionate about everything and is desperate to change the world." [Exploretalent.com]
- According to these 125 pictures, parents love nothing more than to have their baby pose with alcohol. Nice job, society. [http://bzfd.it/gYPCOk]
- Jeff Goldblum's cameo in the Goosebumps: Escape From HorrorLand video game might be the weirdest point of his career. And that's saying something. [http://bit.ly/ifsDr7]
- Age your own whiskey kits requires a constitution that can resist actually drinking the whiskey. Good luck with that. [http://bit.ly/egcspt]
- TV on the Radio's new album, and the music videos for each song, are online. [http://bit.ly/eGMGhD]
- Hand-stiched Vogue covers are hand-stichy. And awesome. [http://bit.ly/hEzU69]
- A study finds that Coldplay fans are the least likely music lovers to have sex on the first date. Duh. [http://bit.ly/fyO7ZP]
- Not all boredom-induced side projects are web-based these days: "Wonderfully Creepy Sculptures Carved From Bananas." [http://bit.ly/dFQWka]
- A young girl squatted a record 187-pounds. Here's hoping she donates her thighs to medical science. [http://bit.ly/idLiY2]
@JHockenberry: To Huffpost bloggers I wrote a rave review in my highschool newspaper of a Led Zeppelin concert for no pay. They owe me bigtime.
@MPOTheHill: I'm really excited for all of us to live-tweet the same remarks by the president at the same time, even though we all have prepared remarks.
@kenvogel Deadbeats! Rudy claims NYT, McClatchy & WTKK-Boston still owe his 2008 prez campaign a combined $619 for travel costs http://is.gd/8MV2YE
@RepWeiner: Looking at embargoed fact sheet on Potus plan. Not allowed to tell you about it yet. #ButMyHashtagLikesWhatHeSees
5:00 pm - 7:00 pm: Whether it's stand-up comedy competitions or karaoke, Washington, D.C. can't get enough of itself on a stage and drunk. The National Democratic Club hosts NDC Karaoke. Members are encouraged to show up with their stage names [National Democratic Club, 30 Ivy Street SE].
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm: Gwenn Moore celebrates her 60th birthday the only way a gal can: With Representatives Chris Van Hollen, Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin Ron Kind and Senator Herb Kohl and officials from Assurant Health PAC, Bank of America, CUNA PAC and the Transport Workers Union of America. Hip hip hooray! [The Home of John Weinfurter, 209 C Street NE].
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm: Bennie Thompson is the guest of honor at a "Mississippi Pond-Raised Catfish Fry" which is also the title of the last country song ever written [Democratic National Headquarters, 430 South Capitol Street SE].
8:30 am: We still don't get why so many politicians hold breakfast fundraisers at Johnny's Half Shell. The idea of an oyster omelet disgusts us. If you attend her fundraiser, do us a biggie and ask Debbie Stabenow about that [Johnny's Half Shell, 400 North Capitol Street NW #175].
8:45 am: Now the folks at the William and Jensen Townhouse, THEY know how to cook! Kay Hagan passes the hat there [The Williams & Jensen Townhouse - 324 Independence Ave SE].
1:00 pm: Everyone's favorite climate skeptic naturally attends a campaign event at a lawfirm/lobbying shop. Go say hi to Jim Inhofe...if you can afford it. [DLA Piper, 500 Eighth Street NW].
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm: What with D.C. being screwed with its pants on in the latest budget, Eleanor Holmes Norton will have a lot of material for her fundraiser. Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi are scheduled to make appearances. [National Democratic Club, 30 Ivy Street SE].
6:30 pm: Roy Blunt's PAC is called "Rely on Your Beliefs Fund (ROYB...get it???). However Roy really relies on your checkbook [Charlie Palmer Steak, 101 Constitution Ave NW].
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