06/21/2011 05:25 pm ET Updated Aug 21, 2011

HUFFPOST HILL - Debt Ceiling Talks Not Hopeless

Jon Huntsman's 2012 announcement at the Statue of Liberty was like the Space Needle's restaurant: Dramatic vistas, bland product. Newt Gingrich is a paragon of fiscal austerity who keeps costs down by not having a campaign staff. The White House wants you to take its economic agenda seriously (Laughter) (Applause). And Leon Panetta was confirmed in a perfect 100-0 vote. After the 70th vote, we hear his teammates refused to look and/or talk to him lest they jinx it. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, June 21st, 2011:

Jon Ward has learned that Michele Bachmann's 2012 campaign launch event is scheduled for Monday. The announcement ABOUT the announcement will come tomorrow. She also already announced. Got it?

DEBT CEILING TALKS STRUGGLING - The faction of the American government that doesn't believe it should pay back its past debts without certain unrelated future things happening appears to be growing in strength. Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor this morning before negotiations over lifting the debt ceiling continued today. "So it's not exactly a groundbreaking observation that if these discussions are to mean anything they have to involve entitlement reform -- since no one believes we actually get at our fiscal problems without it. This is what serious people expect and are hoping for out of these talks," said the very serious McConnell. "Now, some Democrats are insisting that they'll only agree to cuts if Republicans agree to raise revenue. That's Washington speak for tax hikes, and it's absurd." So: Democrats say entitlements are off the table and Republicans say taxes are off. In other words, a deal is around the corner. Meetings continue through the week.

The size of the market betting on the U.S. to default is up to $27 billion, up from $11 billion last year, according to data from up the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation. New York Times' default are at $20.5 billion; CBS is at $29 billion.

SENATE UNANIMOUSLY CONFIRMS LEON PANETTA FOR TOP PENTAGON SPOT - The upper chamber this afternoon voted 100-0 to confirm the nomination of CIA Director Leon Panetta to be the next secretary of defense. You read that right. EVERYONE voted for the guy. EVERYONE voted for a registered Democrat to take the steering wheel of the nation's military. Wow. Apparently if you kill Osama bin Laden you get the legislative equivalent of one of those Super Mario flashing stars that makes you invincible. Better hold down B and run like hell, Leon. Anyway, Robert Gates is retiring on June 30th, at which point Panetta will take the wheel. 100-0? Man alive!

PRESIDENT TO ANNOUNCE AFGHANISTAN TROOP REDUCTION - President Obama will announce tomorrow that the U.S. will pull 10,000 soldiers from Afghanistan by the end of this year, with one brigade of roughly 5,000 troops leaving in the summer and another similarly-sized one to leave in the fall or winter. The president is also considering whether to bring back part or all of the 20,000 "surge" troops he ordered over in December of 2009. Officials close to the president say that this reduction in military personnel coincides with a ongoing push to transfer military authority to Afghan authorities. And it would only take 13 years! [AP]

Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin says less than 15,000 breaks his promise of a significant drawdown. "In my judgment, a minimum of 15,000 reduction in troops would be needed for this to be a significant reduction, and since the president has committed himself a few months ago to a significant reduction, I think that's what will happen," he told reporters on the Hill today. Ten thousand "would not be the significant number that the president promised, in my judgment." [With HuffPost's Amanda Terkel]

The Senate killed the reauthorization of the Economic Development Administration and punted to tomorrow the implementation of an agreement to make hundreds of executive branch jobs non-confirmable.

Here's the White House Press Office's (actual, honest-to-god) corrected transcript of President Obama's remarks at a DNC event yesterday: "Over the last 15 months we've created over 2.1 million private sector jobs. (Laughter.) (Applause.)"

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - America's old people are starving. Eighty percent of local aging agencies report increased demand for home-delivered meals, while more than 20 percent can't get food to everyone who needs it, according to a report from Bernie Senders, who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging. Fifty percent of all health conditions afflicting older Americans are directly connected to a lack of nutrients. Baby Boomers have the highest risk of senior hunger. "For older Americans especially, hunger and malnutrition can completely undo any investments or advances we might make in better access to health care, better treatments for specific diseases, and even our efforts to improve quality of life through nonmedical interventions like better housing or social integration," says Dr. Mark Lachs, Director of Geriatrics for the New York Presbyterian Health System. "As a primary care geriatrician, I have seen it over and over again -- easily treatable illnesses that could have been quickly (and inexpensively) handled at home, instead evolved into complicated and costly episodes of disability that at best led to costly hospitalization and at worse led to indefinite nursing home residence, often as a last address." [Bernie PDF]

DAILY DELANEY DONOR - Kelly Wiedemer has received more than $500 in donations to pay down her traffic fines after HuffPost reported the unemployed Coloradan had been thrown in jail for not making payments. The story had a link to her page on microgiving.com. The donations go straight to Adams County collectors and another $1,210 keeps Wiedemer out of jail. Get her the rest of the way there!

A 2005 memo suggests AARP has been open to Social Security cuts all along.

Don't be bashful: Send tips/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to huffposthill@huffingtonpost.com. Follow us on Twitter - @HuffPostHill

JON HUNTSMAN ANNOUNCES CANDIDACY IN TREMENDOUSLY BORING FASHION - Today is the Summer Solstice -- the longest day of the year. If you were a reporter assigned to cover today's lackluster announcement from Jon Huntsman, you didn't need to be told that. You felt it. The former Utah governor and U.S. ambassador to China delivered one of the dullest speeches we've heard in a while. Seriously, had he opened up a thesaurus and recited synonyms for the word "beige" or engaged the press in a few rounds of anagrams, no one would have noticed. "For the first time in our history, we are passing down to the next generation a country that is less powerful, less compassionate, less competitive and less confident than the one we got," he said standing in front of the Statue of Liberty. "This, ladies and gentlemen, is totally unacceptable and totally un-American." All the major networks cut out of the speech shortly after it began. MSNBC's shot didn't include the statue or the American flags that flanked Huntsman. Instead, there was ... a ferry ("Like this drab boat behind me, America is large, contains a lot of people and is in a state of disrepair"). At least it wasn't sinking? [HuffPost]

The title of the press packet distributed to reporters before the speech? "John Huntsman for President" :(

Huntsman then nearly got his extraordinary rendition on. Staffers led the press to a plane bound for Saudi Arabia, even though the press and staff convoys were heading to New Hampshire. Don't get us wrong, as much as our fantasy baseball teams would benefit from having a passport-less Sam Stein relegated to some leaky corner of a country with iffy human rights standards, we kinda need the guy around.

Team Obama has dropped it's "Oh, Jon? We love that guy!!!" strategy: "In his speech, Governor Huntsman called for a more competitive and compassionate country, but he has embraced a budget plan that would slash our commitment to education, wipe out investments that will foster the jobs of the future and extend tax cuts for the richest Americans while shifting the burden onto seniors and middle class families."

Tonight in Roll Call: "When it comes to cost-saving amendments, Rep. Paul Broun can't be beat, even if he rarely wins, writes Roll Call's Annie Shuppy and Janie Lorber. The Georgia Republican has offered 12 appropriations amendments this year, more than any other House Member, in an effort to prove money can be saved at every turn."

NEWT GINGRICH'S FINANCE TEAM QUITS - As if things couldn't get any worse for the former speaker of the House and newly-minted presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich's finance team up and PEACED OUT today. Fundraising Director Jody Thomas and Fundraising Consultant Mary Heitman have left the campaign, Gingrich's spokesperson confirmed to AP. At this point, Gingrich's senior staff probably only consists of his wife, an over-zealous intern name Zack and the complimentary bottles of shampoo and conditioner lined up on his hotel bathroom sink. And this spokesperson told NBC News: "Newt 2012 continues reorganization which is a grass roots driven, substantive solution orientated campaign. We wish the members of the finance team who chose to leave the best, and continue forward as committed as ever." [AP]

Sunlight Foundation has launched "Inbox Influence," a tool that allows you to see who is funding the folks that email you political solicitations. Or email you anything for that matter.

America's cup overfloweth with awkward Mitt Romney campaign anecdotes: "At one table, a boy offered Romney a $1 bill that he had folded origami-style for good luck. The candidate happily accepted it, but then rifled through his wallet looking for money to give the boy in return. Romney had a $100 bill, but evidently did not want to give that away. An aide handed him a $1 bill, but Romney said that wasn't enough. Then, deep inside his leather billfold, Romney found a $5 bill. 'We'll give you an Abraham Lincoln back,' he said, handing it to the boy." [WaPo]

How do you even get a $100 bill? Don't you have to ASK for one? That is so weird.

MCCAIN AND KERRY INTRODUCE LIBYA AUTHORIZATION BILL - While the Obama administration continues to defend the legality of the U.S.'s involvement in Libya by insisting that we're not at war with Libya (we're just firing our weapons in Libya's general vicinity), Sens. John McCain and John Kerry today introduced legislation that would provide congressional authorization for a fixed-period of time. One guy likes blowing things up. The other guy really wants to be secretary of state. Guess which is which. [HuffPost's Jen Bendery]

Our nation's 825,000 franchise businesses account for nearly 18 million jobs, or one out of every eight jobs in the U.S. How many franchise industry jobs are in your state or district? Find out at http://www.buildingopportunity.com.

Thanks, Benefactors!

Rep. Lynn Woolsey will announce her retirement next week. The 73-year-old California lawmaker has previously said that she has been actively considering stepping aside at the end of her current term, at which point she will be 75. Woolsey's district, which encompasses Marin County and Sonoma County, is one of the most liberal in the country, so the seat will likely go to the winner of the Democratic primary. Assemblyman Jared Huffman and local political activist Norman Solomon have already put together campaign teams and are widely expected to run. [Press Democrat]

Womp Womp

GAY MARRIAGE VOTE STILL UP IN THE AIR IN NEW YORK - Despite being home to Greenwich AND Vassar College, New York State might still not be home to legalized same-sex marriage. Matt Sledge: "Negotiations over marriage equality are taking place in the context of a number of highly contentious bills that are the subject of horse-trading between Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat. Gay marriage is vying for time on the Senate floor along with new rent regulations and a property tax cap. If gay rights activists are to thread the needle this week, they hope for a quick end to those disputes -- and to a resolution over the contentious question of how many exemptions to provide for religious groups who don't want to recognize gay unions. Those exemptions might not account for more than 'about fifteen words' in the final assessment, but they could be critical. The same-sex marriage bill as passed by the state Assembly already includes exemptions for clergy so that they don't have to perform marriages. It also stipulates that benevolent organizations like the Knights of Columbus wouldn't have to rent out event halls for weddings." [HuffPost]

Erstwhile Senate candidate Jeff Greene has put his famous yacht -- the S.S. Calcified Regurgitated Shrimp Scampi -- up for sale. The boat -- actually called "Summerwind" -- is reportedly on the market for $7.9 million. "We're not using it, it is just parked there," Greene said of the vessel. [NY Post]

Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, will write a joint memoir. The book will chronicle their lives up to, and including, the January 8th Tucson shooting and aftermath. Kelly today announced via Facebook that he is retiring from NASA after he commanded the last flight of the space shuttle Endeavor. [AP]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - This cat's body image must be in the basement after it got stuck in the animal door.

JEREMY'S WEATHER REPORT - Tonight: Some thunderstorms in the area popping up. One was cutting east of Harrisonburg, moving south-east to Richmond. So don't be surprised if you get a quick burst (doesn't look too likely, in general). Tomorrow: The problem is simply instability in the atmosphere. With high temperatures adding to the mix, there will be a greater chance of pop-up storms, especially in the afternoon. Otherwise, you'll be looking at a boiling 90-degree day with high humidity. So bring a towel. Want to heckle hang out with JB? For anyone who plans to be in the Courthouse area tomorrow evening, I will be hosting a trivia night at Velocity Five sports bar at 8 p.m. It's a departure from my normal gig, but it's Metro friendly. Hope to see you there. Thanks, JB!


- Seventy-eight photography rules for complete idiots ("Before you start photographing remember to take the lens cap off"). [http://huff.to/jYvtU6]

- How to make a bust of your head ... WITH *** LASERS *** . [http://huff.to/mOYi25]

- The third installment of the totally excellent "Everything is a Remix" series. [http://huff.to/m2JakZ]

- Thirsty baby armadillo. Somehow adorable. [http://huff.to/kEota3]

- Here's video of the president calming an upset baby with his awesome powers of hope and change. [http://huff.to/k5gUJY]

- Video of an artist at work. This artist takes toys and mummifies them. You'll see. [http://bit.ly/fZWk93]

- Warner Bros. and the guy who design Mike Tyson's face tattoo have settled out of court. Yep. [http://huff.to/kiPllo]

- The Vatican is readying a hybrid Popemobile. [http://huff.to/l16Rzv]


@pourmecoffee: Give a man fish, he eats for a day. Cut taxes on the rich, unleash fish meal creation potential of economy.

@jess_mc: Huntsman is going to be the perfect candidate for people who like Pawlenty, but are just too excited by him to concentrate.

@evale72: Who knew Newt still had finance staff even left to quit!?



5:30 pm - 7:00 pm: A big heaping serving of Congressional Hispanic Caucus members tonight at a reception benefiting its CHC BOLD PAC. It's at the Credit Union House ... so, yeah, that's how politics works [Credit Union House, 403 C Street NE].

6:00 pm: Kelly Ayotte reaches out to the little guy by attending a campaign function hosted by the Online Lenders Alliance [Online Lenders Alliance (OLA) Townhouse, 330 Maryland Ave NE].

6:00 pm - 7:00 pm: We believe it was Abagail Adams who once implored her husband not to "forget the ladies ... and the moneyed corporate donors." The DSCC is the beneficiary at a "Women's Senate Network Reception and Dinner." The Democratic women of the upper chamber are slated to attend [Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, 400 New Jersey Ave NW].

6:00 pm: Ron Wydenmunches on some $14 appetizers at his Bistro Bis dinner fundraiser [Bistro Bis, 15 E Street NW].

6:00 pm - 7:30 pm: John Lewis, one of the few people whose political career can actually be described as "public service," hosts a fundraiser marking 25 years since he first ran for Congress [423 New Jersey Ave SE].


8:30 am: Scott Brown takes checks at his campaign function. He can ramble, so his handlers are likely the best in the game [Johnny's Half Shell, 400 North Capitol Street NW #175].

12:00 pm: Mark Kirk raises funds for his Lincoln PAC, presumably named after Honest Abe. No doubt the Great Emancipator would be proud that his namesake is the beneficiary of a fundraiser held at R.B. Murphy and Associates [R.B. Murphy and Associates, 220 E Street, NE].

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