POLITICS
03/29/2012 06:10 pm ET Updated May 29, 2012

HUFFPOST HILL - Entire Branch Of Federal Government Pretends To Work, Runs Down Clock

At least one Republican is already positioning himself for 2016 which (OBVIOUSLY) begs the question: What is John Thune's daughter doing to shore up the 2032 veep spot? Trusted Romney surrogate Donald Trump speculated about someone else's future candidacy. And a new survey finds that female executives on K Street make $1,000,000 less than their male counterparts. A million dollars?!? You could buy *at least* ten votes a year with that (in the House)! This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, March 29th, 2012:

HOUSE REPUBLICANS PROUDLY SEND RYAN BUDGET TO SENATE TO DIE FOR CAUSE OF FREEDOM - "Republicans pushed an election-year, $3.5 trillion budget through the House on Thursday that relies on biting spending cuts and a revamping of Medicare to curb massive federal deficits, drawing a sharp contrast with how President Barack Obama and Democrats would tackle the nation's fiscal problems. House passage came on a near party-line, 228-191 vote. With its doom guaranteed in the Democratic-run Senate, the House measure was essentially a political stage on which Republicans showed voters how they would run Washington if they win control in the November elections - and Democrats fired back by doing the same. The GOP plan features sharper deficit reduction and starkly less government than Democrats want. It would block Obama's proposal to boost taxes on the wealthy and would instead lower income tax rates while erasing many unspecified tax breaks." [AP]

HOUSE AGREES TO RENT AMERICA'S INFRASTRUCTURE FOR A FEW MORE MONTHS - Our nation's Rent-A-Center approach to governance at its finest. Mike McAuliff: "The House of Representatives Thursday rebuffed a bipartisan Senate plan to keep major transportation projects humming for the next two years, and instead voted 266 to 158 to pass a 90-day stopgap that senators argued against. With just two days before federal funding for the projects runs out, the move could set up yet another showdown over a program worth billions of dollars, but coming after recent brinksmanship over the nation's debt ceiling, funding the Federal Aviation Administration and extending payroll tax breaks, it seemed likely the Senate would go along." If the House next month agrees to pass a bill agreeing to rent a love seat for a year, and leaves the plastic on, we won't be shocked. [HuffPost]

McAuliff sends this update: "One thing is ensured by the 90-day extension of transportation funding: Mass transit commuters will continue to be punished for at least 90 more days. That's because the $230 pre-tax contributions they used to be able to make for commuting were cut to $125 in 2012 and would have been restored by the Senate bill the House wouldn't take up. But you're good if you drive. People who need to park can still put away $240 tax-free dollars each month."

BGR GROUP, A RUSSIAN OLIGARCH AND THE IRANIAN NUCLEAR PROGRAM - Are, natch, connected. HuffPost: "GOP power broker Haley Barbour's lobby shop, BGR Group, represents a Russian bank that has financed a company that helped build Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, according to corporate documents and lobbying disclosure records. The bank is owned by a secretive oligarch, Mikhail Fridman, who has met at least twice with White House officials in the last few years, according to visitor logs. Barbour, one of the most influential Republicans within the party, considered a bid for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination and has been speculated about as a possible vice-presidential pick. Last year, he called Iran 'the number one threat to peace and stability.'"
[HuffPost]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Alan Sorkowitz of Tucson, Ariz., had been planning a road trip to see family this summer, but now that it seems the Supreme Court might strike down the health care reform law, his travel plans are in doubt. "If, all of a sudden, we may be faced with health premiums that are God knows what," Sorkowitz said, "it throws all of our budgeting, all of our plans into limbo." Sorkowitz and his wife, Michele Rappaport, both 59, enrolled last year in a new government program for the uninsured called the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP). The Affordable Care Act created the program in 2010. It's open to any U.S. citizen with a medical condition who has been uninsured for at least six months. The program has not performed well, enrolling fewer people and costing more money than expected. The Obama administration has described PCIP as just a "bridge" to 2014, when the health care law bans the insurance industry's discrimination against adults with pre-existing conditions. If the Supreme Court strikes down the law, the PCIP may be a bridge to nowhere. "It's a lot to try to plan your life when this health care thing is just a great big question mark," Sorkowitz said. [HuffPost]

UPSIDE DOWNER - At 359,000, weekly unemployment claims are up from last week's preliminary figure of 348,000, but down from last week's upwardly revised figure of 364,000. Truly, this is an upside downer. [Labor Department]

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

IT'S A DAY OF THE WEEK, SO A CONGRESSMAN IS PROBABLY BEING INVESTIGATED - The Hill: "A 12-term New Jersey House member is facing questions about campaign-funded trips to California that appear to coincide with the launch of his daughter's career in show business. Though he is not accused of any wrongdoing, Rep. Rob Andrews (D) has been faulted in the past by watchdog groups for donating political funds to theater organizations where his daughter had performed and to other groups linked to his family. According to an analysis by The Associated Press, Andrews spent $97,000 in campaign money on at least 18 trips to California in the last five years. At least four of the trips coincided with appointments attended by his daughter, Josie, at her record label, the analysis said. " [The Hill]

JOHN BOEHNER IS TRYING HIS DAMNEDEST TO HANDLE A DIFFICULT SITUATION - Things John Boehner wants: 1. Hold onto the House. 2. Have Eric Cantor bail to K Street. 3. NOT get entangled in America's dysfunctional dialogue about race. 4. A nicely aged pinot noir. HuffPost: "House Speaker John Boehner commented Thursday on the hoodie Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) was thrown off the House floor for wearing. 'I think the rules are enforced evenly...We expect all members to follow the rules,' he said, according to Yahoo's Chris Moody. Rush wore a hoodie under his suit to the chamber on Wednesday, then took off his suit jacket and put on sunglasses to protest the Trayvon Martin shooting. 'Racial profiling has to stop,' he said. 'Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum.'" [HuffPost]

NANCY PELOSI IS TRYING HER DAMNEDEST TO HANDLE A DIFFICULT SITUATION - Things Nancy Pelosi wants: 1. Retake the House. 2. Have Steny Hoyer caught under a pile of interns. 3. Get entangled in America's dysfunctional dialogue about race. 4. A nicely aged pinot noir. Jen Bendery: "House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday praised Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) for wearing a hoodie on the House floor in protest of the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida. 'I think that Bobby Rush deserves a great deal of credit for the courage he had to go to the floor in a hoodie knowing that he would be told he was out of order,' Pelosi said during her weekly briefing. Pelosi said Rush knew he was breaking House rules -- lawmakers are prohibited from wearing hats and hoods in the chamber -- but that he made his point before leaving the floor quickly and without being contentious." Pelosi's right, btw. Rush' son was shot and killed. [HuffPost]

@jbendery: Hoyer just called Ryan's budget, which is about to pass the House, "a product unworthy of the intellect that has been applied to it."

SIMPSON-BOWLES GETS 38 VOTES IN HOUSE - A source tells us Erskine Bowles has been making the rounds on the Hill pushing his deficit-reduction plan. It got 38 votes in in the House today, McAuliff reports. It was suggested to House Speaker John Boehner that the nearly complete abandonment of compromise proposals betrays perhaps an equally dangerous assumption on both sides that either Paul Ryan's budget or the president's will serve as the basis for the winning argument in the fall. Boehner didn't disagree. And he was OK with that. "Well, when the president and I were in our [budget] discussions, and we would get hung up, or have a disagreement over something, the president would look at me and say, 'John, this is what elections are for,'" he said. "Yes, Mr. President, this is what elections are for."

Team Obama remembers that environmentalists exist. First Jay Carney viciously criticizes Republicans over the environment. Then the first lady's announced trip to Hippiestan Oregon. Now this: "President Barack Obama called on Congress to stop taxpayer-funded subsidies for oil companies, and the Senate promptly ignored him Thursday. Senators voted 51 to 47 to end debate on a bill that would do what Obama asked, thus failing to reach the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster. The rebuff came just an hour after the president took to the Rose Garden to make his appeal, arguing that with oil prices hovering at around $100 a barrel and oil companies netting billions of dollars each financial quarter, there's little reason to give taxpayer-funded aid to the U.S. petroleum industry." [HuffPost's Mike McAuliff]

LIKE AMERICA, WASHINGTON IS KINDA SEXIST: SURVEY - Totally fun and not-at-all depressing update about K Street, via Bloomberg: "The heads of trade groups draw on a common set of skills to succeed. Among them: a deep knowledge of Washington's lawmaking process, access to the capital's power players and the ability to charm and cajole in equal measures. Though if you're a woman holding such a job, don't expect to be paid the same as a man. The average annual compensation of the women who lead four of the capital's most politically active industry groups lags behind that of male peers by more than $1 million, according to data in tax filings compiled by Bloomberg. The female CEOs took home an average $1.43 million in 2010, compared with $2.48 million paid to the other 26 executives -- 57 cents for every dollar earned by a man." [Bloomberg]

Speaking of... Pew: "The gender gap -- the difference in support for a candidate among women and men -- has long favored Democratic presidential candidates, and is about as wide today as it was at this point in the campaign four years ago when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were matched in polls against Republican John McCain. Even so, Barack Obama's advantages among women voters over his GOP rivals are striking. Obama led Mitt Romney by 20 points (58% to 38%) among women voters and Rick Santorum by 26 points (61% to 35%) in the Pew Research Center's most recent national survey, conducted March 7-11. Obama runs about even with Romney among men and leads Santorum." [Pew]

MARCO RUBIO WILL *NOT* BE MITT ROMNEY'S VP - But, hey, a double dip comes along -- oh, let's just say around July-ish -- and the situation changes a bit and, you know, what's to stop a guy from changing his mind? Ya know?!? CNN: "For the record, it's still no. But is Florida's Republican Sen. Marco Rubio leaving his vice presidential options open? Consider how he answered the question Thursday to CNN. 'My answer hasn't changed on the vice presidential stuff. I know people keep asking me but my answer hasn't changed,' Rubio told CNN one day after announcing his endorsement of GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney." [CNN]

OH GOD, IT'S ALREADY HAPPENING - Washington Examiner: "Just when you thought it was too early to talk about the 2013 governor's race, Virginia's attorney general could already be peeking ahead to the national scene in 2016. Ken Cuccinelli will headline the Iowa Republican Party's Lincoln Dinner in May, making an appearance in a state that launched the careers of numerous presidential candidates. The announcement comes on the heels of last month's CPAC gathering where Cuccinelli, a Tea Party darling, won the National Rifle Association's 'Defender of the Constitution Award' and gave an emotional speech about his conservative ideals." [Examiner]

OH GOD, IT'S ALREADY HAPPENING, PT. 2 - Please make it stop. The Hill: "Reality television show host and prominent Mitt Romney surrogate Donald Trump predicted Thursday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would mount another presidential bid in 2016. 'I think you know, assuming she's healthy, which I think she will be, I think she probably runs after the next four years,' Trump told Fox News. Clinton has repeatedly denied interest in running again for president, signaling that she plans to leave public service at the end of President Obama's first term. The former New York senator ran for the Democratic nomination ins 2008, against then-Illinois Sen. Obama." [The Hill]

FOSTER FRIESS WANTS RICK SANTORUM TO CAMPAIGN MORE IN WISCONSIN - Also -- and we're just guessing -- Foster Friess wants Rick to call home more and remember dry behind his ears. USA Today: "The super PAC backing Rick Santorum has increased its ad buy and markets in Wisconsin ahead of Tuesday's primary. The Red, White and Blue Fund says it is now spending a total of $660,000 in Wisconsin. Ads will now be running in Madison, Wausau and LaCrosse, in addition to Milwaukee and Green Bay...Romney and his allies at the Restore Our Future super PAC have already spent about $2.7 million on ads in Wisconsin. A poll this week by Marquette Law School shows Romney leading Santorum by 8 percentage points." [USA Today]

OBAMA & ROMNEY TO GENUFLECT BEFORE NEWSPAPER HONCHOS - The president and former Massachusetts governor will both appear at next week's Newspaper Association of America conference in D.C. Both men will likely tell the room how great, important and/or essential the work done by the assembled crowd is. Both men will say things about the First Amendment. Both men might also strongly insinuate how absolutely no one in the room deserves to be downsized and how web media is absolutely not a replacement for print media. This will make the crowd applaud. Also, both men might viciously attack each other. This will make the crowd applaud and reach for its smartphones outdated BlackBerrys. The Washington Post: "The mediaXchange 2012 conference will be held at the Marriott Wardman Park from April 2-5. Obama and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde are expected to speak at the Associated Press annual meeting on Tuesday, April 3. Romney will address the NAA/American Society of Newspaper Editors luncheon on April 4, one day after the District, Maryland and Wisconsin primaries." [WaPo]

" Arpaio responds to ruling critical of pink boxers"

ONE DAY, MARK OUR WORDS, MAINE WILL 'BE THE NEW FLORIDA' - Amanda Terkel: "The Bangor Daily News published a public notice on Wednesday from the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) alerting the citizenry to an open meeting in the town of Islesboro to discuss a planned bridge replacement. It promised that representatives from the agency would show up and 'listen, with fake sympathy' to the problems of the locals. It also said that candid photos would be 'sneakily taken of awkward persons.' It certainly wasn't your typical government public service notice. Not surprisingly, it wasn't ever supposed to be published. After the ad ran on Wednesday, Maine DOT Commissioner David Bernhardt sent a letter of apology to the residents of Isleboro. 'This was an obvious spoof draft that was somehow emailed and published in the paper,' he wrote. 'This behavior is unacceptable and in no way reflects the values of the department or the seriousness and care in which the department treats its public input processes.'" [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Toy cats make the best musical instruments. Reminds us of a (less humane) Monty Python sketch.

WALMART OF WEED - HuffPost DC: "WeGrow "gets ready to open in D.C."

LOCAL BIRTHER'S BIG DREAM: HuffPost DC: Mongtomery Blair Sibley, who was the lawyer for the D.C. Madam and is running for president, "hopes the Supreme Court will take up his birther lawsuit

COMFORT FOOD
By @bradjshannon!

- Will Ferrell Ron Burgundy announces "Anchorman" sequel. [http://bit.ly/H1K0Yn]

- Related: A bunch of "Anchorman" GIFs. [http://bit.ly/H1K7Df]

- Fake journos with mustaches aren't suspicious enough already, so here's [hoodraldo.com]

- Downton Arby's is a show we'd actually watch. [http://bit.ly/H1Jjhy]

- Anytime deer meet a cat in the suburbs, Bjork starts playing from somewhere. [http://bit.ly/H1KHAL]

- Several poems from the late Adrienne Rich. [http://bit.ly/Huykal]

- This is a blind man driving a car. Science! [http://bit.ly/H1Jt8y]

- The End Is Near, part 93742: Jumping Robot. [http://bit.ly/H1KTjy]

TWITTERAMA

@LOLGOP: Mitt Romney thanks Marco Rubio for his endorsement and vows to not deport the Senator or most of his family.

@daveweigel: First This American Life disappointed them, now this! RT @HCookAustin: Hmmm Whole Foods being evacuated.

@skenigsberg: My hand and @huffingtonpost mic are on display in this week's @usweekly. Next to George Clooney.. instagr.am/p/IxF1nZBKQu/ #famous

ON TAP
By @christinawilkie

TONIGHT

6:30pm - 7:30pm: Caroline Kennedy hosts a fundraiser for her cousin, Joe Kennedy, the whipper-snapper who's running for Barney Frank's old seat. [888 Park Ave. New York]

6:30pm: Make like Jimmy Carter and show Habitat for Humanity a little love at their first annual Art for Humanity reception. [641 D St NW]

6:30pm: American Expats love to obsess over US elections from the comfort of their civilized, Gingrich-free locales. But an Obama fundraiser in Paris just feels like rubbing it in. [Some nice restaurant, Paris, France]

TOMORROW

4:30pm: First Lady Michelle Obama hits up San Francisco for 2012 Obama campaign money, which San Francisco is very, very excited to give her. [55 Music Concourse Dr.]

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