POLITICS
12/20/2012 05:55 pm ET Updated Feb 19, 2013

HUFFPOST HILL - 25 Photos Of John Boehner Trying To Keep His Conference Together... And Kittens

The State Department won't respond to our inquiries about what it's doing to beef up security in advance of the planet Nibiru's collision with Earth tomorrow. A bill to turn the District of Columbia into a state named "New Columbia" likely won't go anywhere, and not because "New Columbia" sounds like the name of a fake country in a crappy NBC adventure drama. And a lawmaker in Texas said ping pong poses more of a threat to Americans than guns, but didn't mention our lethal foosball tables. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, December 20th, 2012:

Right now the House is voting on the GOP's sequestration replacement. It will soon take up Speaker Boehner's plan B fiscal cliff proposal and the 2013 defense authorization conference report. Then Boehner will drink Merlot into the wee hours of the morning and try to forget this day ever happened. Last votes around 8:30.

GOP READY TO REALIZE PRESIDENT OBAMA'S SOCIALIST FEVER DREAM - Dan Burton, famous for calling President Clinton a "scumbag" in an interview, thinks Republicans are toast after they fall off the cliff: "Let's say that we don't do anything. He lets us go over the fiscal cliff. They're going to blame Republicans. And then the president's going to be the savior...If we go over the fiscal cliff, the president just comes back and says, 'Okay, we're going to give tax cuts to everybody under $250,000.' Who's going to vote against that? Everybody'll vote for thatl! Everybody! Because it will be just a fait accompli. You won't be voting on whether you're going to do away with a tax cut, you're going to be reimposing tax cuts for everybody under $250,000. So the Republicans are in an untenable situation. Either we do something that's gonna help the economy...or the president just says, well, those guys, those Republicans are just killing everything. They're gonna make taxes go up on 98 percent of people and then he comes back in 3 or 4 weeks when he gives his state of the union message and says I'm going to reimpose those tax cuts, and then if the economy goes to hell, everyone's going to say, 'It's those Republicans.'" Jeff Flake, asked if he'd support a bill raising taxes for everything over $250,000: "That's an easy one for me, because you're lowering taxes that would otherwise be going up." [HuffPost]

REID WON'T HOLD PLAN B VOTE - Nor will he allow senators to say 'yay' or 'nay' to the 2012 NuvaRing Fiscal Responsibility Act. Stop the gridlock, senator! Mike McAuliff: "House Speaker John Boehner's 'Plan B' to deal with the so-called fiscal cliff is a waste of time that won't even get a vote in the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) charged Thursday. 'We are not taking up anything they are working on over there,' Reid told reporters. 'It's very, very, very unfortunate that Republicans are wasting an entire week on these pointless political stunts.' ...'We've sent them what we want them to pass; we want them to take that up,' Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. 'This idea of passing Plan B is dead on arrival,' Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) added. The Senate Democrats' position guarantees that there will be no deal -- should one emerge -- that gets a vote before the very end of the year. [HuffPost]

CHAINED CPI IS NOT MUCH OF A DEALBREAKER - Congressional Democrats held a press conference Thursday to denounce a Social Security cut that has been embraced by President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in budget negotiations. But the Democrats who spoke did not rule out voting for a deal that includes "chained CPI," an alternate measure of inflation that would make Social Security's future cost-of-living adjustments less generous. When asked during the conference by The Huffington Post if they would vote against the deal, they did not say they would. "What we're saying here today is a deal is not done yet," Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) said at the presser. "And so there is still time in the negotiations, because we want to make it clear both to the president and to our leadership that the chained CPI is an inaccurate reflection of what real living costs are for our seniors, and would result in a real benefit cut for them." [HuffPost]

WILL DEMS HELP BOEHNER OUT? We're told three Democrats are undecided on tonight's vote: Dan Boren, Heath Shuler and one mystery man (we assume it's a man). Democratic leadership was working Boren this afternoon, one HuffPost Hill reader with voting privileges tells us: "I saw Dan Boren sitting by himself with both Steny and Nancy standing over him smiling and laughing. Maybe they were just joking around, but you don't often see those two smiling and laughing with the same back bench member on the floor at the same time."

RedState has its own whip operation at work, trying to kill the bill.

Classic Barney Frank on chained CPI, which economists say is a more accurate inflation measure because it reflects the way consumers swap pricey pork for budget beef: "This economist myth of the 84-year-old woman who has got complete mobility to go comparative shopping for her health care, for her transportation, for her place to live, is just nonsense."

Liberal activists are mighty displeased with Democrats who support chained CPI. Take spotty Amtrak WiFi service, multiply that by a shattered iPhone screen and you get the idea. "Members of Congress must stand with the American people and vote against any deal that cuts Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits. Any Democrat who votes for these benefit cuts, including cutting cost of living adjustments, is inviting a primary," Progressive Change Campaign Committee Co-Founder Adam Green said in a statement today.

@jbendery: Rep. Earl Blumenauer made a fruitcake and put it out for reporters, with a two-page story, "The Zen of Fruitcake." pic.twitter.com/5ScWFN1K

AMERICA SUPPORTS CLASS WARFARE - Emily Swanson, on HuffPost's latest joint poll with YouGov: "The survey finds that more Americans think it's a good idea to eliminate the Bush tax cuts for those with incomes over $250,000, by a 46 percent to 35 percent plurality. But if President Obama's initial proposal for letting the tax cuts expire for the wealthy is popular, even more Americans are willing to support eliminating the tax cuts if the cutoff level is even higher. By a 54 percent to 28 percent margin, Americans said it was a good idea to eliminate the tax cuts for those making more than $1,000,000, a level recently proposed by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). A similar percentage of Americans favored Obama's counter-proposal to place the cutoff at $400,000: Respondents said that idea was a good one by a 52 percent to 31 percent margin." HuffPost

Last year's holiday standoff ended with Boehner in tears.

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Today's correspondent is not a fan of chained CPI. "I've been on SS disability benefits for 20 years and will be 65 next year. In the coming year, my benefit is scheduled to go from $1,438 to $1,459 a month. With this CPI 'deal,' my benefit will start to go down month by month, relative to inflation, until my benefit is WAY UNDER the rate of inflation. Assuming I start out by buying chicken instead of steak, it won't be long until I'll be eating cat food. I'm absolutely SICK AND TIRED of my own party betraying the poor!" [Hang in there!]

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JAKE TAPPER TO CNN, NETWORK THAT STILL EXISTS, APPARENTLY - HuffPost Media: "ABC News' chief White House correspondent is leaving the network for a new role at CNN. He will host a new weekday program on CNN and serve as chief White House correspondent for the network beginning in 2013, CNN said in a statement on Thursday...Tapper was reportedly in talks with the network before the appointment of incoming president Jeff Zucker in November, though sources said Zucker helped close the deal. TV Newser reported that he will host the 4 p.m. hour on CNN. ABC News announced Tapper's departure in a statement Thursday. Jon Karl, formerly senior political correspondent, will become the network's new chief White House correspondent." [HuffPost]

We'll miss seeing Jake zipping around downtown D.C. in his powder blue convertible.

BOEHNER OPEN TO GUN CONTROL VOTES - The Hill: "Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday refused to rule out a vote on gun-control legislation in the next Congress. The highest-ranking elected Republican lawmaker said that he would take the recommendations of a commission led by Vice President Joe Biden on gun control 'under advisement.' 'When the vice president's recommendations come forward, we'll certainly take them into consideration,' Boehner told reporters gathered at a press conference in the Capitol...Pressed on whether that meant he was, in fact, 'open' to considering gun-control measures on the House floor, Boehner responded 'we'll look at Vice President Biden's commission's recommendations and take it under advisement.'...But the Speaker also said he wants to 'de-politicize' the issue of gun violence, which has been thrust into the national spotlight following the murder of 27 people, including the gunman's mother and 20 young children, in Newtown last Friday." [The Hill]

RUBIO WILL BLOCK HAGEL'S NOMINATION - Free Beacon: "The office of Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) is threatening to place a hold on former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, should he be nominated for the post of Secretary of Defense. In a statement to the Washington Free Beacon, Rubio communications director Alex Conant said, 'Promoting democracy in Latin America is a priority for Sen. Rubio, and he's put holds on other administration nominees over the issue. If President Obama were to nominate Sen. Hagel for a cabinet position, I'm sure we would have questions about Cuba positions.' The statement came in response to questions by the Free Beacon about Hagel's past opposition to the trade embargo on Cuba. In 2008, Hagel said 'we have an outdated, unrealistic, irrelevant policy' in Cuba." [Free Beacon]

Barney Frank: The College *Senate Years: "Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank isn't ruling out a short-term stint in the U.S. Senate, if President Barack Obama taps Sen. John Kerry to be secretary of state. If Kerry is nominated and confirmed to the job, Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick would appoint a temporary senator to fill the seat until a special election is held next year...in an interview with Politico Wednesday, the former House Financial Services Committee chairman said he wouldn't necessarily say 'no' to a short-term, caretaker appointment -- not that anyone's offering yet." [Politico]

CORY BOOKER TO (PROBABLY) RUN FOR SENATE - The popular Newark mayor wants to take his heroics to Washington D.C. where we imagine he'll help beleaguered residents find WiFi hotspots on the Metro and skip the line at Pig. USA Today: "Newark Mayor Cory Booker said Thursday he will explore a 2014 race for the U.S. Senate. Booker, a Democrat, had been considering whether to challenge New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a popular Republican, or run for Senate in 2014, when Sen. Frank Lautenberg would be up for re-election. Lautenberg turns 89 in January and is the oldest member of the Senate. Booker made his announcement in a column for the Star-Ledger, in which he recounts some of his accomplishments as mayor. 'But there is still much work to do,' he wrote. 'And so, let there be no doubt, I will complete my full second term as mayor. As for my political future, I will explore the possibility of running for the United States Senate in 2014.'" [USA Today]

@DomenicoNBC: Lautenberg spox: "This is not the time for political distractions and the Senator will address politics next year."

BOB CASEY SOFTENS PRO-GUN STANCE - Nick Wing: "Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), a longtime pro-gun lawmaker with a high marks from the National Rifle Association, said Wednesday that he was so 'haunted' by the devastation at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. that he would now support two new gun control bills set to be introduced by his Democratic colleagues in the next congressional session. Speaking to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Casey said the fact that the alleged shooter was able to gun down 26 people last Friday -- including 20 young children -- with a military-style assault rifle and numerous rounds of ammunition, was 'chilling.' As a response, Casey said he'd vote for recently announced legislative efforts to ban such firearms, as well as high-capacity magazines, at the federal level." [HuffPost]

ELECTED OFFICIAL SAYS DUMB THINGS ABOUT GUNS, PT. 1,449,7023 - America's rec rooms are death factories, apparently. The Eagle: "For.. District 12 Rep. Kyle Kacal... finding a way to prevent or deter tragedies like Friday's Sandy Hook Elementary School fatal shootings in Connecticut is key, but they said adding to existing gun laws is not the lone answer... 'People know what they need to do to be safe. We don't need to legislate that -- it's common sense,' he said. 'Once everyone's gun is locked up, then the bad guys know everyone's gun is locked up.' Kacal echoed a common nationwide argument that guns don't kill people, people kill people. 'I've heard of people being killed playing ping-pong -- ping-pongs are more dangerous than guns,' he said. 'Flat-screen TVs are injuring more kids today than anything.'" [The Eagle]

NEWT GINGRICH REACHING DONALD TRUMP-LEVELS OF DELUSION - In an interview with Sam Stein and Jon Ward,1995's person of the year and America's foremost amateur baboo enthusiast insisted that he would have fared much better against President Obama in the general election. "I think either [Texas Gov. Rick] Perry or I would have probably done better [against Obama]," said the former speaker. "[I]f Obama had pounded on my weaknesses as intensely as Romney, who knows what would have happened. So I don't want to be arrogant and say I would have done better,' said Gingrich. "I would say my impression is that, from the Obama team's standpoint, the two candidates they found the hardest to cope with were Perry and me." [Ibid.]

Gingrich, somewhat more sensibly, endorsed gay marriage: ""I think that this will be much more difficult than immigration for conservatism to come to grips with," he said. "It is in every family. It is in every community. The momentum is clearly now in the direction in finding some way to ... accommodate and deal with reality. And the reality is going to be that in a number of American states -- and it will be more after 2014 -- gay relationships will be legal, period." [Ibid.]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Euphoria overload: Kids getting puppies for Christmas.

DC STATEHOOD BILL A 'F*** YOU TO THE NRA'?: - HuffPost DC: " A bill moving the District of Columbia toward statehood has been introduced in the Senate. Some see the bill as an empty symbolic gesture. Others, like D.C. shadow senator Paul Strauss, see it as a ' 'f*** you' to the NRA.'" [HuffPost]

COMFORT FOOD

- This panda playing with a plastic ball will surely be the most tragic fatality of the Mayan apocalypse. [http://bit.ly/V8RNaW]

- How snowflakes -- those things that used to fall from the sky before the Atlantic Ocean started to eat Manhattan -- form. [http://chzb.gr/V7wG8Y]

- The best Craigslist ads about the Mayan apocalypse... a lot of people want to get laid. [http://bit.ly/TZonZs]

- George Takei reads from "Fifty Shades of Grey." BDSM has never sounded so interstellar. [http://bit.ly/R5cvbc]

- Weird Muppets discuss the Mayan apocalypse. [http://bit.ly/VbpJzg]

- DARPA's Robot sheep plays follow the leader/stalk the human prey. [http://bit.ly/TzAwWu]

- From the vault: Woody Allen boxes a kangaroo in 1966. [http://bit.ly/V8SpgP]

TWITTERAMA

@elisefoley: I'm not at the Boehner press conference, but my guess is "It's time to get serious."

@FakeJimVandeHei: Crazy that the Mayans predicted the exact the week that the Republican party would implode.

@mollyesque: IDEA: Huffington Post vertical dedicated to low-income lifestyles. Name: HuffPo'

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