02/11/2013 05:38 pm ET Updated Apr 13, 2013

HUFFPOST HILL, sponsored by America's Health Insurance Plans - God's Comms Guy Moving On

Pope Benedict XVI announced that he'll retire later this month, but papal rules dictate that he must wait two years before he can lobby the Vatican. Ted Nugent will attend the state of the union, a friendly reminder of why presidents leave one cabinet secretary behind. And the NRA's website no longer features an enemies list, meaning the members of Boyz II Men -- actual list members -- no longer have to live in fear of being caught up in some kind of "Most Dangerous Game" situation. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Monday, February 11th, 2013:

WHITE HOUSE RULES OUT MEDICARE ELIGIBILITY AGE FROM SEQUESTER NEGOTIATIONS, TALKS UP CHAINED CPI - Sam Stein: "White House Press Secretary Jay Carney emphatically ruled out including any provision raising the eligibility age of Medicare as part of a deal to eliminate or replace the impending sequestration cuts... That the White House is ruling out such a change to Medicare is welcome news for Democrats, who have argued that increasing the eligibility age from 65 would save an insufficient amount of money and should not be considered in deficit reduction talks. President Barack Obama had put the proposal on the table during debt ceiling negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in July 2011. He retracted the offer when the two tried to hammer out a deal to avert the so-called 'fiscal cliff' in December 2012. But while Democrats may rejoice over this new development, they will likely be disheartened by another. Carney said on Monday that the president would be open to reducing Social Security's benefit structure as part of a 'big deal' to avert sequestration. That proposal, known as chained CPI, would alter the annual adjustment in how benefits are paid to Social Security recipients by using a less generous calculation of inflation." If Obama loves chained-CPI so much, why doesn't he just marry it? [HuffPost]

Sorry about all that hair on your palms, but the Violence Against Women Act is about to be reauthorized. Jen Bendery: "[C]onservative groups are ramping up their efforts to pressure Republicans to vote against the bill, making claims the bill's proponents say are either misleading or completely false... Most notable, perhaps, is the group's false assertion that men would be hurt by a key tribal provision in the Senate VAWA bill. That piece, which would give new jurisdictional authority to tribal officials in cases involving non-Native men abusing Native women on tribal lands, is largely why House Republicans refused to get behind the more broadly supported VAWA bill last year... The tribal provision would mean that 'men effectively lose their constitutional rights to due process, presumption of innocence, equal treatment under the law, the right to a fair trial and to confront one's accusers, the right to bear arms, and all custody/visitation rights,' reads the Heritage site." [HuffPost]

The Senate is voting on an amendment to the bill right now. It is expected to vote on the full measure tomorrow.

WHITE HOUSE TO ISSUE CYBERSECURITY ORDER THIS WEEK - Step one: ALWAYS CTRL-Shift-N when accessing top secret information and/or porn (or top secret porn). The Hill has the White House's proposals for steps two and beyond: "The White House is poised to release an executive order aimed at thwarting cyberattacks against critical infrastructure on Wednesday, two people familiar with the matter told The Hill. The highly anticipated directive from President Obama is expected to be released at a briefing Wednesday morning at the U.S. Department of Commerce, where senior administration officials will provide an update about cyber-security policy. The executive order would establish a voluntary program where companies operating critical infrastructure would elect to meet cyber-security best practices and standards crafted, in part, by the government. Observers are expecting the president to briefly mention the need for the country to improve its defenses against cyberattacks during his State of the Union address on Tuesday." [The Hill]

Peter Freeman has left the Financial Services Roundtable, where he worked to advance the interests of big banks, and is now working for Rep. Ed Royce, where he'll no doubt need a complete political reorientation. Or maybe not. Congrats!

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Arthur is out this week, which totally depresses us.

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HAGEL COMMITTEE VOTE MAY DEVOLVE INTO PERFORMANCE ART - Political theater, actually. It's not like John McCain is going to dress up as a cat, smear himself in flan and recite the Lord's prayer in German (though that should ABSOLUTELY be included in any filibuster reform effort in the next Congress). Roll Call: "The Senate panel overseeing Pentagon nominations plans to hold a vote Tuesday on the contentious nomination of Chuck Hagel to become Defense secretary, and while the panel may vote along party lines to recommend confirmation to the full Senate, some GOP lawmakers are expected to hold it up...[Ranking Member Jim] Inhofe and Levin spoke Monday morning and agreed upon a time. Senior congressional aides noted that Republicans had a strong desire to hold a meeting specific to the Hagel nomination vote so that members would have an opportunity to voice their concerns, rather than voting during an unrelated hearing. Aides said Inhofe had every intention of attending the Hagel meeting and, despite rumors that some Republican members might want to walk out of the meeting in protest, he isn’t encouraging such behavior. 'The ranking member is not going to walk out,' a congressional aide said. 'It is not what he is calling for and not what he is encouraging.' McCain, the former ranking member, also refused to take part in a walk-out." [Roll Call]

PENTAGON EXPANDS BENEFITS TO SAME-SEX COUPLES - Now that LGBT Americans can serve openly, they can also be openly unemployed and be openly forgotten by their government after they leave active duty. Equality! Amanda Terkel: "More than a year after lifting the ban on gay men and women serving openly in the military, the Pentagon has extended certain benefits to these service members and their families. Gay rights groups have been pressing the Pentagon to extend equal benefits to gay service members and their families since the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The benefits include commissary privileges, access to family support initiatives and joint duty assignments. The move was one of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's last moves as a member of President Barack Obama's Cabinet, and it will likely be one of his most lasting legacies... The new benefits do not include certain items that could have been granted, such as burial rights at national cemeteries, on-base housing and certain travel expenses for spouses. In a memo explaining the changes, [Defense Secretary Leon] Panetta said extending these items to gay service members presents 'complex legal and policy challenges to due their nexus to statutorily-prohibited benefits and due to ongoing reviews about how best to provide scarce resources.'" [HuffPost]

Here's a list of some of the benefits still not available to LGBT servicemembers (there are over 100 in total).

Seal Team Sick: "The Navy SEAL Team Six member who shot and killed Osama bin Laden has opened up about the hardships of life after the mission. In an interview with Esquire titled 'The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden … Is Screwed,' the former SEAL told journalist Phil Bronstein that upon leaving the service in September 2012, he lost benefits ranging from current health care to a future pension. And now he's stuck in a months-long wait for his disability claim to be considered." [HuffPost]


A message from America’s Health Insurance Plans: The health care law fully takes effect next year. Millions get coverage for the first time. Will coverage be affordable for everyone? It’s time for affordability. www.AHIP.org/affordability


GUN LOBBYIST: SOON - The National Rifle Association's camouflaged lobbyists have gone prone in some shrubs and are waiting for their targets to grow complacent. Christina Wilkie: "A lobbyist for the Wisconsin chapter of the National Rifle Association said the 'Connecticut effect' needed to pass in order for his group to press its 2013 lobbying agenda, and he predicted that nationwide calls for stricter gun control following the shooting of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Conn.,would soon subside. Speaking at a Wisconsin state NRA meeting over the weekend, lobbyist Bob Welch said, 'We have a strong agenda coming up for next year, but of course a lot of that’s going to be delayed as the 'Connecticut effect' has to go through the process.'...In Washington, NRA lobbyists waited a month following the Newtown tragedy before returning to Capitol Hill in force to pressure Congress to reject any new proposals for gun control." [HuffPost]

You can come out of hiding now, 'N Sync: "A controversial list of 494 people and organizations that the National Rifle Association considered "anti-gun," and which received significant media attention in recent weeks, has apparently been removed from the gun lobbying group's website." [Wilkie]

BLOOMBERG SUPER PAC THROWIN' 'BOWS IN ILLINOIS - Politico: "A Mike Bloomberg-funded super PAC is about to surpass $1 million in ads in a House special primary election in Illinois, lambasting former Democratic Rep. Debbie Halvorson over her high marks from the National Rifle Association. In a new spot out Monday, the group laces into Halvorson for her A+ rating from the NRA and her opposition to an assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004 and which some gun-control advocates are looking to restore. Officials with the group, called Independence USA PAC, said new ad reservations will bring its spending over the past three weeks to more than $1 million. It’s aimed at stopping Halvorson, a leading contender in a crowded field vying to replace former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. The latest spot follows one the group launched about three weeks ago hitting Halvorson on the same issue." This comes even after Halvorson tried to toss the NRA under the bus. [Politico]

POPE TO RETIRE, SPEND MORE TIME AT HIS TIMESHARE IN BOCA - Right now the College of Cardinals is arguing about who should get his Holiness the Carvel Cake. AP: "Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he would resign on Feb. 28 because he was simply too infirm to carry on -- the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. The decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March. The 85-year-old pope announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals on Monday morning. He emphasized that carrying out the duties of being pope -- the leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics worldwide -- requires 'both strength of mind and body.' 'After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,' he told the cardinals. 'I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering.'" [AP]

White House Statement: "On behalf of Americans everywhere, Michelle and I wish to extend our appreciation and prayers to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. Michelle and I warmly remember our meeting with the Holy Father in 2009, and I have appreciated our work together over these last four years. The Church plays a critical role in the United States and the world, and I wish the best to those who will soon gather to choose His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI’s successor."

@reidepstein: Biden on the Pope retirement: "I am not running."

Truth bomb: "The Catholic Church may be one of the few institutions on the planet where news of an employee's retirement at age 85 is considered 'shocking.' The other is the U.S. Congress....how many members of Congress are older than the pontiff[?]... Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, who will turn 90 in May. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., age 89, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich, age 86." [Sunlight Foundation]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Benedict XVI's papacy recounted in memes.

TED NUGENT APPARENTLY ALLOWED IN SAME ROOM AS PRESIDENT, ATTENDING STATE OF THE UNION - Nick Wing: "A Texas GOP congressman who has floated the possibility of impeaching President Barack Obama announced Monday that controversial rocker Ted Nugent would be his guest at Tuesday's State of the Union address. Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas), who claimed earlier this year that he'd be willing to file articles of impeachment over Obama's gun control push, addressed the development in a statement, stressing that Nugent would be available for media interviews after Obama's speech. 'I am excited to have a patriot like Ted Nugent joining me in the House Chamber to hear from President Obama,' the congressman said. 'After the address I'm sure Ted will have plenty to say.'" [HuffPost]

@jwpetersNYT: In interview, Ted Nugent tells the NYT he won't be carrying a gun with him to State of the Union. "I've got to demilitarize before I go."


- Time-lapse video of snow accumulating from last week's blizzard. [http://bit.ly/12CxLu3]

- A cure for hipsters. Thanks, big pharma! [http://chzb.gr/12zL9PH]

- There are a bunch of free movies on YouTube, in case you're in the mood to watch "Hotel Rwanda." [http://bit.ly/WU2Ky0]

- Zach Galifianakis' hysterical "Between Two Ferns" web series has returned. [http://huff.to/YRlFZk]

- A rundown of five possible replacements for Pope Benedict XVI. [http://usat.ly/VPsqZi]

- Untz untz untz snow snow untz untz. Here's what happens when you aim a projector at a blizzard and things get techno-y and wintery. [http://bit.ly/Xn7tYR]

- A new game of thrones teaser trailer. [http://bit.ly/154KzsI]


@anamariecox: Hoping that this year's "You lie!" is a bitchin' guitar solo.

@daveweigel: The last papal resignation happened in 1415. To give you an idea of how long ago that was, they hadn't even invented gifs yet

@Timodc: Ratzingers, if you will. RT ‏@philipaklein So basically Twitter will be dominated by bad Pope jokes for the next two months.



7:30 pm: We're not sure if there'll be a cornucopia stuffed with money, but there will be money thrown around at Saxby Chambliss, Richard Burr and Tom Coburn's "Monday Meeting PAC" fundraiser. [Capitol Hill Club, 300 First Street SE]


9:00 am: Ted Cruz forgets about his Canadian birthplace for a moment or two for a fundraiser hosted by representatives from Microsoft and other tech interests. [Microsoft, 901 K Street NW]

9:30 am - 11:00 am: Tom Harkin delivers the keynote address at The Center for American Progress Action Fund. The speech is meant to highlight his "USA Retirement Fund proposal," which is timely because he is, uh, retiring. [CAP Action Fund, 1333 H Street NW]

5:00 pm: Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly, in town for the State of the Union, hold a fundraiser for Americans for Responsible Solutions, their gun control organization. [Matchbox, 521 8th Street SE]

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