POLITICS
03/12/2013 06:18 pm ET Updated May 12, 2013

HUFFPOST HILL - Obama Asked About Rise Of The Machines

George P. Bush will run for Texas land commissioner, a great opportunity for him to develop an interest in brush clearing, his family's pastime. Mitt Romney's brother, Scott, won't try to be Michigan's next senator, maybe because all the trees there are the right height already. And in classic industrialist fashion, the Koch brothers might purchase the newspaper, probably to advance the career of a very conservative opera singer David likes. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, March 12th, 2013:

OBAMA ASKED ABOUT DRONES IN MEETING WITH DEM SENATORS - With Sabrina Siddiqui: "President Barack Obama faced a tough question on drone policy from a fellow Democrat during a Senate meeting Tuesday and defended his administration's program, according to sources in the meeting. Senate Democrats were largely absent from Rand Paul's filibuster last week. But on Monday, a group of progressive Senate Democrats pressed Obama on the issue. Details of the exchange so far are scarce. 'There was an exchange, but I don't want to get into the specifics,' said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). 'Basically, the president said that they're doing everything they can to comply with the law and to give information to members of the Intelligence Committee,' said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who paused for a long moment before answering. 'And he said they would continue on that path.' A source in the meeting said one question was posed by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), a member of the Committee on Intelligence. A spokesperson for Rockefeller didn't immediately respond to a request for comment." [HufFPost]

An extra nugget: Obama, we're told, complained about the pace of nominations and suggested that the rules should be changed so that the executive branch can, you know, function. He'll get no quibble with us there, but he's about two months late if he doesn't like the rules. There was a whole debate on that. The thing Obama wanted lost.

OBAMA CONFRONTED ON ENTITLEMENTS - Bernie Sanders and Tom Harkin told the president what you'd guess they told the president, and he responded as you'd imagine he would. The president said "basically things are open for negotiation," Harkin told reporters. "My point was, I think Bernie Sanders' point was, look when you're talking about entitlements -- Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare -- there's more than one way to solve that problem. Just by raising that [payroll tax] rate over 20 years or taking the cap off, which he had even campaigned on in the past. That takes care of the problem. Social Security is not really a big problem when you look at it over the long haul. Medicare [is] a little bit more of a problem right now."

Scott Romney, brother of Mitt, won't run for the Senate seat being vacated by Carl Levin.

BEN JEALOUS BEN APOLOGIZING - Is Joe Biden contagious? Can you catch that? Is the NAACP president going to start giving shout outs to dead people? WaPo: "[A]t the 128th annual press-pols Gridiron dinner Saturday night... NAACP President Benjamin Jealous fell into conversation with a fellow white-tied dinner guest about the Supreme Court’s recent argument over the Voting Rights Act. The distinguished-looking gentleman told Jealous he thought the NAACP Legal Defense Fund lawyer had done a fine job arguing that the law needed to be continued. Sure, but what happened to the solicitor general? Jealous wondered aloud, he was just awful. Well, I am the solicitor general, Donald Verrilli Jr. replied. An apparently mortified Jealous apologized profusely and excused himself from the table for what seemed to folks at the table an awfully long time, returning just about when the famous Gridiron petits fours arrived with coffee. Jealous resumed apologizing on his return." [WaPo]

FORMER ABRAMOFF LOBBYIST PISSED AT THINGS WELCOMES SCOTT BROWN TO K STREET - HuffPost Hill's Former Abramoff Lobbyist Pissed At Things, who has been sending Jon Kyl unsolicited advice on how to skirt lobbying laws for ex-senators, find finds some similarities between the erstwhile Massachusetts senator's undertakings, past and present. "Being a lobbyist is right up there with posing for Cosmo...sketchy, but of interest to some," FALPAT writes. Thanks, FALPAT!

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Because people without jobs have it too easy, Chris Christie wants to make it just slightly more difficult. Salvador Rizzo: "New Jerseyans hunting for jobs would have to climb an extra hurdle before they can collect weekly unemployment benefits under new regulations being proposed by Gov. Chris Christie's administration. Jobless residents would have to search for openings online, on a state-run jobs board called Jobs4Jersey.com, every week. The only current requirement is that they check in with state officials by phone, mail, in person or online. The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development said a weekly search of the jobs board is "the very least that a claimant can do' and the governor expects to save money for New Jersey taxpayers by putting more people back to work. [NJ.com]

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PAUL RYAN BUDGET BASICALLY A GREATEST HITS COMPILATION - Though Jeb Hensarling's cover of "Landslide" will have to be added on in conference committee. Sabrina Siddiqui and Mike McAuliff: "House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) rolled out his latest budget proposal, offering an ambitious blueprint that promises to balance the budget in a decade by repealing President Barack Obama's health care reforms and slashing Medicare, Medicaid and programs to help the poor... Even as his budget claims to repeal Obamacare, it pockets the savings achieved under the health care law and keeps the revenue raised by it. It also seeks to cut Medicare by an additional $129 billion over 10 years by creating a voucher-like program seniors could choose instead of regular Medicare. It would cut Medicaid some $757 billion by converting the program into block grants for the states. Other programs -- among them food stamps -- would be cut by some $962 billion. The budget plan includes no cuts in Social Security. Obama has suggested changing an inflation measurement to cut more than $100 billion from the program." [HuffPost]

Ryan missed the mark on federal workers. Dave Jamieson: "[I]n making the case for a smaller, lesser-paid workforce, the proposal from the House Budget Committee chairman may mislead readers when it comes to recent federal pay. 'Immune from the effects of the recession,' the budget reads, 'federal employees have received regular salary bumps regardless of productivity or economic realities.' Federal employee pay rates have been frozen for more than two years, part of a shared sacrifice toward budget control announced by President Obama in 2010 and backed by Congress. Individual workers have still received pay increases due to performance or promotions, as the Washington Post notes, but workers have not been receiving their regular cost-of-living increase each year." [HuffPost]

SENATE DEMOCRATS UNVEIL BUDGET - Sam Stein: "Whereas Ryan's proposal seeks to balance the budget in ten years, the Democratic Senate option, introduced by Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.), will attempt to stabilize the debt-to-GDP ratio while reducing annual deficits. In total, it will achieve $1.85 trillion in savings over a 10-year period, her office said.... Her proposal calls for $975 billion in additional revenues through closing loopholes and ending tax expenditures. The budget, unlike Ryan's, doesn't close the door on going beyond the fiscal cliff deal either; it calls for the continuation of current tax rates for middle and lower class Americans but does not specify whether current rates should be protected for high-end earners... On the spending side, Murray's budget looks for $493 billion in domestic cuts, $275 billion of which will come from health care savings. The aide said that those health care savings, which will also be determined by the Finance Committee, would be felt solely on the provider side and not among beneficiaries. Additionally, the budget calls for $240 billion in defense spending cuts and $242 billion in reduced interest payments. Those savings in total will replace the sequestration-related cuts that went into effect on March 1. Over a ten-year window, they will reduce the deficit by $1.95 trillion." [HuffPost]

TYCOONS MULL PAPER PURCHASE - How very tycoony this would be for them. "Two of the world's richest -- and most controversial -- brothers are considering a bid for the Los Angeles Times. David and Charles Koch, billionaire industrialists who own Koch Industries, America's second-largest privately held company, have expressed interest in the Tribune Co. newspapers. The Chicago-based empire emerged from a long bankruptcy Dec. 31 and has hired investment firms Evercore and JPMorgan Chase as offers have come in for its print properties." [HollywoodReporter.com]

GEORGE P. BUSH TO RUN FOR TEXAS LAND COMMISSIONER - Sure, he'll campaign as a compassionate conservative, but once he gets to office it'll only be a matter of time until we're at war with the Hill Country. AP: "George Prescott Bush filed the official paperwork Tuesday to run for Texas land commissioner next year, hoping to use a little-known but powerful post to continue his family's political dynasty in one of the country's most-conservative states. A Spanish-speaking attorney and consultant based in Fort Worth, Bush is considered a rising star among conservative Hispanics. And as grandson of one former president and nephew of another, his political pedigree is hard to match. Bush unveiled a new campaign website with a 'George P. Bush for Land Commissioner' logo and featuring a three-minute video in which he says, 'Texas is an exceptional state because we as Texans are exceptional.' In the video, Bush describes spending the last few months traveling the state and having hundreds of conversations with a variety of people, but says he kept returning to the advice of his grandmother -- former first lady Barbara Bush, whom he calls 'Ganny.' Bush says she taught him the importance of public service." [AP]

KEY GUN CONTROL PROVISION TO CLEAR COMMITTEE, DIE IN SENATE - Sam Stein: "A ban on the production and sale of certain assault weapons will clear a major political hurdle on Thursday, as Democratic lawmakers say they have the votes necessary to move the legislation through the Senate Judiciary Committee. Once through that committee, however, the measure is likely to hit another, likely insurmountable snag, in the form of the 60-vote threshold in the U.S. Senate, where the bill faces skepticism among moderate Democrats. And that could leave leadership in a bind, as another major component of President Barack Obama's gun policy agenda -- a ban on high-capacity magazines -- is part of the bill. Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)... suggest[ed] that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) might end up deciding to keep the bill off the floor to spare his moderate members -- and himself -- a tough vote...'That's dumb,' responded Adam Jentelson, a spokesman for Reid. 'Reid has said publicly a bunch of times that he'll make sure the Assault Weapons Ban gets a vote on the floor, irrespective of whether it passed judiciary or not.'" [HuffPost]

"How did the chair of the House ethics committee end up on a corporate-backed African safari?" Corbin Hiar investigates.

HAGEL ORDERS REVIEW OF DRONE MEDALS - The medal would also have a code that would allow soldiers to level-up their "Call of Duty" sidearms. Amanda Tekrel: "Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered a review of a new medal that would honor drone pilots and cyber warriors, after lawmakers and veterans groups expressed outrage that it would outrank battlefield combat medals such as the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. The newly created Distinguished Warfare Medal, approved last month by then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, will honor members of the military for 'extraordinary' achievements since Sept. 11, 2001. The accomplishments do not have to be restricted to a geographic region, meaning that remote warfare -- such as drone operations -- could be recognized.What upset many of the medal's critics was not the creation of the award, but its so-called 'order of precedence' that would put it above several traditional combat medals." [HuffPost]

MOST TRANSPARENT ADMINISTRATION ONLY KIND-OF TRANSPARENT: REPORT - Will Wrigley: "The Obama administration made 'baby steps' over the past two years toward government transparency and accountability, according to a study released Tuesday by OpenTheGovernment.org. In September 2011... the Obama administration unveiled a plan with 26 specific goals it hoped to reach by Dec. 31... The study from OpenTheGovernment.org -- a coalition of more than 80 consumer, good government, environmental and labor groups, and others -- found that 19 of the 26 goals have been reached. Of those, almost all of them have been administrative, including reforming government record management, releasing a government accountability and transparency report, and improving informational government websites like Performance.gov, which provides information about the administration's technology and cyber security initiatives... Other unmet goals include releasing and reporting information on requirements for foreign aid and successfully declassifying national security information." [HuffPost]

Ron Johnson will run for reelection in 2016: "Sen. Ron Johnson is now saying publicly what some fellow Republicans apparently had doubted privately - that he plans to run for re-election in 2016. The Hill capital newspaper reported that Johnson told a group of Republican strategists in Washington, D.C., that he was running for re-election last Thursday, and has initiated fundraising for a campaign. That was followed on Monday by a local radio interview in which he said he would seek a second term in order to provide votes needed to streamline federal spending. Johnson said on WTMJ-AM (620) that while he doubted he'd be able to accomplish his major goals - repealing the federal health care law known as Obamacare and reforming entitlement spending such as Medicare - he'd work for bipartisan solutions to fix the nation's fiscal problems." [Journal Sentinel]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Hibernating bears wake up, party like it's 1999.

SHOCKING: GENETICALLY EXCEPTIONAL PEOPLE FOUND IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA - HuffPost DC: "Northern Virginia is, it increasingly appears, rich in genetically-gifted world record-holders." [HuffPost]

D.C.'S SINKHOLE - HuffPost DC: "A sinkhole closed down an entire block in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday afternoon. Twitter found this hilarious." [HuffPost]

COMFORT FOOD

- We need to be teaching hide-and-seek in our schools. Our kids are terrible at it [http://huff.to/Y7KVMs]

- An iPhone app that monitors your car's and health and provides you information on your driving habits. [http://bit.ly/16pttqc]

- Interactive map of all the sites on Earth that have been photographed by the International Space Station. [http://bit.ly/UDlXV9]

- Check out http://www.istherewhitesmoke.com/ for all your papal conclave news. [http://www.istherewhitesmoke.com/]

- What will the next pope's name be? Consult this handy chart for probabilities. [http://econ.st/13PBHZc]

- French toilet paper company takes a hilarious jab at tablets. [http://huff.to/Y7KVMo]

- The story of our planet in several minutes. [http://bit.ly/hxMOkK]

TWITTERAMA

@pourmecoffee: For some reason they keep bringing back Paul Ryan budgets and the McRib even though everyone knows they are horrible and bad for you.

@delrayser: Sponsoring a Constitutional Amendment to replace Electoral College of Cardinals with a National Popeular Vote.

@bobwojnowski: Baseball writers: Obviously, no one was good enough to be a first-ballot Pope.

ON TAP

TONIGHT

5:30 pm: Pat Roberts, chairman of the Congressional Oh Right, Him Caucus, kicks off his 2014 reelection bid at NRSC headquarters. [NRSC, 425 2nd Street NE]

6:00 pm: The DSCC drinks to Scott Brown's retirement from elected office hosts its annual spring reception. DSCC Chair Michael Bennet and Harry Reid will be in attendance. [National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1250 New York Avenue NW]

6:00 pm: John Barrasso lives up to the name of his "Common Values PAC" the only way one can: with a $1,000-a-head "Italian Wine Reception" at a tony Washington restaurant. [Fiola Ristoranta, 601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW]

TOMORROW

6:00 pm: Susan Collins, who is up for reelection in 2014, kicks off her campaign with a reception attended by Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, John Thune, Roy Blunt and Jerry Moran. Given her status as a GOP moderate, this will be the last time for the next two years those five men will not hate her guts. [NRSC, 425 2nd Street NE]

6:00 pm: The W Hotel might not be the first place you associate with the Republican Party, but that's where Saxby Chambliss, Richard Burr and Jerry Moran will be raising funds for the NRSC. [W Hotel, 515 15th Street NW]

6:30 pm: Deb Fischer, which is what every woman in Nebraska is named (the men are all John Henderson), attends a fundraiser at DC's most overrated restaurant, Carmine's. [Carmines, 425 7th Street NW]

6:30 pm: Jeff Flake gets into the swing of senatordom with a ritzy fundraiser at Charlie Palmer Steak, one of the most blatantly "House of Cards"-y things that happens around here. [Charlie Palmer Steak, 101 Constitution Ave NW]

6:30 pm: Terry McAuliffe, renown for having a circulatory system made entirely out of pixie sticks, heads to New York City for a fundraiser featuring Bill Clinton at the home of super-rich guy Marc Lasry. [NYC]

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