03/22/2013 05:33 pm ET Updated May 22, 2013

HUFFPOST HILL - Leon Panetta To Nation: Paint Me?

Presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum tried to form a unity ticket, but failed because they were... presidential candidates. Jennifer Granholm isn't running for Senate but we're still holding out hope that Detroit native Jerry Bruckheimer will test the waters. And a group of Vermonters want to secede from the Union. Assuming they can forswear pacifism and come up with an irritatingly-named Ben and Jerry's flavor to commemorate the occasion ("Stars and Candy Bars?"), we wish them the best. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Friday, March 22nd, 2013:

VOTE-A-RAMA GIVING MICHAEL BENNET AND JERRY MORAN STROKES - "Mark Begich says he's for expanded drilling, but then why did he vote for [AMENDMENT THAT WILL UNDOUBTEDLY BE INTRODUCED AT 2:00 AM]???" NBC News: "It's time for one of the Senate's dizzying spectacles: the vote-a-rama, a series of rapid-fire votes on dozens of amendments to the budget resolution. The sponsor of each amendment and one opponent are each permitted just one minute to argue for and against it. Senators can offer new amendments even as the helter-skelter process is underway. Some, perhaps many, of these amendments will have nothing to do with the budget or fiscal policy. And the budget resolution itself won't be adopted by the House, so these amendments aren't going to determine policy, at least not in the near term. But party operatives on each side are keeping score -- these votes are fodder for the campaign ads you'll see in 2014." [NBC News]

@chadpergram: Some 400 amendments are filed to the budget. 51 are filed by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK).

IMMIGRATION TALKS STALL - Politico: "Senators in the Gang of Eight were moving closer Friday morning to a deal on sweeping comprehensive immigration legislation, but last-minute haggling between Big Business and Big Labor complicated efforts to finalize an agreement before the two-week Easter recess. Sources familiar with the talks said Friday that labor officials with the AFL-CIO had proposed a plan to attract lower-skilled foreign workers into the U.S., and Republicans in the group appeared to be largely on board. But sources said Friday that business officials -- led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- balked at that approach, forcing the negotiators to reopen the talks...Both sides say they are in near constant contact with staffers keeping them abreast of the discussions and tweaks to the program, which has become the last stumbling block for lawmakers to come to a deal." [Politico]

DEFENSE FUNDS SEQUESTERED? OIL PAINTING STILL REQUESTERED - Are you an artist? Do you want to paint a portrait of former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta? Then do we have a website for you!

Unending legal battle a-brewin: "North Dakota became the first state on Friday to pass a fetal personhood amendment, which grants legal personhood rights to embryos from the moment of fertilization. The state House of Representatives voted 57 to 35 to pass the amendment, after the Senate passed the same measure last month. If signed into law by Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R), the measure will amend North Dakota's constitution to state that 'the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.' The amendment would ban abortion in the state, without exceptions for rape, incest or life of the mother, and it could affect the legality of some forms of birth control, stem cell research and in vitro fertilization." So would North Dakotans be legally allowed to drink 40 weeks before their 21st birthday? Do they bring a sonogram printout to the bar? [HuffPost's Laura Bassett]

The White House withdrew its nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the D.C. Circuit Court, Sabrina Siddiqui reports.

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Courtesy HuffPost blogger Quanesha Jones: "I started working at Walmart because I love customer service and admire Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart. Working in the service industry is in my blood, my mother was a cafeteria manager and my father was a salesman. I started as a cashier and took my job very seriously....Sadly, it doesn't seem like the current leadership or management of Walmart cares about that vision or Walmart workers. As a part-time associate, I earn $8.90 an hour. Believe me, I earn every penny of it. But I rarely feel appreciated or respected for my hard work. I have no health insurance and have not had any since I was 16 years old. I do not want to rely on the State of Florida or any government program for health care, but I simply don't have any other choice." Nice work, Walmart! [HuffPost]

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PRO TIP: DON'T HIRE FIXERS TO FIND MENDACIOUS PROSTITUTES - You might remember that lesson from that journalism ethics class you took (it came after the class on Pinterest). WaPo: "A top Dominican law enforcement official said Friday that a local lawyer has reported being paid by someone claiming to work for the conservative Web site the Daily Caller to find prostitutes who would lie and say they had sex for money with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). The local lawyer told Dominican investigators that a foreign man, who identified himself as "Carlos," had offered him $5,000 to find and pay women in the Caribbean nation willing to make the claims about Menendez, according to Jose Antonio Polanco, district attorney for the La Romana region, where the investigation is being conducted. The videotaped claims of two women, made with their faces obscured, were posted last fall on the Daily Caller. The site reported that "the two women said they met Menendez around Easter at Casa de Campo, an expensive 7,000-acre resort in the Dominican Republic. . . . They claimed Menendez agreed to pay them $500 for sex acts, but in the end they each received only $100.' The Daily Caller issued a statement Friday saying that the information allegedly provided by the Dominican lawyer, Melanio Figueroa, was false." The Daily Caller got ripped off. We'd make up a story about having sex with Bob Menendez for way less than that. [WaPo]

Shaq visited Chris Christie! There's a photo!

Being Biden: "Vice President Biden will headline a pair of Democratic fundraisers this spring in crucial primary states, a scheduling decision likely to feed speculation that he is considering a White House bid. The vice president will headline the Michigan Democratic Party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Detroit this April, the Associated Press reported Friday. The wire service also reported that Biden will go to Columbia, S.C., in May for that state's Democratic Party dinner." [The Hill]

CHAIRMAN OF INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE NOT GOOD WITH SECRETS - Then again, John Shimkus, the chairman of a House subcommittee on the environment, doesn't believe in manmade climate change, so why not. Ryan Reilly: "Rep. Peter King's (R-N.Y.) public thanks to Jordan this month for helping capture Osama bin Laden's son-in-law has upset a delicate U.S. government agreement to keep Jordan's role in the operation secret, U.S. officials told The Huffington Post. King, a member of the House Intelligence Committee and until recently the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, was the first U.S. official to confirm the arrest of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith. In a March 7 statement several hours before the indictment against Ghaith was unsealed, King thanked 'our allies in Jordan' for help capturing Abu Ghaith, who served as a spokesman for al-Qaeda... While Jordan is one of the closest U.S. allies in the region, it would have preferred not to have its role mentioned because cooperating with the U.S can be politically toxic in the Middle East." [HuffPost]

NEWT GINGRICH AND RICK SANTORUM ALMOST HAD A SECRET PRIMARY PACT - This story sounds a bit like "My Fellow Americans 2," which would be like the original "My Fellow Americans" but with more zoo animals and sweater vests. Bloomberg Businessweek: "As Mitt Romney struggled in the weeks leading up to the Michigan primary, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum nearly agreed to form a joint 'Unity Ticket' to consolidate conservative support and topple Romney. 'We were close,' former Representative Bob Walker, a Gingrich ally, says. 'Everybody thought there was an opportunity.' 'It would have sent shock waves through the establishment and the Romney campaign,' says John Brabender, Santorum's chief strategist. But the negotiations collapsed in acrimony because Gingrich and Santorum could not agree on who would get to be president. 'In the end,' Gingrich says, 'it was just too hard to negotiate.'... Gingrich thought that he belonged on top of the ticket. 'Our reasoning,' says Walker, 'is that we had won a major primary at that point [South Carolina] and people like Rick Perry were coming on board. Perry had just endorsed Newt.' To Santorum's team, however, the Gingrich campaign was a sinking ship, and their own man was the obvious choice to lead the ticket." [Bloomberg Businessweek]

Reince Priebus thinks it'd be smart to leave journalists out of the next primary: "Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Friday that his party will have fewer debates moderated by journalists from mainstream news outlets in the 2016 primary. 'I've certainly talked about non-news figures involved in the debates, even having potentially grassroots-type debates, having Lincoln-Douglas type debates, and also including traditional news as well,' Priebus told a group of reporters at an event hosted by National Review. 'Giving the cable companies a shot at a debate is something that I think we can do as well.'" [HuffPost's Jon Ward]

NRA ROBOCALLS NEWTOWN BECAUSE IT'S THE NRA AND THIS WAS PREDESTINED - Because there isn't enough PTSD in that community, the National Rifle Association basically did the worst possible thing, outside of hosting a gun raffle at the Newtown court house. Christina Wilkie: "The National Rifle Association (NRA) came under fire late Thursday from members of a gun-control advocacy group in Newtown, Conn., after reports surfaced of Newtown residents receiving robocalls from the NRA. The advocacy group, the Newtown Action Alliance, posted a Facebook message Thursday about the calls, prompting responses from people who said they'd received communications from the NRA and were upset by them. 'I received one of these [robocalls]. I was insulted and offended," wrote Newtown resident named Chris Wenis. Another woman, Lisa Abrams, wrote that she 'received a call and a postcard asking me to call my congressmen and tell them 'NO ASSUALT WEAPONS BAN' [sic]... I was not happy and needless to say did just the opposite!'" [HuffPost]

GRANHOLM NOT RUNNING FOR SENATE - The Hill: "Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) will not seek retiring Sen. Carl Levin's (D-Mich.) seat in 2014, she announced on her Facebook on Friday. 'Friends, thanks for all of the encouragement on the Michigan Senate seat, but I'm not going to run. I appreciate all of the outreach I've received; for several reasons it's just not right for us (it's a family decision). My best to all the contenders -- Levin's US Senate seat will stay blue!' she wrote Friday afternoon. Granholm was rumored to be interested in the seat, and would have entered the race with strong name recognition in the state. Her decision not to run will intensify the focus on the Democratic side to Reps. Gary Peters and Dan Kildee." We predicted this on The McLaughlin Group. Seriously. We wouldn't make that up. [The Hill]

VERMONTERS TRYING TO SECEDE - Where do we sign up? American Prospect: "Vermont is one of only three states, along with Texas and Hawaii, that ever existed as an independent republic--in Vermont's case, from 1777 to 1791--and that as 'a national leader on progressive political issues,' the state was 'uniquely poised to lead this national conversation on self-determination.'... here in granola-eating, hyper-lefty, Subaru-driving Vermont was a secession effort that had been loud during the Bush years, had not ceased its complaining under Barack Obama, did not care for party affiliation, and had welcomed into its midst gun nuts and lumberjacks and professors, socialists and libertarians and anarchists, ex--Republicans and ex-Democrats, truck drivers and schoolteachers and waitresses, students and artists and musicians and poets, farmers and hunters and wooly-haired woodsmen. The manifesto that elaborated their platform was read at the conference: a 1,400-word mouthful that echoed the Declaration of Independence in its petition of grievances. '[T]ransnational megacompanies and big government,' it proclaimed, 'control us through money, markets, and media, sapping our political will, civil liberties, collective memory, traditional cultures.' The document was signed by, among others, its principal authors, a professor emeritus of economics at Duke University named Thomas Naylor and the decentralist philosopher Kirkpatrick Sale, author of Human Scale." [American Prospect]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - The Fresh Pup of Bel Air is the West Coast's freshest K-9.

And you thought all those drunk ambassadors in the UN were bad...: "It sounds crazy, but there is good reason to suspect that this story, in the prominent South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, could be true. According to the story, North Korea ordered its diplomats in some number of foreign embassies, including at least one in Eastern Europe, to sell illegal drugs on the streets. The diplomats, according to a defector who spoke to South Korean intelligence, were each sent abroad with 20 kilograms (about 44 pounds) of drugs and were told to raise $300,000 from the sales." [WaPo]


- Brace yourself for the "Star Wars" / "Jurassic Park" mashup that is just now extant. [http://bit.ly/WJFOla]

- Chess boxing exists. It's exactly what you think it is. Here is a primer. [http://bit.ly/Z8nFO2]

- That Taiwanese CGI studio is still churning out videos. Here is their take on the recent Tonight Show shakeup. [http://huff.to/ZhFEhI]

- Woman describes hail storm in most fantastic fashion on local news report. [http://huff.to/WH0ZEA]

- Wow, you take away the Beach Boys' harmony and they really fall apart. [http://bit.ly/Zh7jiO]

- A recently unearthed letter from Oscar Wilde features writing advice from the famously witty Englishman. [http://bit.ly/ZXmmAb]

- Joseph Gordon-Levitt was really excited to be on "Teen Jeopardy" in 1997. [http://bit.ly/XtYIKb]


@harvardlampoon: America, we are sorry for messing up your brackets and also your financial system and everything else.

@pourmecoffee: 65 years ago today @WolfBlitzer emerged from the Situation Womb.

@jamespmanley god i miss senate vote-a-rama's. wait, no i don't- they suck. good luck to everyone today

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