Newt Gingrich has been so busy watching Downton Abbey that he had nothing to do with NASA's new plan to lasso an asteroid. Now that they know people might actually read their tweets, congressional staffers are wondering where they went wrong in their lives. And two of the last Democratic senators holding out against gay marriage announced today they'd changed their minds. Sorry, you two -- only the first 20,000 fans get hats. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Friday, April 5th:
SPACE RODEO COMING TO TOWN! Seth Borenstein: "NASA is planning for a robotic spaceship to lasso a small asteroid and park it near the moon for astronauts to explore, a top senator revealed Friday.The robotic ship would capture the 500-ton 25-foot asteroid in 2019. Then using an Orion space capsule, now being developed, a crew of about four astronauts would nuzzle up next to the rock in 2021 for spacewalking exploration, according to a government document obtained by The Associated Press. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said the plan would speed up by four years the existing mission to land astronauts on an asteroid by bringing the space rock closer to Earth. Nelson, who is chairman of the Senate science and space subcommittee, said Friday that President Barack Obama is putting $100 million in planning money for the accelerated asteroid mission in the 2014 budget that comes out next week. The money would be used to find the right small asteroid. 'It really is a clever concept,' Nelson said in a press conference in Orlando. 'Go find your ideal candidate for an asteroid. Go get it robotically and bring it back.'" [Associated Press]
HILL STAFFERS MAD @ LEGISTORM - They're going to hate HuffPost's new 1 a.m. livestream from Top of the Hill. Katie Glueck: "The Congress-focused research organization LegiStorm set off a firestorm on Capitol Hill this week as some staffers learned that their personal Twitter accounts would appear on the site. LegiStorm on Wednesday publicized the tool StormFeed, a 'real-time, full-text searchable access to every official press release and official tweet from Capitol Hill plus the tweets of thousands of congressional staffers,' according to a release provided to POLITICO. It's a page available for members of the subscription service LegiStorm Pro. As staffers learned about StormFeed, some discovered other detailed, personal information listed on the site." [Politico]
Staffers can still complain about stuff anonymously in newspapers if not on Twitter: "This action by LegiStorm does nothing to provide greater transparency on Congress. Instead, it is another action -- like the sequester cuts -- that causes good staffers to wonder if all the sacrifices are worth it," a Dem CoS told Politico.
WISDOM FROM A HILL VET - HuffPost Hill's resident ethicist, the Former Abramoff Lobbyist Pissed At Things, has no sympathy whatsoever for these gripes. "You shouldn't have passed all the those lobbying restrictions and come down so hard on Team Abramoff because you could have acted like a fool in complete anonymity in our various sky boxes, private jets, restaurants, and golf courses," FALPAT says. "Oh, and it would have been free. We would just need to have a convo about whogivesashit pre-markup. Suck it, staffers!" Thanks, FALPAT!
MORE DEMS 'EVOLVED' ON GAY MARRIAGE TODAY Welcome to the species, you guys. Luke Johnson: "Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), both hailing from deeply red states, announced on Friday their support for gay marriage. 'In speaking with North Dakotans from every corner of our great state, and much personal reflection, I have concluded the federal government should no longer discriminate against people who want to make lifelong, loving commitments to each other or interfere in personal, private, and intimate relationships,' Heitkamp said in a statement.... 'In recent years, our country has been involved in an important discussion on the issue of marriage equality,' Donnelly said on Facebook. 'While serving in the House of Representatives, I had the opportunity to act on a core belief of mine: we are a stronger country when we draw on the strengths of all Americans.'" And so forth. [HuffPost]
And Olympia Snowe came out in favor of gay marriage... from the safety of retirement.
OBAMA DEBUTS NEW NEGOTIATING STRATEGY - April Fools! Same strategy as ever. Sam Stein: "President Barack Obama's budget, which will be introduced on Wednesday, takes a political position that some of his base is bound to bemoan. Rather than present an outline of progressive priorities, the White House has chosen to stake claim to the middle ground, offering up a mix of modest tax hikes to go along with spending cuts and entitlement reforms that Democrats have long warned against." Only this time, it worked! Fooled you again! "Predictably, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) rejected Obama's offer out-of-hand, calling it unbalanced and suggesting that both sides simply pass the entitlement cuts that they now have both included in their respective budgets." [HuffPost]
BOEHNER: "The president and I were not able to reach an agreement late last year because his offers never lived up to his rhetoric. Despite talk about so-called balance, the president's last offer was significantly skewed in favor of higher taxes and included only modest entitlement savings."
BEMOANING FROM THE BASE, AND THREATS - Progressive-leaning groups reacted quickly and angrily to news that President Barack Obama is proposing cuts to Social Security, going so far as to threaten to mount primary challenges against congressional Democrats who sign on to Obama's plan. [HuffPost]
DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Nearly half a million Americans left the labor force in March, the U.S. Labor Department announced Friday, causing the unemployment rate to decline from 7.7 to 7.6 percent. Part of the reason fewer people are participating in the labor force is that the baby boomers are hitting retirement, but another part is that the economy is lousy. Employers added only 88,000 jobs in March, the fewest in any month since June. "This should be a wake-up call," Mike Evangelist, a policy analyst for worker advocacy group the National Employment Law Project, said in an interview. "We had had pretty consistent job growth the last couple months, and it just so happens the month they enacted all these austerity measures we had terrible growth." Job creation slowed in the same month federal policymakers pursued significant budget cuts known as sequestration, the latest and greatest in a series of reductions to government spending. The cuts have already resulted in layoffs and furlough notices for some federal workers. New unemployment claims rose sharply last week. [HuffPost]
DOUBLE DOWNER - Raquel Lynne McLaughlin of Clarksville, Md., worked as a project coordinator for an IT company until her layoff seven months ago. A single mother of two, McLaughlin, 44, is not a fan of long-term joblessness. "I think it sucks," she said. "I don't like it." But McLaughlin keeps a positive attitude and remains determined to find a new job. She said she has had job interviews but no callbacks yet. She won't quit looking. "I have got pride," she said. "One of my sisters was like, 'It's been a long time, you obviously need health insurance, why don't you go to social services?' I don't want to do that." McLaughlin doesn't want to throw herself into the safety net even though she said she's got cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, a type of cancer that affects the immune system and can cause pain and blotchy skin. The need for health insurance makes it more disappointing when she doesn't get called back after an interview, and she worries the disappointment itself makes her condition worse. "I haven't been in treatment since I got laid off in August," she said. "I know I need to handle rejection better so I don't get sick." [HuffPost]
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OBAMA SORRY KAMALA HARRIS IS SO GOOD-LOOKING - Jen Bendery: "President Barack Obama has apologized to California Attorney General Kamala Harris for 'the distraction' he caused by calling her 'by far the best-looking attorney general,' White House press secretary Jay Carney said Friday. The president called Harris on Thursday night to 'apologize for the distraction created by his remarks,' Carney said. 'He fully recognizes the challenges women continue to face in the workplace and that they should not be judged based on appearance,' Carney said. 'They're old friends. He certainly regretted that [his comments] caused a distraction.'" [HuffPost]
HuffPost updates: The Center for Constitutional Rights says they've "confirmed" that Daniel McGowan was jailed for blogging at HuffPost. (Today he was released and sent back to the halfway house.) Come on guys, we're not THAT bad.
HOW TO STOP SEQUESTRATION - Sue it! Joan Lowy: "The Obama administration is delaying the closing of 149 airport control towers until mid-June in order to deal with legal challenges.The first 24 closures had been scheduled for Sunday. The Federal Aviation Administration said Friday the closures will be delayed until June 15. Trade groups representing companies that operate the towers under contract for FAA filed a lawsuit Thursday in federal court in Washington." [HuffPost]
SENIORS NOT SERIOUS ABOUT DEFICIT REDUCTION - Older Americans don't like President Barack Obama's proposal to reduce future increases to Social Security benefits, according to a new poll by AARP. Like many polls before it, the latest from the senior advocacy group finds overwhelming bipartisan opposition to cutting benefits. Eighty-seven percent of registered voters 50 and older said it's "very important" that policymakers not cut benefits for current or near retirees. Obama has proposed reducing future benefits by making annual cost-of-living adjustments less generous.... The policy switch would save more than $100 billion over 10 years. Sixty-nine percent of voters said they opposed or strongly opposed the chained CPI, according to AARP, while 16 percent said they supported it. Sixty-five percent said they'd have a less favorable opinion of their member of Congress if he or she supported the policy. [HuffPost]
BUT, THEY HAVE PICKUP TRUCKS IN NEW HAMPSHIRE, RIGHT? "If [Scott] Brown is serious about running for the Republican nomination in the Granite State, he needs to splash some cold water on his face, swallow a stiff drink and embrace the obvious: It's a stupid idea." [Roll Call]
Stupid or not, Democrats think Brown is scary enough to their donors that they can raise some raise some cash off him with a Scott Brown "Granitebomb."
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Bad Ass Dog lives up to its name.
CONTRACEPTION MANDATE TO SUPREME COURT - Laura Bassett: "The number of lawsuits challenging the Obama administration's contraception coverage mandate climbed to 60 last week, and legal experts on both sides of the issue are predicting that the Supreme Court will take up the issue within the year. Thirty-two nonprofit organizations, including religious hospitals and schools, have challenged the rule. The mandate is part of the Affordable Care Act, and it requires third-party insurance companies to provide contraception coverage to the nonprofits' employees if they decide not to do so." [HuffPost]
CLINTON WON'T DECIDE TILL 2014 - Paige Lavender: "James Carville, a longtime advisor to the Clintons who recently joined the Ready For Hillary PAC, said former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won't decide on a 2016 presidential run until 2014. 'We are going to continue to talk about it, and she is not going to make up her mind, probably, until after the midterms,' Carville said during a Friday interview on MSNBC. 'We're just going to be sitting around here waiting and there's not much we can do about it.'" [HuffPost]
- Back in 2011, Roger Ebert finally won the New Yorker cartoon caption contest. Here is his winning entry and some of his equally hilarious rejected submissions. [http://nyr.kr/ftRfIs]
- Gorgeous timelapse video of Paris in winter, when it is slightly less thronged with tourists. [http://bit.ly/10AhnWP]
- Ducklings de-nesting in slow-motion. [http://bit.ly/11tV0Vo]
- Let this fabulously funkified cover of "Thrift Shop" carry you into the weekend. [http://bit.ly/YyTfFQ]
- An eight-minute examination of the show "Community" and why it might be the platonic ideal of post-modernism. [http://chzb.gr/ZAqioC]
- Classic movies redubbed with the voices from "Spongebob Squarepants." [http://huff.to/10zvnzT]
- On the occasion of his first album in years, David Bowie's people released a bunch of the artist's old music videos. [http://bit.ly/13Qs6T0]
@JeffreyYoung_HC: The morning-after pill is made by Teva Pharmaceuticals. Interestingly, wearing Teva sandals also prevents pregnancy but in not the same way.
@daveweigel: Senators will soon learn that evolving too quickly comes with downsides bit.ly/YXvc36
@LEBassett: Couldn't figure out why my laptop was running so slow. Then I realized it's probably all of the gifs of cats in space on my desktop.
@igorbobic: The scariest man in America pic.twitter.com/RVMwW6chr7
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