POLITICS
10/30/2013 06:11 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

HUFFPOST HILL - Obama's Sinister Plot To Undermine America Still Glitchy

Even if President Obama *likes* his Health and Human Services Secretary, he still might not be able to *keep* her. Our deep dive into anonymous news sources reveals the "Democratic strategist with ties to the White House" from that Obamacare article you passed around is actually an OMB staff assistant's weed connect who likes "Morning Joe." And in an alternate universe, Vice President Sebelius spent the day making calls to Iowa while watching Secretary Daschle sweat his way through today's hearing. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, October 30th, 2013:

REPUBLICANS NO-SHOWS AT BRIEFING THEY DEMANDED - They're tired of this health care roll out briefing! They want to play with something else! Spying on foreign leaders! Spying on foreign leaders briefing NOW!!! Sabrina Siddiqui: "For all their fury, most of the House Republicans who had demanded their own closed-door briefing from the administration on President Barack Obama's struggling health care rollout were no-shows on Wednesday. Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) told reporters 'hat "about 20 members' attended the House GOP briefing, at which senior Health and Human Services Department official Mike Hash laid out some of the issues facing the Healthcare.gov website. The meeting was scheduled after House Republicans cried foul when they weren't included in last week's closed-door session with Democrats. The White House said Democrats had requested the briefing, but Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), deemed the snub 'all the more offensive after [HHS] Secretary Sebelius declined to testify' at a House committee hearing last Thursday on Obamacare." [HuffPost]

Excellent Choom Gang photo on the cover of the new edition of the Nation.

OBAMA TODAY: "More people are successfully buying these new plans online than they were a couple of weeks ago." ERIC CANTOR SAYS AHA! "Clearly the President has access to enrollment data that his administration continues to hide."

WALL STREET TAKES IT ON THE CHIN - In what counts as a loss for the owners of Congress, a bill from Rep. Jim Himes (D-Hedgefundistan) garnered a ton more opposition this afternoon than its backers had expected. It sailed through committee 53-6 this spring, but since then liberals have organized against it. Himes, who has been beefing with HuffPost over our coverage of his swaps deregulation, lamented the state of affairs on the floor. After noting how easily the bill passed last year, he said, "This year, exactly the same bill comes before us and we've ginned up the press, we've ginned up the bloggers. This has become a 'gift to Wall Street.' What is different? What is different from what passed happily in a bipartisan fashion last Congress?" Himes wondered. "What has changed is we no longer do the hard work of finding finely balanced regulation like we do on water or on air. In financial services, in Dodd-Frank today, we have a morality play." If it was a morality play, the forces of darkness still triumphed, 292-122, but a majority of Democrats voted no. [HuffPost]

All day, the bill's backers claimed Barney Frank and Sheila Bair were supporters. Frank put out a statement saying that wasn't true, and we called Bair, who burst out laughing. "They keep dragging me into this," Bair said. "I actually went so far as to issue a statement on this because this is really annoying."

THREE (THREE!) WHOLE HOUSE REPUBLICANS SUPPORT CITIZENSHIP PATHWAY - We did it, Emma Lazarus! We did it! Elise Foley: "There are now three Republicans who publicly support a comprehensive immigration reform bill introduced by Democrats, after Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) announced Wednesday he has signed on to the bill. He follows Reps. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), both of whom also announced their support this week for the bill, HR 15. There are currently 190 co-sponsors, short of the 218 needed to get a majority of the House...A majority of House Democrats are co-sponsoring the legislation, and supporters argue that more Republicans should sign on to pressure leadership to bring it for a vote. So far, GOP leaders have declined to allow a vote on the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate in June, and have indicated that HR 15 won't get a vote either, unless a majority of Republicans support it...The Democrat-led legislation is based on the Senate-passed bill and a border security measure approved earlier this year by the House Homeland Security Committee, both of which passed with bipartisan support. It includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, along with changes to border security, enforcement and the legal immigration system." [HuffPost]

This is like a parent convincing a child that broccoli is tasty because it tastes like cauliflower, except in this case the cauliflower violates the Constitution: "A top Justice Department lawyer said on Tuesday that the 'relatively low' standard the NSA uses to decide whether it can search its massive phone records database is good enough -- because it's the same one cops apply before they stop and frisk a suspect. Deputy Attorney General James Cole's argument before the House Intelligence Committee was supposed to be reassuring. But his stop-and-frisk analogy was an awkward one, coming on the heels of a widely publicized judge's ruling that the police practice is being used unconstitutionally in New York City." [HuffPost's Matt Sledge]

You will not read this on Reddit's politics page, because we, along with basically everyone else who isn't Fox News or The New York Times (weird), have been banned.

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - "Social Security benefits for nearly 58 million people will increase by 1.5 percent next year, the government announced Wednesday. The increase is among the smallest since automatic adjustments were adopted in 1975. It is small because consumer prices haven't gone up much in the past year." But I betcha we can make it smaller. [Associated Press]

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KATHLEEN SEBELIUS HAD A ROUGH DAY - Somewhere, Tom Daschle is breathing a sigh of relief in his DLA Piper office that he did business with Leo Hindery. Jen Bendery: "Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius apologized on Wednesday for the 'miserably frustrating experience' people are having with the Obamacare enrollment website and said she's the one that the American people should hold accountable for its problems. 'I apologize. I'm accountable to you,' Sebelius said during testimony before a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing. 'I am committed to earning your confidence back.' House Republicans have been demanding that Sebelius testify about the problems with HealthCare.gov since its Oct. 1 launch. Not surprisingly, many took the opportunity to trash Obamacare on the whole. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), for one, came to the hearing ready for a fight. Blackburn pressed Sebelius to explain why some people are being terminated from their individual health insurance plans when President Barack Obama promised during the Obamacare rollout that people would be able to keep their current health care plans if they like them. Sebelius tried to explain that insurance companies have the right to cancel individual insurance policies as they please, but Blackburn was soon talking over her." [HuffPost]

Are you a political flibbertigibbet? Do you like to plant stories in the press? Well Grim and Jason Linkins have compiled the definitive guide to anonymous sources in Washington.

BUDGET CONFERENCE MEETS, SETS ABSURDLY LOW BAR - Short of "Mark Warner not vomiting on his papers...twice" the expectations can't be much lower. Roll Call: "Gathering Wednesday morning for their first formal meeting, the leaders of the House and Senate Budget committees continued the recent pattern of setting low hurdles and reasonable expectations — while still being split as usual on the issue of taxes. The meeting in the bowels of the Capitol in a room best known lately as the site of contentious House GOP conference meetings, kicked off with Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., handing off an unusually large gavel to her House counterpart, Republican Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin. That’s because, as a matter of tradition, the two chambers alternate chairing conference committees...Most of the real work won’t be done in public conference meetings, which is a good thing since the panel will not reconvene until Nov. 13, Ryan announced Wednesday morning. That’s because the House and Senate are once again operating on different schedules, with the House expected to take a recess next week." [Roll Call]

Also meeting today: the farm bill conference committee.

ENDA NOW SUPPORTED BY ENTIRE DEMOCRATIC SENATE CAUCUS - Amanda Terkel: "Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said on Wednesday that he supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, meaning the entire Democratic caucus is now unified behind the legislation that would make it illegal to discriminate against LGBT individuals in the workplace. New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters first tweeted that Manchin said he would vote for the bill, and the senator's spokesman confirmed the news to The Huffington Post. Manchin will be voting for ENDA, but he will not be a co-sponsor. 'Thank you, Senator Manchin, for your support to end LGBT employment discrimination,' said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who introduced ENDA in the current Congress. 'Every day support grows for fundamental fairness in the workplace for LGBT Americans.' The bill now has the support of every single Democratic senator. Sen.-elect Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who will be sworn in on Thursday, is also expected to back it. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) are the only two Republican co-sponsors, although both Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) voted the bill out of committee." [HuffPost]

REID, PELOSI DIFFERING ON STAFF HEALTH CARE - Classic Harry Reid response via Politico: "The top two Democrats in Congress are split on how to handle their staffers health insurance under Obamacare. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told her entire staff Wednesday morning that they will all have to purchase health insurance through the District of Columbia health exchanges. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is keeping staff in in his leadership office off the exchanges. 'I’m following the law,' Reid told POLITICO...Not every Senate Democratic leader has gone that route: Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) will put all of his leadership and personal staffers on the exchanges, an aide said on Wednesday. Doing the same is Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who is putting her aides on the exchanges, including her leadership and Budget Committee staff. Members of the House must make a decision on how their employees will get their health insurance by 5 p.m. Thursday. The issue of whether and how lawmakers and Hill staffers — many of whom must go on the exchanges under a provision of the Affordable Care Act — has become a lightning rod on Capitol Hill." [Politico]

TED CRUZ WANTS TO LIMIT EXECUTIVE POWER - Naturally, A Canadian would be more accustomed to a parliamentary system. Luke Johnson: "Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), fresh off firing up conservative crowds in Iowa and Texas by defending his push to defund Obamacare, came to The Heritage Foundation Wednesday for a much more academic talk on the power of treaties in U.S. law. The Texas senator, who was solicitor general of the state and graduated from Harvard Law School before being elected in 2012, argued that the executive branch does not have the power to use a treaty to enforce a decision of the federal government. In doing so, he was articulating a more limited view of executive power. 'No matter what you think of the president, the president does not have the authority to inflict and make laws off the books, on whim and judgement," he said. "Whether you like it or not, it is unequivocal that the president of the United States doesn't have the authority under our constitutional system to simply decree it by will." [HuffPost]

LADY SENATORS PEN SECRET LETTER - Hang in there, Martin O'Malley! "All of the female Democratic senators signed a secret letter to Hillary Rodham Clinton early this year encouraging her to run for president in 2016 – a letter that includes the signature of Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other senators who are mentioned as potential candidates, two high-ranking Democratic Senate aides told ABC News. The letter, organized at the urging of Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., was meant to be a private show of support from a group of 16 high-profile former colleagues and fans who are now senators, urging Clinton to do what much of the Democratic Party assumes she will, the aides said. The existence of the letter was not revealed publicly until this week, when Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., mentioned it at an event in New York City on Monday. That was an apparent slip-up that prompted a round of apologetic e-mails from her Senate office to other offices on Capitol Hill, according to the aides." [ABC News]

REPUBLICANS FEELING PRETTY BLASE ABOUT ELECTING WOMEN - Who can blame them? A woman's rape pregnancy-stopping SmartVaginas shouldn't be anywhere near the levers of power. Laura Bassett: "Less than a quarter of Republicans believe that electing more women to Congress would be a good thing, according to an ABC News/Fusion poll released on Wednesday. About 60 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of Americans overall said that it would be a good thing if more women were elected to Congress, the poll found. Only 23 percent of Republicans said it would be a good thing, while more than two-thirds of Republicans said it makes no difference to them. Currently, women make up slightly more than half of the U.S. population, but just 18 percent of Congress. Earlier this month, male Senators on both sides of the aisle acknowledged that that their female colleagues deserved most of the credit for driving the compromise that ended the government shutdown...But Republican voters do not seem to be worried about the lack of women in Congress, for the most part, and they are not particularly concerned about women in the workplace. The ABC poll found that while 68 percent of Democrats believe women have fewer opportunities than men in the workplace, only 38 percent of Republicans agree with that statement, despite the wide and persistent wage gap." [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here are some thieving cats.

COMFORT FOOD

- A timelapse video tour around "Breaking Bad" filming locations. Spoiler: The show is still over. [http://bit.ly/16MTHRu]

- Why so many Icelanders believe in elves, beside the fact that they are real. [http://bit.ly/1is5Twk]

- Ducks pay a visit to a CVS but leave, probably becauses those self-checkout kiosks are so frustrating. [http://bit.ly/1dFtgol]

- Virgin America's new in-flight safety video features shockingly high production values. [http://bit.ly/1dJ0t2r]

- In a first, a California woman was given a ticket for driving while wearing Google Glass. In another first, a woman was actually given a Google Glass. [http://bit.ly/1anXzPf]

- San Diego State University's baseball team played a game in Halloween costumes. [http://bit.ly/1aRvA5n]

- Beyonce photobombed an unwitting 15-year-old. [http://bit.ly/1h0YfgQ]

TWITTERAMA

@PostReid: ARE YOU NOT ENROLLED?!? RT @pourmecoffee: Sebelius is a good gladiator name.

@thegarance: “Eager to cast blame, lawmakers are preparing”... now there's a cut and pasteable.bit.ly/16LtUZT

@charliespiering: To be clear, Sebelius is technically correct about the site not crashing - It displays error messages quite well

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