Bernie Sanders is mulling a run for president, encouraged by the old saying, "As disheveled Cooper Union professors in the checkout line at Strand Bookstore go, so goes the nation." Senate Republicans filibustered a non-existent attempt to "pack" the D.C. Circuit Court, which is the Senate GOP's version of defunding ACORN. And the Cheneys won't be celebrating Christmas together due to a disagreement over gay marriage, meaning Dick will have to find someone else to help hang tinsel at his bunker in an undisclosed location. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Monday, November 18th, 2013:
@jbendery: Senate GOP successfully filibusters DC Circuit nominee Robert Wilkins. Vote was 53-38. He needed 60.
GOP GETTING ANTSY OVER SEQUESTRATION - Your move, Paul Ryan. Sam Stein: "The top Republican appropriators on the Hill warned in a Monday letter against keeping sequestration in place, raising the specter that the across-the-board spending cuts will be softened in a forthcoming budget deal. The lawmakers, who serve on the House Appropriations Committee, called the second round of sequestration a legislative gambit that would complicate effective governance. Letting the cuts continue into the next fiscal year, they wrote, 'would result in more indiscriminate across-the-board reductions that could have negative consequences on critically important federal programs, especially our national defense.' The letter, which was addressed to the top members of the House and Senate budget committees, reflects the increased unease that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle feel about sequestration...The second round of sequester cuts will go into effect 15 days after the end of the current congressional session unless a deal is made to replace them. Budget negotiators are currently working to reach such a deal, though there is disagreement over what they can or should use to pay for sequestration relief. Democrats are willing to consider some reductions to low-profile mandatory spending programs, like agriculture subsidies, while pushing harder for the closure of tax loopholes. Republicans have been adamant that any agreement not result in a net increase in spending." [HuffPost]
EDUCATION DEPARTMENT BUOYED BY STUDENT LOAN PROFITS - Arne Duncan is sorry you had to take that job at Accenture instead of the one at you had dreamed of at City Harvest, but he thanks you for the new mini fridge he just installed in his office. Shahien Nasiripour: "The U.S. Department of Education says it has been working to help borrowers who are struggling under the weight of crushing student loan debt. But...In the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, his department reaped more than $42.5 billion in profit from federal student loans, according to federal budget documents. That total was roughly a third higher than in 2012 and the agency's second-highest ever profit haul after a $47.9 billion gain in 2011, according to a Huffington Post analysis...Had Congress and President Barack Obama not agreed over the summer to temporarily lower student loan interest rates, the Education Department's 2013 profits would have been about $8 billion higher, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and they would have set a new record. In a sign of just how important student loan profits have become for the Education Department's bottom line, its reported gains off lending to students and their families over the last year comprised nearly half of the agency's total outlays, the biggest share since at least 1997." [HuffPost]
ELIZABETH WARREN: EXPAND SOCIAL SECURITY - Mike McAuliff: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) threw her increasingly high-profile name behind expanding Social Security benefits instead of reducing them, rejecting calls from those in both parties to cut payments as a way to trim government spending. Warren joins a growing push that includes Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who argue that rather than switch to a 'chained' consumer price index that cuts retiree benefits, the nation should adopt CPI-E, which measures the actual cost of living for the elderly and would raise benefits to meet actual needs. Chained CPI assumes that when prices rise, people switch to cheaper products. Proponents say the inflation measure should be reduced to account for that, meaning the government could pay people smaller cost-of-living adjustments. But Warren blasted that approach in a Senate floor speech Monday, saying that retirement security has become a 'crisis' in America in which two-thirds of seniors depend on Social Security for the majority of their income. 'Chained CPI falls short of the actual increases in costs that seniors face, pure and simple,' Warren said. 'Chained CPI? It's just a fancy way of saying cut benefits.'" [HuffPost]
Do you work for a member of Congress? Are they doing heroin? We seriously doubt they are, but just in case, let us know!
DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Womp womp: "A Goldman Sachs analyst has downgraded the stock of Supervalu Inc., citing federal cuts to food stamps and increasing competition. The analyst downgraded the Eden Prairie-based grocery store chain and food wholesaler from a neutral rating to a sell rating and lowered the price target from $8 to $6. Supervalu stock (NYSE: SVU) is down more than 9 percent to $6.24 a share in late-day trading. Analyst Stephen Grambling noted that food stamp purchases account for 40 percent of sales at Save-A-Lot locations, which are small discount stores. Supervalu owns 377 Save-A-Lots and supplies groceries to 957 franchise-owned Save-A-Lots." [Minneapolis / St. Paul Biz Journal]
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HOUSE GOP SUFFERING FROM IDEA DEFICIT - Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan: "Last Thursday, a group of House Republicans filed into Majority Leader Eric Cantor's Capitol office suite and received a blank piece of paper labeled 'Agenda 2014.' The blank slate just about sums up where Republicans find themselves after a year marked by the first government shutdown in 17 years, futile efforts to repeal Obamacare and the inability to pass spending bills at the levels set by Republican leaders. Cantor, a Virginia Republican who is in charge of the House floor and the legislation that reaches it, is beginning to lead a reimagining, of sorts, of GOP economic policy. The agenda could help show that the GOP can solve problems instead of only serve only as perpetual combatants with President Barack Obama. Without much fanfare, House Republicans are crafting an election-year agenda that's meant to target what they believe are the real economic issues facing middle-class Americans -- and thereby attract the kind of voters that the GOP and Mitt Romney alienated in 2012. They hope the initiatives will help them hang onto the majority in 2014 and paint a more positive image of the party...Issues discussed at sessions with Cantor and his policy chief, Neil Bradley, include a spike in energy costs, job training programs and education reform." [Politico]
@nancypelosi: The House GOP's 2014 blank agenda proves they are officially out of ideas. http://goo.gl/PzH1H1 pic.twitter.com/G3DGIcaFMO
TENSIONS RISING BETWEEN JOHN KERRY AND WHITE HOUSE - John Kerry, shocking precisely nobody in the Senate, is not playing nice with others in the administration. Daily Beast: "Before Secretary of State John Kerry's recent trip to Cairo, National Security Adviser Susan Rice told him to make strong statements in public and private about the trial of deposed President Mohamed Morsi. On his own, Kerry decided to disregard the White House's instructions. The tension between the national security adviser and the secretary of state spilled over into public view in the past week, when Rice laid out her critical appraisal of the Egyptian government, which contradicted Kerry's assessment that Egypt was "on the path to democracy." The now public rift has been simmering behind the scenes for months and illustrates the strikingly divergent Egypt policies the White House and the State Department are pursuing. The turf battles and internal confusion are hampering the administration's approach to Egypt, say lawmakers, experts, and officials inside both governments. 'John Kerry doesn't agree with Susan Rice on big portions of our Egypt policy, and he made a deliberate and conscious decision not to mention Morsi in his Cairo meetings,' an administration official told The Daily Beast.'"Susan Rice wasn't happy about it.'" [Daily Beast]
SCOTUS WON'T REVIEW NSA SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM - This could just be Stephen Breyer hedging against his cache of Taylor Swift photos being punitively "leaked." Matt Sledge: "The Supreme Court denied a request from a pro-privacy group for a quick review of the National Security Agency's bulk collection of American phone records on Monday, a decision that means months or years may pass before it examines the controversial program. In a brief, unsigned order, the court declined to consider the Electronic Privacy Information Center's challenge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court's order that Verizon turn over all its phone records to the FBI and NSA. The Verizon order was first leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden...EPIC's petition to the Supreme Court was distinct from another challenge, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, to the constitutionality of the bulk phone records collection program. Instead, the group argued that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court had exceeded its statutory authority under the Patriot Act to order the collection of records relevant to terrorism investigations. A district judge in Manhattan will hear oral arguments on Friday over the ACLU's lawsuit." [HuffPost]
BERNIE SANDERS MULLING 2016 RUN - Here's hoping he follows in the footsteps of Mike Gravel, that other cantankerous longshot candidate, and films himself throwing a large rock into a lake. Amanda Terkel: "Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wants to make sure that there is a strong progressive voice in the 2016 presidential field, and he's willing to jump in if no one else does. 'There are people in this world who, ever since they were 12 years of age, they decided they wanted to be president of the United States. That is honestly not me,' Sanders told the Burlington Free Press last week. 'Anyone who really, really wants to be president is slightly crazy because this is an unbelievably difficult job given the crises that this country faces today.' Nevertheless, Sanders said that there needs to be a 2016 candidate who will go after Wall Street, focus on poverty and the collapse of the middle class, address global warming and oppose cuts to Social Security and Medicare -- all issues that Sanders has taken on while in the Senate. And according to the Free Press, 'Sanders says he is willing to consider making a run if no one else with progressive views similar to his ends up taking the plunge.'" [HuffPost]
GAY MARRIAGE TEARING THE CHENEYS ASUNDER -It appears that the Cheneys will not all be together for their Christmas Eve tradition when they each open one present... that they stole from a child. Luke Johnson: "Wyoming Republican Senate candidate Liz Cheney's opposition to gay marriage has caused a full-on feud with her sister, Mary Cheney, and her sister's wife, Heather Poe. In a rare interview with The New York Times Sunday evening, Mary Cheney said she will not be seeing her sister at Christmas and the two have not spoken since the summer. The rift between the two daughters of Vice President Dick Cheney had spilled into public view earlier that day during a Sunday morning television interview. Liz Cheney, formerly a cable TV pundit herself, appeared on 'Fox News Sunday' and said that she supported 'traditional marriage.' Poe was watching the interview and hit back on Facebook...Poe then took a shot at her sister-in-law's move from Northern Virginia to near Jackson, Wyo., where the Senate candidate bought a home in May 2012 and began her campaign in July 2013. 'I can't help but wonder how Liz would feel if as she moved from state to state, she discovered that her family was protected in one but not the other,' Poe wrote...A spokeswoman for Dick and Lynne Cheney emailed a statement to HuffPost saying that their daughter Liz has always believed in 'traditional marriage'" [HuffPost]
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a box of corgi puppies
WALMART HOLDS CANNED FOOD DRIVE FOR ITS OWN EMPLOYEES - Who needs welfare to work when you can have welfare at work? Cleveland Plain Dealer: "The storage containers are attractively displayed at the Walmart on Atlantic Boulevard in Canton. The bins are lined up in alternating colors of purple and orange. Some sit on tables covered with golden yellow tablecloths. Others peer out from under the tables. This isn't a merchandise display. It's a food drive - not for the community, but for needy workers. 'Please Donate Food Items Here, so Associates in Need Can Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner,' read signs affixed to the tablecloths. The storage containers are attractively displayed at the Walmart on Atlantic Boulevard in Canton. The bins are lined up in alternating colors of purple and orange. Some sit on tables covered with golden yellow tablecloths. Others peer out from under the tables. This isn't a merchandise display. It's a food drive - not for the community, but for needy workers. 'Please Donate Food Items Here, so Associates in Need Can Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner,' read signs affixed to the tablecloths." [Cleveland.com]
WALMART BROKE LAW: NLRB - Dave Jamieson: "The federal agency that enforces labor law says it has decided to pursue charges against Walmart for threatening and punishing workers who planned to go on strike last year. According to officials at the National Labor Relations Board, the agency's general counsel investigated and 'found merit' in workers' claims that Walmart 'unlawfully threatened' employees for taking part in walkouts surrounding last year's Black Friday shopping season. The agency said that Walmart intimidated, surveilled or punished workers in 14 different states, violating U.S. labor law. The agency also said that Walmart illegally threatened workers in statements made in two news broadcasts. That charge appears to refer in part to an interview that Walmart spokesperson David Tovar gave to CBS Evening News last year, saying 'there could be consequences' for workers who are expected to show up for work and don't." [HuffPost]
- The alternate ending to "Breaking Bad" that would have tied Bryan Cranston's career together in the most poetic way imaginable. [http://huff.to/1ilmqF0]
- Timelapse of a mosaic made out of Play-Doh. [http://bit.ly/1aBLiEu]
-This remote control, jet-powered model of an Aribus A380 is how Stuart Little travels for business. [http://bit.ly/18fIHQV]
- HuffPost Taste ranks the best and worst TV turkey dinners. [http://huff.to/1dbfz1c]
- First-person view of a motorcycle racers' butt... also the race. [http://bit.ly/1fMYE2q]
- Wife illustrated a touching welcome home card for her husband who had been recuperating from food poisoning in a hospital. [http://bit.ly/1aBxVUF]
- Apparently people are trying to beatbox Skrillex. Here's hoping they have a good ENT doctor. [http://bit.ly/1in58qY]
@pourmecoffee: Maybe the Cheneys should get a pre-carved Turkey this Thanksgiving. This doesn't seem like the year to have a lot of knives around.
@jackmirkinson: 'Crack mayor' is now an acceptable wire service term RT @AFP: #BREAKING: Toronto city council strips crack mayor of powers
@daveweigel: Shoving a council member: Rob Ford's Katrina?
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