12/10/2013 06:03 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

HUFFPOST HILL - Republicans Lost Their Phone Number, Can They Have Yours?

A light snowfall prompted federal agencies in Washington close, because the government hasn't been needlessly shut down enough this year. Conservatives criticized President Obama for shaking Raul Castro's hand, citing that one meeting of the UN General Assembly where Ronald Reagan played the knockout game against every Warsaw Pact representative. And the NRSC enlisted the services of a political strategist to learn how to communicate with women, though picking up the latest Men's Health probably would have been cheaper. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, December 10th, 2013:

BUDGET DEAL NEAR, NEGOTIATORS SAY (DICK DURBIN FEELING SOME GOOD VIBES, MAN) - The Hill: "House and Senate budget negotiators say a deal to turn off part of the sequester could be announced Tuesday. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) told reporters she plans a news conference later in the day after briefing the full Senate Democratic caucus on the emerging deal. “I think we’re close,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters. The deal would reduce automatic spending cuts known as the sequester by $65 billion to $85 billion over two years. To pay for that spending, negotiators are looking at a variety of proposals, including requiring federal employees to contribute more to their pensions. While some Democrats raised objections to the deal, Durbin said there was a 'positive feeling' about it in the room when Murray briefed her conference. One holdup remains whether there will be a side deal on extending expiring jobless benefits. Democrats appear to have given up on having unemployment insurance benefits in the budget deal, but are angling for a House vote on a separate bill. “We want to make it part of what we do before the end of the year if possible,” Durbin said. He said negotiators were still trying to find a way to pay for the $25 billion in new spending. One idea being floated is using some of the savings from the farm bill that is being negotiated separately. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the House Budget Committee chairman, briefed House GOP leaders in Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) office on the status of the talks as Murray was speaking to her colleagues." [The Hill]

Murray and Ryan are holding a presser at 6 p.m.

FARM BILL STUMBLES - David Rogers: "Farm bill negotiators conceded Tuesday that they will not finish their work before Congress goes home for the year, but insisted that they are close to a final deal and working toward floor action in early January. 'We are very confident that we are going to have an agreement,' Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said. 'We will be ready to vote in January.' … With no bill this year, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) confirmed that he will file Tuesday night a short-term extension of current farm law through the end of January. Lucas said he wanted the House to have this option to consider before it goes home Friday. But if the CBO numbers fall into place, the Oklahoma Republican signaled he would be happy to leave the extension on the shelf. 'If it appears that it is possible to be ready to go on the floor that first week in January then I’d be very hesitant,' Lucas said about the timing of a House vote on his extension." [Politico]

More Stabenow: "If the House leadership would just stay through next week, like the Senate is staying, we would actually be able to get" a normal farm bill.

REPUBLICAN SENATE CANDIDATES BEING TAUGHT HOW TO PICK UP CHICKS - God please tell us there's a video featuring a man with too much Brylcreem in his hair and a child named Billy. Jon Ward: "Republican House of Representatives candidates aren't the only ones training to best communicate with women voters. GOP candidates for Senate are being put through their paces as well, The Huffington Post has learned. The National Republican Senatorial Committee and GOP consultants working to close the party's gender gap emphasized that talking to women is just one part of an intensive candidate training program. 'We do not like the phrase women's issues, because we think all issues are women's issues,' said Katie Packer Gage, a veteran Republican operative who conducted a training session for Senate candidates at the National Republican Senatorial Committee's candidate school. Gage, who was deputy campaign manager for Mitt Romney's presidential run last year, started a new firm this year aimed specifically at helping Republicans overcome their foot-in-mouth disease on issues of particular interest to women. She said the session she and fellow consultant Ashley O'Connor conducted for the National Republican Senatorial Committee was 'focused on how to talk about the Republican philosophy of limited government and talk about it in a way that women will respond to.'" [HuffPost]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Looks like long-term unemployment insurance won't be part of that Ryan-Murray budget deal. Womp womp. There is still the doc fix, but little time. [Hang in there!]

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VOLCKER RULE FINALIZED - This is really going to send the political wing of the smarm movement off the deep end. Reuters: "U.S. regulators toughened key sections of the Volcker rule's crackdown on Wall Street's risky trades on Tuesday as they finalized one of the harshest reforms after the credit meltdown. The rule - named after former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who championed the reform - generally bans banks from proprietary trading, or speculative trading for their own profits. The final rule includes strictly defined carve-outs for trades executed to serve clients' interests or to protect against market risks, and forces banks to show regulators that they are not trying to pass off speculative bets as legitimate trades. Regulators are eager to prevent a repeat of trading debacles such as JPMorgan's $6 billion trading loss in 2012, dubbed the 'London Whale' because of the huge positions the bank took in credit markets. Still, it is unclear exactly how regulators will police banks' trading activity and officials acknowledged the sprawling, 882-page rule was a complex document. 'Many of us - myself included - had hoped for a final rule substantially more streamlined than the 2011 proposal. I think we need to acknowledge that it has been only modestly simplified,' Federal Reserve Governor Dan Tarullo said." [HuffPost]

DEMOCRATS FALL BEHIND IN GENERIC CONGRESSIONAL BALLOT, OBAMA'S APPROVALS TANK: POLL - Must. Pivot. To....ECONOMY! Quinnipiac: "President Barack Obama's job approval among American voters drops to a new low, a negative 38 - 57 percent, as the outlook for Democrats running for Congress and the U.S. Senate fades also, according to a national poll released today. He even gets a negative 41 - 49 percent among voters 18 to 29 years old and a lackluster 50 - 43 percent approval among Hispanic voters. The president's job approval compares to a negative 39 - 54 percent score in a November 12 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University. Today, Obama gets negative scores of 6 - 92 percent among Republicans, 30 - 62 percent among independent voters, 31 - 64 percent among men, 44 - 49 percent among women and 29 - 65 among white voters. Approval is 76 - 18 percent among Democrats and 85 - 9 percent among black voters. American voters say 41 - 38 percent that they would vote for a Republican over a Democrat for the U.S. House of Representatives, the first time this year the Democrats come up on the short end of this generic ballot. Independent voters back Republican candidates 41 - 28 percent. Voters also say 47 - 42 percent that they would like to see Republicans gain control of the U.S. Senate and the House. Independent voters go Republican 50 - 35 percent for each." [Quinnipiac]

JOHN PODESTA JOINS WHITE HOUSE STAFF - Just in time! He'll be able to bring in his brother for the minimum wage battle. Tony's done a lot of fabulous work with WalMart. WaPo: "John D. Podesta, who was chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and is one of the Democratic Party’s most experienced strategists, is joining the White House to help President Obama salvage what has become a difficult second term. Podesta, who has been an outside adviser to Obama since leading his presidential transition after the 2008 election, will formally join his inner circle as White House counselor for a year, according to sources familiar with the move. Podesta’s arrival comes at a critical juncture for Obama, as the president tries to regain credibility after the flawed rollout of the insurance marketplaces under his signature health-care law. Obama also has recruited Phil Schiliro, the legislative affairs director during the president’s first term and a veteran congressional operative, to return to the White House and spearhead health-care issues...People familiar with the move confirmed that White House chief of staff Denis McDonough helped recruit Podesta and that Podesta’s portfolio would be broad and would include climate-change issues and executive actions, as well as the troubled health-care law." [WaPo]

SENATE CONFIRMS NOMINEE UNDER NEW FILIBUSTER RULES - If nothing else, the Senate rule change should prompt another round of fabulous "The Republic is Dead" art from the tea party. Jen Bendery: "[N]ow we're seeing what a nuclear explosion looks like in the Senate: a noncontroversial judge was approved Tuesday by a majority vote, 56-38. Patricia Millett's confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit makes her the first nominee to move forward in a post-filibuster reform world... A senior Democratic aide said the Senate will vote on about a dozen nominees before adjourning for the year, including some, like Millett, who Republicans previously filibustered for reasons that have nothing to do with their credentials. They include two other D.C. Circuit nominees, Janet Yellen for the Federal Reserve and Mel Watt for the Federal Housing Finance Agency. All are expected to get confirmed this time around, many with GOP support...But just because it's easier for Democrats to move nominees on the Senate floor doesn't mean Republicans won't continue holding them up at other stages of the confirmation process. In addition to GOP senators simply not making recommendations for nominees to fill court vacancies in their home states, The Huffington Post has counted at least 13 nominees currently stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee because of nine Republicans (and one Democrat) refusing to put forward "blue slips," or a tradition in the committee that allows senators to advance or block judicial nominees from their home state." [HuffPost]

OBAMA SHAKES RAUL CASTRO'S HAND, INVALIDATING EVERYTHING OUR BOYS AT LEXINGTON AND CONCORD DIED FOR - To quote one of America's foremost political theorists, Victoria Jackson, "America died." Times: "President Obama shook hands with President Raúl Castro of Cuba on Tuesday, offering a friendly gesture freighted with symbolism to one of America’s most enduring Cold War foes. The brief handshake was delivered with the world watching as Mr. Obama greeted leaders assembled to make remarks at the memorial service here for Nelson Mandela. But the image — captured by photographers and television cameras — instantly raised questions about its deeper meaning. Was Mr. Obama trying to signal a new effort by the American government to reach an accommodation with Cuba 50 years after the Communist revolution that put Fidel Castro, Raúl’s brother, in power? Or was Mr. Obama simply trying to avoid delivering a diplomatic snub at a memorial dedicated to forgiveness?...A handshake like the one Mr. Obama offered Mr. Castro has the potential to become a political problem for the president, much the way that Mr. Obama’s handshake in 2009with Hugo Chávez, then the Socialist president of Venezuela, was criticized by Republicans." [NYT]

@toddzwillich: Sen McCain on Obama-Castro handshake. "Neville Chamberlain shook hands with Hitler."

Nick Wing and Shadee Ashtari: "Obama's Handshake With Raul Castro Is Only Offensive If You Ignore 75 Years Of History"

Duckfacing for freedom: "What do President Obama and a bunch of teenagers have in common? It turns out they like to appear in selfies at memorial services. Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt appeared to hold out her smartphone for a three-way selfie at a service honoring Nelson Mandela today in Johannesburg. Obama, who sat to her left, and British Prime Minister David Cameron, who sat to her right, leaned in close for the snap. Meanwhile, a serious-looking Michelle Obama looked like she was not at all interested in taking part in the pic. The first lady was captured in photographs with an icey stare, though it remained unclear whether they were taken before or after the selfie." [ABC News]

LIBERAL JOHN CORNYN FEARS STEVE STOCKMAN - Jen Bendery: "Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Tuesday that he was just as surprised as anyone to hear that Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) plans to run against him in 2014. 'He wasn't on my radar screen,' Cornyn told reporters, downplaying the significance of the tea party-backed congressman jumping into the race. He pointed out that since there are five Republicans and five Democrats running for his seat, Stockman is just one of many…. Cornyn said Tuesday he suspected that Stockman had decided to challenge him because he was worried about being able to hold onto his House seat next year. 'He obviously was going to be looking at a difficult race in his own congressional seat, so he decided to try something different,' he said." [HuffPost]

STOCKMAN HAS A LOT OF WEIRD CAMPAIGN ISSUES - Houston Chronicle: "Rep. Steve Stockman has fired two congressional staffers after disclosures that both made prohibited contributions to his campaign. The incident is the latest in a string of controversial episodes that have dogged Stockman's political campaigns over the past two decades. The Clear Lake Repub­lican's campaign for Congress in Texas' 36th District has been notified of potential problems with its campaign finance filings in 2012 and 2013 approximately a dozen times, including apparently misreported donations, late or missing filings of required reports, and inaccuracies in certain filings." Weird. [Houston Chronicle]

SUPPORT FOR COMPREHENSIVE GUN CONTROL WANING: POLL - Listen, the knockout game has changed everything, and freedom-loving Americans are just trying to ready themselves from the pugilistic menace as best they can. Emily Swanson: "Support for stronger gun laws has dropped from highs in the weeks after last year's elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., even though other mass shootings have kept guns in the news, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll and others conducted over the past year. Still, support for universal background checks for all gun buyers, including those at gun shows and in private sales, remains near its peak since the shooting. Seventy-seven percent of poll respondents said they favored such a requirement, while 16 percent were opposed. Americans were more divided over banning high-capacity magazines for semi-automatic weapons, with 48 percent in favor and 38 percent opposed. According to the latest poll, 49 percent of Americans now want generally stricter gun laws, while 22 percent say they should be less strict and 23 percent want no change." [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here are some corgi puppies.

SHERIFF JOE NOT GOING TO HONOR MANDELA - Beside, the time spent lowering his American flags to half-staff could be spent having prisoners stamping "SECURE OUR BORDERS" license plates. KFYI: "This issue gained national attention with a South Carolina sheriff, who is refusing to fly flags at half-mast, despite a presidential order to lower them in memory of the late South African leader. He argued that honor should be reserved for Americans who sacrificed for the country. Sheriff Joe Arpaio is taking his own action on the matter, pointing out that Nelson Mandela's name appeared on a terrorism watch list until 2008. Arpaio says flags would always remain at half-staff if he recognized every international dignitary who dies. He says if this means that much to the president, then Obama should have praised the sheriff for placing flags in each of the inmates' cells and making them sing the national anthem." [KFYI]


- Quit complaining about the snow. If these avalanche-blanketed mountain goats can deal with it, so can you. [http://bit.ly/18S0xMm]

- Ostrich drops the beat. [http://bit.ly/18kknPR]

- Helicopter pilot shows how to tree harvest like a pro. [http://bit.ly/19dDYjb]

- Give a man a fish and you'll feed him for a day. Teach a man to code, and the movie rights will feed you forever. [http://read.bi/18z4RdC]

- The argument against handshakes. [http://bit.ly/1f4t9Ag]

- Finally the New York City cab driver pinup calendar society has been waiting for. [http://ti.me/J7Hge4]

- "Love Actually 2" is much darker. [http://huff.to/1btSKyf]


@nprscottsimon: Besides: don't you think Raul Castro has to wonder if he got a "Don Barzini" funeral handshake?

@RichardRubinDC: So far, only cold state senators have arrived for IRS hearing.

@jbendery: Lots of warm emails from readers today. "You are everything wrong with the media ... You suck and are a pathetic follower of the regime."

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