POLITICS
12/18/2013 06:21 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

HUFFPOST HILL - Max Baucus Finally Being Kicked Out Of Country

President Obama will name Max Baucus ambassador to China, though it's unclear how that helps his former staffers become lobbyists. Morale among federal employees has reached new lows, so now is a good time to invest in DC Brau and Jumbo Slice franchises. And one GOP lawmaker thinks poor schoolchildren should sweep floors for their lunches, because if there's one thing that promotes dependency, it's pizza Fridays. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, December 18th, 2013:

OBAMA TO NOMINATE MAX BAUCUS AS NEXT AMBASSADOR TO CHINA - Hey, remember that time Max Baucus wrote some awful prose about Montana's majestic scenery in explaining why he wanted to retire from the Senate? Ha ha ha. Politico: "Sen. Max Baucus, the veteran Montana Democrat who has served in the Senate since 1978, is expected to be nominated by the White House to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to China, according to several sources familiar with the matter. Baucus planned to begin informing his colleagues and his staff about his upcoming nomination on Wednesday evening. It remains unclear when the appointment would take effect, but Baucus would have to win confirmation from his Senate colleagues. If he leaves before his term ends, Baucus would relinquish his gavel on the powerful Senate Finance Committee at a time when he is still aggressively pushing for a dramatic rewrite of the Tax Code. The Montana Democrat, who has been a central figure in battles over trade, taxes and health care for a generation, has already announced he will not run for reelection in 2014. And, depending on how long the confirmation process takes, he will be opening up a Senate seat in a tough state for Democrats, but one where the Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock appoints the senator in the case of a vacancy." [Politico]

We're sure the pull to be ambassador came up from his soul like the ducks that rise in clouds from the winter wheat fields of Teton County at dusk.

LEAHY THREATENS MORE RULE CHANGES - Jen Bendery: "Republicans still sore about filibuster reform dished out some payback on Wednesday by using procedural rules to prevent the Senate Judiciary Committee from meeting to confirm nominees. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced that a confirmation hearing for five district court nominees was being postponed because GOP senators had invoked the 'two-hour rule' to prevent the committee from meeting beyond the first two hours of the Senate's day. The Senate came in at 10 a.m. Wednesday, and the hearing had been scheduled for 2:30 p.m. It's the second time in a week that Republicans have invoked the otherwise rarely enforced Senate rule to jam up noncontroversial nominees awaiting votes in committee. Last Thursday, they used the rule to block the Judiciary Committee from meeting to consider 18 nominees. Lawmakers typically waive the rule at the start of the Senate's day. Leahy fumed that the 'Republican shutdown of the Judiciary Committee' is consistent with the obstruction the committee has endured since President Barack Obama took office. He warned that if GOP senators keep it up, he's prepared to strip them of their tools in committee -- a veiled threat to do away with the "blue slip rule," a tradition that allows senators to advance or block judicial nominees from their home state. That rule is arguably Republicans' best weapon for blocking Obama's nominees now that they can't be filibustered on the Senate floor." [HuffPost]

As expected, the Senate passed the Ryan-Murray budget. Huzzah.

ECONOMY ALL BETTER, FED READY TO MOVE ON TO OTHER PROJECTS - Jonathan Spicer and Jason Lange: "The U.S. Federal Reserve announced plans to trim its aggressive bond-buying program on Wednesday but sought to temper the long-awaited move by suggesting its key interest rate would stay lower for even longer than previously promised. In what amounts to the beginning of the end of its unprecedented support for the U.S. economy, the central bank said it would reduce its monthly asset purchases by $10 billion to total $75 billion. It trimmed equally from mortgage and Treasury bonds. The move, which could come as a surprise to many investors, was a nod to better prospects for the economy and labor market and marks a historic turning point for the largest monetary policy experiment ever." [Reuters]

JOHN BOEHNER'S LANDLORD IS A TANNING LOBBYIST - Snooki did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Alex Pappas: "Speaker of the House John Boehner has long denied that his perpetual tan skin color is the result of sunless tanning. He just spends a lot of time outdoors, the Ohio Republican is known to say. But despite his repeated denials of using tanning beds, Boehner has ties to the industry. Not only has he accepted campaign contributions from a group called the Indoor Tanning Association, Boehner actually lives in a D.C. apartment owned by a lobbyist for the American Suntanning Association. Boehner rents a Capitol Hill English basement apartment from John D. Milne, a lobbyist with the firm mCapitol, Milne and Boehner’s office confirmed to The Daily Caller on Tuesday. Milne lobbies for the American Suntanning Association, which retained mCapitol for $90,000 in 2013…. 'There is not nor has there ever been a tanning bed in the residence!' Milne, his landlord, said in a Tuesday emai." [Daily Caller]

Haircuts: Chris Heishman (h/t Joel Paque). Tomorrow: Amanda Terkel

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) on Wednesday announced a bill to preserve long-term unemployment insurance for another three months, but the bipartisan duo is too late. The Senate is expected to vote Wednesday on a broader budget deal that excludes these benefits, but there are no plans to vote on unemployment before the new year. Even if the Senate did act before leaving for vacation this week, benefits will expire for 1.3 million workers on Dec. 28 because the House of Representatives has already gone home for Christmas. Unemployed people have already received notice that their benefits are over. If the Senate and House were to approve the legislation in January, however, people who missed checks during the lapse would receive lump-sum payments. [HuffPost]

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SELLOUT WATCH - Michael Hiltzik: "One fascinating aspect of a federal regulator's lawsuit this week against online lender CashCall for making allegedly illegal collections from borrowers is the identity of CashCall's defense lawyer. He's Neil Barofsky, the former federal prosecutor and government watchdog who made his name fighting for consumers and taxpayers victimized by fraudulent banking activities." [LATimes]

EXTREME PUTDOWN, STEVE KING EDITION - Charlie Mitchell: "Iowa's new 4th congressional district chose its representative a year ago and here's what it got: a blizzard of sound bites that sometimes provoked national condemnation, partial successes on conservative priorities, and what could be a crushing failure on one issue, ethanol, that matters deeply to the district's economy." [Daily Times Herald]

CURMUDGEON FIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT!!!! - Mark Leibovich in this weekend's Times Magazine cover story about old people possibly punching each other in This Town. Times: "“I am very angry,” McCain says through a smiling grimace. He hands me a photocopied compilation of old quotes from the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, from back when Democrats were in the minority and Republicans were threatening to enact a rule — the so-called nuclear option — that would require only a 51-vote majority to confirm most presidential and judicial nominations. Turns out Reid believed this was a bad idea when the Republicans were in charge but was a good one now, and McCain is packing bullet points. 'I’m going to go kick the crap out of Harry Reid,' he keeps announcing as we walk from his office to the Capitol. Once on the Senate floor, McCain approaches Reid, puts his hands on the majority leader’s shoulders, smiles and says something I can’t make out from the visitors’ gallery above. Reid smiles back, says a few words in reply and places his hands on McCain’s sides. It looks as if they are dancing." [NYT] '

REID NOT GOING ANYWHERE - If the majority leader has his way, he'll duke it out with John McCain until they no longer yell at kids on their lawns because neither knows where they are. Roll Call: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sounds like a man who intends to stay in his office into the next decade. 'I don’t want to do it more than eight more years,' the Nevada Democrat said of serving as his party’s leader in the Senate during a Wednesday interview with CQ Roll Call. Reid is up for re-election in 2016 and has repeatedly said he intends to run again. He reiterated that intention again on Wednesday and indicated he’s looking at serving another full term running the Senate, if Democrats hold onto the majority the entire time. If he and Democrats are able to hold onto power that long, Reid would be the leader for 16 years, matching the current record set by the legendary Montana Democrat Mike Mansfield." [Roll Call]

GOP REP TELLS POOR KIDS TO SWEEP THEIR SCHOOLS' FLOORS FOR LUNCH - Listen, kid, no Capri Sun taste as sweet as a Capri Sun after two hours with a swiffer and the best bleach your school district can buy. Amanda Terkel: "Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) wants kids to learn early in life that there's no such thing as a free lunch. To make sure they absorb that lesson, he's proposing that low-income children do some manual labor in exchange for their subsidized meals. On Saturday, Kingston, who is vying to be his party's nominee in Georgia's Senate race next year, spoke at a meeting of the Jackson County Republican Party about the federal school lunch program. Under that program, children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty line are eligible for free meals. Students from families with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level can receive lunches at reduced prices. But on Saturday, Kingston came out against free lunches, saying that children should have to pay at least a nominal amount or do some work like sweeping cafeteria floors. 'But one of the things I’ve talked to the secretary of agriculture about: Why don’t you have the kids pay a dime, pay a nickel to instill in them that there is, in fact, no such thing as a free lunch? Or maybe sweep the floor of the cafeteria -- and yes, I understand that that would be an administrative problem, and I understand that it would probably lose you money. But think what we would gain as a society in getting people -- getting the myth out of their head that there is such a thing as a free lunch,' he said." [HuffPost]

Michael Bennet and Steve Israel couldn't be happier with Kingston's comments: "In the first 10 months of 2013, the DCCC dominated its Republican counterpart in fundraising. It did so in no small part by attracting new donors like Caliendo, frustrated with the Republican-led House of Representatives...More than 15 percent of the DCCC's $65.2 million in fundraising through October -- or $10.1 million -- came from more than 11,700 donors who did not make a contribution in the 2012 election cycle, according to a review of Federal Election Commission records by The Huffington Post...While the DCCC is successfully getting new donors to pony up multiple times, the NRCC is struggling. Just 28 percent of new NRCC donors made more than one contribution. Only 19 individual donors made more than 10 contributions." [HuffPost's Paul Blumenthal]

GOP CANDIDATE CONCEDES IN VIRGINIA AG RACE - But the dynamics have, well, changed. Luke Johnson: "State Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) conceded the Virginia attorney general's race Wednesday to State Sen. Mark Herring (D-Loudon), after the recount Obenshain called for caused the narrow margin he was trailing by to increase. 'Today is not the time to contest the process,' Obenshain said at a press conference in Richmond. "As we near the conclusion, Mark Herring will be ahead." Obenshain asked for a government-funded recount under state law after the state Board Of Elections certified Herring had a 165-vote lead. The recount widened Herring's lead to over 800 votes. With a Herring victory, Democrats will hold the top three statewide offices in Virginia, which has not happened since 1989." [HuffPost]

FEDERAL EMPLOYEE MORAL HITS RECORD LOW - Amanda Terkel: "Budget cuts and forced furloughs have taken a toll on federal workers, with job satisfaction at a record low in a new government-wide survey. 'We are dismantling the capability of our government by the way it's being managed, and the people in government are giving that message back. ... It should be really worrisome to anyone who cares about our country,' said Max Stier, president and CEO of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, which produced a report on the survey. The Office of Personnel Management surveys workers across the government annually about their satisfaction at work. This year, nearly 400,000 people participated from April through June, just as sequestration's furloughs were hitting many workers. Using the data compiled by OPM, PPS and the consulting firm Deloitte issued their annual 'Best Places to Work in the Federal Government' report Wednesday, finding 'troubling' responses. Federal workforce satisfaction has dropped for the third straight year, to the lowest level since the rankings were first published in 2003. Meanwhile, employee satisfaction in the private sector is up." [HuffPost]

MOST SUPPORT MINIMUM WAGE HIKE - ABC News: "Two-thirds of Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll support increasing the minimum wage, rejecting arguments that doing so could encourage layoffs and reflecting majority sentiment that current federal government policies favor the wealthy. Those who support a higher minimum wage even have a recommended level: The average response in this group is $10.25 per hour, very close to the $10.10 proposal endorsed by Barack Obama and now before the U.S. Senate. Support for raising the minimum wage is linked to broader concern about income inequality, a theme sounded by Obama in a speech Dec. 4. Sixty-four percent of Americans say federal policies currently favor the wealthy, and 57 percent say they’d support efforts to try to reduce the wealth gap in this country. Support for boosting the minimum wage soars in both those groups...This poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, offered pro and con arguments on the issue, noting that some say the minimum wage should be raised “to help low-income workers get by,” while others say taking such action “will lead some businesses to cut jobs.” The result is 2-1 in favor: Sixty-six percent support raising the minimum wage, while 31 percent oppose it." [ABC News]

Be sure to read Sabrina Siddiqui's jarring report on the FDA's approval of NuvaRing, which has been tied to health problems.

GOP PURCHASING ONLY THE FINEST, CHINA-MADE AMERICAN FLAG PRODUCTS - BuzzFeed: "The Republican National Committee publicity effort to tar Democrats with PolitiFact’s 'Lie Of The Year' includes sending Democrats trophies emblazoned with the American Flag that are made in China. A Democratic source said the trophies have been sent to the offices of all the top Republican targets for defeat in next year’s Senate elections. The trophy lists the name of the targeted Democratic Senator with 'Lie Of The Year' inscribed below it. PoltiFact gave the label to President Obama’s oft-repeated 'if you like your plan, you can keep it' line, and Republicans have sought to capitalize on that as election season draws nearer. On the base of the RNC trophy is a plaque bearing the name of the manufacturer, Trophy Depot and reads 'Base Made In China.' A representative at the New York-based firm told BuzzFeed Wednesday the model purchased by the RNC is likely constructed entirely in China. A quick Google search found several firms that sell custom trophies manufactured in the United States." [BuzzFeed]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a cat and some musical peas.

FOX HAS BECOME THAT WHICH IT DESPISES - It's like if America just gave Berlin back to the Nazis, you know? Amanda Terkel: "For years, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly has been trying to save Christmas from all the pinheads who want to destroy the country by wishing people 'Happy holidays.' He has called the greeting 'insulting to Christian America' and bemoaned the ''Happy holidays' syndrome.' But during his show on Tuesday night, just as he was declaring victory in this War on Christmas, his own network was joining the ranks of the despicable secular progressives. During a commercial break, Fox News aired a graphic wishing viewers 'Happy holidays.' However, Crooks and Liars noted that later in his show, O'Reilly nevertheless said he had successfully saved Christmas for all God-fearing Americans. 'Nine years ago when we started this reportage on Christmas, there were orders given by some major corporations in America to their employees, forbidding them -- forbidding them -- from saying 'Merry Christmas.' We outed those companies, they reversed the policy, so today, everybody as far as we know ... can say Merry Christmas to anyone they want,' said O'Reilly." [HuffPost]

COMFORT FOOD

- Zach Galifianakis hosted a holiday edition of "Between Two Ferns." [http://huff.to/1i1GjSU]

- Is your cat an addict? Not all is lost. [http://huff.to/1dmTMPt]

- A half-ton chocolate Santa is on display in a Houston (of course) hotel. [http://huff.to/JCbjds]

- The preview for Netflix's Mitt Romney documentary is up and it looks pretty fantastic. [http://bit.ly/18WPjU8]

- There are postgame news conferences, and then there are postgame news conferences. [http://huff.to/18yWhAI]

- "Fashion or Porn," a NSFW online quiz, asks the user to differentiate increasingly pornographic fashion photography from good ol' fashioned, "I know it when I see it," porn. [http://bit.ly/1bbEWZm]

- In 1957 five men stood directly under a nuclear blast 10,000 feet in the air. [http://bit.ly/JIeKA8]

TWITTERAMA

@BuzzFeedAndrew: Yes, but he only follows young black men. RT @sydneyelainexo: Does George Zimmerman have twitter?

@elisefoley: Set your "It has been ___ days since the Senate passed a budget!" calendar back to zero.

@pourmecoffee: Jack Lew has just interrupted Bernanke's last press conference and presented him with a trillion dollar coin. Very moving.

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