01/17/2014 05:35 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

HUFFPOST HILL - NSA To Curb Surveillance Of Your Obamaphone

Some GOP operatives are so worried about Chris Christie's political troubles that they think Mitt Romney should run again, though none have become so desperate that they're begging Fred Thompson to leave the reverse mortgage game. On Monday, many Americans will acknowledge Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s struggle for justice by solemnly sleeping in and then solemnly mixing orange juice with champagne. And John Boehner called Steve King an "asshole" for his insensitive comments about immigrants. Considering the offense, Boehner should have taken a page from George W. Bush and thrown in a "major league." This is HUFFPOST HILL for Friday, January 17th, 2014:

Jamelle Bouie fields the popup: "The thing about Jim Crow, after all, is that its emergence was profoundly undemocratic and distinctly anti-majoritarian. Throughout the South, pluralities of the electorate -- and in the case of Mississippi and Louisiana, outright majorities -- were disenfranchised through violence and terrorism." [Daily Beast]

OBAMA TO SCALE BACK BULK PHONE DATA - Also, Angela Merkel can finally take off that funny tinfoil hat now and unsubscribe from all those Infowars newsletters. Journal: "President Barack Obama outlined a plan to sharply curtail the government's collection and use of American phone data, part of the most significant revision of U.S. spying practices in a decade and an outgrowth of the world-wide backlash over revelations about U.S. surveillance programs. The most immediate changes to spy operations affect a National Security Agency program that collects data on nearly all U.S. phone calls. Under the new presidential directive, intelligence officials must now obtain approval from a secret national-security court for government searches of phone data, and the scope of individual searches has been scaled back. 'The reforms I'm proposing today should give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, even as our intelligence and law-enforcement agencies maintain the tools they need to keep us safe,' Mr. Obama said in prepared remarks. 'I recognize that there are additional issues that require further debate.' Mr. Obama also adopted new protections for non-U.S. citizens and put an end to spying on the heads of state of close U.S. allies, although monitoring directed at leaders' staff members wasn't prohibited." [WSJ]

CLASSIC JOHN BOEHNER MOMENT - An honest assessment of Steve "Cantaloupe Calves" King from the speaker. Congressman Joaquin Castro: "The Democratic caricature of the speaker is that he’s an overly tan, overly emotional cat-herder who has lost control of his flock, but in person, he comes across as approachable and down-to-earth, and you can see how he earned the trust of his colleagues and became their leader. On a day not too long after Boehner’s political body check of Steve King for his immigration comments, the speaker was milling around the aisle walkway in the middle section of the House floor where the Democratic and Republican territories meet. Another Texas Democrat and I were standing a few feet away, and as the speaker passed us we thanked him for denouncing King’s offensive comments. He slowed his stride and then paused to turn toward us. 'What an asshole,' he said. My thoughts exactly, Mr. Speaker." [Texas Monthly]

KING RESPONDS with the exact words Boehner used when he initially condemned King's racist comments. Credit the congressman for having a cantaloupe-sized sense of humor.

Guess we'll have to add "Cantaloupe-Sized Asshole" to our list of the types of assholes in Washington.

HuffPost Haircuts: Ariel Edwards-Levy, Dave Jamieson.

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Despite demanding House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) keep the House of Representatives in session to deal with expired unemployment insurance, Democratic lawmakers aren't going to hang around now that the House has adjourned. House lawmakers will leave town for 10 days without having considered legislation to restore compensation to the 1.3 million people whose benefits expired in December. Boehner, for his part, is off to a fundraiser in unemployment-ridden Las Vegas for Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.). Democrats said they wanted to stay to work out a deal with Republicans. But HuffPost contacted dozens of them, and of those who responded, none said they would stay in D.C. now that there won't be any official House action. Most said they could accomplish more at home than in Washington. "I have plenty of work I need to be doing in my district," Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) told HuffPost in an interview. "But I will make every effort to galvanize, activate, organize people to keep the pressure on Speaker Boehner and the Republican leadership to have something ready when we return from this work period." [HuffPost]

UPSIDE DOWNER - The budget Congress just passed restores funding that was cut away last year from nutrition assistance for poor senior citizens. The Meals On Wheels Association of America praised Congress Friday for replacing $46 million in funding that was lost in the big budget cut known as sequestration, which had hamstrung some of the local agencies that provide group meals and home-delivered food for poor seniors across the country. "Today we congratulate and commend the leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees for producing a bipartisan bill that restores critical funding for vulnerable seniors," association president Ellie Hollander said in a press release…. Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) had led a group of mostly Democrats last fall incalling on budget negotiators to restore the funding. Not all programs hit by sequestration got their money back. [HuffPost]

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COBURN TO RETIRE EARLY - Oklahoma being the conservative state that it is, this will come down to which wing of the state's Republican party wins the primary. American Bridge is really going to enjoy this one. AP: "U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn will finish out the current congressional session and then resign from his seat nearly two years before his term is scheduled to end, he said in a statement released late Thursday. The 65-year-old Republican said he would give up his seat at the end of the current session in January 2015. His term was scheduled to end in 2016, and Coburn already had vowed not to seek a third. Coburn, a physician from Muskogee, recently was diagnosed with a recurrence of prostate cancer, but said his decision was not about his health...Known as a conservative maverick during his three terms in the U.S. House in the 1990s, Coburn continued that role after being elected to the Senate in 2004. He was a fierce critic of what he described as excessive government spending, and was most vocal about opposing the earmarking of special projects. His resignation is certain to draw the interest of a deep bench of ambitious Republicans in Oklahoma. State law requires the governor to call a special election in the case of a vacancy." [AP]

RAND PAUL HAS WEIRD IDEAS ABOUT MAJORITY RULE - Luke Johnson: "Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) compared President Barack Obama winning elections to Jim Crow laws and Japanese internment on Thursday, arguing that they all grew out of 'majority rule' thinking. On the Fox News show 'On The Record,' host Greta Van Susteren asked him about Obama. 'He is quoted back in January 23rd, 2009, right when he became president first term. He said, 'I won, so I think on that one I trump you.' I mean, this is sort of -- this has always been the viewpoint he has communicated to Republicans on the Hill,' she said. Paul responded, 'Well, you know, the danger to majority rule, to him sort of thinking, the majority voted for me now I'm the majority, I can do whatever I want and that there are no rules that restrain me -- that's what gave us Jim Crow." [HuffPost]

CHRIS CHRISTIE GIVING GOP OPERATIVES A :-( BuzzFeed: "In interviews with more than a dozen party officials, fundraisers, and strategists in New York and Washington over the past 10 days, Republicans described a palpable sense of anxiety gripping the GOP establishment in the wake of Christie’s meltdown, and an emerging consensus that the once promising cast of candidates they were counting on to save the GOP from the tea party — and the nation from Hillary Clinton — is looking less formidable by the week. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — declared 'The Republican Savior' on the cover of Time magazine last January — fell from grace after his attempt to pass comprehensive immigration reform, and his subsequent flip-flop on the bill, was met with revolt from the right, and a chorus of scorn from the left. Meanwhile, the establishment’s other favorite son, Jeb Bush, virtually vanished after half-heartedly feeding the 2016 buzz during his short-lived book tour last spring. Since then, he has shown little interest in building a presidential campaign, and on Thursday his own mother said she hopes he doesn’t run...In fact, it’s gotten so bad, [one] operative said, that some donors have started looking back fondly on the good old days of 2012: 'You know what a lot of them say to me? I think we need Mitt back.'" [BuzzFeed]

SENATE GOP TRYING TO CIRCUMVENT REID ON AMENDMENTS - In the annals of greatest last words, "Let's cross Harry Reid!" falls somewhere between "Crank up the Abba and give me one more bump!" and "Stop pulling at me, I'm trying to Instagram this agitated lion." The Hill: "In the Senate, the majority leader gets the first crack at filing amendments to legislation that comes before the body. When Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) calls up legislation, he frequently offers several minor or technical amendments to the bill right away. That process is known as 'filling the amendment tree,' and it usually blocks Republicans from offering up their own proposals for changing the bill...During debate on the House-Senate budget agreement, [Senate Budget Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)] made a motion to table Reid's filling of the amendment tree. He made that move to protest language in the budget deal that cut $6 billion in military pensions over the next decade, language that both parties have since said they would try to eliminate in some future bill...Sessions also confirmed with the Senate parliamentarian that passage of his motion to table Reid's filled up amendment tree would allow senators to offer their own amendments. Predictably, the Senate rejected Sessions's tabling motion in a mostly party-line 46-54 vote, although Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), who faces a difficult reelection race this year, voted with Republicans. While Republicans are 0-4 so far, a Senate aide said they would keep trying as a way of putting pressure on Democrats to defend their limits on amendments." [The Hill]

PORT AUTHORITY POSITION CREATED FOR CHRISTIE AIDE - CNN: "'Give him a position at the top of the agency; he's a good friend of the governor.' That's how David Wildstein was introduced to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 2010, according to a former employee with extensive knowledge of the agency's hiring practices. Soon after, Wildstein was named the director of Interstate Capital Projects, a title that previously had not existed at the bi-state agency, setting in motion a career that would eventually place the former political blogger at the center of the lane closures controversy at the George Washington Bridge. Wildstein catapulted into the national spotlight with his response to the infamous e-mail from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's aide: "Time for some traffic problems in Ft. Lee," Bridget Kelly wrote. Wildstein responded, 'Got it.' A former Port Authority employee told CNN that agency officials were told in 2010 they had to find a place for WIldstein at the executive level and the directive was coming from Christie's office. Soon after, the position was created specifically for WIldstein. When Wildstein started, Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, Christie's top appointee at the agency, introduced him to people as a good friend of the governor." [CNN]

"Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates defended President Barack Obama's policy on Iran Friday, arguing that additional sanctions now run the risk of ending negotiations with the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program. 'I think the president is absolutely right to oppose Congress in enacting any additional sanctions right now,' he said, speaking to a group of reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in the St. Regis Hotel in downtown Washington. "As hard it is for everybody to deal with, we may actually be seeing success in the policy.' 'They are at the table -- I think the sanctions policy pursued by these presidents has worked. I think to add sanctions right now really would run a very high risk of blowing it all up.'...Gates' comments on Iran were more definitively in favor of the administration's stance than those he gave to 'PBS News Hour,' where he said that while imposing new sanctions would be a mistake, it could strengthen the administration's position to threaten additional sanctions should negotiations break down." [HuffPost]

PENNSYLVANIA VOTER ID REQUIREMENT STRUCK DOWN - Saki Knafo: "A state judge has ruled that Pennsylvania can’t require voters to show ID at the polls. Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley said Friday that the photo identification requirement at the center of Pennsylvania’s controversial 2012 voter ID law 'unreasonably burdens the rights to vote' guaranteed by the state constitution. He ordered the commonwealth to stop enforcing the requirement. A coalition of civil-rights groups challenged the requirement in court last summer after Republican lawmakers passed it and Gov. Tom Corbett signed it into law in 2012." [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a fat cat.

Some lawmakers in Georgia love the Constitution so much they plan to completely ignore it to protect it: "A bill introduced by a Republican state lawmaker seeks to exempt Georgians from any new federal gun laws. The bill, proposed by state Rep. Tom Kirby (R-Loganville), would nullify any future federal gun restrictions, rendering laws that regulate firearms manufactured in Georgia 'unenforceable.' Kirby and the bill's cosponsors -- state Reps. Delvis Dutton (R-Glennville), Paulette Braddock (R-Powder Springs), Kevin Cooke (R-Carrollton), David Stover (R-Newnan), and Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown) -- want Georgia gun owners to be free from federal laws governing ownership and registration of firearms, ammunition and accessories." [HuffPost]


- Albums made out of Legos. [http://bit.ly/1ktey7Z]

- Imagining a marketing campaign for a Louis C.K. fragrance. [http://bit.ly/KEBOjF]

- Certain types of black widow spiders actually have to twerk to avoid being eaten by potential mates. And you thought Adams Morgan on a Saturday night was weird. [http://bit.ly/1jbbEmT]

- Fourteen minutes of hockey goalies losing their minds. [http://bit.ly/1i6ePvS]

- "Ladies Against Humanity" features "Cards Against Humanity" prompt and answer cards geared toward the more feminine (but still debauched) player. [http://bit.ly/1gkQXR5]

- Cat just wants to show baby some love. [http://bit.ly/1eRalWH]

- This 1973 anti-forest fire PSA is the creepiest. [http://bit.ly/1dCeTBF]


@delrayser: Feel sorry for all the NSA folks who won't have a job Monday after Obama shuts the agency down

@Ugarles: Mitt Romney, covering his mouth "I think we need Mitt back."
Mitt Romney in a high-pitched voice "Yeah, I agree!"

@jesseberney: Intelligence Community Dislikes Man Who Revealed Intelligence

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