Commuters in the South were stuck in traffic for upwards of a day, suggesting Mother Nature once served as Chris Christie's deputy chief of staff. The weather marked the first time D.C. natives had a reason to be all haughty about how other people can't handle winter. And it's a shame that rap aficionado Trey Radel left Congress right before Michael Grimm did his best Suge Knight impression by threatening to throw someone over a balcony. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, January 29th, 2014:
HARRY REID REFUSES TO FAST TRACK TRADE BILL - Mike McAuliff: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) appears not to have been swayed by President Barack Obama's State of the Union appeal to Congress to push through trade deals, declaring flatly on Wednesday that he opposes so-called fast-track authority for the White House. Fast track, known formally as Trade Promotional Authority, essentially requires Congress to give international trade agreements negotiated by the president an up-or-down vote with no chance for amendments. The fast-track authority lapsed during the administration of George W. Bush, and Obama would like to revive it in hopes of passing his ambitious and murky Trans-Pacific Partnership pact, which many opponents on the left and right fear will undermine the United States' ability to maintain its own labor and environmental protections. Obama, however, made a strong pitch for the authority in his Tuesday speech, casting it as part of his bipartisan outreach and as an economic booster. But Reid thinks differently. 'I'm against fast track,' Reid told reporters Wednesday on Capitol Hill, before suggesting a fast-track bill introduced by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) may not get a vote...Indeed, Reid cautioned the president and his allies to back off. 'I think everyone would be well advised just to not push this right now,' the majority leader said." [HuffPost]
FEDERAL RESERVE TAKES LOAD OFF, CRACKS BEER - Jonathan Spicer and Jason Lange: "The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday announced a further $10 billion reduction in its monthly bond purchases as it stuck to a plan to wind down the extraordinary stimulus despite recent turmoil in emerging markets. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who hands the central bank's reins to Vice Chair Janet Yellen on Friday, also adjourned his last policy-setting meeting without making any changes to the U.S. central bank's other main policy plank: its longer-term plan to keep interest rates low for some time to come. The Fed acknowledged that economic activity picked up in recent quarters, in a statement after the two-day meeting, a nod to the broader U.S. economic strength that prompted it to decide last month to begin reducing the asset purchase plan. Starting in February, the Fed will buy $65 billion in bonds per month, down from $75 billion now. It shaved its purchases of U.S. Treasuries and mortgage bonds equally." [Reuters]
We miss BLOB: @bomble: The Treasury Department's voicemail still says the government is shutdown.
FARM BILL GUTS VITTER AMENDMENT; VITTER HAPPY - Louisiana Republican David Vitter wanted to permanently ban anyone convicted of rape or murder from food stamps, regardless of whether they had already served their time. Why? He never really explained why. But both chambers of Congress unanimously adopted his proposal without debate because nobody wanted to talk about or vote on it. The new farm bill, released this week, includes Vitter's amendment, but with a huge caveat -- that it only applies to people not obeying the terms of their sentence. In other words, it will hardly apply to anybody. But Vitter is happy: “I think we need to make some major reforms, including a complete ban in the program for anyone who’s committed a violent crime like murder or rape," he said in a statement. "I applaud the House for passing my amendment and expect my Senate colleagues to do the same.” Except the House didn't pass a complete ban on food stamps for rapists and murderers, who will still be able to receive food stamps. Vitter spokesman Luke Bolar had this to say: "What’s in the bill is very similar and watered down from Sen. Vitter’s stronger provision. He still see this as an important step toward reforming the program and focusing benefits on families that need it most." OK then...
DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - A HuffPost Hill reader writes in to share a story about his 57-year-old brother whose company downsized him: "He's incredibly educated in a complex information technology. But although he interviews the result is always the same: You are 'over-qualified.' This is ageism pure and simple. I mean, how can a person be over-qualified? I should think that expertise not readily available would be highly sought after. Especially because his wage demands are very modest indeed. I guess he's one of the long-termed unemployed that aren't doing enough to pull themselves up by their bootstraps according to congress. It's scandalous. I think he should sue but he doesn't want to go down that road. In the meantime he and his wife and their son in community college need to plunder their retirement to make ends meet. It's a damn shame." [Hang in there!]
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MICHAEL GRIMM APOLOGIES - Michael Grimm should start the Congressional "I WILL LIVE FOREVER!!!!! ::smashes head through wall::" Caucus. Times: "Representative Michael G. Grimm... touched off a political firestorm after delivering unusually vitriolic threats against a reporter inside the United States Capitol building on Tuesday night, just moments after the State of the Union speech. Mr. Grimm apologized to the reporter on Wednesday and also issued a statement expressing regret, but the damage to Mr. Grimm’s reputation appeared to already have been severe, as his threats became the subject of widespread denunciation and mockery. Mr. Grimm... has been entangled in controversy involving a continuing federal investigation into his campaign fundraising...And on Tuesday night, Mr. Grimm became enraged after the reporter, Michael Scotto of NY1, asked him about the investigation...Mr. Grimm can be seen getting directly in the face of an obviously stunned Mr. Scotto. 'What?' Mr. Scotto said. Before he could explain that he was just trying to ask him a question, Mr. Grimm became unhinged. 'Let me be clear to you,' he said in a low voice, before using a profanity and warning that he would hurl Mr. Scotto from the balcony. There is some cross talk between the two men which was not audible on the video before Mr. Grimm concluded with an insult and another threat. 'No, no, you’re not man enough, you’re not man enough,' he said. 'I’ll break you in half. Like a boy.'" [NYT]
SOTU: WHITE HOUSE SAYS IT STILL SUPPORTS ENDA - LGBT activists -- God bless their determination -- seem to have forgotten that this was the "I give up, let's just forget all about ambitious legislation and, uh, create a new bond?" State of the Union. Amanda Terkel: "The White House insisted Wednesday that although President Barack Obama didn't mention the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in his State of the Union address, he is still committed to its passage in Congress. 'The State of the Union isn't a comprehensive list of all of the President’s positions or priorities,' said White House spokesman Shin Inouye. ENDA would bar workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support in November. While it also has bipartisan support in the GOP-controlled House, it is not on the agenda to receive a vote anytime soon. With Obama focusing on 'opportunity for all' as the theme of his speech, many LGBT advocates saw ENDA as a natural fit...In an ideal world, LGBT advocates would have liked to have seen Obama announce that he would be signing an executive order barring federal contractors from LGBT discrimination. But at the very least, they wanted to see him highlight the need for congressional action on ENDA in his big annual policy address. Inouye stressed Wednesday that Obama still believes it is time to send ENDA to his desk." [HuffPost]
Hey, look who supported ENDA today: Congressman Michael Grimm!!!
Remember that geopolitically crucial Arab country with 80-plus million people that President Obama delivered an important speech in? Neither does President Obama. Josh Hersh: "For the second time within a week, a major policy speech by a top Obama administration figure passed without mention of what was once a leading American foreign policy priority: the tumultuous political transition in Egypt. In the short section of Tuesday night's State of the Union address that touched on foreign policy, President Barack Obama noted that the U.S. was 'supporting those who are willing to do the hard work of building democracy,' but did not include Egypt in his list of such nations. Last Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry also skipped over Egypt in a speech delivered at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in what one New York Times columnist described as 'a glaring omission.'" [HuffPost]
CHRIS CHRISTIE EMPLOYED A MACHIAVELLIAN DREAM TEAM - Looks like Jill Abramson will hit some traffic tonight. Times: "His campaign called them 'the Top 100,' the swing towns that Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey wanted to win as he prepared for a re-election campaign...Staff members in the governor’s office created tabbed and color-coded dossiers on the mayors of each town — who their friends and enemies were, the policies and projects that were dear to them — that were bound in notebooks for the governor to review in his S.U.V. between events...Mr. Christie has said that he had not been aware of his office’s involvement in the [GW bridge scandal], and nothing has directly tied to him to it. But a close look at his operation and how intimately he was involved in it, described in interviews with dozens of people — Republican and Democrat, including current and former Christie administration officials, elected leaders and legislative aides — gives credence to the puzzlement expressed by some Republicans and many Democrats in the state, who question how a detail-obsessed governor could have been unaware of the closings or the effort over months to cover up the political motive...Mr. Christie himself tended to the smallest of details. He personally oversaw appointments to the State Board of Physical Therapy Examiners, legislative leaders said, and when he wanted to discuss something with lawmakers, he texted them himself. (He told one top legislator that he had learned from his experience as United States attorney not to email; texts were harder to trace.)" [NYT]
IRAN HAWKS BACK OFF SANCTIONS VOTE - President Obama's legacy project hasn't been completely derailed. Jen Bendery and Luke Johnson: "A controversial Iran sanctions bill is losing steam in the Senate, where at least two of its own Democratic cosponsors are warning that pushing the legislation now could thwart delicate international negotiations. 'Now is not the time for a vote on the Iran sanctions bill,' Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said at a Wednesday event hosted by Politico. Coons said he still supports the measure, which would increase sanctions on Iran unless the government agrees to halt all production of nuclear weapon components and technology. But he acknowledged that moving the bill now would interfere with a deal in place between Iran and six world powers, including the United States. Under that six-month deal, Iran has agreed to scale back its uranium enrichment in exchange for sanctions relief. Iranian leaders have already warned that congressional action involving new sanctions would sink the current deal, which would leave the U.S. with few options for resolving concerns with Iran other than going to war. 'I think, to the extent that we simply excite the distance and the tension between the Congress and administration on this, that doesn't serve our shared view of making certain that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapons capability,' Coons said. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) echoed those sentiments Tuesday night." [HuffPost]
GOP READY TO ALLOW CLEAN DEBT CEILING VOTE - Politico: "House Republicans are getting ready to surrender: There will be no serious fight over the debt limit. The most senior figures in the House Republican Conference are privately acknowledging that they will almost certainly have to pass what’s called a clean debt ceiling increase in the next few months, abandoning the central fight that has defined their three-year majority. The reason for the shift in dynamics in this fight is clear. Congress has raised the debt limit twice in a row without drastic policy concessions from President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats, essentially ceding ground to Democrats. Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are again ruling out negotiations over the nation’s borrowing limit, which would leave Republicans fighting against a unified Democratic front. It’s a tricky situation for the GOP in an election year: They would have to pass a clean debt limit bill or risk default. The vast majority of Democrats will vote against everything except a clean debt ceiling increase, so if Republicans try to tack extraneous policy onto a debt ceiling measure, they’ll have to pass it on their own. At least a dozen Republican aides and lawmakers are highly skeptical they will be able to craft something that will attract the support of 217 GOP lawmakers. In short, Republicans have few options and even less time: The Obama administration says the debt limit must be raised by the end of February. Republicans, though, are skeptical of that date." [Politico]
CIA DIRECTOR QUESTIONED ABOUT DOMESTIC SURVEILLANCE, TORTURE - Matt Sledge: "Three senators pummeled CIA Director John Brennan at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Wednesday, peppering him with tough questions on torture and domestic surveillance that he has refused to answer in public. Brennan defended the CIA against accusations that it is double-dealing with the Intelligence committee about a report on agency torture, and he also received surprisingly pointed questions about whether the CIA spies on Americans. Such public hearings offer senators critical of the intelligence agencies the chance to telegraph their private concerns about classified programs -- and these questions could suggest there is something the public isn't being told about what the CIA does at home. The committee's hearing on the intelligence community's 'worldwide threat assessment' was widely anticipated. At last year's edition of the hearing, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper claimed in response to a question from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) that the National Security Agency does not collect information on millions of Americans, which was later proven to be a lie. This year's hearing began with committee Chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) warning senators not to ask any questions which might require a classified answer. Wyden seemed undeterred, however, deriding a "culture of misinterpretation" among intelligence agency leaders that has "seriously undermined" the trust of the American people." [HuffPost]
JEFF SESSIONS CITES LADY GAGA DURING WEED DEBATE - Now usually, when Lady Gaga comes up in a "weed debate," you and your friends are sprawled across on your carpet, your hands orange with Cheetos powder, heatedly arguing over the hidden meaning of "Poker Face." Not this time. Ryan Reilly: "Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) cited the pop singer Lady Gaga on Wednesday when trying to take Attorney General Eric Holder to task over the president's recent comments on marijuana. 'Lady Gaga says she's addicted to it and it's not harmless, she's been addicted to it,' Sessions told Holder during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the operations of the Justice Department. 'I just hope you will talk to the president -- you're close to him -- and pull back from this position which I think is going to be adverse to the health of America.' President Barack Obama said in a recent interview with The New Yorker that marijuana was no more dangerous than alcohol, but added that pot use was not something he encouraged. In November, Gaga told The Z100 Morning Show that at one point she was smoking 15 to 20 marijuana cigarettes a day, describing it as "a form of self-medication" and 'related to anxiety coping.'" [HuffPost]
Speaking of the sometimes awkward intersection of politics and pop music, here's Rosa DeLauro dancing to Alicia Keys.
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a dog waking up a warthog.
HUFFPOST HILL ENDORSES - Deport the danged Bieber. Emily Swanson and Elise Foley: More than half of Americans want Justin Bieber to be deported, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. The poll finds that 52 percent of Americans think the troubled teen idol, a Canadian citizen, should be kicked out of the U.S. if he's convicted of a crime, compared to only 26 percent who think he should not be. The idea of deporting Bieber is supported by 55 percent of Republicans, 55 percent of independents, and a 47 percent plurality of Democrats. Bieber was arrested in Florida last week and charged with drunk driving, resisting arrest and driving without a valid license. ..Time magazine reported that Bieber is in the country on an O-1 visa for performers and that his visa status need only be re-evaluated if he's convicted of a violent crime for which a prison sentence of more than one year can be imposed. Immigration lawyers told the Los Angeles Times, however, that Bieber could still face problems, including when and if he seeks to renew his visa in the future." [HuffPost]
America demands answers: "You've all heard that embattled Canadian pop star Justin Bieber was recently arrested for alleged drag racing and drunk driving. Now the Obama White House has promised to weigh in on the incident and resulting backlash. In late 2011, the White House launched its We the People initiative, an online system in which anyone can create an account and petition the government. If a petition reaches a certain number of signatures (currently set at 100,000) within a month of its posting, the Obama administration's own rules require White House staff to respond. A new petition, created on January 23, has reached that threshold. It's titled, 'Deport Justin Bieber and revoke his green card.'" [Mother Jones]
-dogeweather.com reports the weather in the most meme-y way possible. [http://bit.ly/1mQW7Jf]
- A prediction of who will take home the most medals at the Winter Olympics. [http://bit.ly/1fx0qUE]
- The best news bloopers of January. [http://bit.ly/1iM4iGu]
- Budweiser's Super Bowl ad features puppies. [http://bit.ly/1a1oDo6]
- Take five seconds to draw a 'Q' on your forehead with your dominant index finger. Now watch this video. [http://bit.ly/1fnnaZb]
- Cow farts destroyed a barn in Germany. Be on the lookout for cow farts. [http://bit.ly/1dOl53w]
- The worst dial-a-lawyer commercial ever? [http://bit.ly/1k8bTNr]
@TheMichaelMoran: I have seen the future of newspapers: pic.twitter.com/UfmWt2OTCP
@fshakir: The enhanced webcast of last night's Republican #SOTU response was amazing. #BreakYouInHalf pic.twitter.com/WUz2vztTng
@DColtonNow: Good thing the Super Bowl isn't in the South.
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