President Obama arguably reached the nadir of his second term when he hailed a $750 million corporate pledge to let our children play Angry Birds in school. Pete Sessions says it's immoral to help the long term unemployed, even though we're pretty sure he contributed to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. And President Obama filmed a group of students with an iPad, aligning himself both with the tech lobby and the most annoying goddamn parents at your kid's recital. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, February 4th, 2014:
CONGRESS ALL DONE WITH FARM BILL Christopher Doering: "After years of delays and contentious negotiations that threatened to derail the farm bill, Congress completed its work on a new five-year package Tuesday that now heads to the president. The Senate voted 68-32 on a $500 billion farm bill that will end direct payments to farmers, expand the popular crop insurance program and cut spending on food stamps for some poor Americans by 1%. The White House announced Tuesday afternoon that Obama is going to sign the farm bill on Friday during a visit to East Lansing, Mich." [USAToday]
The new farm bill will obscure which lawmakers get farm subsidies, as we reported last year: "The House and Senate farm bill drafts eliminate most direct payments and instead boost subsidies for farmers to buy crop insurance policies that protect against losses from weather or price changes. Since the government divulges the names of people who get the payments but not the insurance subsidies, the Environmental Working Group's Scott Faber says the bills as they stand now would reduce government transparency. ',' Faber said. 'Crop insurance subsidies have no limits on who can receive them and the amount they can receive.'" We saw what you did there, Congress!
MCCONNELL: IMMIGRATION REFORM DEAD THIS YEAR - Elise Foley and Jen Bendery: "Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday threw cold water on the idea that immigration reform could be revived this year, due to 'irresolvable' differences between the House and Senate. 'I think we have sort of an irresolvable conflict here,' McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill. 'The Senate insists on comprehensive [legislation], the House says it won’t go to conference with the Senate on comprehensive and wants to look at it step by step.' He added, 'I don’t see how you get to an outcome this year with the two bodies in such a different place.' House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced a set of principles on immigration reform on Thursday and Democrats mostly expressed cautious optimism about the plan, though it calls for separate bills rather than the comprehensive approach taken in the Senate legislation passed last June. President Barack Obama has said that he is open to the GOP's plan to release separate bills rather than a comprehensive one, so long as they address the key issues of reform: border security, enforcement, legal status for undocumented immigrants and changing the legal immigration system. The House Republican principles span those topics, but lack details, so it's unclear how much they will align with the bill that passed the Senate. There's one notable difference: the House principles would not allow for a 'special path to citizenship,' although they would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a legal status and do not mention banning them from ever becoming citizens." [HuffPost]
WARNER SUPPORTS DEPORTING BIEBER - The Virginia senator thinks it's time to send the troubled pop star back to his native Canada, telling a morning radio show, "As a dad with three daughters, is there someplace I can sign?" This is undoubtedly how "Canadian Bacon 2" will begin. [WaPo]
@jbendery: Dem senator says Sen. Mark Warner stood up in today's caucus lunch and declared he signed the Justin Bieber deportation petition.
DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - The Senate will vote Thursday on new legislation to restore unemployment insurance for more than a million workers whose benefits stopped short last month. To win Republican votes, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) announced that the bill would ban millionaires from receiving unemployment insurance, a proposal that has previously won unanimous support in the Senate but did not become law. "This will be a crucial vote and a critical test of whether Congress can listen to the American people and come together to do what is in the best interest of our economy," Reed said in a press release. Reed's legislation will revive the benefits for three months, rather than the full year Democrats had previously demanded. It's unclear if enough Republicans will support the legislation for Democrats to overcome the 60-vote threshold required to break a GOP filibuster. Even if it passed the Senate, the measure would face long odds in the House. [HuffPost]
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CBO REPORT SAYS OBAMACARE IS DESTROYING JOBS BUT NOT REALLY - It's times like these we're really happy tracking polls only dominate the news cycle once every four years. Jillian Berman: "Because of Obamacare, the national labor force could shrink by the equivalent of 2.5 million full-time workers, according to a Congressional Budget Office report released Tuesday. While that may seem like a dire prediction, it would largely be the result of Americans having more choices for how they get health coverage -- not the result of businesses hiring less. The nonpartisan CBO estimates that the Affordable Care Act will reduce Americans’ incentive to have a job or work more hours for two reasons. First, the health reform law offers subsidies to low-income Americans that decline as their income goes up. It also offers expanded access to Medicaid benefits for the poorest workers, which is similarly tied to income. That means that for some people, it may make sense to earn less money through work so they can get a bigger break when buying health insurance. In other words, some workers will decide that having subsidized health coverage is more valuable to them than having more money to spend on goods and services. Second, for some Americans the subsidies will essentially function as an increase in income because they won't be paying as much for their health care, allowing them to work less and still maintain the same standard of living." [HuffPost]
OBAMA ANNOUNCES $750 MILLION EDUCATION PLEDGE - Times: "Business leaders have pledged more than $750 million as part of a White House initiative to strengthen access to technology for 99 percent of students within five years, President Obama announced on Tuesday. Mr. Obama hailed the ConnectED program, which he initiated last summer, as a way to ensure that all students receive a high-quality education as they prepare to compete in the global economy... Technology companies like Verizon and Microsoft have committed to increasing access to high-speed Internet in the classroom, as well as at home; providing software and devices like tablets and laptops; and training teachers to use the new technology. Several other companies have agreed to join the president’s initiative over the next few years, including Sprint, which has pledged to provide Internet access to 50,000 underprivileged students, and Apple, which has promised to give iPads, MacBooks and other devices worth a total of $100 million to disadvantaged schools...The news comes a day after the Federal Communications Commission announced that it would double its funding to provide and improve high-speed wireless Internet to schools and libraries over the next two years. The additional investment of $2 billion is expected to help 20 million students in at least 15,000 schools." [NYT]
Here's first-person video the president shot today with an iPad -- the technological equivalent of donning dad jeans.
ROB ANDREWS RETIRING FROM CONGRESS - Everytime an investigated New Jersey politician retires, an angel gets its
wings yellow FBI windbreaker. WaPo: "Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) said Tuesday that he plans to resign from Congress this month to take a job with a Philadelphia-based law firm, a move he said is best for his family. Andrews said in a statement to supporters that he will be joining the law firm Dilworth Paxson and its government affairs unit. 'This is an opportunity that requires a decision now,' he said, adding that he will step down Feb. 18. But Andrews's decision to leave comes as he's faced years of allegations that he violated House rules and federal law by using campaign funds to pay for personal trips to Scotland and Los Angeles and by using a graduation party for his daughter to raise campaign cash. A report released in 2012 detailed how in May 2011 Andrews initially used personal funds to pay roughly $16,500 for four business-class airplane tickets for himself, his wife and two daughters to attend a wedding in Scotland. Andrews later had the money refunded and paid for the tickets with funds from his leadership PAC and has generally denied any wrongdoing." [WaPo]
The Post doesn't mince words on its front page: "Least successful congressman resigns." Andrews, the Post notes, drafted 646 bills in his 23 years on the Hill. None became law. [WaPo]
HuffPost Hill's anonymous ethicist, the Former Abramoff Lobbyist Pissed At Things, shares his valuable perspective. "What's up with going to Scotland and corruption? Rep. Andrews better check his golf bag and start working on his bench press because prison is going to be in his future. Ask Abramoff, Ney and JJ Jr. on next steps." Thanks, FALPAT!
REID CLEARS WAY FOR EXECUTIVE ACTION ON ENDA - Jen Bendery and Amanda Terkel: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday cleared the way for President Barack Obama to use executive action to ban workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender federal contractors, as the issue stalls in Congress. 'If the president decides to do it, I’d be in favor of it,' Reid told The Huffington Post, in the halls of the Capitol. A number of Democratic leaders think Obama should take action, since related legislation, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, has hit a wall in the House of Representatives, where Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) says he won't give it a vote. The White House argues that executive action wouldn't go far enough, since Obama only has the ability to ban discrimination among government contractors, whereas legislation would apply to all employers. Still, an executive order could protect as many as 16 million workers. And with Boehner standing in the way of ENDA, and with the president taking executive action on other issues currently awaiting votes in Congress, LGBT rights supporters are urging the president to get the ball moving. As it stands, it is currently legal in 33 states for an employer to fire or harass someone for being LGBT. HuffPost reached out to all 64 backers of the Senate ENDA bill, which passed in November, to see if they support the president using his executive authority on the issue. As of Tuesday, at least 18 senators responded to say they would support the move, although all said they would ideally like to see Congress pass the broader ENDA legislation." [HuffPost]
@BenjySarlin: Ted Cruz is talking about The Hobbit on the Senate floor right now #HobbitAlert
PETE SESSIONS SAYS HELPING THE UNEMPLOYED IS IMMORAL - Which calls to mind James 2:14: "Dear brothers, what's the use of saying that you have faith and are Christians if you aren't encouraging work through corporate tax breaks and right-to-work laws?" Mike McAuliff: "House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said Tuesday that it would be 'immoral' to extend benefits to the longterm unemployed. Sessions, speaking on the House floor, was responding to complaints from Democrats that his committee declined to let them have votes on amendments that would have renewed emergency unemployment insurance, which expired on Dec. 28. At the time, about 1.3 million people who have been unable to find work lost their federal benefits, which kick in once they run out of state benefits. That number grows by more than 70,000 people each week, and it is around 1.6 million now. But Sessions said he told Democrats that the answer was not extending benefits, but working with Republicans to create jobs. 'I believe it is immoral for this country to have as a policy extending long-term unemployments [benefits] to people rather than us working on creation of jobs,' Sessions said. 'A job is the most important attribute, I believe, in a free enterprise system.' He added that Congress spends too much time arguing about people such as the long-term unemployed, who are defined as workers who lost jobs through no fault of their own, and have been unable to find new work in the still-struggling economy for more than six months." [HuffPost]
A House staffer found a grasshopper in their Hill cafeteria-provided soup today.
CHRISTIE'S 2016 PROSPECTS TANK AMIDST BRIDGE SCANDAL - In a new CNN/ORC International survey, the beleaguered New Jersey governor loses to Hillary Clinton 55%-39% in a hypothetical 2016 matchup, up from a 48%-46% lead in December. This might be the time for Joe Scarborough to start talking up Vince Foster. More from CNN: "Fourteen percent of Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP say they would likely support [former Arkansas Gov. Mike] Huckabee for their party's nomination if he runs. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is next at 13% followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Christie tied at 10%. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Budget Committee chairman and 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee, and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida are tied at 9%. One point behind are Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and longtime Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a 2012 GOP presidential candidate, stands at 4%." [CNN]
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here's a kitten playing with bubbles.
DC: BILL DECRIMINALIZING WEED ADVANCES IN CITY COUNCIL - WCP: "People in the District could soon only face a fine for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana, under legislation that the D.C. Council approved on first reading today. Anyone smoking pot would have to stay indoors or risk arrest, though, according to an amendment made to the bill before the vote. The amendment, proposed by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, removed a provision in the original bill proposed by Ward 6 Councilmember and mayoral hopeful Tommy Wells to replace the criminal penalty for smoking pot in public with a $100 fine. The current law allows for up to 180 days of incarceration and a $1,000 fine for a first offense, with penalties doubling for subsequent offenses. Mendelson's final version of the amendment kept the criminal penalty for smoking marijuana anywhere that isn't the smoker's private property. LL's waiting to hear back on how that would affect smoking in public from private property, like a porch, or smoking in a rental unit. Mendelson's amendment passed on a voice vote, with Wells as only the only vote against it. The decriminalization bill then passed by an identical margin, opposed only by Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander." [City Paper]
- Making techno from MS-DOS. [http://bit.ly/1nOjV0P]
- A parody of Bob Dylan's incoherent Super Bowl ad for Chrysler. [http://bit.ly/1evnVze]
- Find out which city is furthest from yours with this website. [http://bit.ly/1frSJ1N]
- Creative editing shows how Jesse Eisenberg could totally play Lex Luther. [http://huff.to/1frTrw1]
- A scene from "Her," re-edited with stranger music. [http://slate.me/1bnO7aI]
- North Korea's computers run an operating system that is clearly a Mac rip off. [http://bit.ly/1ipR7sa]
- How Chicken McNuggets are made. [http://bit.ly/1lySEAX]
@delrayser: By the GOP's logic, Social Security also kills jobs because it helps people retire rather than work until their dying day.
@daveweigel: Much more interested in the liberal event I was about to cover after I showed up and it was closed press. Assume they're relaunching ACORN
@indecision: Now that Chris Christie will never become president, he's finally qualified to speak at CPAC.
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