Senate Republicans are increasingly frustrated by Ted Cruz, but they have no way to punish him like in the old days when the Senate had both a parliamentarian and a spankimentarian. Reporters and Hill staffers spent the day discussing how much they hate "House of Cards" or how much they love "House of Cards," all the while reminding us how much they hate themselves. And the White House is using Valentine's Day to promote Obamacare. On a list of Most Romantic Things, this one's somewhere between the flower guy who interrupts dinner and a giant as-seen-on TV teddy bear. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Friday, February 14th, 2014:
SENATE GOP THINKS TED CRUZ IS SOOOOOO ANNOYING - But if they try to do something about it they know he'll just be even more annoying. Ugh! Kathleen Hunter: "A growing group of Ted Cruz’s Republican Senate colleagues are infuriated with his tactics. So frustrated was Arizona Senator John McCain with the latest, forcing fellow Republicans to take a politically risky vote on lifting the debt ceiling, that yesterday he tweeted a Wall Street Journal editorial accusing the Texas lawmaker of instigating 'needless drama that helps to explain why Republicans remain a minority.' Yet there’s not much McCain, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell or other Republicans can do to change Cruz’s behavior. 'In this day and age, there are no tools available to a leader to punish a member like Senator Cruz, especially because Senator Cruz doesn’t care what either the leader or the rest of his caucus thinks,' said Jim Manley, a former top aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat…. In decades past, leaders could rein in such behavior by threatening to take away coveted committee assignments, withdrawing financial support, or shunning lawmakers. None of those tactics are effective in a political era in which campaign cash flows freely from outside the party machinery and cable outlets offer many ways to grab attention and influence." [Bloomberg]
WHITE HOUSE EXPLOITS VALENTINE'S DAY TO PUSH OBAMACARE - Is nothing sacred? Sabrina Siddiqui: "Traditional valentines are often paired with chocolate or flowers, but the White House would rather see them coupled with Obamacare. The Obama administration launched an aggressive campaign Friday targeted at women and young people, urging them to spread the word about signing up for coverage under the health care law. The effort includes a two-day social media push, using the hashtag #ACAValentines, with valentines and graphics that link to HealthCare.gov -- the online portal where consumers can shop for coverage under the health care law's exchanges. Outside groups such as Young Invincibles, the National Women’s Law Center and Moms Rising have launched online media campaigns of their own to reach moms and women, in particular. The National Women's Law Center, for example, created three graphics designed for moms to send to their adult kids with a reminder about the March 31 enrollment deadline. The group even created a website, WordofMom.org, that enables moms to nudge their kids where they're most likely to be found -- on Twitter, Facebook or email." [HuffPost]
OBAMA TELLS DEMS TO KEEP PUSHING UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE - How else is Mitt Romney supposed to put food on his tables? Sam Stein: "President Barack Obama pledged to House Democrats on Friday that he would keep pushing for the reinstitution of long-term unemployment benefits, despite little evidence that a breakthrough is forthcoming. Speaking before lawmakers at a retreat in Cambridge, Md., the president acknowledged that his ability to move legislation forward was limited, according to an attendee at the event. He doesn't have administrative recourse over the issue, he said, and either the Republicans would support a bill because they believed there was a political price to pay or they wouldn't. 'We are just going to have to keep on trying,' the president said, according to the attendee." [HuffPost]
BIDEN SAYS TRADE DEAL DEAD FOR NOW - Mike McAuliff, Sam Stein & Sabrina Siddiqui: "The White House's trade plans are on hold, at least for now, Vice President Joe Biden said Friday, in welcome news to many Democrats who oppose the sweeping deals. President Barack Obama has been pushing for ambitious free-trade deals with Europe and 11 Pacific nations. But those deals depend first on Congress granting the president so-called fast-track trade authority. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has already said he opposes recently proposed legislation from former Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) that would grant that authority, and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi rejected the Baucus-Camp proposal on Wednesday. After speaking to lawmakers at a Democratic policy retreat in Cambridge, Md., Biden acknowledged that Obama would not get his trade authority any time soon, in spite of having pushed for it in his recent State of the Union address. 'Nancy, I know it's not coming up now,' Biden said to Pelosi, according to a Democratic aide in the room." [HuffPost]
HuffPost Haircuts: - Sabrina Siddiqui, Ibrahim Balkhy. Belated: Sam Stein, Dave Jamieson, Nick Wing, Howard Fineman. Canceled due to snow: Luke Johnson.
DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - People out in the hinterland are now learning about how their food stamps will go down thanks to the farm bill. Malia Rulon Herman: "Nearly 160,000 New Jersey families will lose an average $90 in federal food assistance each month under a new farm law, but the cuts won’t take effect immediately, an administration official said. The families will continue to receive some assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. The cuts will be phased in over the coming year. In addition, new enrollees won’t be eligible for a program that automatically increases SNAP benefits for people already receiving federal help with their heating bills." [Asbury Park Express]
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WHAT ABOUT YOUR GAFFES, CHRIS CHRISTIE? Jon Ward: "The political calendar has New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on a crash course with the Washington press corps a week from Monday, but it's unclear whether he will show up. Late next week, governors from around the country will arrive in the nation's capital for the annual meeting of the National Governors Association. On the sidelines of the NGA events, the Republican and Democratic governors will hold their own separate meetings, hosted by the Republican Governors Association and the Democratic Governors Association. Over the past few years, the RGA has made a practice of holding a press conference the Monday after the weekend meetings, giving those who lead the organization some face time with the Washington press corps. It's a platform for whichever governor serves as the group's chairman that year. The problem, of course, is that Christie is the chairman now." [HuffPost]
OBAMA ON WORKERS' SIDE IN UNION FIGHT - Richard Cowan and Bernie Woodall: "President Barack Obama on Friday waded into a high-stakes union vote at Volkswagen AG's plant in Tennessee, accusing Republican politicians who oppose unionization of being more concerned about German shareholders than U.S. workers. Obama's comments, made at a closed-door meeting of Democratic lawmakers in Maryland, came as the vote to allow union representation at the Chattanooga plant drew to a close. The vote will have wide-reaching implications for the auto industry in the South, where all foreign-owned assembly plants employ nonunion labor, and for the United Auto Workers union, which could use a victory to reverse a decades-long downward spiral. The vote has faced fierce resistance from local Republican politicians and national conservative groups who have warned that a UAW victory could hurt economic growth in Tennessee. While voting was under way on Wednesday, Republican U.S. Senator Bob Corker said VW could announce new investment in the plant if the UAW lost the secret ballot. Facing accusations that he was seeking to influence the ballot process, Corker defended his statement as 'true and factual' in an interview with Reuters, despite Frank Fischer, chief executive of VW Chattanooga, saying that there was 'no connection' between the vote and the possible investment." [Reuters]
INTRODUCING 'PAY PALS' - Ryan Grim and Mark Gongloff: "The rise in U.S. income inequality in recent decades is largely due to massive wealth accumulating at the top of the income scale. The press and popular culture treat this phenomenon almost as if natural forces were guiding it -- an invisible hand dealing out different shares to different people. But the hands doing the dealing are in fact quite visible. They belong to the directors of the boards of the major companies in the U.S. and around the globe. One key source of wealth at the very top is the pay of the executives of our largest companies. That pay is approved by corporate directors, who are themselves paid for their service. Many of those directors are also executives at other companies, meaning they sit on both sides of the arrangement….Salaries for top executives and payments to board members are all publicly available inside shareholder filings, but have never been displayed in an easy-to-explore way. Researchers at the Center for Economic Policy and Research compiled the data, and The Huffington Post is presenting it here as part of a new project focusing on one major element of income inequality. We're calling it Pay Pals." [HuffPost]
Related: Rich ignoramus says rich people deserve more votes.
OBAMA ADMINISTRATION SORT-OF HELPS WEED BUSINESSES - Because of course it would be too much to ask for the federal government to ease up on a harmless plant. Ryan Reilly and Matt Ferner: "The federal government issued guidelines on Friday that officials said were intended to increase the financial services available to marijuana businesses that are legal under state laws....Under the Treasury Department's plan, banks would file a 'suspicious activity report,' or SAR, for a wide range of financial transactions by any marijuana-related business, but would specify that the bank did not believe there was any illegal activity beyond simply dealing in the marijuana trade. The Justice Department memo falls short of expressly protecting banks that work with state-compliant marijuana businesses from prosecution."
The problem is this: "State-legal, state-licensed marijuana businesses often don’t have access to traditional banking, and cannot accept credit cards or open simple checking accounts, due to banks' fears that they could be implicated as money launderers. The businesses are forced into cash-only transactions, putting the retailers' safety at risk and creating issues involving taxes and employee payroll." [HuffPost]
RAND PAUL: REPUBLICANS MUST BE LIKE AUTOBOTS - Samantha Lachman: "Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had some prescriptions for the Republican Party in an interview with Glenn Beck on The Blaze that aired Thursday. Though Paul insisted that it is 'too early' for him to make a decision about whether to run for president in 2016, he did have suggestions for how his party could evolve to be more responsive to a changing electorate. 'I think Republicans will not win again in my lifetime for the presidency unless they become a new GOP, a new Republican Party,' Paul told Beck. 'And it has to be a transformation. Not just a little tweaking at the edges.'" [HuffPost]
MILITARY PRESSURED ON CLOTHING SUPPLY CHAIN - Dems join effort to get the military to buy fewer T-shirts from places where buildings fall on workers. Dave Jamieson: "After American clothing brands scuttled a similar effort last year, Democrats and labor groups are trying to pressure the military into adopting more stringent labor standards for garments sourced overseas and sold in military base stores. On Wednesday, the International Labor Rights Forum, a U.S.-based nonprofit watchdog, issued a scathing report that accused the military's so-called exchange stores of "flying blind" in the sourcing of their private-label clothing, failing to "investigate or remedy safety hazards and illegal conditions" in the factories their clothes come from in countries such as Bangladesh. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told HuffPost this week that he's asked officials who run the exchange stores to develop a plan for tighter labor standards with regard to Bangladesh, where more than a thousand workers died last year in the Rana Plaza disaster. Under lobbying from U.S. retailers, a measure that would have forced the exchanges to do so was stripped out of this year's military spending bill before it landed on President Obama's desk in December. 'We're reaching out directly to those that run the base exchanges and asking them to establish a standard for imports for Bangladesh,' Durbin said. 'And I haven't given up on the legislative approach.'" [HuffPost]
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Man impulsively buys and then needs to get rid of 11 reptiles. They are all named Amanda. [Tumblr]
OBAMACARE AND MEDICARE PART D - The Affordable Care Act has had a lousy rollout. Sam Stein compares it to another recent safety net expansion: "In early 2006, the Bush administration encountered these exact same problems in implementing Medicare Part D, the prescription drug program for Medicare recipients. The program was smaller in scope than the Affordable Care Act, of course. But a Congressional Research Service report on the implementation of Medicare Part D dated Feb. 6, 2006, shows remarkable similarities." [HuffPost]
- Gif of Jaromir Jagr "warming up" on an Olympic bench. [http://i.imgur.com/EXHo2Ag.gif]
- Daddy got a terrible haircut. [http://bit.ly/1dQ4mNL]
- Snoop Lion reads his favorite Reddit stories. "Love at first piss." [http://bit.ly/1hjjvz1]
- Dude almost catches whale. [http://bit.ly/1jidhMI]
- Dog has the worst scream. [http://bit.ly/1f1XwsW]
- Guy gets clobbered by snow tsunami. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLKqZU8CvQ0]
- Gorgeous photos of Russians with their cats. [http://bzfd.it/1dQcY6M]
@daveweigel: More like CHOOM RT @M_C_Klein: BOOM RT @BloombergTV: BREAKING: Treasury allows banks to accept accounts from pot businesses
@marionbarryjr: Happy Valentines Day DC! I'm going tb hugged up w/my boo 2night watching 1 of our fav shows #houseofcards. What r U doing 2day 4 ur boo? ;)
@AnnieLowrey: House of Cards' most vexing blunder: Zoe living in that apartment rather than a group house.
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