POLITICS
07/28/2014 04:46 pm ET Updated Jul 28, 2014

HUFFPOST HILL - Washington Bullets

Voters are wondering about the return policy for their “gifts”: A new poll finds Mitt Romney would beat Barack Obama if the election were held today. A congressman saved a child from choking to death, eliciting condemnation from Republicans who recalled freer times when Americans dislodged blockages in their windpipes without government assistance. And a federal court struck down D.C.'s handgun laws, meaning District voters can now demand voting rights at gunpoint. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Monday, July 28th, 2014:

CONGRESS ACTUALLY REACHES VA REFORM DEAL - On the spectrum of things we didn't expect from congress, this is slightly more shocking than Chuck Schumer keeping a divorce tally. Sam Stein: "After a near-death experience, legislation to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs has been revived. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) announced on Monday that they had struck a deal to reform the beleaguered agency. Sanders and Miller, who chair their respective chambers' committees on veterans' affairs, had not been talking to each other as late as the middle of last week. They held dueling press events on Thursday, each blaming the other for abandoning negotiations. But just as it looked like talks had completely dissolved, they started back up again. Marathon sessions between staffers over the weekend resulted in a deal that both sides say would address short-term needs for veteran care while also working to place the agency on a more stable long-term path. At a press conference on Monday, Sanders and Miller said the final deal would cost about $15 billion, with $10 billion of that devoted to covering the costs of veterans seeking health care outside of the VA network and the remaining $5 billion given to shoring up the VA’s own system. Sanders said that $1.5 billion of that $5 billion would go towards leasing 27 major facilities in 18 states including Puerto Rico. Miller said that the $10 billion would be treated as 'mandatory emergency money' while the $5 billion would be offset from money already existing within the VA. 'The veterans need a quick response and this is the way to make sure the veterans are not standing in line, as they have been,' said Miller." [HuffPost]

Haircuts: Jen Bendery (h/t Elise Foley).

MEDICARE GETS A BOOST - But Social Security Disability Insurance is still gonna have to get whacked -- for its own good, of course. "Medicare's finances are looking brighter, the government said Monday. The program's giant hospital trust fund won't be exhausted until 2030 — four years later than last year's estimate. Meanwhile, Social Security's massive retirement program will remain solvent until 2034, officials say, although disability benefits are in more immediate danger. The disability trust fund now is projected to run dry in 2016, unless Congress acts. At that point, the program will collect enough payroll taxes to pay only 81 percent of benefits." [AP]

YOU CAN CARRY GUNS AROUND IN D.C. NOW - In case you saw Yosemite Sam threatening varmints over the weekend, this is why. Mike DeBonis reports: "Much was odd about this weekend’s federal court decision striking down the District’s flat ban on carrying weapons outside the home. It emerged on a Saturday, for one, and it was penned by a U.S. District Court judge sitting in Syracuse, N.Y., who had been criticized by the plaintiffs for taking too long to decide a case filed nearly five years ago. But those plaintiffs — several District residents and visitors, plus the Second Amendment Foundation — are now pleased with Senior Judge Frederick J. Scullin’s ruling, which builds on the landmark Heller decision to say that individuals have the right not only to keep arms, but to bear them, too. City official are none too pleased, and lawyers for the District are seeking a stay pending appeal." [WashPost]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Lisa Millard, 50, of Las Vegas has been out of work since April: "I still live in the same house that I've been in for almost the last five years. My mother resides with me and even though I've never wanted to depend on her, we share the cost of living in this house. If it wasn't for her, I'd probably be living with one of my children. I mean, who ever wants to come to that decision in their life? But I'm fortunate that I have children here and that they are grown and that they are pretty stable. They've all told me, 'Mom, if worse comes to worst, you can come live with us.' But my God, I'm going to be 51 years old and I'm going to be living with my kids! My mother and I have discussed what we will do if I can't find work -- we may have to downsize, put the majority of our things in storage and move into a little dinky apartment in, well, in not such a good part of town just so she and I can exist. That's the worst-case scenario, and in this city, that's not fun." [As told to HuffPost's Kasey Varner]

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YOU ALREADY KNEW NO LABELS WAS SORT OF A RACKET BUT HERE IS ADDITIONAL PROOF - Meredith Shiner: "[T]hough No Labels has positioned itself as a warrior against gridlock, an internal document obtained by Yahoo News suggests the group is banking on more political dysfunction in an attempt to find 'opportunity' and relevance for itself. The confidential document, distributed at No Labels’ May executive board meeting, outlines a 'break through strategy' for the group, which despite raising millions and a buzzy-for-cable-news-talk launch, has struggled to find a foothold on the campaign trail or in the halls of Congress. The first point in that strategy is a 'balance of power shift in the U.S. Senate,' an awkward position to outline, if not advocate, given No Labels’ aim of bipartisanship and that one of the group’s co-chairs, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, currently sits in the majority caucus." [Yahoo]

CONSULTANTS MAKING BANK ADVISING INSURGENT CAMPAIGNS - Politico: "The highest-profile Republican insurgents of 2014 have had a few things in common: They’ve all run against longtime incumbents whom they accused of going native in D.C. They’ve all relied on super PACs to buoy their campaigns. And in three of the biggest primaries of the year, hard-right candidates have hired the same general consulting firm: Cold Spark Media, a small, Pittsburgh-based company led by former advisers to Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey. Not that long ago, consultants say, it might have been a professional death sentence to sign up with even one candidate targeting a veteran incumbent like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell or Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran. These days, Cold Spark is only one of a limited but growing number of Republican firms that operate heavily in the black market of anti-incumbent campaigns. The Pennsylvania company took in an eye-popping sum from the campaigns of Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel, Idaho attorney Bryan Smith and Kentucky investment manager Matt Bevin. Hopping from one anti-incumbent race to the next, the firm collected a total of $2.4 million for services including ad production, digital strategy and data analysis. Thanks to an explosion of outsider Republicans running for office and the Supreme Court’s loosening of campaign finance rules, the economics of political consulting have shifted. Suddenly, there’s enough anti-incumbent work to sustain not just a skeleton crew of mercenary consultants, but a full-fledged cottage industry of ideological renegades — interlocking firms that pop up in one divisive primary after another, often working together or for different entities in the same race." [Politico]

The Onion : "ExxonMobil, Chevron Locked In Bidding War To Acquire Lucrative Pennsylvania Senator"

FED APPEALS COURT MOPS UP REMAINING TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE MOVEMENT There was some A+ Scalia trolling to be had. Ryan Reilly: "A federal appeals court based in Virginia cited the words of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia when it struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage on Monday. In its ruling, the court embraced the language of a dissent Scalia authored in the Supreme Court case that struck down state sodomy laws. In a 2-1 ruling upholding the ruling of a lower court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that Virginia's same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional, in part, because history and tradition were not justification for infringing on the rights of gay citizens. The appeals court pointed to Scalia's dissent in the Lawrence v. Texas case in 2003, in which he warned that striking down the anti-sodomy law would only call into question laws that are based on moral choices. In ruling that the 'historical and traditional status quo is therefore not a compelling interest that justifies the Virginia Marriage Laws,' the court pointed to Scalia's Lawrence dissent, in which he admitted that 'preserving the traditional institution of marriage’ is just a kinder way of describing the State’s moral disapproval of same-sex couples.'" [HuffPost]

What this means: "The 2-1 decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit could reverberate outside the Old Dominion before that: The appeals court ruling would set precedent in West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina if it goes into effect, which could happen as early as August 18...In the 4th Circuit, other gay marriage lawsuits in West Virginia, North Carolina andSouth Carolina were on hold pending the appeals court ruling, which would now set precedent in those cases. The 4th Circuit decision would also impact Maryland, but gay marriage is already legal there. While there’s no order mandating that clerks in West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina issue marriage licenses immediately (or even if the appeals court ruling goes into effect in August), individual clerks may decide to so based on the ruling. That’s what happened in Colorado following the 10th Circuit decision, and the legal fight over those licenses is playing out among officials in the state." [Reilly]

GOP VOTERS SUPPORT GUN BAN OPPOSED BY NRA - Laura Bassett and Emily Swanson: "While Republican voters tend to align with the National Rifle Association in opposing new gun restrictions, they are sharply at odds with the nation's largest gun lobby when it comes to restrictions based on domestic violence. More than two-thirds of GOP voters (68 percent) said they would support or strongly support a new law stripping guns from convicted stalkers, according to a new poll by The Huffington Post and YouGov. Fifty-nine percent of Republican voters, and two-thirds of voters overall, support expanding gun restrictions for convicted domestic abusers to include non-married dating partners. The NRA has said it strongly opposes both proposals, which the Senate will consider on Wednesday in its first-ever hearing on gun violence against women. The gun lobby sent a letter to senators last month urging them to vote against Sen. Amy Klobuchar's (D-Minn.) legislation to ban convicted stalkers and abusive dating partners from possessing guns. The letter claims that the bill 'manipulates emotionally compelling issues such as 'domestic violence' and 'stalking' simply to cast as wide a net as possible for federal firearm prohibitions.'" [HuffPost]

Unfortunately "Florida Man" is not a medical condition: "Florida residents don't just love medical marijuana, they support legalizing the recreational use of it, too. According to a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday, a whopping 88 percent of residents support legalized marijuana for medical use, with the number in favor reaching as high as 95 percent among voters 29 and under. But a majority of Floridians also support legalizing the possession of small amounts of recreational marijuana, 55 percent to 41 percent. "Forget the stereotypes of stodgy old folks living out their golden years playing canasta and golf," Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll, said in a statement. Sixty-four percent of Democrats and 55 percent of independent voters are in favor of legalizing recreational use. Republicans are opposed to it, 56 percent to 41 percent. As one might expect, support for legal recreational use of marijuana is strongest among young voters (72 percent among voters 29 and under) and weakest among those over 65 (59 percent opposed)." [HuffPost]

POLL: ROMNEY WOULD WIN IF ELECTION HELD TODAY - But America, don't you remember his gaffes?!? WaPo: "CNN released a new poll Sunday showing Mitt Romney leading President Obama 53 to 44 in a hypothetical rematch of their 2012 campaign...The liberal backlash falls into two camps: 1) This is a really dumb poll because there is no way Obama could run for reelection, and 2) This is a really dumb poll because there is no presidential election in July 2014 -- or in 2014 at all. (Or both.) Conservatives, meanwhile, see vindication for their side and further proof that Obama's second term is considered a mistake...What's most notable, though, is that it's not really all that surprising that he would lose to Romney; after all, his approval rating has been stuck in the low 40s for a while. Indeed, it probably would be more surprising if Obama somehow were still in this lead. There's also the fact that Romney benefits from not having to, you know, actually campaign or govern -- and the fact that Romney still trails Hillary Clinton by 13 points in a hypothetical 2016 matchup. In other words, it's not like this is a sign of big GOP momentum heading into 2016." [WaPo]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here's a dog eating water.

LAWMAKER WHO ISN'T CORY BOOKER SAVES PERSON - Roll Call: "Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Texas, jumped into action during a flight home to Texas on Friday night to help a young boy next to him who was choking on a chicken nugget. 'I had my headphones on and was listening to some news articles,' Gallego told CQ Roll Call during a phone interview Monday, when he heard a commotion next to him. Beside the freshman congressman was a three-year old boy and the boy’s mother, who was also holding a baby. The woman stood up and started shouting, 'Oh my God, my son is choking! He’s choking!' 'I turned around quickly and I had to unbuckle his seat belt,' said Gallego. He then put one hand on the child’s back and one on the child’s sternum, and gently pushed forward. 'As I did that he turned around to look at me and I ended up with chicken nuggets on my chest,' but the child was alright." [Roll Call]

COMFORT FOOD

- It's amazing how renaming things can really make them seem so much more interesting [http://huff.to/1rYoK9f]

- A 1929 recording of Bertolt Brecht singing "Mack the Knife." [http://bit.ly/1k4dyrs]

- Comfort food for Comfort Food: Deep fried tarantulas.[http://bit.ly/1oBRmoJ]

- An episode of "Seinfeld" without the jokes. [http://bit.ly/1lO3zlh]

- A rap coloring and activity book. [http://bit.ly/1qHvUBv]

- How to avoid being struck by lightning. [http://bit.ly/1kjqTN5]

- Guy improves thrift store paintings by adding pop culture references. [http://bit.ly/1pmAPnE]

- Don't faceplant while being televised on the Commonwealth Games -- one-billion people will be watching. [http://some.ly/X5ajpn]

TWITTERAMA

@delrayser: I think her business model's backwards - I'd pay $100 a year to never hear from Sarah Palin ever again.

@elisefoley: Will the GOP regret suing Obama for Obamacare if he does some sort of deportation relief? I suppose they could sue him twice.

@KagroX: Halbig asserts that Dem legislators sought to punish holdout red states? When have they ever had the guts to do that?

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