POLITICS
01/31/2017 06:15 pm ET

HUFFPOST HILL - Can Merrick Garland Borrow Your Therapy Dog

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Like what you read below? Sign up for HUFFPOST HILL and get a cheeky dose of political news every evening!

Democrats finally closed ranks against President Trump, spending political capital they had been saving for bunk assignments in Eric Trump’s Center for Re-Education and Tying Pastel Sweaters Around Your Shoulder. A report out of Florida indicates our cybersecurity issues go well past John Podesta’s inability to discern who is or isn’t a Nigerian prince. And thirteen D.C. public schools canceled outdoor activities due to a loose bobcat, recalling that time the city’s children had to shelter in place due to the fake weed zombie swarm. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, January 31st, 2017:

SCOTUS TIME -  Lawrence Hurley: “Trump said on Monday he would reveal his choice to replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016, at the White House at 8 p.m. on Tuesday…. [The leading candidates are]: Neil Gorsuch, a judge on the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Thomas Hardiman, who serves on the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; and William Pryor, a judge on the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals…. Gorsuch, 49, joined an opinion in 2013 saying that owners of private companies can object on religious grounds to a provision of the Obamacare health insurance law requiring employers to provide coverage for birth control for women. Hardiman, 51, has embraced a broad interpretation of the constitutional guarantee of the right to bear arms and has backed the right of schools to restrict student speech. Pryor, 54, has been an outspoken critic of the court’s 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion, calling it ‘the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history.’ Conservatives are hoping the high court will back restrictions imposed on the procedure by some Republican-governed states.” [Reuters]

SEAN SPICER IS TRAPPED IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP - This was a dumpster fire’s dumpster fire, y’know? Christina Wilkie: “White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer repeatedly denied on Tuesday that President Donald Trump’s executive order barring travelers from certain countries was in fact a ‘ban,’ although the president and Spicer himself called it just that on Monday. Since Trump signed the executive order on Friday, ‘1 million people have come into this country. That’s not a ban,’ a testy Spicer insisted at the White House daily press briefing. ‘A ban would mean people can’t get in, and we’ve clearly seen hundreds of thousands of people come into our country from other countries.’ Spicer’s decision to litigate the meaning of a term both he and the president had employed just hours earlier underscores their contradictory attempts to claim credit for keeping a campaign promise while countering critics who say it violates the American ideal of religious pluralism by unjustly targeting Muslims.” [HuffPost]

DEMS PROTEST HHS AND TREASURY CONFIRMATIONS - Amanda Terkel and Sam Stein: “Senate Democrats deployed a dramatic eleventh-hour maneuver to deny committee votes to two of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks Tuesday, arguing that those nominees had lied to them. Senators on the Finance Committee were set to vote on Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) to lead the Department of Health and Human Services and Steve Mnuchin to lead the Treasury Department. But on Tuesday morning, they simply didn’t show up for the votes, denying Republicans the quorum they needed to move forward toward confirmation. At least one Democrat needs to be present for the vote to happen...Lawmakers felt the two nominees had misled them at various points in the confirmation process and were looking for a leverage point to get additional explanations. On Tuesday morning, the aides said, committee Democrats met in Wyden’s office and agreed to go forward with the plan shortly before the hearing was set to begin. “ [HuffPost] 

@BresPolitico: Tom Price was trying to avoid press, ran to Senate subway. But then subway BROKE DOWN & he was stuck facing reporter questions 

SESSIONS VOTE PUT OFF AS DEMS CRITICIZE YATES FIRING - Ryan J. Reilly: “Senate Democrats on Tuesday delayed the confirmation of Alabama Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to be the next attorney general of the United States, just hours after President Donald Trump fired the acting attorney general for defying his administration. The Senate Judiciary Committee was expected to advance Sessions’ nomination to the full Senate on Tuesday. But Democrats on the committee, starting at 9:30 a.m., spoke at length about their opposition to Sessions and their admiration for former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who was fired by Trump late Monday night. The committee vote on Sessions will now be held Wednesday.” [HuffPost] 

 Does somebody keep forwarding you this newsletter? Get your own copy. It’s free! Sign up here. Send tips/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to eliot@huffingtonpost.com. Follow us on Twitter - @HuffPostHill

 CONGRESSIONAL REPUBLICANS KIND OF WORRIED ABOUT WHERE THEY FIT IN WITH THE WHOLE AUTHORITARIAN THING - A lack of regular order will be the least of their concerns when Arbor Day is rechristened, “My, What Big Hands You Have, Mr. President” Day. Laura Barron-Lopez: “Congress may need to take action to curtail President Donald Trump’s executive order blocking all refugees and specific foreign nationals if lawmakers don’t start getting answers, a number of Senate Republicans said on Monday. Not a single Senate Republican out of the 10 that The Huffington Post talked to had been consulted before Trump signed the order Friday afternoon. The White House did not release the final text until 2½ hours later, and even then left major issues unclear, such as whether legal permanent residents, also called green card holders, should be subject to the ban. As a result, many people who live in the U.S. returning from travel were detained in airports across the country. On Sunday, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly announced that green card holders can be admitted case by case.” [HuffPost]

 THIS LITERALLY IS WHAT ‘AMERICA FIRST’ IS ABOUT - Abigail Hauslohner and Janell Ross: “The Trump administration is considering a plan to weed out would-be immigrants who are likely to require public assistance, as well as to deport — when possible — immigrants already living in the United States who depend on taxpayer help, according to a draft executive order obtained by The Washington Post. A second draft order under consideration calls for a substantial shake-up in the system through which the United States administers immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, with the aim of tightly controlling who enters the country and who can enter the workforce, and to reduce the social-services burden on U.S. taxpayers.” [WaPo]

 LOL, NO ONE CARES ABOUT PLAGIARISM ANYMORE - But, still, check this out! Laura Barron-Lopez: “Betsy DeVos appears to have copied lines from statutes and other sources in her written answers submitted to a Senate committee, according to a copy of the document and a review of those other sources. The lifting of passages was first reported by The Washington Post, though The Huffington Post had been alerted to these instances by sources opposing her nomination. It could cloud DeVos’ nomination, though Republican senators have stood by her even after what was widely considered a shaky committee hearing. In her submitted responses to Democrats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, DeVos did not cite or footnote the phrases or sentences that, at times, she copied verbatim.” [HuffPost]

 ***Nothing matters alert*** DeVos’ was cleared by the HELP Committee: “The vote was split along party lines, with all 11 Democrats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voting to reject DeVos, and all 12 of the committee’s Republicans voting to approve her. Next, DeVos faces a full Senate vote. Two Republican senators on the HELP Committee, Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), suggested that they were not sure how they would vote at that point.” [HuffPost’s Rebecca Klein] 

THE KKK ET AL ARE SUPER HAPPY WITH TRUMP - We spent a lot of time scouring American Renaissance so you don’t have to: Eliot Nelson: “A wide range of fringe figures in the public sphere and on the web ― including white nationalists, anti-Semites, so-called “men’s rights activists” and others with discriminatory views ― have acclaimed Trump’s first week in office, focusing in particular on his executive actions ordering the construction of a border wall with Mexico and banning refugees from entering the country…. The subject of another popular Reddit post predicted approvingly that the administration’s actions presaged a democratic decline. It was titled ‘I get the feeling that Trump deep down is planning on going full fash,’ meaning fascist. On the white supremacist message board Stormfront, users expressed support for Trump’s proposed border wall, with many offering suggestions on how it should be built. ‘I too like the idea of a minefield,’ wrote user AryanWarrior. ‘Drones, helicopters, guard towers, starving dogs who love dark meat, all the bells & whistles :)’” [HuffPost]

CONGRESSIONAL PHONES OVERLOADED - Pity the 22-year-old staff assistant who has been eating yogurt for lunch at his desk since January 20th. Elise Viebeck: “When you call the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has primary responsibility for any investigations in Congress related to President Trump, you get voicemail. Here’s what it says: ‘If you would like to provide information or make an inquiry relating to President Donald Trump, please press 1.’ If you press 1, this is the message you receive: ‘Because of high call volume, we are unable to answer your call at this time.’ … Across the Hill, the problem is so bad that administrative officials are trying to increase the capacity of the phone lines to allow more calls to get through. ‘For now, callers should wait a little while and try again if they want to complete the call,’ Dan Weiser, communications director for the House’s Chief Administrative Officer, wrote in an email. “ [WaPo] 

America is broken, and The Times is ON IT! “President Trump made clear in his fiery inaugural speech that he was going to challenge the Washington establishment. Now the establishment is quickly pushing back, creating a palpable air of uncertainty and chaos in the opening days of his administration…. Even after years of unbreakable gridlock and unyielding partisanship, it was a jarring new level of confrontation and conflict, and it was contributing to a building sense of crisis just as the new president was to disclose the identity of a new Supreme Court nominee — a selection certain to further inflame tensions.” [NYT’s Carl Hulse]
‘PALESTINIAN SALAD’ - Desmond Butler and Richard Lardner: “A critical national security program known as ‘WebOps’ is part of a vast psychological operation that the Pentagon says is effectively countering an enemy that has used the internet as a devastating tool of propaganda. But an Associated Press investigation found the management behind WebOps is so beset with incompetence, cronyism and flawed data that multiple people with direct knowledge of the program say it’s having little impact. Several current and former WebOps employees cited multiple examples of civilian Arabic specialists who have little experience in counter-propaganda, cannot speak Arabic fluently and have so little understanding of Islam they are no match for the Islamic State online recruiters. It’s hard to establish rapport with a potential terror recruit when — as one former worker told the AP — translators repeatedly mix up the Arabic words for ‘salad’ and ‘authority.’ That’s led to open ridicule on social media about references to the ‘Palestinian salad.’” [AP]

Oh: “A flare-up in fighting in eastern Ukraine over the weekend has raised new uncertainty about how the White House’s new occupants feel about the conflict, given President Donald Trump’s desire for closer relations with Russia.” [BuzzFeed’s Hayes Brown] 

In case you were wondering what George W. Bush is up to, he’s sitting for Plainview High School documentaries about his dog, Barney. 

WE CAN ONLY HOPE ONE OF THEM GAVE TRUMP SOME XANAX - Anna Edney and Justin Sink: “President Donald Trump told drugmakers at a White House meeting Tuesday they were charging too much and promised to get better bargains for government health programs, in addition to finding ways to get new medicines to market faster…. It’s not clear how much support Trump has from key Republicans for the harshest drug price policies, which have typically been opposed by conservatives.” [Bloomberg] 

BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR - Here’s a very friendly bear.

BOBCAT UPDATE - If we cower in fear from Ollie the D.C. bobcat, then fascism’s victory is all but assured. Andrew Beaujon: “Ollie the bobcat is still missing from Smithsonian’s National Zoo. In a news release, the zoo says it has received tips from neighbors that suggest the 25-pound cat may be in the Woodley Park or Cleveland Park neighborhoods of Northwest DC. It deployed a search party that includes zookeepers, zoo cops, and members of the DC Humane Rescue Alliance early Tuesday morning. While Ollie is at large, 13 DC public schools have gone on alert status, ‘which includes moving activities indoors.’” [Washingtonian] 

COMFORT FOOD 

- Taking a crack at Dry January. 

- Fun facts about each of the 50 states. 

- Even snooker commentators have catchphrases. 

TWITTERAMA

R

EMAILS

F

U

G

EMAILS

EMAILS 

@morninggloria: don’t you hate it when you bite the inside of your mouth, and then you keep biting the same spot and also all hope has died

 @igorbobic: Trump will make his final decision by locking both SCOTUS candidates in a room with the bobcat. Two men enter. One survives. 

Got something to add? Send tips/quotes/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to Eliot Nelson (eliot@huffingtonpost.com)

CONVERSATIONS