HUFFPOST HILL - So Much For Our 'Make Holland Geert Again' Headline

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Today we learned that the “Tweede Kamer” is the Netherlands’ lower legislative chamber and not, apparently, a store in Bushwick that only sells buttons. A preliminary 2020 survey out of Iowa suggests Cory Booker might soon develop an affinity for fried butter and beehived diner waitresses named Doris. And thanks to arcane Senate parliamentary rules, we might all soon be treated to “Nevertheless She Persisted” t-shirts stamped with Robert Byrd’s face. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, March 15th, 2017:

SHARP CUTS FOR EPA IN TRUMP’S BUDGET - Congratulations to all the Canadian winegrowers on their International Wine Challenge 2042 Champion of Champions trophy. Glenn Thrush and Coral Davenport: “President Trump’s budget blueprint for the coming fiscal year would slash the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent and cut State Department spending by a similar amount in a brash upending of the government’s priorities, according to congressional staff members familiar with the plan. The budget outline, to be unveiled on Thursday, is more of a broad political statement than a detailed plan for spending and taxation. But it represents Mr. Trump’s first real effort to translate his bold but vague campaign themes into the minutiae of governance. The president would funnel $54 billion in additional funding into defense programs, beef up immigration enforcement and significantly reduce the nondefense federal work force to ‘dismantle the administrative state,’ in the words of Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon.” [NYT]

DEMOCRACY: GOING DUTCH ON HUMANITY’S PROBLEMS - We’ll wait for your notes of adulatory congratulations for that headline. Eline Gordts and Nick Robins-Early: “Preliminary results indicate that incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte will win the Dutch election. Exit polls released at the end of a long election day show Rutte’s VVD party is expected to be the Netherlands’ biggest political party. Millions of Dutch voted Wednesday to elect a new government as the rest of Europe watched anxiously to see whether the far-right populist Party for Freedom would become the largest.Voting in the Dutch national election started at 7:30 a.m. Turnout was significantly higher than in the previous election: In the capital, Amsterdam, so many people headed to the polls that the city had to print extra ballots. Officials in several polling stations posted photos of ballot boxes filled to the brim.” [HuffPost]

Imagine having to take anything issued by the “Tweede Kamer” seriously: “But Wilders and his party, the Party for Freedom (PVV), are far from the only force in the election. A record 28 parties are competing for the 150 seats in the lower house of Dutch parliament, known as the Tweede Kamer. In practical terms, this has a very obvious effect on voting day: The Dutch ballots are enormous. So enormous, in fact, that people can’t stop sharing photos of them.” [WaPo’s Adam Taylor]

HOUSE INTEL CHAIR POURS SALT ON WIRETAP CLAIM - Sam Stein and Jessica Schulberg: “House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) conceded on Wednesday that he had found no evidence to substantiate President Donald Trump’s claim that former President Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower. Nunes, a fierce White House ally, told reporters that absent such evidence, he could conclude only that no wiretap had ever been put in place. If you ‘take the tweets literally,’ Nunes said of Trump’s tweets on the matter, ‘then clearly the president was wrong.’ One day prior to Nunes’ comments, White House press secretary Sean Spicer had said that Trump was ‘extremely confident’ that the Department of Justice would produce evidence to support his claim. Nunes and fellow California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, sent a letter to the Justice Department last week asking officials to turn over any existing evidence that would substantiate Trump’s claim.” [HuffPost]

ELECTION OFFICIALS ON TRUMP’S FRAUD CLAIMS: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ - Sam Levine: “Despite insistence that widespread voter fraud exists and pledges to investigate the matter fully, it seems the Trump administration has not bothered to contact top state election officials across the country. The Huffington Post asked all 50 secretaries of state and election officials in the District of Columbia if they had been contacted by the White House or Department of Justice regarding the forthcoming investigation. Not a single secretary of state’s office responded to say that it had.” [HuffPost]

JEFF SESSIONS REALLY NEEDS TO GET HIGH - On the other hand, maybe he’s paranoid enough already. Matt Ferner: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions hates marijuana, but it appears unlikely that he’ll send the federal government to war against states that have legalized it…. After delivering prepared remarks comparing marijuana to heroin and insisting that ‘using drugs will destroy your life,’ Sessions told reporters that much of the Obama-era guidance that paved the way for states to legalize marijuana is ‘valid.’ It’s the clearest indication yet that he may not be readying for a nationwide crackdown as some drug policy reformers have feared…. Marijuana remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act…. President Barack Obama’s Justice Department allowed states to forge their own way on marijuana policy by issuing guidance in 2013.” [HuffPost]

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MARTIN O’MALLEY LEADING POLL OF PEOPLE WHO AREN’T ELIZABETH WARREN OR BERNIE SANDERS - Congratulations to the former governor on still being in third place. Gabriel Debenedetti: “The leadership PAC of former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley commissioned a Public Policy Polling survey of the first-in-the-nation caucus state earlier this month, according to a copy of the results obtained by POLITICO. The poll, which shows O’Malley at 18 percent of Democratic caucus-goers in a field of nine potential candidates..... O’Malley...was joined at the top of the poll by Booker, who was at 17 percent. Klobuchar, who represents a neighboring state and who’s been a frequent visitor to Iowa over the years, got 11 percent. All other candidates were under 10 percent…. A number of high-profile potential 2020 candidates were left out of the poll, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and Sanders.” [Politico]

BIG DADDY THWARTING GOP FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE - Robert Byrd: from Klansman to feminist hero. Laura Bassett: “Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are warning that a provision ‘defunding’ Planned Parenthood could doom the GOP’s Obamacare replacement plan in the Senate because the language violates a key rule about what can be legislated with a simple majority vote. The ‘Byrd rule,’ named for the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), requires that if a provision’s budgetary effect is ‘merely incidental’ to a budget bill, it does not qualify for the fast-tracked reconciliation process in the Senate. This means that the legislation would have to meet the Senate’s usual 60-vote threshold to pass ― a much more challenging number for the 52 Senate Republicans to meet than a 51-vote majority. The Congressional Budget Office confirmed in an analysis this week that the anti-abortion language in the American Health Care Act would only affect Planned Parenthood, even though the legislation does not specifically name the provider. Because this ‘defunding’ provision appears to be politically motivated and would have little effect on the federal budget, it likely would not survive the Byrd test.” [HuffPost]

YELLEN ANNOUNCES FED HIKE - We can’t wait for the president to question whether Janet Yellen is even real. Daniel Marans: “The Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate on Wednesday, a sign of its continued confidence in the economy in the wake of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The move, which reflects the Fed’s satisfaction with job growth and its mounting concern about inflation, is the first rate hike since Trump took office. The central bank’s Federal Open Market Committee increased the target federal funds rate — what banks charge one another for overnight lending — by 0.25 percentage points, to a range of 0.75 percent to 1.0 percent. Congress gave the Fed a dual mandate: to maximize employment, and to keep prices stable. The Fed raises the federal funds rate to tame inflation by putting downward pressure on job market growth…. Although Wednesday’s rate hike is just the third increase since the Fed lowered the influential rate to zero in December 2008, it is the second hike since December 2016, suggesting the Fed is finally accelerating its efforts to raise borrowing costs.” [HuffPost]

TENSIONS AT DOD - In case you were worried that our military leaders’ jaws weren’t clenched tightly enough. Aaron Mehta and Joe Gould: “Sources who support Mattis have grown increasingly vocal about frustrations with Mira Ricardel, a top defense voice on the Trump campaign who also served as a part of the defense transition team for the administration. Ricardel is positioned at the Office of Presidential Personnel and has been a vital part of the nominee review process, including conducting personal interviews with prospective nominees. A number of sources, including one inside the administration, said Mattis and Ricardel have directly clashed over nominees. Two of those sources speculated that Ricardel had hoped for a Pentagon position when the transition ended, perhaps as the undersecretary of defense for policy.  But where supporters of Mattis see Ricardel as a roadblock to progress, those on the Trump team view her as a loyal soldier who is looking out for the interests of the President.” [DefenseNews]

MATTIS RINO’S SO HARD - It’s going to be so fun when we learn the president thinks we can combat rising global temperature with more classy ice sculptures. Andrew Revkin: “Secretary of Defense James Mattis has asserted that climate change is real, and a threat to American interests abroad and the Pentagon’s assets everywhere, a position that appears at odds with the views of the president who appointed him and many in the administration in which he serves. In unpublished written testimony provided to the Senate Armed Services Committee… ‘Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today,” Mattis said in written answers to questions posed after the public hearing by Democratic members of the [Armed Services] committee. ‘It is appropriate for the Combatant Commands to incorporate drivers of instability that impact the security environment in their areas into their planning.’” [HuffPost]

TRAVEL BAN CHALLENGED IN COURT - “That’s right, your honor, 50,000 letters from children addressed to one Donald Trump, calling him a ‘ginormous tool.’” Maria Sacchetti, Kalani Takase and Matt Zapotosky: “A federal judge in Hawaii says he will rule on whether to halt President Trump’s new travel ban before it takes effect hours from now. U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson said he would issue a written ruling before 12:01 a.m. Eastern Thursday — which is 6:01 p.m. Wednesday in Hawaii. Watson was the second of three judges to hear arguments Wednesday on whether to freeze the ban. A federal judge in Maryland said he also could rule before day’s end after a morning hearing, and the same federal judge in Washington state who suspended Trump’s first travel ban was set to hear arguments starting at 5 p.m. Eastern. The hearing in Hawaii came in response to a lawsuit filed by the state itself. Lawyers for Hawaii alleged the new travel ban, much like the old, violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment because it is essentially a Muslim ban, hurts the ability of state businesses and universities to recruit top talent and damages the state’s robust tourism industry.” [WaPo]

REPEAL AND REFACEPLANT - This is going great. Laura Barron-Lopez and Jonathan Cohn: “A harsh Congressional Budget Office assessment of the Republican House bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act had GOP senators on Tuesday calling for changes, including more financial assistance for low-income Americans…. [S]ome GOP senators said they were concerned with the House legislation’s potential effects on low-income people, seniors and Medicaid patients. Of particular concern to these senators was the way the GOP bill would redirect health insurance tax credits, leaving the poorest consumers with less money than they get under the Affordable Care Act.” [HuffPost]

Trump needs at least eight Democratic senators to support his health agenda. He’s not even trying.

BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR - Here’s the latest in virtual piglet technology.

STATE SHUTS OUT MEDIA - Really solid follow-up to that whole “no press conference” episode. Brian Stelter: “State Department reporters are strongly protesting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s decision to fly to Asia without his traveling press corps. Instead, Tillerson invited a single reporter from a startup news site with a conservative bent. The site, Independent Journal Review, or IJR for short, does not have a well-established track record of covering foreign policy. IJR calls itself a ‘social first, mobile first news company.’ The decision stirred complaints because it broke with decades of tradition and may impede news coverage of Tillerson’s foreign policy moves. Some veteran reporters privately described it as insulting. The State Department Correspondents Association said in a statement that the group ‘is disappointed that Secretary Tillerson chose to travel this week to North Asia without a full contingent of the diplomatic press corps or even a pool reporter.’” [CNN]


- “Mr. Bean” recast as a violent psychological thriller.

- Man updates computer with every edition of Windows and sees which original programs successfully update to the latest version .

- Looking back at Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s best moments on her 84th birthday.


@aedwardslevy: POLLSTER: beware the self-reported party IDs of March
CAESAR: what man is that?
BRUTUS: a pollster bids you use the voter file

@Caissie: If anyone has access to any of Donald Trump’s other tax returns, please microwave them to me.

@jbendery: “Smells like legislation in there.” — tourist walking out of House balcony

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