Thursday, April 28, 2011

HuffPost Hill

By Eliot Nelson, Ryan Grim & Arthur Delaney

The economy grew at a disappointing pace last quarter, despite growth in the fake Hawaii birth certificate publishing industry. Saxby Chambliss readied the fondue, tissues and huggable throw pillows for his royal wedding watch party. Mitch McConnell has accepted Harry Reid's challenge and is now locked in a game of legislative HORSE with the majority leader. And Allen West has begun a campaign to save the Republic by preventing your grandfather from taking his cholesterol meds. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, April 28th, 2011:

RETALIATING, MCCONNELL TO FORCE VOTE ON OBAMA BUDGET - With Harry Reid planning a vote on Paul Ryan's budget in an attempt to embarrass moderate Republicans, Mitch McConnell will respond in kind and force a vote on the budget President Obama submitted to Congress in February. A spokesman for McConnell told Sam Stein that the minority leader will mimic whatever legislative tactics Reid employs relating to the Ryan budget. The hope is that liberal Democrats will defect and vote against the president's budget, which includes $1.1 trillion in cuts. "[W]e'll have a vote on the President's budget at the same time," McConnell said in a statement. "Since there is no Democrat budget in the Senate, we'll give our colleagues an opportunity to stand with the President..." [HuffPost]

President Obama this afternoon officially announced his nominations of Leon Panetta and David Petraeus to lead the Pentagon and CIA, respectively. "The patriotism and extraordinary management skills that have defined Leon's four decades of service is exactly what we need in our next Secretary of Defense," the president said at a White House press event of Panetta, the current CIA chief. As for Petraeus, Obama was equally praiseworthy. "Just as General Petraeus changed the way that our military fights and wins wars in the 21st century," he said, "I have no doubt that Director Petraeus will guide our intelligence professionals as they continue to adapt and innovate in an ever-changing world."

Roughly two years after Nancy Pelosi and Panetta clashed over a CIA congressional briefing about torture/"enhanced interrogation techniques," Pelosi appears to have (at least kind of) buried the hatchet. "In appointing experienced and committed public servants to key national security posts, President Obama has acted to strengthen our country's defenses and the safety of the American people," she said in a statement. [The Hill's Michael O'Brien]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - One million people have been unable to find work after running out of unemployment benefits in the last year, according to the Wall Street Journal. It's a napkin calculation based on the difference between the number of jobs created and the much larger decline in the benefits rolls since April 2010. It's not wildly out of line with other estimates. The National Employment Law Project has said 3.9 million people exhausted their benefits in 2010, but there's no telling whether any of those exhaustees still haven't found jobs after running out of aid, which is what the WSJ stat is getting at. The Congressional Research Service figured that as of October, some 1.4 million had been unemployed for 99 weeks, which is the maximum limit for benefits in 25 states (many jobless get less). The point of all this: It's hard to know how many people are up shit's creek, but safe to assume very, very many. [WSJ]

MULTIMILLIONAIRE PUBLIC EXECUTIVES - We'll leave it to Megyn Kelly to fume over those lavish teacher salaries. LA Times: "When he turned 65 two years ago, Samuel Downing received a $3-million retirement payment from a public hospital district in Salinas, Calif., where he serves as president and chief executive. But Downing continued working at his $668,000-a-year job for another two years, and after he retires this week, he will receive another payment of nearly $900,000. That comes on top of his regular pension of $150,000 a year. The payments amount to one of the more generous pension packages granted to a public official in California and come amid growing debate about "supplemental" pensions that some officials receive on top of their basic retirement benefits. Though Downing's case is extreme, it follows the disclosure of extra pension benefits received by employees in municipalities including Bell and San Diego. [L.A. Times]

Dick Durbin on Chuck Schumer's support for delaying swipe fee caps: "Listen, I know the zip code for Wall Street and I know what state it's in."

Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer on acodel today.

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GDP GROWTH IS ANEMIC, YO - The U.S. economy grew at a disappointing rate in the first quarter of 2011, as no amount of ironic Tumblr accounts and sales of can seem to jump start the damn thing. The sluggish economy -- which seems to be taking its cues, if not its employees, from a second-semester high school senior -- saw the GDP grow by a lackluster 1.8 percent. The inflation rate also grew at the fastest pace in two-and-a-half years. Yeah, it's pretty terrible out there. [Reuters/HuffPost]

A McClatchy-Marist poll indicates voter dissatisfaction with President Obama's economic strategy is at an all-time high. Forty percent of those polled think the president is handling the economy well while 57 percent think otherwise. TIME TO RELEASE MORE BIRTH CERTIFICATES. [Marist]

Pete Seeger has been reincarnated as the former frontman for Rage Against The Machine. Tom Morello is out with a new single, Union Town, and HuffPost Hill loves the class-war rage pouring through the acoustic strings -- with proceeds from his upcoming album going to support the labor movement. Our regret at having missed the fights of the 1930s seems to have been misplaced. The class struggle is back, baby. [YouTube]

Free download at

Editors note: Apparently, Google says Pete Seeger is technically still alive.

GOP NERVOUS ABOUT BIRTH CERTIFICATE ISSUE - David Drucker reports that GOP operatives are worried that continued focus on the president's birthplace could hurt their party in its attempts to retake the White House. Not a huge surprise, as folks tend to be put off by issues usually explained by pamphlets. "These Republicans were nearly unanimous in their desire to see the issue permanently put to rest because they fear it could make the party seem too extreme...The Republican operatives include strategists tied to possible presidential candidates and advisers to House and Senate candidates whose races could be swayed by the White House contest. Almost all believe the Republicans have an opportunity to seize the upper hand given the slow economic recovery, persistent unemployment, rising gas prices and anxiety over the federal deficit." [Roll Call]

FLORIDA REPUBLICANS PUNK RICK SCOTT ON ANTI-UNION BILL - It looks like Florida's unions might not go the way of a high-speed monorail, after all. A bill that would prohibit state and local governments from automatically deducting union dues from workers' paychecks and would require members to specifically allow their dues be used for political campaigns hasn't garnered enough support in the legislature, despite Scott personally lobbying on its behalf. Amanda Terkel: "Labor unions have been actively organizing against SB 830, as well as proposals by Scott that would mandate random drug tests of state employees and privatize Medicaid. A Florida labor official told The Huffington Post that GOP legislators were hesitant to tie themselves to Scott's controversial bill, in light of the governor's rapidly declining poll numbers." [HuffPost]

America has survived external wars, an internal war, economic depressions and a decades-long threat of nuclear annihilation. However, if Allen West is to believed, it might not survive a program that gives your grandmother medicine. "I gotta tell you something: if you support Medicare the way it is now, you can kiss the United States of America goodbye," West said when asked about the program by someone in attendance. [WPTV]

Republicans say they're unfazed by the growing acrimony at their town halls, reports Lucia Graves.

POLL: SHARRON ANGLE IS DONE WITH STATEWIDE POLITICS - President Obama's decision to release his birth certificate, which eradicated American political extremism forever, appears to be bearing fruit. A new poll from Public Policy Polling finds Dean Heller absolutely TROUNCING Sharron Angle in a hypothetical Nevada Senate primary match up. Eighty-one (!) percent of Republican respondents said they would vote for Heller while only 12 percent (!) opted for Angle. Then there's this: "Keep in mind Angle ran against Heller in a House primary in 2006 and lost just 36-35. Combine this poll finding with the one in January where 68% of Republicans in the state said they regretted her winning the nomination last year and it doesn't look like Angle's future political prospects are good even in a Republican primary." We're sorry about everything we've ever said, America. [PPP]

DONALD TRUMP STILL LEADING IN LATEST POLL - Actually, we take our last sentence back. We DO mean all those bad things we said about America. A new Rasmussen poll adds to the mounting evidence that The Donald is a leading contender for the Republican nomination ... for the time being, at least. Nineteen percent of the LIKELY Republican primary voters queried say they'll vote for Trump. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee come in a close second and third with 17 percent and 15 percent, respectively. Of course, all the stories about Trump's previous unappetizing-to-conservatives statements about being pro-choice and whatnot have yet to sink into the general consciousness. Then there's that gold trim apartment he owned the eighties. [Rasmussen]

During his birther press conference yesterday, Trump assumed a black reporter supports Obama ... at least he didn't ask what football position the guy played?

Rand Paul -- ever the jokester -- is demanding to see Trump's Republican certificate. "I've come to New Hampshire today because I'm very concerned. I want to see the original long-form certificate of Donald Trump's Republican registration," the junior senator From Kentucky said at an event in New Hampshire today. "Seriously don't you think we need to see that?" Actually, yes. [CNN]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Posh babies having a fine dining experience at a Michelin-starred restaurant.

Dan Snyder's Flack Admits Lawsuit Is A "Warning Shot" To The Media

DELECTABLE TABLE SCRAPS FROM THE SWIPE FEE EPIC - You know that swipe piece HuffPost Hill wrote that you opened and put in a separate tab and totally meant to read? We actually cut about 5,000 words from it. The fun stuff that got left on the cutting room floor:

A quote from Sheetz CEO Stan Sheetz was truncated. The full quote was "It's a cash cow. It's a motherfucking cash cow."

Ex-Alan Grayson aide Matt Stoller: "The swipe fee fight is like a very lively puppet show, you can almost see the strings on all the players."

Karl Rove, morphing into a modern-day TR, blasted Jon Tester on a Montana radio show, calling him an agent of Wall Street. The show's host is a consultant to Rep. Denny Rehberg, Tester's 2012 challenger, and accused Tester of "literally doing the bidding for the 1 percent, the biggest banks in the world." To the barricades, Karl! [Montana radio]

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt): "It's a typical astroturf-style campaign, and the big banks, the TARP banks, know that when it comes to them versus the corner store, the corner store's gonna win in the public mind. But when it's the corner store against the local bank, it's a jump ball."

Brutal accusations from an anonymous bank lobbyist: "This shouldn't be close, but the merchants are incompetent fools," he says, tweaking the merchants for wasting time on Reid and Republican leaders, when the fight is going on elsewhere. "It's how a professor would write a book on lobbying who'd never done it...They're complaining to John Boehner, Eric Cantor and McConnell. They couldn't control this issue if they tried. And they won't try." (Ahem. John Boehner has gotten the second-most money from the bank coalition; Eric Cantor's fourth.)

We also didn't wanna distract HuffPost readers from kitten videos for too long, so left out our granular whip count. If you're not a lobbyist working on this issue, you can start scrolling, but here's what we gathered from talking to senators about Tester's bill. Kay Hagan: Was with Durbin, now undecided, cited the cost of fraud, a bogus bank talking point; Bob Byrd was with Durbin, Joe Manchin's now undecided; Ben Nelson was with Durbin and is now with Tester; John Hoeven: With Tester; Ron Johnson: Undecided (Feingold was with Durbin); Lindsey Graham, Mike Crapo: Were with Durbin, now undecided; Olympia Snowe, Johnny Isacson, Saxby Chambliss: Sticking with Durbin.

KEVIN THE INTERN'S 'THIS DAY IN HISTORY' - April 28th, 1758: Last-Surviving Founding Father Born: One of the more accomplished public servants in revolutionary America, James Monroe became president in 1820, the last of the founding fathers to do so. Prior to that, he fought in the Continental Army at Trenton, served as ambassador to France and President Madison's Secretary of State. Monroe was the precedent for a sitting U.S Senator successfully being elected to the White House, and he even personally lobbied Congress to repair damage done to the White House during the War of 1812. He came up with the Missouri Compromise to ease the growing unease over slavery, admitting both slave and non-slave states to the Union equally. The Monroe Doctrine, his defining policy, threatened retribution on any European power who tried to further colonize North America. After a successful two terms, he was the last surviving founding father, and died in Virginia in 1831. Thanks, KB!
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