POLITICS

HUFFPOST HILL - JUNE 30TH, 2010

Sometimes in Washington, the bar is set pretty high. On the third day of her confirmation hearing, Elena Kagan was grilled by Lindsey Graham about her abortion views, chided by Arlen Specter for side-stepping questions and quizzed by Amy Klobuchar about the "Twilight" series. And sometimes the bar just...sits there: Nevada's Sharron Angle remains a viable candidate today despite having to clarify her views on whether shooting the Senate majority leader is bad and why all those obnoxious unemployed people are such snobs. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, June 30th, 2010:

WALL STREET REFORM ON COURSE TO PASS HOUSE - The vote comes any minute and this one's not in doubt. The only question is whether Democrats in the House will get any votes from Republicans. The bill is long on consumer financial protections and and mortgage industry reform and short on structural reform. The downside: It likely won't prevent another crisis. The upside: When that next crisis comes, Congress won't have to monkey around with consumer protections and can go right at the structural issues. The Senate is unlikely to take it up before adjourning for the Fourth of July, with Scott Brown still holding out.

BOEHNER: LOUD AS AN ANT ON BANK REFORM - After comparing Wall Street reform to "killing an ant with a nuclear weapon," John Boehner has gone silent. He didn't take the floor to oppose the bill, as is generally the custom.

Boehner told Dan Balz earlier in the day that his reference to an ant "was not a judgment of the financial crisis. It was how to fix it. Clearly there were holes in our regulatory process and we could have fixed those holes but that's not what this bill does. This bill goes way beyond all of that and puts the federal government in a huge role in terms of how our whole financial system's going to work in the future. That's what I was talking about." http://bit.ly/chSIuo

CBO CHIEF: THERE IS NO LONGTERM DEBT PROBLEM - Of course, that's not what Director Doug Elmendorf said today when briefing the deficit commission on the CBO's new budget projections, but he could have, because that's what his report said. Take a look at Table 1-3, which lists the budget gap as a percentage of GDP over the next 25, 50 and 75 years. If Congress follow paygo and sticks to current law, the gap will be 1.2% of GDP in 2034, 0.8% percent in 2059 and 0.7% in 2084. With small and boring figures like that, where would the headline writers get their panic fix? The CBO came to the rescue, creating an "alternative" scenario that makes all sorts of assumptions about what Congress will and won't do over the next 75 years. By assuming health care reform fails and tax cuts and corporate welfare are extended forever, the CBO finds budget deficits grow. Cue hysteria:

WaPo: "CBO: Deficit would soar in coming decades despite Obama's health overhaul."

Reuters: "Budget outlook said bleak as baby boomers age."

USA Today: "National debt soars to highest level since WWII."

Elmendorf got his scary headlines, but he also got reamed by Max Baucus for putting out projections based on cost-saving elements of health care reform not going into effect. "I question the wisdom of the Congressional Budget Office embarking on such a course," Baucus said at the deficit commission meeting, which HuffPost Hill valiantly sat through. "It's a little bit curious that now CBO comes back and says, 'No, Congress won't do that.'" So if Congress sticks more or less to paygo over the next 75 years, there's no budget problem. Can we move on now?

KAGAN DAY THREE: ECLIPSE - The Senate Judiciary Committee was rudely interrupted by a Supreme Court nominee today. Seeing as how she was already there, the panel figured it might as well give Elena Kagan a good talkin' to. Arlen Specter (D-uck, Lame) was upset at the proceeding's lack of substance. "Well, Solicitor General Kagan, I think the commentaries in the media are accurate. We started off with a standard that you articulated at the University of Chicago Law School about substantive discussions," Specter said. "And they say we haven't had them here, and I'm inclined to agree with them." ZING.

Lindsey Graham ain't buyin' that Elena Kagan is agenda-less. "Wait a minute. Wait a minute," the South Carolina senator exclaimed when Kagan insisted she was not following a personal agenda when she advised Bill Clinton on late-term abortion. "I certainly have an agenda when it comes to abortion. I respect the courts, but I'm trying to push the rights of the unborn in a respectful way," Graham said. "I think Alito and Roberts had an agenda. They were working for a conservative president who was pushing conservative policies. So it just is a bit disturbing that you, quite frankly, say you don't have an agenda when you should have had." Sam Stein: http://huff.to/b9NvH0

For the record, Kagan isn't on Team "Jacob" or Team "Edward". She's on Team "Shut The Hell Up You Ponderous Fools And Ask Me About Eminent Domain, Or Something." Her exchange with Amy Klobuchar:

Klobuchar: You had an incredibly grueling day yesterday, and did incredibly well, but I guess it means you missed the midnight debut of the third "Twilight" movie last night. We did not miss it in our household, and it culminated in three 15-year-old girls sleeping over at 3 a.m. So I have this urge to ask you about this --

Kagan: I didn't see that.

Klobuchar: I keep wanting to ask you about the famous case of Edward v. Jacob, or The Vampire v. The Werewolf.

Kagan: I wish you wouldn't.

FLASHBACK - Kagan, in 1995: "When the Senate ceases to engage nominees in meaningful discussion of legal issues, the confirmation process takes on an air of vacuity and farce, and the Senate becomes incapable of either properly evaluating nominees or appropriately educating the public." Huh. Jason Linkins: http://huff.to/ddGxZw

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TOMORROW'S PAPERS TODAY - Washington Post: E.J. Dionne Jr. on John Kerry who, once criticized for being too aloof and patrician, is now being assailed for daring to have passion for the cause of protecting our planet by trying to reduce the amount of carbon we are pumping into the atmosphere. Roll Call: Steven T. Dennis on how Speaker Nancy Pelosi's iron grip on her caucus has been loosened by Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, the administrative co-chair of the Blue Dog Coalition, and her anti-deficit insurgency. The Hill: Sam Youngman and Molly K. Hooper on the back and forth between President Barack Obama and Minority Leader John Boehner on the Ohio Republican's "ant" metaphor.

BOEHNER BOOZING BROACHED ON MORNING JOE - Minority Leader...Majority Lush??? In an amazingly awkward exchange this morning, Jim VandeHei and Joe Scarborough discussed whether John Boehner is "lazy," but it was Scarborough who brushed up against what they were really talking about: "Every Republican I talk to says John Boehner, by 5 or 6 o'clock at night, you can see him at bars." It's well known on the Hill that Boehner is a big fan of the sauce, which puts him in the able company of a long line of politicians from LBJ to Winston Churchill. But it's still something that reporters talk about privately but never write. Partly, that's because nobody needs to be sober to be House Minority Leader. New York magazine is profiling him, so that silence may end soon, and as the possibility of Boehner weilding the Speaker's gavel becomes less and less remote, his drinking habits inch closer to relevance. Think Progress wrote it up: http://bit.ly/bx4840

DAVID PETRAEUS CONFIRMED BY SENATE IN SQUEAKER OF A VOTE - TOTALLY KIDDING: it was 99-0. The upper chamber unanimously moved to appoint the four-star general as the top military commander in Afghanistan after his predecessor, Stanley McChrystal, resigned for saying nasty things about his own government. Petraeus now heads to Brussels where he will likely be confirmed by NATO and then onto Afghanistan where, we suspect, he'll take a few weeks for himself. http://huff.to/bCAn12

Raul Grijalva, John Conyers, Mike Honda and other progressives gather in the House Radio-TV gallery tomorrow at 10 a.m. to outline their objections to more funding for the war in Afghanistan and dare Republicans to vote for deficit spending: "Our challenge: if you oppose deficit spending, debt dependency on China, cuts to Social Security, and are concerned about a debt-threat to our national security, then oppose this bill."

INSIDE PETRAEUS' MEETING WITH JOE BIDEN - From FP: "When Vice President Joseph Biden sat down with Gen. David Petraeus in the outgoing CENTCOM commander's Tampa home for dinner Tuesday evening, it was actually the second private encounter between the two men in as many weeks...After the general accepted the offer, Biden told Petraeus in their pull-aside meeting that he had strongly supported the idea of giving him the command. The two men agreed to meet one more time before Petraeus left for Kabul. Biden happened to be traveling to Pensacola, Florida yesterday to visit areas affected by the Gulf oil spill, so they agreed to meet at Petraeus's Tampa house. http://bit.ly/deH5tD

@jayrosen_nyu: From 1930-99 NYT described waterboarding as torture 81% of the time; 2002-08, 1.4% http://jr.ly/znv7

BILL LIFTING OIL SPILL LIABILITY CAP PASSES COMMITTEE - By voice vote, the Environment and Public Works Committee today approved Robert Menendez's measure that exposes companies to unlimited damage claims in the wake of environmental disasters like the BP spill. "Top aides on the Hill say the most likely course of action would be for Senate Majority Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to add the bill (as well as other BP-disaster response measures) to the climate change legislation that the body already is considering. The logic is that the additional amendments would make the overall package more politically inviting for swing votes." Sam Stein: http://huff.to/bIREyr

Hurricane Alex is severely complicating cleanup efforts in the Gulf - It appears that the massive weather system, despite veering westward, is pushing oil ashore and delaying relief workers. AP: "Dozens of vessels that were being used to combat the oil spill were tied to docks Tuesday as Alex, more than 500 miles away, approached the Texas-Mexico coast. Most days, the fleet would have been skimming oil from the Gulf and ferrying workers and supplies. But the hurricane turned many people fighting the 11-week-old spill into spectators. And they will be for days." http://huff.to/9wgDCL

BP didn't consider the effects of another hurricane in its contingency plans. You read that right. AP: "Rep. Edward Markey says BP's disaster response plan for an oil spill doesn't mention hurricanes or tropical storms. Markey says the omission is yet another example of what the oil giant was not prepared to handle. The Massachusetts Democrat's comments came during a congressional hearing on a law to improve technology intended to prevent disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill." http://huff.to/aM2CDs

HuffPost Hill has acquired a WORLD EXCLUSIVE video of BP's planning session: http://bit.ly/uONsn

BYRD'S DEATH LEAVES DEMS SHORT ON UNEMPLOYMENT EXTENSION - Arthur Delaney: "The passing of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) leaves Senate Democrats one vote short of the 60 needed to break a Republican filibuster of a bill reauthorizing extended unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said on Wednesday. 'We definitely would [have 60 votes] if Senator Byrd were here or his replacement were here,' Reid said." http://huff.to/9sX2P1

A Democratic leadership aide said the Senate may hold a cloture vote tonight on extending unemployment.

Delaney has received more than 100 emails today from people who say they've been affected by the lapse in unemployment benefits, including one from Cate in Maryland, who said her 26 weeks of benefits expired on June 5. Cate wrote that if Congress doesn't reauthorize extended benefits, she will file for food stamps, try to rent out her bedroom and sleep on her couch, or not pay her rent. And If she doesn't have benefits or a job by August, she will do one of two things: "a. I will consider suicide seriously so that I can be admitted to the mental hospital for 3 days. b. I will consider petty crime so I can get 3 hots and a cot." She continued: "That Congress and our President can allow this to happen is a national disgrace. I've contacted many Senators and Congressman, emailed the white house, and responded to the latest 'send us $5' email appeals from the Democratic party with a clear statement of my unhappiness with them. What I have now pledged is no votes from me in the fall. In Maryland, this trend will make our current governor very vulnerable. I don't care. After 35 years of voting Democratic and their inability to govern, I quit."

Byrd's casket will be on display in the Senate chamber tomorrow, the first time a deceased legislator has received that honor since 1959, Byrd's first year as a senator. The casket will be placed on the catafalque, which, despite what you may think, is not a plot device in the "National Treasure" series, but an edifice first crafted to support President Lincoln's coffin when it was displayed in the Capitol Rotunda. Big ups to Senator Byrd for going out like such a badass. WSJ: http://bit.ly/dykCT0

SCOTT BROWN TO BE PRESENTED WITH BMW - Susan Bryant from "Billionaires Against Regulating Finance" will join MASSPIRG in donating a BMW to Scott Brown in Boston tomorrow morning. "Since Senator Brown is willing to gamble with American consumers, he's sending the signal that he wants to trade in his iconic truck for something a little more luxurious, something more in line with the kinds of cars that his Wall Street cronies are driving."

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here are some dogs wearing wigs. http://bit.ly/bxZk6D

Pollster.com's Mark Blumenthal has a comprehensive take on the Daily Kos/Research 2000 controversy and how it will impact pollsters. http://bit.ly/c92APt

SHARRON ANGLE WANTS YOU TO GIT BACK TO WORK - The Nevada Senate candidate told local reporter Jon Ralston last night that she thinks unemployment benefits should be cut in order to encourage job seekers to settle for lower-level jobs that don't actually exist. "There are some jobs out there that are available. Because they have to enter at a lower grade and they cannot keep their unemployment, they have to make a choice now." Greg Sargent: http://bit.ly/dnQbny

For the record, Angle wants you to know that she DIDN'T advocate shooting Harry Reid. "Angle, in her first extended Nevada interview since winning the June 8 primary, said she was speaking broadly about the Constitution and her words about the Democratic leader were 'a little strong.' The Republican nominee stopped short of an apology but said she no longer uses that phrase. 'I meant take him out of office, and taking him out of office is a little different,' Angle said. 'I changed my rhetoric.'" Elyse Siegel: http://huff.to/adBJox

A day after apologizing for embellishing his military record, Mark Kirk isn't exactly dialing it down. Kirk's new ad accuses his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, of being young, having a lot of vowels in his name and getting cozy with the mob. http://bit.ly/9O1bav

Giannoulias shot back, reminding people that yesterday...happened. In a new spot released by his campaign, a torrent of news footage about Kirk's admission culminates with the following words appearing, Power Point typewriter style, "Mark Kirk: Typical Washington Politician." Via Lynn Sweet: http://bit.ly/bsaUc5

Texas might be coming to its senses. A recent PPP poll finds a majority of Lone Star Staters don't want their coyote-killin', sedition-sympathizin', Kay Bailey-trouncin' governor Rick Perry to run for president. Houston Chronicle: http://bit.ly/abs6H0

The Democrats bested the Republicans 13-5 in last night's Congressional Softball Game. Politico's Click, whose bread and butter seems to be awkward photographs of lawmakers playing baseball, has a summary and slideshow. http://politi.co/c6jR5P

@HouseDemocrats tweet: "Whether w/ #HCR, #FinReg, or last nights Baseball game-Dems will overcome any challenge"

JEREMY THE INTERN'S WEATHER REPORT - Tonight: Awesome. The high will creep above 80 for the high today, but will dip back down to upper 60s overnight. Tomorrow: Make a photocopy of today, except add a tad bit more humidity. Blue skies for everybody! Thanks, JB!

Hurricane Alex: Right now, he's a weak category 1. Basically, the center of the hurricane will see hurricane-force winds, while outer bands (the areas most affected by the oil spill) will seem like a strong thunderstorm. Woooooosh, JB!

COMFORT FOOD

- The first photograph of a planet outside our solar system. http://bit.ly/bldeYS

- 11 craziest facts about our universe. http://huff.to/aRYgVk

- "The reason for the placement change is to provide greater cheese coverage on each sandwich by not overlapping the cheese," Kane said. "This provides more cheese per bite." http://bit.ly/aNE4HD

- Conan the Barbarian, the musical. http://bit.ly/cnTqLR

- IT BEGINS: Chinese companies are renting white people. http://huff.to/97Ij6s

- Suburban dad, the rap. http://bit.ly/cu9LUi

- Nine geeky wedding invitations. http://bit.ly/bc7MLQ

- It's still better than Bud Light Lime: Salmon vodka. http://bit.ly/9ANK2D

TWITTERAMA

@ConanOBrien: Larry King's retiring after hosting "Larry King Live" for 25 years. Personally, I think hosting anything longer than 7 months is overkill.

@KevinMaddenDC: "The President (any POTUS) engaging a House of Rep leader by name (any House leader) is FANTASTIC for the House leader..."

@BPGlobalPR: Cleanup is not hindered by "red tape." Unless you mean the red tape we tried using. Turns out oil doesn't stick to tape.

@jaketapper: There goes my retirement MT @damiencave: No selling bongs, buying pythons or transporting horse meat: new Florida laws

THE TUBE

TONIGHT: Bernie Sanders spoke to Ratigan about Wall Street reform. Jennifer Granholm and Rick Barber, Zombie Lincoln's best friend, talk to Chris Matthews. Subbing for Ed Schultz, Chris Hayes welcomes Ben Cardin. Ed Markey gives his two cents on the oil spill on Maddow. TOMORROW: Everyone's favorite action figure-sized reporter, Sam Stein, stops by Morning Joe.

ON TAP

TOMORROW

11:30 am - 2:30 pm: IT'S CANADA DAY!!!!!!!! Canada, which still exists, recognizes this day when, in 1867, the Crown combined two British colonies into a single country. The Canadian embassy holds an event honoring its nation. RSVP: http://bit.ly/d6a0kZ. We love Canada for giving us some of rock's greatest acts, including Neil Young, most of the Band and Joni Mitchell. It also produced this annoying choch from this year's Olympics opening ceremony, a sin we will never forgive: http://bit.ly/BddRc [Canadian Embassy, 501 Pennsylvania Ave NW].

6:30 pm: The Phillips Collection will stage a dramatic reading of "Art," Yasmina Reza's Tony award winning play about the tyranny of subjectivity...or something [The Phillips Collection, 1600 21st Street NW].

8:00 pm: Islands, who we love, perform at Black Cat. They are joined by Active Child and the Steel Phantoms [Black Cat, 1811 14th Street NW].

8:00 am - 9:00 am: Now here's a real bouquet of personalities. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) hosts a reception honoring sartorialist extraordinaire Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) about whom Frank once quipped (no kidding), "I thought at first he was trying out for a road company of Guys and Dolls" [National Democratic Club Townhouse, 40 Ivy Street SE].

8:30 am: We wonder who would be the "Mayor" of the Capitol Hill Club on Foursquare. Maybe it's Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) who is hosting a breakfast fundraiser there [Capitol Hill Club, 300 First Street NE].

6:30 pm: Even with Strasburg, a Nationals game isn't worth $1,500. Wally Herger (R-Calif.) and Tom Price (R-Ga.) host a campaign function at the Nats versus Mets game [Nationals Park, 1500 South Capitol Street SE].

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