HUFFPOST HILL - Boehner Plays Down Budget Agreement

It's as good thing Cap'n Crunch didn't retire because we'll need all the help we can get combatting President Obama's army of anti-trans fat HCR shock troops. Haley Barbour cut short hundreds of peoples' vacations so he can prove he's not racist. The president secretly accepted a government transparency award. And the Bronx is once more a bastion of safety and tranquility now that the Bronx Zoo Cobra has been apprehended. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, March 31st, 2011:

Hey K Street: Less than six hours to get your 1Q checks in.

BOEHNER PLAYS DOWN TALK OF A BUDGET AGREEMENT - Lest he alienate his base by getting something done, House Speaker John Boehner tried to squash rumors that his conference is about to reach a budget agreement with Democrats. "There's no agreement," Boehner said during a brief, eight-minute presser at the Capitol. "Nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to." The speaker reiterated that his goal is to pass the $61 billion in cuts contained in the House-passed budget. Boehner probably thinks that giving the appearance of a continued deadlock will placate Tea Party Republicans who want nothing more than a government shutdown to acclimate Americans to a society where the only national health care system is the free "Grandma Bixby's Home Remedies" pamphlet distributed by local church groups and Yellowstone National Park is sponsored by GoDaddy.com. Of course, he still has to contend with the Democratic-controlled Senate. If only those fools weren't directly elected. [NYT]

TEA PARTY PROTEST FLOPS - There were as many HuffPost reporters as protesters at the Tea Party rally outside the Capitol, it seemed. HuffPost's newest Hill reporter, Mike McCauliff, with help from Elise Foley and Jon Ward: "A couple hundred of the anti-tax activists braved a chilly drizzle outside the Senate in an unimpressive scene that was a far cry from the throngs that overflowed the Capitol grounds in past rallies. The top demand was for GOP leaders to stick to their blueprint of cutting $61 billion from the rest of this year's budget, or face retribution at the polls. Kathy Dirr, of Liberty Township, Ohio, in Majority Leader John Boehner's district, put it bluntly. "I say to the Republican leadership, take off your lace panties, stop being noodle backs, take a strong, bold, unwavering stand," she told the rally, to great approval. Mark Meckler, a Tea Party Patriot leader, told the Associated Press Boehner and others would face primaries if they fail. But Boehner suggested to reporters he was willing to settle for "spending cuts that we can get an agreement to." Democrats are offering a compromise $33 billion in cuts. And even Tea Party darling, Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, told The Huffington Post there was room to deal - just moments before he told his fans they should toss the GOP from office if they don't win the full $61 billion cut. "We could work out some differences," Gohmert said, before taking the stage and praising the crowd for keeping lawmakers from caving. "You bring calcium to those who need more of it for their backbone," Gohmert said, adding that if Republicans fall short, "We deserve to be thrown out of office." Truf.

MITCH MCCONNELL: CHUCK SCHUMER IS EXTREME, UNLIKE TEA PARTY - While John Boehner subtly panders to the Tea Party, Mitch McConnell appears to be appeasing his far-right base with all the finesse of a coke addict plucking at the rubber band shin bone in "Operation." In response to the New York senator's open-mic instruction to his colleagues that they refer to the Tea Party as extremist, McConnell employed the time-tested "Nuh-uh! You're the one that smells!" technique. "We've got one Democrat leader coaching his colleagues to describe any Republican idea as 'extreme,'" McConnell said in the Capitol today. "That's why other Democrats are attempting to marginalize an entire group of people in this country ... I'm referring, of course, to the Tea Party." He went on to refer to Democrats as the real extremists and said that Tea Party activists are "our next-door neighbors and our friends." [HuffPost's Mike McAuliff and Elise Foley]

The Center for American Progress pulled together all of the different riders the GOP wants. [CAP]

NO VOTE FOR SWIPE FEE DELAY - Jon Tester began the day on Squawk Box crowing that he had 60 votes for his anti-swipe-fee reform amendment. He ended the day without a vote. Despite his professed confidence, he didn't offer the amendment today, the window is fast closing and, Democratic aides say, he's way short of the votes. If the law goes into effect, "the unintended consequences could be disastrous, particularly for rural America," Tester warned. "Unintended consequences" is the laziest lobbyist trick on K Street. C'mon, Tester! You can do better than that. [Squawk Box]

Right not happy with Wal-Mart for this one: "Wal-Mart and 7-11 deserve a price fixing bill on Slurpees in exchange for this anti business communism," groused one GOP consultant.

CHASE THREATENS DISASTER FOR YOUR DISNEY POINTS IF DURBIN ISN'T REPEALED - Dick Durbin, sponsor of swipe fee reform, lit into Chase Bank on the floor today for sending letters to customers warning that their rewards were being taken away because of his him. We figured this was a preposterous bit of flim-flammery so we called up Chase. Which sent us the letter. And Durbin was right. "Congress recently enacted a new law known as the Durbin Amendment that significantly impacts debit cards," reads the letter, underlining the senator's achievement. "As a result of this law, we will be changing our debit rewards program. After July 12, 20111 you will no longer earn Disney Dream Reward Dollars when you use your Disney Rewards Debit Card." NO LONGER RECEIVE DISNEY DREAM DOLLARS ON A DISNEY REWARDS DEBIT CARD?!?!?! It gets ... worse: "After October 31, 2011, your Disney debit card will no longer be eligible for the Cardmember Perks of the Disney Rewards Program, such as the Disney Theme Park Perks and 10% off select Disney merchandise purchases of $50 or more." How will Disney-merchandise lovers carry on? Well, actually: "You will continue earning Disney Dream Reward Dollars for purchases made with your Disney Rewards® Visa® Credit Card. So the world's not ending. And: "You will no longer be charged an annual fee for your Disney debit card. Armageddon! [PDF of the Chase letter]

DURBIN BACKS BUDDY ON SENATE FLOOR - Jon Tester might've left his HuffPost Hill unopened last night, but Durbin didn't. We wrote that anti-swipe fee reform advocates were shopping oppo on his friend and supporter Rich Niemann, owner of an Illinois grocery chain who turned Durbin onto the swipe fee issue. "Some folks on the other side decided to go after and attack Rich Niemann as a businessman. I am going to stand with him. From my point of view, he is a good man. I don't think he votes for a lot of Democrats. I hope once in a while he might vote for me. But notwithstanding that, I respect him so much. And I'm sorry that he had to take this beating in the press from the other side. He can take it, though," said Durbin. The beating consisted of a few lines about OSHA and child-labor violations in HuffPost Hill and nowhere else. But don't fret, Rich, all press is good press as long as they spell your name right. [YouTube of Durbin defending Niemann on the floor]

HUFFPOST HICCUP: Yesterday's HuffPost Hill flipped the "i" and the "e" in Rich Niemann's name. Sorry, Rich!

CORNYN FLOATS CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION FOR BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT, LISTLESS TEA PARTIERS HAVE NEW CAUSE - All 47 Senate Republicans signed on to a Balanced Budget Amendment that was announced this afternoon, demanding a vote from Democratic leadership. John Cornyn volunteered at the press unveiling, meanwhile, that the states could do it themselves by convening a Constitutional Convention. After raising the possibility of the convention, he said: "There is going to continue to be, I would suggest, significant pressure from the states to do this, as well, and I think that's an important part of this context." HuffPost Hill asked if he'd support such a convention. "Well, my preference is we would pass this and it would moot the whole issue of a Constitutional Convention. I'm just saying that that is in Article V of the Constitution and that that would be an alternative if we don't do our job."

Jay Carney on GE's tax-free 2010: "[One] might say, 'what the heck, I don't get this,' ... the president shares that opinion. ... He believes our corporate tax structure needs to be reformed." As long as the extra funds are going into Microwave Oven Programming, we don't really care.[HuffPost's Sam Stein]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - A handful of Republican Missouri state senators have successfully blocked legislation to maintain the state's eligibility for the federal Extended Benefits program, which gives the long-term unemployed their final 20 weeks of benefits. Jim Lembke, the Republican state senator leading the filibuster, has said businesses in his district complain they can't hire workers because the unemployed would rather draw benefits than get off the couch. Like many a politician who makes this argument, Lembke declines to identify which businesses. But, in a twist, Lembke's office tells HuffPost that many people have called wanting these businesses' low-paying jobs, and that contact info for potential applicants has been forwarded to the mentioned businesses. "We have a list of seven we're passing along," said a Lembke spokesman. DEVELOPING...

Don't be bashful: Send tips/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to huffposthill@huffingtonpost.com. Follow us on Twitter - @HuffPostHill

JUDGE ORDERS SUSPENSION OF WISCONSIN LABOR LAW - The union might not make us strong anymore, but at least legal technicalities can! A Wisconsin judge today ordered the state to stop implementation of the anti-collective bargaining law passed by the legislature over the strong, c'mon-gang-let's-go objections of Senate Democrats. Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi amended her earlier order intended to block its implementation while she considered it to clarify that the law had not taken effect. An aide to Scott Walker released a statement saying his office would comply with the order. [AP/HuffPost]

"Rebecca Black More Googled Than Libya: Worst Google Trend Yet?"

NOT RACIST HALEY BARBOUR TO CALL SPECIAL SESSION FOR CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM - Mississippi Governor Haley I-Have-Lots-Of-Black-Friends-And-I-Think-Gospel-Choirs-Are-Really-Something Barbour is continuing his mission to sanitize his good ol' boy image. Barbour said today that he'll schedule the special session for next week so the legislature can vote on a civil rights and state history museum. Of course, Barbour will insist that this has nothing to do with his string of racially insensitive comments. Barbour is just a guy who loves black culture and appreciates the centuries-long struggle for equality. Let us rephrase that: Barbour is just a guy who loves black culture and appreciates the centuries-long struggle for equality and recently had to clarify that he opposes slavery. Shine on, you crazy diamond. [WAPT]

"President Barack Obama has accepted an award for making the government more open and transparent -- presented to him behind closed doors. No media coverage or public access was allowed at the ceremony."

IOWA REDISTRICTING SETS UP ELECTORAL SHOWDOWNS - A proposed post-census congressional map for the Hawkeye state, which lost a congressional seat in the recent redistricting, could lead to primary contests on both sides of the aisle. As it stands now, the map has Republican Reps. Steve King and Tom Latham vying for a 4th district seat and Democratic Reps. Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack contending for the 1st district. Meanwhile Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell could face a tougher reelection as his district becomes less centered on the Des Moines area to ones where folks are still stewing about that gay marriage thing. As Nathan Gonzales notes, A Latham-King primary could further divide an already fractured Republican conference as King enjoys tremendous support from Tea Party circles and Latham is tight with John Boehner. Also: A Steve King primary battle??? What color do you think the walls in Josh Marshall's news bunker/war room will be? [Roll Call]

The Bronx Zoo Cobra, the only thing gone missing that wasn't a white woman that the media ever cared about, was found only a few feet from its cage today. Seriously, one more day of that story and Nancy Grace would have gotten involved.

With conservative America's appetite for all those tired and poor huddled masses on the wane, the CHC chair Luis Gutierrez today -- in conjunction with immigration advocates -- launched a campaign to reform the nation's immigration system. "We are gathered here today ... to acknowledge that change takes courage, and to respectfully tell President Obama that now is the time for him to find it," said Eva Millona, of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement at a press conference on the Hill today. [HuffPost's Lucia Graves and Elise Foley]

WHEREIN A MEMBER OF A LEGISLATIVE BODY THAT CAN DECLARE WAR DOESN'T KNOW THE LOCATION OF THE COUNTRY HIS GOVERNMENT IS BOMBING - File this one alongside "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor???" In an interview this week freshman Republican Rep. Tom Marino expressed concerns about the long-term objectives of the U.S. military's involvement in Libya. "Where does it stop?" Mairno said in an interview with The Times-Tribune. "Do we go into Africa next? I don't want to sound callous or cold, but this could go on indefinitely around the world." Don't worry, congressman, you needn't worry about sounding "callous or cold." [Times Tribune]

Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert is concerned that the president is using health care reform to raise an army of single-payer sergeants...or something. "It's a bad bill. And then when you find out that the prior Congress not only passed that 2,800 page bill with all kinds of things in it, including a new president's commissioned officer corps and non-commissioned officer corps," Gohmert said on the House floor last night. "Do we really need that? I wondered when I read that in the bill. But then when you find out we're being sent to Libya to use our treasure and American lives there, maybe there's intention to so deplete the military that we're going to need that presidential reserve officer commissioned corps and non-commissioned corps that the president can call up on a moment's notice involuntarily, according to the Obamacare bill." Pfffft. And you thought death panels were bad. [TPM]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Jesse wants to be governor of New Jersey but can't...because he's too small. So Jesse is going to cry about it.

BEN QUAYLE MAKES FUN OF POLITICO TO CROWD OF JOURNOS, JOURNOS LOSE IT - During his ha ha remarks to the Congressional Correspondents Dinner, Ben, son of Dan, lost the evening when he botched the delivery riffing on his now famous "Barack Obama Is The Worst President In History" campaign ad. Take it away, Jason Linkins: "This is typically how these things work: Beltway journalists get together, they invite someone to tell jokes, and the next day, everyone has an emo hangover over the jokes being lame or the jokes being controversial or the jokes being boring (you can only do so much when boring people are the subjects of the material). Why do they even bother trying to stage a comedy show? Whatever happened to just getting drunk?" [HuffPost]

FamousDC's professional attainment flow chart is accurate and depressing.

JEREMY'S WEATHER REPORT - Tonight: A nor'easter is coming through, causing all the havoc up and down the eastern shore. While there will be snow up north, down here it's going to stay mostly rainy through the early evening. As we progress, we may see a snow/rain mix come through when the back end, filled with cold air, comes around. Tomorrow: Snow in the early hours turns to rain. Highs in the mid-40s, but very very wet. Thanks, JB!


- The Snow Dogs/Inception mash up isn't that great. The the production values are good and the editor absolutely knows what he/she is doing. It's just that nothing can be done to make Snow Dogs seem not ridiculous. [http://bit.ly/fhGOzf]

- Prison inmates were able to smuggle drugs in and out of jail by lasing coloring book pages with Suboxone. Wow, try staying inside the lines after that. [http://bit.ly/gGOhFV]

- An extreme cyclist pulled the first ever "Special Flip" -- a move whose name greatly undersells how awesome it is. [http://bit.ly/fyCrG2]

- For six weeks the "twin babies having a conversation" video existed and we didn't know about it. We've failed you, readers. [http://bit.ly/ey0zIy]

- A donkey saved a sheep from a dog. We all owe "Dotty the donkey from Scarborough" a great deal of gratitude. [http://bit.ly/ebqsCi]

- Some blogger made a detailed -- and amusing -- list of the ideal qualities of her dream partner. Gulp. [http://bit.ly/fL8PjM]

- Speaking of relationships, here's a three-year-old adorably talking about his new girlfriend. [http://bit.ly/hE2Reb]

- The dog conga line fad is really taking off. Here are two pugs getting into it. [http://bit.ly/gFCvdW]


@KBAnderson: My 25-year-long appalled amusement at Donald Trump's shenanigans has been shorn, suddenly, of the amusement part.

@DCJourno: The video that shows Quayle got a mixed response from the crowd is misleading. He bombed with all the relevant people.

@brianbeutler: #boringtweets RT @ezraklein: A reader e-mailed to inform me that "wonk" spelled backwards is "know." I like that.



5:00 pm - 6:00 pm: This is rich...literally. A whole bunch of centrist Dems convene for a "Financial Services Industry Reception" to benefit Blue Dog PAC. [Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, 412 First Street SE].


8:30 am - 9:30 am: Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn -- who we haven't mentioned in a while was once christened "Queen Clyburn" by Kathy Griffin -- attends a labor fundraiser [Offices of The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 25 Louisiana Ave NW].

4:00 pm - 7:00 pm: How come putt putt golf is exponentially more fun that regular golf but t-ball is just as -- if not less -- exciting than baseball? Story Partners hosts their 1st Annual Putt Putt Tournament...which just sounds too precious. There is apparently a Green Jacket that will be awarded. [The Flour Mill Building, Suite 102, 1000 Potomac Street NW].

7:00 pm: MoveOn's newest flack, Sarah Lane, is the guest of honor at a shindig welcoming her back to D.C. The party is going down at Tonic, so expect A LOT of tater tots. [Tonic, 3155 Mount Pleasant St NW].

All evening: Aaron Schock is already renown on Capitol Hill for his snazzy outfits. We can only begin to imagine what he will wear when he takes his $2,500-a-pop donors to the Country Music Awards. [Wynn Encore Tower Suites, Las Vegas, NV].

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