HUFFPOST HILL - The War On Boxing Day: Once More Unto The Breach, Dear Friends

After a strenuous year of not doing anything, Washington is taking a break so it can rest up for the year ahead. As for us, well... we don't want to overexert ourselves on Boxing Day. Enjoy this truncated holiday edition of HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, December 26th, 2013:

THE QUIET DEATH OF LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE - With Sam Stein: "The looming expiration of federal unemployment benefits raises the question of whether Democratic lawmakers bungled the debate. Though Congress can still act retroactively, Democrats' goal had been to pass an extension of the benefits before Dec. 28, when they are set to expire. The administration and allies on the Hill worked tried to attach a provision to the budget deal passed in mid-December. But by the time they began engaging the fight, few Democrats seemed particularly attentive and Republicans were more than comfortable running out the clock. Now, with Congress in recess, long-term unemployment insurance will come to an end for 1.3 million Americans, potentially costing 240,000 jobs, according to the White House's Council of Economic Advisers. Was it inevitable? Or was it a case of political mismanagement? The record indicates that Democrats were late to show up, distracted in part by other concerns." [HuffPost]

GOP DIVIDED ON HOW TO EXPLOIT OBAMACARE GLITCHES -AP: "Most Republicans agree the unwieldy health care overhaul offers a golden opportunity for the GOP in the 2014 midterm elections. What they don't agree on is what tactics to use in opposing that unpopular law. In a number of Senate primaries, conservatives are arguing over the best way to oppose President Barack Obama's signature accomplishment. The outcome of those campaigns could affect the battle over which party controls the Senate. In intraparty skirmishes from Georgia to Nebraska, the GOP's most strident candidates and activists are insisting on a no-holds-barred approach. They accuse fellow Republicans — including several incumbent senators — of being too soft in their opposition to the Affordable Care Act and to the president in general. The struggle will help determine just how conservative the Senate Republican caucus will be during Obama's final two years. And it could influence which party controls the chamber, with Democrats hoping that the most uncompromising Republican standard-bearers will emerge from the primaries and fare as poorly in general elections as their counterparts did in several 2012 Senate races. Republicans need to gain six seats for a majority." [AP]

STATES WEIGHING ACTIONS AGAINST OBAMACARE CONTRACTOR - Boston Globe: "Even as President Obama’s health insurance website limps to recovery, at least two states that used the same contractor and are still plagued with malfunctions — Massachusetts and Vermont — are taking preliminary steps to recoup taxpayer dollars. Massachusetts officials are reviewing legal options against CGI Group, a Montreal-based information technology company, and will make recommendations on how to seek financial redress at a Jan. 9 meeting. So far, the state has paid $11 million of its $69 million contract with CGI. It will not pay a penny more until a functioning website has been delivered, said Jason Lefferts, spokesman for the Commonwealth Health Connector, the state’s insurance marketplace. 'CGI has consistently underperformed, which is frustrating and a serious concern,' Lefferts said. 'We are holding the vendor accountable for its underperformance and will continue to apply nonstop pressure to work to fix defects and improve performance.' Massachusetts has reverted to using an alternative software system and paper notifications for residents seeking new insurance, a significant black eye for a system that was held up as a national model for providing coverage after it debuted in 2007. In Vermont, state officials recently alerted CGI that the state is withholding payment of $5.1 million as compensation for the company’s failure to meet key deadlines." [Boston Globe]

Nick Wing rounds up the year's 29 stupidest things that happened in politics. Rob Ford isn't on the list. #SlatePitchEh

REACTION TO OBAMACARE DEADLINE EXTENSION MIXED - For the same reason it's inhumane to not inform Japanese death row inmates of their execution until the morning of, it's terrible to keep someone from knowing when their death panel will be scheduled, y'know? AP: "A month after President Barack Obama announced people could keep insurance policies slated for cancellation under the federal health overhaul, the reversal has gotten a mixed response from insurers, state regulators and consumers. Many consumers complained in October and November after insurers notified them that their plans were being canceled because they didn't cover pre-existing conditions, hospitalization, prescription drugs or seven other basic benefits required under the law. In pitching the overhaul, Obama had long promised people who liked their policies could keep them. Then Obama announced Nov. 14 that companies could continue existing policies that don't meet the minimum requirements if state regulators approved. Officials in 27 states responded by allowing insurance companies to extend the non-compliant policies for another year. Insurers in those states were given a choice of whether to continue the policies, and some have declined. In Kentucky, insurers Humana, United Healthcare and Assurant chose to extend old policies while Anthem and Bluegrass Family Health opted against it. Seven companies in South Carolina are extending individual plans the federal law considers substandard, while six companies are extending plans in the small group market. Twenty are not participating." [AP]

Deep thought: Did Jesus order Chinese on Christmas?

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! MOST AMERICANS THINK YOU SUCK - Cheer up, Top of the Hill still has $3 Bud Light happys hours. CNN: "The worst Congress ever. That's the verdict from two-thirds of Americans about the track record of the 113th Congress, according to a new national poll. And a CNN/ORC International poll released Thursday also indicates that nearly three-quarters of the public say that this has been a 'do-nothing' Congress. Two-thirds of those questioned said the current Congress is the worst in their lifetime, with 28% disagreeing. 'That sentiment exists among all demographic and political subgroups. Men, women, rich, poor, young, old - all think this year's Congress has been the worst they can remember," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said.'"Older Americans - who have lived through more congresses - hold more negative views of the 113th Congress than younger Americans. Republicans, Democrats and independents also agree that this has been the worst session of Congress in their lifetimes.' According to the survey, 73% say that this Congress has so far done nothing to address the country's problems, with one in four disagreeing." [CNN]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Charlie Walker was working from home one day last January when he got a call from his manager, who had already assembled several other senior employees in his office. "I can't remember exactly how he said it -- change of business conditions or whatever else -- long story short: you're out of here," Walker, 55, said in an interview. He'd worked for the business-to-business publisher for 11 years. "Everyone else was in the office because they were able to pull them in. I got laid off by phone." He didn't know how to react. His 6-year-old daughter, Emmalee, had been playing with dolls on the floor of their two-story home in this Philadelphia suburb while her father got fired. "I hang up the phone and I look at her and say -- she doesn't know these things -- and I said, 'I just lost my job,'" he said. [HuffPost]


- A great way to get ice off of your windshield and get all that pent-up aggression out of your system. [http://bit.ly/1edy3u9]

- Puppy plays in snow for the first time. [http://huff.to/1daYOAE]

- One-year-old is a human beatbox. [http://bit.ly/K6LJxt]

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