HUFFPOST HILL - Helicopters Are People, My Friends

Mitt Romney, who is planning to recast himself as an economic populist, will drive home that point by arriving at an RNC event tonight via helicopter. Bernie Sanders and Goldman Sachs have found common cause on something, and not just that he and Lloyd Blankfein should stay true to their roots and hit the road as history’s weirdest Borscht Belt comedy duo. And the U.S. Air Force can’t find enough drone pilots, which is to say, the U.S. Air Force can’t find enough Americans inclined to violence and video games. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Friday, January 16, 2015:

NANCY PELOSI IS THE MINORITY WEAVER - Jen Bendery sat down with the House Democrats' leader for reflections on the next two years: "Despite her party's drubbing in the 2014 elections, the past few weeks demonstrate that she feels emboldened in her position. She's also stepping up to shape the debate on a number of fronts, ranging from financial reform to health care to energy. In an interview last Friday with The Huffington Post, Pelosi said she sees her role in this Congress as 'a weaver,' threading together consensus in her caucus to advance the policies they care about. 'I have a loom and I'm a weaver,' she said. 'It's not just me saying, oh, we should do this or that. Every thread, every member, is a source of strength for what we're trying to weave.'" [HuffPost]

SCOTUS TO CONSIDER NATIONWIDE GAY MARRIAGE - Adam Liptak: “The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide whether all 50 states must allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. The court’s announcement made it likely that it would resolve one of the great civil rights questions of the age before its current term ends in June. The justices ducked the issue in October, refusing to hear appeals from rulings allowing same-sex marriage in five states. That surprise action delivered a tacit victory for gay rights, immediately expanding the number of states with same-sex marriage to 24 from 19, along with the District of Columbia. Largely as a consequence of the Supreme Court’s failure to act in October, the number of states allowing same-sex marriage has since grown to 36, and more than 70 percent of Americans live in places where gay couples can marry...Based on the court’s failure to act in October and its last three major gay rights rulings, most observers expect the court to establish a nationwide constitutional right to same-sex marriage. But the court also has a history of caution in this area.” [NYT]

ROMNEY OPTS FOR CHOPPER - National Journal's Tim Albert reports via Twitter: "MITT ROMNEY will arrive at tonight's RNC event aboard the USS Midway via helicopter, Republican source tells me." No word on whether they'll use the helicopter elevator.

JEB BUSH 'ACTIVELY EXPLORING' HOW TO AVOID CAMPAIGN FINANCE RULES - Paul Blumenthal has a helpful translation of candidatese: "When former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) waded into the 2016 presidential race in December, he did so with some awkward wording. He stated that he would 'actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States.' This hedged language on the part of a politician whose father and brother have each served in the White House could represent some hesitation on Bush's part as to whether he wants to run. But, it's also convenient phrasing to provide Bush with a legal loophole permitting him to avoid numerous campaign finance regulations and to raise money and coordinate with his very own personal super PAC -- at least until he officially declares he is done exploring possibilities and commits to a run." [HuffPost]

2016 GOP CANDIDATES LAYING OUT MESSAGES - Aside from the worldview so eloquently summed up by conservative celebrity Victoria Jackson that “America died.” Christina Wilkie: “ Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Rand Paul (Ky.) gave speeches at the conservative Heritage Foundation... Cruz laid out an ambitious policy agenda that included repealing Common Core education standards, abolishing the IRS, repealing Obamacare and building the Keystone XL pipeline...Paul touted his support for individual rights by arguing that ‘activist’ (practically a four-letter word among conservatives) judges could be a good thing if their rulings expanded individual rights. The next day, Paul spoke in support of gun rights at an event in New Hampshire. On Thursday, he flew to Nevada, where he said voters would appreciate his stance on privacy rights…[Jeb]Bush has chosen to focus on a populist economic message he has honed recently, aimed at creating new ways for poor and middle-class Americans to move up the economic ladder...According to his advisers, Romney plans to rebrand himself as a poverty-fighting populist in his third run for the White House...he also plans to market himself as a foreign policy hawk. Aides to Romney said on Monday that current events had vindicated the former governor's prediction three years ago about the threat posed by Russia.” [HuffPost]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - "A Washington state man who is facing at least 10 years in prison if convicted in a high-profile federal case over growing medical marijuana for personal use has been diagnosed with cancer." [HuffPost's Matt Ferner]

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BIDEN LOSING TOP ADVISER - Jen Bendery "Vice President Joe Biden is losing his top adviser on violence against women, The Huffington Post has learned. Lynn Rosenthal, who has been a senior adviser to Biden since July 2009, will step down Friday. She is moving on to become the Vice President of External Affairs at the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and will remain in Washington, D.C." [HuffPost]

GOP SPLIT ON ABORTION LEGISLATION - “Republican lawmakers are raising concerns that the party will alienate young voters and women by voting for an antiabortion bill coming to the House floor next week, on the 42nd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. In a closed-door open-mic session of House Republicans, Rep. Renee Ellmers spoke out against bringing up the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortion after 20 weeks, telling the conference that she believes the bill will cost the party support among millennials, according to several sources in the room….The frustration comes as the GOP retreat on Thursday night hosted demographer Neil Howe, the man credited with coining the term ‘millennial,’ and as the party has been discussing how to appeal to young voters. Other members voiced concerns in the meeting that the bill, which passed the House last year, distracts from the GOP's stated message of creating jobs and spurring economic growth.” [National Journal]

KEY OBAMACARE OFFICIAL STEPPING DOWN - Jonathan Cohn in his maiden voyage aboard the (OMG)SS HuffPost: “A senior government official with almost unparalleled authority over the U.S. health care system is stepping down, ending a tenure that included one highly publicized, highly consequential failure on Obamacare as well as significant, if less heralded, successes. Marilyn Tavenner will resign as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, effective at the end of February, officials in President Barack Obama’s administration told The Huffington Post. Andrew Slavitt, the agency’s second-ranking official, will take over in an acting capacity. An announcement is planned for Friday. Tavenner is the latest high-profile resignation after the botched early implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The biggest change came at the top of the chain, when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius ended the second-longest tenure in the 62-year history of that cabinet position in June. Sylvia Mathews Burwell succeeded Sebelius, bringing her reputation as a seasoned manager to the position.” [With Jeff Young]

NEW JERSEY’S GOVERNMENT EATING ITSELF - Tastes like Gabagool! NJ Spotlight: “In an ironic turn of events for the Christie administration, the state is contending in Superior Court that legislation considered the governor's signature achievement -- the 2011 pension reform law -- may be barred by the state constitution and might itself be illegal. The argument presented in court Thursday is that New Jersey’s constitution bars legislators from approving large financial liabilities without specific approval by voters, and that they cannot force future lawmakers to spend money. Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson is presiding over the lawsuit lodged by state employee unions fighting Gov. Chris Christie’s decision last spring to cut $2.4 billion in mandated pension contributions over two years. The daylong hearing concluded without a ruling.” [NJ Spotlight]

BERNIE SANDERS AGREES WITH GOLDMAN SACHS - Maybe there’s hope yet that Elizabeth Warren and Jamie Dimon will accept our invites to our celebrity Live Action Roleplay event. Zach Carter: “Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) doesn't often find common cause with Goldman Sachs. But when it comes to breaking up the world's biggest bank, Sanders is on the same page as a team of Goldman analysts. ‘Goldman Sachs is right,’ Sanders said Thursday in a statement provided to HuffPost. ‘J.P. Morgan should be broken up.’ Last week, Goldman's research department issued a report making the case that rival JPMorgan Chase would be more valuable to shareholders if it were broken into multiple banks. Since regulators have increased JPMorgan's mandated capital levels above that of some slightly smaller peers, Goldman analysts claimed the bank would be worth up to 25 percent more if it were split into as many as four separate entities. The smaller banks would have to hold less capital, since they would not pose as great a threat to the financial system in the event of failure, according to the analysis. Lower capital requirements would allow the smaller banks to profit more handsomely from riskier operations.” [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here’s a cat massaging a dog’s head.

AIR FORCE CAN’T FIND DRONE PILOTS - Not joking. Amanda Terkel: “The Air Force is exploring ways to make being a drone pilot a more desirable occupation, as it faces operators who feel overstressed and underappreciated. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James briefed reporters on the situation Thursday at the Pentagon, saying these pilots are under ‘significant stress from what is an unrelenting pace of operations.’ ‘Now, these pilots, just to give you a little color on this, fly six days in a row,’ she said. "They are working 13, 14 hour days on average. And to give you a contrast, an average pilot in one of our manned Air Force aircraft flies between 200 and 300 hours per year." [HuffPost]


- Watch one of SpaceX’s rockets crash-land on a barge.

- Video of an unsuspecting man being glitterbombed.

- Celebrity emoji portraits.


@elisefoley: Word people use in politics way more than in real life: "reaffirm."

@nickbaumann: Mr. President! In the 2003 film "Love Actually," the president was portrayed by Billy Bob Thornton. What do you make of that casting choice?

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