HUFFPOST HILL - Debate Night: Trump Readies Puckered-Lip Listening Face

Congress’ year-end budget showdown continues, supplanting “Love Actually” think pieces as America’s most annoying holiday ritual. Ahead of tonight’s debate, Jeb Bush hummed and tapped his fingers against the dot matrix printer as it spat out his latest canned jab. And America’s health exchanges were flooded with last-minute uninsured enrollees, once again demonstrating that Americans treat their health with the same amount of advance planning and thoughtfulness as they do their siblings’ Christmas gifts. This is HUFFPOST HILL December 15th, 2015:

NO OMNIBUS FOR OIL - Laura Barron-Lopez: "Negotiations over a year-end government funding bill and sweeping tax extenders package appear to be stuck over a provision that would lift a 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports, according to the top Democrat in the Senate. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) offered a glimpse into the secretive talks when he said Democrats are prepared to lift the embargo as long as Republicans agree to substantial extensions of tax credits for renewable energy like wind and solar. 'At this point the only major outstanding issue is the Republicans' insistence on raising the import ban on crude oil,' Reid said Tuesday on the Senate floor. 'We've made it clear that if they want this oil export ban, there must be included in this policies to reduce our carbon emissions and encourage use of renewable energy.' Reid said he remains optimistic about negotiations. However, Republican leaders have denied 'multiple offers' Democrats have made about the crude oil ban, which was established in response to the 1973 Arab oil embargo." [HuffPost]

DEBATE NIGHT - Sam Stein and Scott Conroy: "But with the Iowa caucus now less than 50 days away, the stakes are far higher than when the field first gathered in early August in Cleveland; and the possibility of a Trump win is no longer quite so implausible. And so, a sense of desperation underlines Tuesday night's affair, and a bit of shoulder-shrugging too. Campaigns remain confounded about how confront a candidate so willing to cast aside any moral compunctions that might briefly enter his thoughts, so eager to lash out viciously against any rival who dares gain some traction against him...n fact, Tuesday night's debate could compound a potentially serious problem facing the billionaire. Trump is suddenly losing in the state that will get the first say on whether his frontrunner status is merely a passing diversion after all. The three most recent public surveys of likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers all confirm that Trump is now trailing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in the nation’s first voting state of Iowa -- including the highly respected Des Moines Register poll, which shows Cruz leading Trump by 10 points." [HuffPost]

Haircut: Jim Newell (h/t Tierney Sneed)

DELANEY DOWNER - Karen Weaver, the mayor of Flint, Mich. declared an emergency today over the ongoing problem of high lead levels in the city's water resulting from the decision to save money by switching the city's water supply to the Flint River, resulting in a spike in childrens' blood lead levels. Jamie Curtis, chairman of the Genesee County board of commissioners, said he was confused by Tuesday's declaration, since the commissioners declared an emergency back in October. "What I don't think the people of Flint need," Curtis told HuffPost, "is nothing more than rhetoric saying 'I've declared this emergency,' but nothing comes of it." Well, that's confusing. Sorry, people of Flint.

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PRESIDENTIAL SPEECH TOTALLY IGNORED - Historical lesson unheeded! Elise Foley on why: "President Barack Obama didn't utter the name "Donald Trump" during a speech on Tuesday at a naturalization ceremony, or directly criticize Congress for its efforts to stall Syrian refugee resettlement. He didn't need to. His rebuke of nativism, anti-immigrant sentiment and fear-mongering during the 20-minute speech was clear enough: a plea for Americans to remember poor treatment toward immigrants in the past and to not repeat it. After praising the country's values, Obama listed some of the times they've been betrayed, including slavery, discrimination against Catholics and Japanese internment during World War II, which he called 'one of the darkest chapters in our history.' 'We succumbed to fear,' the president said in the speech at the National Archives. "We betrayed not only our fellow Americans but our deepest values.' 'The biggest irony,' he added, 'was that those who betrayed these values were themselves the children of immigrants.'" HuffPost]

WHY CONGRESS WON'T PASS AN AUMF - Maybe if they name it an "America's Ultimate Military Force" people might be on board. #freeidea. Matt Fuller: "In conversations with more than 30 lawmakers, however, it's clear it isn't as simple that. Yes, lawmakers are scared to take the vote. Yes, they know that, among the thousands of procedural votes in a career, among the forgotten post office-naming bills and the ceremonial congressional gold medals, authorizing military action is one vote they -- and their constituents -- will remember. But it goes beyond that. Most of the members who talked to The Huffington Post would be happy to vote on a new AUMF tomorrow -- as long as it's an AUMF they support. And therein lies the real difficulty of getting a new war authorization. There are members who don't want to go on the record, but there's also a healthy number of lawmakers all too happy to tell you exactly where they stand and precisely what an AUMF should look like -- if you have 10 minutes now and maybe want to drop by the office later." [HuffPost]

DEMOCRATS WOULD LIKE TO CONTROL HOUSE WITHIN FIFTEEN YEARS - The question isn't whether congressional districts will resemble Mikhail Gorbachev's birthmark, but whether those Mikhail Gorbachev birthmark-shaped districts will work for them. Sam Stein: "Top officials from the Democratic Governors Association, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee will attend the meeting at the DGA's offices in downtown D.C. on Thursday. An official with the Democratic National Committee will also attend. With the underlying goal of producing a sophisticated and coordinated redistricting effort to match Republicans, Thursday’s strategy session is seen as the first of many steps in recalibrating the balance of power in the states and on Capitol Hill... Officials from each committee will spend 15 minutes presenting respective redistricting strategy, according to a schedule of the session provided to The Huffington Post. The hope is that by synchronizing efforts, Democrats will better able to pinpoint critical races, create a more centralized database for voter contacts, excel at candidate recruitment and amplify messaging." [HuffPost]

'OH SHIT,' AMERICA'S' UNINSURED COLLECTIVELY GASP - Sarah Ferris: "Federal health officials say they are seeing an “unprecedented” demand on the ObamaCare marketplace on the final day for people to get insured and avoid hundreds of dollars in fees. Traffic on the federal marketplace website HealthCare.gov spiked to an 'all-time high' of 185,000 simultaneous customers Monday night, and demand continued to soar Tuesday morning, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)...New York's state-run marketplaces, one of the largest in the country, extended its deadline on Tuesday after a 'high volume of activity.' The state marketplace fielded 170,000 calls last week, with 43 million page views on its website since Nov. 1." [The Hill]

LIAR APPEARS ON CABLE NEWS - Alternate head: "Man in too much bronzer appears on cable news." Judah Robinson: "Brian Williams returned to NBC on Tuesday afternoon -- the first time he has appeared on the network since he was suspended in February.
Williams led NBC's coverage of a press conference about Los Angeles schools, which were shut down Tuesday morning after an email threatened an attack. He was filling in for current 'NBC Nightly News' anchor Lester Holt, who was out sick. The coverage, simulcast on NBCNews.com and MSNBC, was available to NBC affiliate stations on an optional basis." [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here are some aggressive turkeys.

IMPEACH SUNNY OBAMA - "They have been very good dogs,” Michelle Obama of the First Pets at the Children’s National Health System today. “I mean, Sunny can be naughty. Because you know what she does sometimes? She leaves the kitchen and she’ll sneak, and she’ll go poop on the other end of the White House.” Unacceptable. [The Hill]

MORE DOG POLITICS - Phil Lewis: "In a very, very awkward video posted by the Independent Journal Review, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina plays with a group of puppies in an attempt to explain why dogs are better than cats. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO was visibly uncomfortable, but was able to get off a joke about President Barack Obama. 'You know, President Obama ate one of your cousins,' Fiorina says to one of the puppies, referring to a passage in the president's autobiography in which he admitted to trying dog meat. 'Vote Republican,' Fiorina told the puppy." [HuffPost]


- Not as good as Donald Trump as Darth Vader, but "Trump Wars" is worth a watch.

- A brief El Nino explainer.

- How to peel potatoes.


@lbarronlopez: Sen. Durbin: "Well, we hope this is our last week."

Exhausted area reporter laughs nervously.

@MEPFuller: We interrupt this broadcast to bring you an important update in congressional fashion news: Sanford Bishop is wearing a leather suit jacket.

@SimonMaloy: that's it, I can't hold this in anymore, it's killing me

C-SPAN has a terrible website

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