POLITICS

HUFFPOST HILL - Congress Hopes Nobody Notices Wider Margins, Triple-Spacing In Last-Minute Omnibus

Ted Cruz’s referencing of specific metadata statistics during last night’s debate raised a serious question: How did a Canadian get hold of such sensitive information? Despite mostly stable prices, the Fed raised interest rates, meaning the War on Inflation has supplanted the War on Christmas as our country’s most needless conflict. And Santa delivered Congress an omnibus last night, though maybe if members of Congress hadn’t waited until the last second to tell him what they wanted, they wouldn’t be so miserable right now. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, December 16th, 2015:

FREEDOM CAUCUS UNHAPPY WITH OMNIBUS FREEDOM LEVELS - Lauren French: "The House Freedom Caucus is offering an amendment to the government funding bill that would strip the $1.1 trillion package of a contentious cybersecurity measure and force the U.S. to tighten vetting of refugees from Syria and Iraq. The amendment, offered by Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, would dramatically change the complexion of the omnibus, which Speaker Paul Ryan unveiled early Wednesday morning to criticism from conservative lawmakers. It's been filed to the House Rules Committee, which will determine if the measure gets a vote on the House floor….Conservative Republicans were upset that a series of cybersecurity provisions were slipped into the government funding bill and want to see them removed. That measure, dubbed the Cybersecurity Act of 2015, make it easier for companies to share information on threats with the government without the risk of lawsuits from customers. Libertarian lawmakers like Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan are adamantly opposed to the bill as they argue it has little to no privacy protections for Americans." [Politico]

Big omnibus win for the bumper sticker-on-Macbook lobby: "Democratic negotiators blocked a GOP provision to kill net neutrality from a year-end government spending bill released just after 1 a.m. Wednesday, allowing the Federal Communications Commission to go forward in enforcing open Internet rules. Republicans initially tucked the anti-net neutrality rider into one of the appropriations bills that congressional negotiators then had to put together into an omnibus bill to keep the government running." [HuffPost's Amanda Terkel]

The House also approved a short-term can-kicker so Congress has more time for the omnibus. Senate expected to follow.

Also a win for people who don't own steam baths but still like to participate in democracy: "A controversial proposal to allow unlimited financial coordination between candidates and political parties that was pushed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) did not make it into the end-of-year omnibus budget bill. The proposal to lift limits on party-candidate coordination was opposed by both congressional Democrats and conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus. The opposition was led by Democratic Reps. John Sarbanes (Md.) and Ted Deutch (Fla.) and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.)." [HuffPost's Paul Blumenthal]

Sam Stein reports Congress has just skipped an opportunity to let the CDC study the public health benefits of ammo.

OMNIBUS HIGHLIGHTS TRADE BILL EFFECTS - Mike McAuliff: "A short provision tucked into the 2,009-page government spending bill will remove labels telling consumers where their beef and pork comes from, but it will reveal something else. Lawmakers and food safety advocates warn that the one simple measure highlights how looming trade deals can undermine U.S. laws. The provision was written into the so-called omnibus bill in response to a World Trade Organization ruling, which found that past measures to require country-of-origin labels on meat unfairly discriminated against beef and pork from Mexico and Canada. The idea behind the earlier law was to help consumers make better informed decisions by telling them where meat was bred, raised and slaughtered. But the WTO declared that such labeling constituted unfavorable treatment of imported meat. Early this month, the organization said Canada and Mexico were entitled to levy $1 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports coming into their markets. Repeal of the labeling law fixes the retaliatory tariff threat. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) hailed the repeal, listing it among his party's top priorities." [HuffPost]

@jbendery: People in the House Rules Committee are literally sitting around praising each other for keeping the govt open, extending tax breaks.

MORE PORKY STUFF - Zach Carter: "Congress is about to defund any efforts from a key federal agency to require American corporations to publicly disclose their political spending. The measure is tucked into spending legislation that must pass to avert a government shutdown. If the spending bill is approved, the provision would further depress hopes from anti-corruption advocates that the Supreme Court's landmark Citizens United decision can be ameliorated through transparency. Although the provision only holds for a year, the willingness of legislators to approve the measure sends a strong signal that the American government intends to stand by the most secretive money-in-politics standards permitted under the 2010 ruling." [HuffPost]

The bill also defunds ACORN, of course.

DELANEY DOWNER - JeCorey Hawkins had a scary moment with the water in Flint, Michigan, in September. The 22-year-old psychology student had stooped at a drinking fountain at his university when the water took on a grainy texture in his mouth. "I was very creeped out because I didn't know if I would be sick," Hawkins told The Huffington Post on Tuesday. He said he and his family, which lives in Flint, hadn't been drinking tap water since earlier this year, though he trusted the University of Michigan's efforts to test and treat water on its Flint campus….Hawkins has two younger sisters, 10 and 7 years old, who he said have suffered some hair loss, which is a common complaint among Flint residents who can't avoid bathing with the water. "There is no reason for them to be losing hair at their age," Hawkins said. [w/ HuffPost's Philip Lewis]

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FED RAISES RATES - How Janet Yellen hopes to win the Columbus suburbs now is beyond us. Binyamin Applebaum: "The Federal Reserve said on Wednesday that it would raise short-term interest rates for the first time since the financial crisis struck, a vote of confidence in the strength of the American economy at a time when much of the rest of the global economy is struggling. The widely anticipated decision, a milestone in the Fed’s postcrisis stimulus campaign, ends a seven-year period in which the Fed held short-term rates near zero. Even as it raises its benchmark interest rate by 0.25 percentage points, to a range of 0.25 to 0.5 percent, however, the Fed emphasized subsequent increases would come slowly...Interest rates on mortgages and other kinds of loans, and on savings accounts and other kinds of investments, are likely to remain low by historical standards for years to come." [NYT]

Reince Priebus says the Republican primary should wrap up mid-April. Good luck!

BUT IS IT GOOD FOR THE CRUZ: NATIONAL SECURITY BREACH EDITION - Erica Werner: "The leaders of the Senate Intelligence committee said late Wednesday it is not investigating whether Texas Sen. Ted Cruz disclosed classified information during Tuesday night's GOP presidential debate. The panel released a statement a few hours after the chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., had said they were checking Cruz's comments. Burr released a joint statement with Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, top Democrat on the committee, stating without explanation: 'The committee is not investigating anything said during last night's Republican presidential debate.' Cruz made a claim during an exchange with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio about the new USA Freedom Act, which Cruz supported and Rubio opposed. Cruz said that 'nearly 100 percent' of phone numbers can be checked for terror ties under the new program, compared with '20 percent to 30 percent' under earlier Patriot Act provisions." [AP]

TRUMP TRUMPS IN VERY TRUMPY WAY - Igor Bobic: "Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump said Wednesday he would undo President Barack Obama's executive orders on his first day in office. 'The good thing about an executive order -- I walk in, sign, I don’t have to go through Congress,' Trump said at a large rally in Mesa, Arizona. 'I mean, Obama does it,' he added, garnering cheers and applause from the audience. Conservatives have pilloried the president for signing repeated executive actions on immigration, health care and the environment. They argue the moves have violated the Constitution by usurping the Congress' power to create laws. Most vehemently, Republicans object to Obama's executive actions providing deportation relief to undocumented immigrants. Trump would undo those with an executive order as well." [HuffPost]

ICYMI: Last night the GOP candidates debated the merits of deliberately killing civilians. Jeb wasn't for it, but can you guess who was?

Trump Trumps in an even Trumpier way: "MSNBC host Chris Matthews pushed Donald Trump to admit Tuesday night that he was wrong to advocate the discredited birther theory that Barack Obama isn't legally president because he was allegedly not born in the United States. 'Is Donald Trump honest when he says that Barack Obama isn't a legitimate president?' Matthews asked after the GOP presidential debate in Las Vegas. 'I don't talk about that anymore,' Trump replied." [HuffPost's Willa Frej]

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TWITTERAMA

@lizzieohreally: It's Fed Day, Fed Day, gotta get down on Fed Day.

@morninggloria: Star Wars: The Take Awakens

@AndrewHClark: Just said "what about Blitzer or Tapper" to @ColinChocola and realized they sort of sound like reindeer.

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