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Good afternoon, Daily Kos readers. This is your afternoon open thread to discuss all things Hill-related. Use this thread to praise or bash Congresscritters, share a juicy tip, ask questions, offer critiques and suggestions, or post manifestos.

Come join the fun. This is the usual cross post from Congress Matters.

Here's some of my own thoughts.

Is there any point in listening to the president's announcement tonight? We know the key detail:

The new deployments, along with 22,000 troops Obama authorized early this year, would bring the total U.S. force in Afghanistan to more than 100,000, more than half of which will have been sent to the war zone by Obama.

The president also plans to ask NATO and other partners in an international coalition to contribute 5,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, officials said. The combined U.S. and NATO deployments would nearly reach the 40,000 requested last summer by U.S. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the coalition commander in Afghanistan, as part of an intensified counterinsurgency strategy.

But...

Even as he escalates U.S. involvement, Obama will lay out in his speech what amounts to an exit strategy, centered on measures to strengthen the Afghan government so that its security forces can begin taking control of their own country.

David Obey, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, has a plan to pay for the new deployments:

On Nov. 19, with little fanfare and 10 Democratic co-sponsors, he introduced a bill, the Share the Sacrifice Act of 2010, which adds a chapter to the Internal Revenue Code titled "Temporary Afghanistan War Surtax." On the day he introduced the measure, Obey stated, "Regardless of whether one favors the war or not, if it is to be fought, it ought to be paid for."

It sucks, but paying for the wars is more than the Republicans ever bothered to do.

Also on the war, Steny Hoyer says what we were all kinda thinking anyway: Hoyer on Cheney: 'They turned tail'

"I get angry when I hear Vice President Cheney talking about a job they didn't finish," Hoyer said.

****

Washington DC city council voted to legalize same sex marriage in the city.

After months of debate, the council passed the bill 11 to 2. It still must take a second vote in two weeks before the measure can go to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), who has said he will sign it.

If the bill survives a required congressional review period, the District will join New Hampshire, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and Massachusetts in allowing same-sex marriage.

Earlier this year, the council voted to recognize same sex marriages performed elsewhere. Speaker Pelosi basically told the relevant committees to leave it alone as she considers this a state issue.

In related news, Richard Cohen says Americans are "a tad nuts" on the subject of homosexuality.

In the end, the courts will decide this question. That's what they're for. It's doubtful that the voters of Virginia would have allowed Mildred and Richard Loving to tie the knot back in 1967 any more than the public in general approves of same-sex marriage today. Such a legal case, spearheaded by the political odd couple of David Boies and Ted Olson, is likely to reach the Supreme Court in the not-too-distant future. Then, I suspect, wedding bells will ring through the land -- and, after a pause, America will wonder what the fuss was all about.

Bonus: Cohen slams BillO.

****

It's World AIDS Day. Here in DC, Delegate Norton is urging residents to support a repeal of the needle exchange ban. We also have a lot of other things going on in town.

More information about repealing the ban is here.

Under the 1000-foot rule, almost nowhere in Washington D.C. would qualify for needle exchange programs—even though the AIDS rate in D.C. is 3%, the same as in many West African countries.

What's going on where you live?

****

According to the original budget resolution, the Senate could consider reconciliation to pass health care reform at any point after Oct. 15. A month and a half later, the Senate is still hemming and hawing about using it.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democrat-turned-Independent from Connecticut, has said he would vote to filibuster a healthcare bill that included a public option. Landrieu, Lincoln and Nelson have also voiced strong concerns over the public option.

Landrieu noted that Reid has said publicly that he does not plan to use reconciliation.

During a Nov. 19 news conference, Reid told reporters: "I am not using reconciliation."

As if that is not enough, Ben Nelson also wants to strengthen the coathanger amendment.

****

It's the economy, stupid: Lobbyists reconsidering lavish holiday parties due to concerns over recession

Lobbyists for several firms and business groups said they were cutting back in consideration of the economic downturn. And as they weighed who was nice enough to receive an invitation, many also said they were consulting lawyers — the Scrooges in this story — to make sure the events comply with the rules that prevent lawmakers and their staffs from accepting gifts from lobbyists, including fancy meals.

No, I don't have any invites to the fancy parties.

In other news, "lobbyist" Tom Daschle has decided that he is "not" a lobbyist.

In all likelihood, Daschle’s claim that he is not a lobbyist rests on a cavernous loophole in the Lobbying Disclosure Act. The law says that anyone "whose lobbying activities constitute less than 20 percent of the time engaged in the services provided by such individual to that client over a three month period" is not a lobbyist.

****

Speaking of lobbyists, do you happen to know who the top three oil lobbyists are? Sign on at Open Secrets and take a guess to win a free copy of The Blue Pages: Second Edition.

****

Senator John Ensign -- the man who slept with the wife of his top staffer, gave the couple's kid a b.s. job, and tried to cover up the affair -- will be running for another term.

Dear Nevada: Do you have any strong Democrats who can run against this guy?

****

Have you ever wondered how Congressional offices spend their money? I know it has been a burning question for me. Those expenses are now online at disbursements.house.gov.

****

In city news, Atlanta is voting in a run off for their new mayor while Baltimore's mayor was convicted on one misdemeanor count related to using gift cards that were intended to be used by poor people.

Meanwhile, the Salvation Army in Houston is checking for immigration papers before giving toys to needy kids.

****

Muntadhar al-Zeidi learned about karma today.

The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush in Baghdad last year had a taste of his own medicine Tuesday when he nearly got beaned by a shoe thrower at a news conference in Paris.

Muntadhar al-Zeidi ducked and the shoe hit the wall behind him.

"He stole my technique," al-Zeidi later quipped.

The shoe and the journalist were unhurt.

****

Meet Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), the Caveman Congressman.

****

And finally, in the most important news of the day, the state dinner gate crashers don't take kindly to the term "gate crashers."

"We did not party crash the White House," Mr. Salahi said on the "Today" show on NBC.

"There isn’t anyone that would have the audacity or the poor behavior to do that," Ms. Salahi added later.

But when Matt Lauer, a host of the show, asked "Who invited you?" the couple did not answer. Instead, Mr. Salahi said: "One of the things that we’re doing is we’re working closely with the Secret Service in their internal investigation. We’re respecting their timeline. We’re working on their timeline. We want to get through that process."

Here's a hint: If you don't want to be called a "gate crasher," don't crash the gate. On the other hand, some of us are only too happy to be gate crashers.

Originally posted to Casual Wednesday on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 12:54 PM PST.

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