Coming Up Short:

It appears the Democrats will not have the 60 votes needed to secure an up-or-down vote on Chuck Hagel on Friday, meaning the former Nebraska senator’s nomination as defense secretary has officially hit a wall. The GOP’s efforts to block Hagel’s confirmation to the Pentagon’s top post has led Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to accuse it of filibustering. “I regret that Republican senators, except the valiant four, chose to filibuster the nomination,” he said. “Republicans have made an unfortunate choice to ratchet up the level of destruction here in Washington. Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, it gets worse.” Some Senate Republicans, including John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have denied Reid’s charge, saying they are willing to vote on the matter after the upcoming weeklong recess. In other words—politics as usual on Capitol Hill. (Read more)

Raise the Revenue: Senate Democrats on Thursday unveiled a plan that would avoid sequester cuts. The American Family Economic Protection Act promises $110 billion in savings by raising $55 billion in revenue—mostly through imposing the so-called Buffett Rule that would ensure a guaranteed minimum tax rate on anyone making more than a $1 million a year—and cutting $55 billion in spending. The plan most likely won’t go anywhere though because, naturally, Senate Republicans oppose it. (Read more)

Holiday Romance: Call it a Valentine’s Day victory for same-sex couples in Illinois. On Thursday, the state Senate passed legislation that would make it legal for gays and lesbians to marry. It’s yet another win for supporters of gay marriage after residents in Maine, Maryland and Washington all voted to allow same-sex couples to wed in their states in November. The Illinois bill now heads to the House, where it faces a tougher challenge. If the House passes it, however, Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, is expected to sign it into law. (Read more)

Road to Retirement: Longtime New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg announced Thursday that he would not run for re-election when his term is up next year, avoiding what likely would have been a hard-fought primary battle against Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Lautenberg’s retirement will likely secure the Democratic nomination for the popular mayor. The 89-year-old Lautenberg, a consistently liberal voice in the Senate—as well as its oldest member—has represented the Garden State for three decades. “I am not announcing the end of anything. I am announcing the beginning of a two-year mission to pass new gun safety laws, protect children from toxic chemicals and create more opportunities for working families in New Jersey,” he said. “While I may not be seeking re-election, there is plenty of work to do before the end of this term and I’m going to keep fighting as hard as ever for the people of New Jersey in the U.S. Senate.” (Read more)

Sex, Lies and Videotape: This has to be a new low for the tea party. According to Mother Jones’ David Corn, workers at the powerful tea party group FreedomWorks made a “sex tape” featuring a female intern dressed as a panda performing simulated oral sex on another female intern who is supposed to be Hillary Clinton. The “promotional film,” as it’s been called (though it’s unclear exactly what it’s promoting), was produced under the supervision of Adam Brandon, the group’s executive vice president. Brandon, by the way, appears in the video. But as one former FreedomWorks official astutely noted, “How was that not some form of sexual harassment?” Great question! Perhaps someone should ask that to Brandon, who continues to defend the film and insists that it is “funny” and “creative.” (Read more)

Video of the Day: On “The Daily Show” on Wednesday night, Jon Stewart had a field day with Marco Rubio’s State of the Union rebuttal, and not just because of the Florida senator’s “hydration disaster.” The late night host tore into Rubio for the substance of his retort, arguing that he was responding not to the real Barack Obama but to the fictitious image of the president that Republicans have created. Stewart summed up Rubio’s speech with the following five words: “The point is, fuck you.”

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