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• ObamaCare damage control
• Rollout botch plays big in Virginia
• No shutdown for congressional slush funds
• Rubio sticks with Mitch
• You know it’s Florida if…
OBAMA TRIES DAMAGE CONTROL ON HEALTH LAW -You know a Web site is in rough shape when the first fix being touted is to send people to a 1-800 number instead. That’s one of the repairs that administration officials are selling today ahead of a speech by President Obama addressing growing frustrations with the online home of his new health-insurance entitlement program, ObamaCare. The official position from Obamaland, laid out in a background briefing, is that the president will address “troubles that he and his team find unacceptable.” No doubt. The crash-prone Web site has become a huge embarrassment for Democrats who were hoping the rollout of taxpayer-subsidized insurance would soften resistance to the law. Instead, major problems with the sign-up portal, data reliability for those who make it through and sticker shock at the plans being offered are sapping public confidence in the plan pushed by the supposedly tech-savvy president.
[Windy City Chill: NY Post details how Obama’s biggest 2008 benefactor, Oprah Winfrey, snubbed White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett’s request to promote ObamaCare.]
[Watch Fox: President Obama addresses problems with ObamaCare’s health exchange website in the 11 a.m. ET hour]
Pressure grows on Sebelius - While the president tries to boost flagging confidence in his program, pressure is mounting on the woman directly in charge of the woebegone rollout, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. House Republicans are demanding she explain how the site crashed, despite having three years to prepare for launch. Sebelius has so far refused, but Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told Chris Wallace, “Ultimately, Secretary Sebelius will testify.” Key issues include the tangle of contractors involved in the construction as well as unheeded warnings about the launch. Read the letter from the House Energy and Commerce Committee here.
“[Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’] refusal to testify and be transparent has undermined her credibility” –Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace”
[Washington Examiner’s Michael Barone: “My prediction is that the December 15 drop dead date will come without these problems solved. The Republicans offered a lifeline. Make the individual mandate optional.”]
CUCCINELLI CALLS IN REINFORCEMENTS - Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli is calling in backup for his ObamaCare attack. His fellow Attorneys General Patrick Morrisey, R-W.Va., Pam Bondi, R-Fla., Luther Strange, R-Ala., and Sam Olens, R-Ga., will join Cuccinelli for a campaign event today in Northern Virginia. Cuccinelli is highlighting the effort he and attorneys general took all the way to the Supreme Court to block provisions of the law. Campaign Carl Cameron has the latest on Virginia’s governor race, including a full recap of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s weekend stumping for Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe.
[Watch Fox: Rep. Pat Murphy, R-Pa., appears in the 9 a.m. ET hour]
NO SHUTDOWN FOR CONGRESSIONAL PERK SLUSH FUNDS - Rep. Robert Andrews, D-N.J., spent $16,000 from his leadership PAC, The Committee to Strengthen America, to fly his family to Scotland to attend the wedding of a friend. That was just one of the findings in a “60 Minutes” investigation of how members of Congress use funds from private donors to enrich themselves. Other lowlights: Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., used over $100,000 in political contributions to entertain at some the world’s best golf courses. Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Texas, made a personal loan of $150,000 to her campaign, but used donor money to pay herself $228,000 in interest. When asked whether donors knew she was paying herself 18 percent interest, Napolitano replied, “Well, you don't go out and publicize that…” Quite so, congresswoman. CBS News got help from the right and left in busting the profiting politicos. Hoover Institution Fellow and Brietbart News Editor at Large Peter Schweizer pitched in and so did the liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
[Read Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington’s 2013 list of most corrupt politicians]
THE EYES OF TEXAS ARE UPON HIM…Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, may have left Washington to a chorus of boos last week, but he found lots of love deep in the heart of Texas. Reuters reports: “Cruz was greeted with an eight-minute standing ovation in an appearance organized by the Texas Federation of Republican Women.” Cruz told CNN on Sunday: “I am not interested in seeing the American people suffer just because my party might benefit politically if they blame the Democrats for the foolish policies that have been imposed.” Cruz would not rule out forcing another government shutdown over the president’s health law.
Food fight up next - The first order of business when Congress returns next week: Clashes over a pending agriculture subsidy bill. The Republican House wants to trim food stamp spending to drop deficit spending in the package by $54 billion. The Senate version trims $23 billion. National Journal has more on the fight, expected to be a bargaining point in January’s fiscal cliff.
“[Caps on automatic spending increases known as “sequestration” are] the only thing we found that actually controls spending.” – Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., on “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.”
MoDo: Obama No Wizard - “Sir Lecturealot, who hates selling and explaining and negotiating and cajoling and knocking noggins, always manages to convey tedium at the idea that he actually has to persuade people to come along with him, given the fact that he feels he’s doing what's right… if [President Obama] is anything, he’s a cold cat on a hot stove… The paradox of Obama is that he believes in his own magical powers, but then he doesn't turn up to use them. There’s nothing wrong with a president breaking a sweat somewhere beyond the basketball court.” More.
BAIER TRACKS: SYRIA SLIPS AWAY…“Monday will likely be all about health care with President Obama coming out in the Rose Garden to eat some crow about the launch of the health care exchanges Web site and to talk about the way forward. But, have you noticed how the topic of another recent Rose Garden speech is rarely discussed, let alone debated, anymore? Syria.
The NYT details the latest horrific violence, with a suicide bomber driving a truck packed with explosives on a busy road near Hama, killing more than 30 people and wounding dozens of others. A few short weeks ago, the U.S. was prepared to start bombing Syria after a rhetorical campaign from the administration about the real dangers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his chemical weapons supply.
Now, crickets are chirping when it comes to talking about Syria, other than to praise its government for doing all it can with chemical weapons sites. As far as ‘turning the page,’ this may be a record. It’s a pretty remarkable example of how the Obama administration seems to have closed the book on Syria as an issue for the president to address.” – Bret Baier.
WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...Columnist Robert Samuelson argues that the generic term “entitlements” hinders the discussion about the main drivers of federal debt. It’s not just Social Security and Medicare. To prove his point, Samuelson provides a list of the 12 largest entitlement programs, ranked by the number of recipients. Did you know, for example, that 46.6 million Americans receive food stamps or that 1.3 million Americans are farm subsidy recipients? Read it all here.
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POLL CHECK - Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 43.9 percent//Disapprove – 51.1 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 17.4 percent//Wrong Track – 74.9 percent
YOU HAVE A SEAT ON THE PANEL - Here’s what you said on Friday’ s “Special Report with Bret Baier” panel: Bing Pulse measured strong disagreement from Republicans, independents, men and women when Juan Williams charged Republicans with not providing enough funding to properly develop ObamaCare’s Web site. Republicans agreed with Howard Kurtz when he said the problems with the ObamaCare rollout were not glitches but “a full-out debacle.” Watch the All-Star Panel break down ObamaCare’s problems here.
Viewer engagement spiked to 23,000 votes-per-minute when Charles Krauthammer told Williams, “When you're trying to take over 18 percent of the economy, especially a very complicated sector… you cannot succeed.” During the panel’s Lightning Round, Democrats disagreed with Krauthammer when he claimed the U.S. helped keep Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power. Take a deeper data dive here.
EMBITTERED ENDORSEMENT FOR CHRISTIE - Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., won the endorsement of the Newark Star Ledger, New Jersey’s biggest newspaper, despite snubbing the Democratic-leaning publication for four years. The paper gave Christie the nod, citing problems with his opponent, Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono, calling her “a deeply flawed candidate.” But it was a conditional embrace of Christie’s re-election: “The endorsement of Christie comes with the hope that Democrats hold control of the Legislature to contain his conservative instincts.” Polls show Christie heavily favored to win next month’s election.
‘None of the above’ - The Richmond-Times Dispatch is throwing up its hands at the commonwealth’s nasty gubernatorial election. The paper, for the first time in modern history, is making no endorsement this year. After offering harsh words for Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe, the paper announced it could not “in good conscience” choose sides. More from Fox News.
RUBIO STICKS WITH MITCH - Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is supporting Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., over his Tea-Party-backed challenger, Matt Bevin. On “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace,” Rubio, who backed the “de-fund” ObamaCare effort in the Senate and whose Senate career was launched with the help of McConnell’s rival, former Sen. Jim DeMint, stood up for the embattled minority leader. “I think he’s trying to lead our conference. It’s a diverse conference with a lot of different opinions. That’s a tough job to begin with. And of course, he's got to represent his own state.” The Senate Conservatives Fund, founded by DeMint to pressure moderate Republicans, announced its backing of Bevin on Friday.
[“I think my opponents in the primary are going to have a hard time convincing Kentucky primary voters that I’m some kind of liberal. You know, I enjoy the support of the most famous Tea Party Senator in America, Rand Paul. I'm supported by Marco Rubio, Pat Toomey, two other Tea Party favorites who were elected in 2010. I have the support of Mike Huckabee and Bill Bennett.” – Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on CBS “Face the Nation”]
EPA POWER GRAB? - What’s the science behind the regulations? Is this an EPA power grab? Members of the House Science Committee, Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Chris Stewart, R-Utah, are voicing objections to the Environmental Protection Agency expanding authority under the Clean Water Act. In a letter sent Friday to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the lawmakers are looking for answers before the new regs are implemented. Correspondent Shannon Bream looks into concerns the act could lead to “unprecedented control over private property across the nation.”
FED LAWYERS TRYING TO TOSS DISABLED RESIDENTS - In 2008, the Department of Housing and Urban Development approved more than $5 million in grants to build a 75-unit apartment complex to accommodate senior citizens with vision and hearing problems. The Arizona facility is now at full capacity, with many deaf residents living in the specially designed apartments. Now, HUD’s civil rights division wants to throw out 75 percent of the deaf and blind and replace them with non-impaired seniors, claiming the facility is illegally segregated. Correspondent William La Jeunesse has the story.
CHENEY SHARES HIS HEART - Fox News - Former Vice President Dick Cheney releases “Heart: An American Medical Odyssey” Tuesday. Co-authored with cardiologist Jonathan Reiner, Cheney chronicles a decade’s worth of health struggles that ensued with a heart transplant last year, when he was just hours from heart failure. In an interview with CBS' “60 Minutes,” Cheney says doctors replaced an implanted defibrillator near his heart in 2007. The device can detect irregular heartbeats and control them with electrical jolts. Cheney says that he and his doctor, cardiologist Reiner, turned off the device's wireless function in case a terrorist tried to send his heart a fatal shock.
[Watch Fox: Former Vice President Dick Cheney discusses his new book on Hannity, in the 10 p.m. ET hour]
CASHING IN ON CASHING OUT - Looking for an upper hand in your next real estate deal? Roy Condrey launched diedinhouse.com after he discovered most states do not require realtors or home sellers to disclose if a death took place in a residence. Condrey recently told the Houston Chronicle, “It’s harder to find things like this out than you think,” adding that a death on-site has the potential to reduce a property’s value up to 25 percent.
YOU KNOW IT’S FLORIDA IF…A man-sized alligator found itself baffled by the automatic doors of a Wal-Mart in, where else, Apopka, Fla. From WKMG: “Employees locked the door to keep the gator out while Apopka police officers tried to lure the animal away. As customers gathered around to view the alligator and take pictures, the beast took off for the woods.” Watch the gator-baiting video here.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.