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• ObamaCare creates nervous condition
• Eyes in the sky coming soon
• Paul slams Christie’s Sandy ad
• Wendy Davis: I’m ‘pro-life’
• And don’t show your snout around here again!
OBAMACARE CREATES NERVOUS CONDITION - In the wake an ObamaCare scare in Virginia’s gubernatorial election, President Obama summoned all of the Senate Democrats facing re-election in 2014 to the White House in a bid to calm their growing anxieties about the problems with his law. The group, which included struggling red state Democrats like Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., shared what one Democratic source told Fox News was “a lot of pent-up frustration.” Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who leads the Democratic Senatorial Committee, also attended. Chief White House Correspondent Ed Henry learned that senators floated the idea of a one-year delay in the fines and enrollment mandates under the law, pushing some political pain until after midterm elections. The president is said to have rejected the idea. Fox News has more.
[“You said recently that you expect the Web site to be running smoothly for a majority of users by late November. There is no room for error. You must meet – and I prefer you beat – that deadline.” – Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., talking to Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.]
‘Crisis of confidence’ - Begich released a statement after the White House huddle talking about the “understandable crisis in confidence” among his constituents. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., publicly reiterated his call for a delay in penalties under the law. The president may be trying to avoid further rate hikes and cancellations for those already insured that would ensue if, as expected, there are too many welfare recipients in the program and not enough paying customers. But the president’s decision to continue to publicly make his “if you like it” promise after he decided not to keep it has left him in a pickle with members of his own party. He was able to say what he needed to in order to win in 2012, and now Obama is asking his fellow Democrats to take one for the team. Not cool.
[Daniel Henninger: “Unless Mr. Obama's approval numbers submerge completely, Democrats won't leave the ship (though at-risk 2014 Senate Democrats Landrieu, Pryor and Begich have been seen rummaging for life vests).]
White House caves on union plan pressure - With unrest growing about ObamaCare problems on the left, the administration is moving ahead with a long-sought exemption from new health insurance taxes for unions. From Washington Examiner: “The Department of Health and Human Services quietly released a final rule last week that includes an intention to exempt some union insurance plans from a substantial new tax known as the reinsurance fee. As part of Obamacare, the tax was supposed to be levied against all insurance plans to share the risk for insurers taking on the sickest patients next year.”
Delay is de thing - Obama understandably wants to avoid any delay. Not only would it likely worsen the more violent disruptions expected in the private insurance market next year, it would also set a precedent. But even so, he might not be able to resist. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has a bill in the works for delaying the fines for individuals and Landrieu is pushing a bill to force Obama to keep his “if you like it” pledge. The administration, having caved to allies in big business and big labor on the law, can hardly refuse members of the president’s party in need of some political salve.
OBAMACARE RECRUITERS COULD BE FELONS - Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted in testimony that some ObamaCare “navigators” hired to recruit beneficiaries for the new entitlement program never underwent background checks before gaining access to huge troves of personal data about Americans. During a Senate hearing Wednesday, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, pressed Sebelius on the security gap. Fox News has more.
[Watch Fox: Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, discusses how felons may have been employed as ObamaCare navigators in the 11 a.m ET hour]
$1 million per enrollee so far in Delaware - Groups hired under a $4 million ObamaCare grant have so far been able to enroll only four Delawareans in the new health-insurance entitlement.
Cancellations cross the 4 million mark - Almost 250,000 Coloradoans have received cancellation notices from their insurers under ObamaCare. That brings the national tally so far past 4 million for reported cancellations. Fox News has more.
A low bar for “high traffic” - “Obama Administration officials have blamed HealthCare.gov’s disastrous performance on unexpectedly high visitor traffic, but new testing documents released by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., state that the day before the website launch it was only ‘able to reach 1100 users before response time gets too high.’”
Country stars mock ObamaCare crash - The Country Music Awards offered its own riff on ObamaCare’s struggles. Singer Carrie Underwood asked artist Brad Paisley, “Hey do you have that ObamaCare?” Paisley responded, “Oh, it’s great. I started signing up last Thursday and I’m almost done.” Their parody song, courtesy of BuzzFeed: “ObamaCare by morning. Why’s this taking so long? I’m going to wind up with hemorrhoids if I sit here too long.”
CRUZ LEADS BIPARTISAN BID FOR PASTOR’S RELEASE - Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has sent President Obama a letter urging him to again speak out against the imprisonment of American Pastor Saeed Abedini by the Iranian government. Abedini has reportedly been moved to a more brutal prison that houses violent criminals on death row and is infamous for the abuse of political prisoners. “[T]his new action by the Iranian regime merits additional response. It is imperative for the United States government to speak out boldly on behalf of Pastor Saeed at the earliest opportunity,” Cruz wrote. The letter was signed by 19 other senators, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
EYES IN THE SKY COMING SOON - The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to announce today that no privacy measures are needed prior to opening up U.S. airspace to drones. The findings are expected to fuel further criticism over the government’s surveillance capacities. Industry officials familiar with the details of the plan tell WSJ FAA head Michael Huerta is expected to disclose a long-range regulatory roadmap that could pave the way for extensive commercial drone use. Correspondent Steve Centanni is following the developments.
CIA PAYS AT&T FOR CALL DATA - NYT: “The C.I.A. is paying AT&T more than $10 million a year to assist with overseas counterterrorism investigations by exploiting the company’s vast database of phone records, which includes Americans’ international calls, according to government officials... Most of the call logs provided by AT&T involve foreign-to-foreign calls, but when the company produces records of international calls with one end in the United States, it does not disclose the identity of the Americans and ‘masks’ several digits of their phone numbers, the officials said.”
The Judge’s Ruling - JudgeAndrew Napolitano isn’t impressed by the National Security Administration’s narrow interpretation of the Fourth Amendment. New at Fox News Opinion: “…[I]f the NSA can go from computer to computer without probable cause until it finds what it wants -- and turn some of that evidence over to law enforcement -- the Constitution’s protections effectively have been short-circuited.”
[The Senate Armed Forces Committee will consider the effects the automatic spending caps known as “sequestration” are having on national defense. Key leaders from all branches of the military will testify before the committee today.]
WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...Columnist George Will compares the ObamaCare crash with the first policy failure of the Obama administration,“Cash for Clunkers” in Clunker progressivism: “Barack Obama’s presidency has become a feast of failures whose proliferation protects their author from close scrutiny of any one of them... ‘Cash for Clunkers’…is a window into both why the recovery has been extraordinarily weak and what happens when progressives’ clever plans collide with recalcitrant reality.”
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POLL CHECK - Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 42.7 percent//Disapprove – 52.2 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 21.8 percent//Wrong Track – 70.9 percent
PAUL SLAMS CHRISTIE’S SANDY AD - In a jab that may preview those launched on 2016 debate stages, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., hit Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., over tourism ads that used federal funds aimed at Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. During a Senate hearing Wednesday, Paul criticized the advertisements in his questioning of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, whose agency directed the funds. “It gives a little bit of a black eye to something that maybe a lot of it is going to a good purpose,” Paul said. “But I would say that if I were in your position I would have said ‘no.’”
[Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has a new home for his column after the Washington Times dropped the weekly read for failing to properly cite sources. Paul, who blamed the missing citations on lax staff work and has vowed to keep a squeaky-clean new standard, will be writing now for Breitbart News.]
WENDY DAVIS DECLARES HERSELF ‘PRO-LIFE’ - Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis became a heroine to national pro-choice groups for her failed filibuster of a new state law setting health and safety standards for abortion clinics. But Davis now says she “pro-life,” even though she still favors nearly unrestricted access to abortion, including in the final weeks of pregnancy. Her semantic switch reflects the difficulty for a defender of late-term abortion rights in a state where even many Democrats oppose the practice. She told supporters: “I care about the life of every child; every child that goes to bed hungry, every child that goes to bed without a proper education, every child that goes to bed without being able to be a part of the Texas dream…” Read more from Washington Examiner.
[Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., will introduce today legislation that seeks to restrict abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Correspondent Shannon Bream considers the bill’s significant exemptions and the partisan battle that is to ensue.]
MAYBE THEY THINK ASHLEY JUDD IS STILL RUNNING - Hollywood Reporter details the flood of Tinsletown cash into the campaign of Kentucky Democratic Senate hopeful Allison Lundergan Grimes. On the list of those helping Grimes’ bid to knock off Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Woody Allen, Jerry Seinfeld and Nicolas Cage.
SINK SEEKS SHELTER - Alex Sink, the failed Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee from 2010 and former state chief financial officer, is all in for the race to serve out the term of Republican Rep. Bill Young who died last month – as soon as she moves into the district. Sink, who enjoys national and state party backing has apparently pushed St. Petersburg lawyer Jessica Ehrlich out of the Democratic primary race after declaring the support of national Democratic and pro-choice groups for the March 11 special election. All Sink needs is an address in the district, and she told the Tampa Bay Times she’s picked a house to buy. With a crowded Republican field and a short campaign span, Democrats are hoping to flip the seat held by Young for more than 40 years.
The top tweet pick from @laurenashburn for this morning: Breaking News from @AP: “Jason Carter, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, says he plans to run for Ga. governor.”
[Lauren Ashburn of “#MEDIABUZZ” tracks the Twitterverse every day in Top Twitter Talk.]
YOU HAVE A SEAT ON THE PANEL - The ObamaCare crash is a self-inflicted problem – that was the consensus from viewers of the All-Star Panel on “Special Report with Bret Baier” as tracked by Bing Pulse. Viewers of both genders and across the political spectrum agreed with The Hill’s A.B. Stoddard that the administration brought on many of ObamaCare’s problems itself. There was also broad agreement that Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius did not want to anger the president when she refused to say in her Senate testimony whether a statement on ObamaCare’s Web site touting Obama’s since-rescinded “if you like it” promise was truthful. Viewer interaction spiked to 40,000 votes per minute when columnist Charles Krauthammer said, “What is shocking to me is the arrogance of the president who refuses to admit a plain truth.”
Judge Andrew Napolitano’s charge that the public is learning ObamaCare “doesn’t work” found agreement from Democrats. All parties and genders agreed with Krauthammer when he said that ObamaCare is responsible for “making a landslide into a cliffhanger” in the Virginia gubernatorial elections. Bing Pulse saw 277,000 viewer votes on the panel, explore the data here. And don’t miss the chance to make your voice heard.
SHERIFF JOE GETS HIS MAN (EVENTUALLY) - Vice President Joe Biden thought he was calling Democratic State Rep. Marty Walsh Tuesday to congratulate him for his victory in Boston’s mayoral election. “You son of a gun, Marty, you did it!” the vice president gushed. But it was the wrong Marty Walsh. Biden actually called a former aide to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who had to gently correct the enthusiastic Biden and offered to help direct the vice president to the right Walsh. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz made the same mistake. Fox News has the story.
AND DON’T SHOW YOUR SNOUT AROUND HERE AGAIN! - Guards have to watch their step when they cut loose these furry prisoners. The remote northern Canadian town of Churchill, Manitoba, houses the world’s only prison for polar bears. Hungry bears flood the town at this time of the year – outnumbering residents – because tiny Churchill sits slap-bang on their migration route. Once sprung, the inmates, mainly repeat offenders, are tranquilized and choppered away from humankind to be released with the admonishment that they stay out of town. The Daily Mail has the full story complete with, er, grizzly pics.
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…“Look what happened…in Virginia. What ObamaCare did, is it singlehandedly …turned what should have been a landslide… into a cliffhanger. That’s all ObamaCare. And this is not new…So this is now the second time ObamaCare is striking and it is going to continue to strike. …It’s happening now and unless they stop the avalanche here, the Democrats are going to get buried in this.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.” Watch here.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First” political news note and hosts “Power Play,” a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.