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How about them apples: ObamaCare rewritten again

Health Overhaul_Sebelius_AP_660.jpg

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013.(AP)

BREAKING: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hospitalized.  From Reid’s office: “Early this morning, Senator Reid was not feeling well and as a precaution decided to go to the hospital. Tests have been conducted and everything is normal.  He is alert, resting and feeling better. Doctors have asked that he remain in the hospital for observation so he will not be working today.”
 

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Buzz Cut:
• How about them apples: ObamaCare rewritten again
• Jindal twerked by ‘Duck Dynasty’ flap
• Dems ready jobless jab
• Campaign in waiting: Christie manager gets RGA slot
• It’s obviously like, you know, whatever. Just sayin’.

HOW ABOUT THEM APPLES: OBAMACARE REWRITTEN AGAIN - The federal government banned millions of insurance policies, forbidding what President Obama referred to as “bad apple” coverage. The new policies under ObamaCare were supposed to be, as his chief spokesman said, “an apple that’s fresh and delicious.” If you liked your produce but couldn’t, as promised, keep it, you would like the ObamaCare version even better. As it turns out, many of the people whose insurance policies the administration banned simply cannot afford the new, ObamaCare complaint offerings. What’s answer? To allow Americans to buy bare-bones plans previously available only in special cases. How about them apples?

Obama drives another fiat - As ObamaCare’s Web site gets under full steam after nearly three months of failure, it has become clear that the program will result in coverage disruptions for many Americans. Despite the administration calling on the insurance industry to try to accommodate the pandemonium created by contradictory orders from the administration, the latest rule change is essentially waiving a central provision of the law for anyone currently insured. The individual mandate was intended to boost insurance companies that are seeing profits crunched under new federal regulations – margins would go down but volume would go up. It matters to you because without enough paying customers, insurers will be forced to further hike rates. Waiving the mandate is a big change to make by proclamation.

[NYT details how some Obama aides are putting off their exits in order to help the president regain his political standing.]

Wormy - The worse apples now being pushed by Obama don’t provide much money to offset the risks, and that’s even if insurers are able to keep pace with the ever-changing Obama position on what is good and what is bad for American insurance consumers. The possibility of systemic collapse in the New Year looks increasingly real.

[Dr. K’s Prescription - What does 2014 hold for your health care? Charles Krauthammer considers: “The federal government now runs the insurance market, dictating deadlines, procedures, rates, risk assessments and coverage requirements. It’s gotten so cocky it’s now telling insurers to cover the claims that, by law, they are not required to. Welcome 2014, our first taste of nationalized health care.” ]

Catastrophic coverage for vulnerable Democrats - The rule change was announced just after red-state and swing-state Senate Democrats had the chance to circulate a letter calling for just such an action. Was it a concerted effort or a coincidence? It’s too close to Christmas to be so cynical, but c’mon. Just as Sen. Jean Shaheen, D-N.H., was given the chance to propose a “fix” to a bill undoing a reduction to military pension increases, she too has been given a plum spot on the list of letter signatories. Whether the measure works at all, or if it makes things better or worse, it is a chance for the administration to buy a bit more time with senators who are watching the slow-motion disaster unfold. That’s your takeaway: With a budget deal now passed, the top priority for Washington Democrats: doing whatever it takes to hold the Senate.  

[Bubba, then Dubya then The One - Americans view former President George W. Bush more favorably than President Obama. Bush holds a 50 percent approval while Obama holds only 46 percent. Former President Bill Clinton fares best with 70 percent. Fox News’ prescient pollster Dana Blanton compares.] 

GET OUT OF GITMO - Under a provision in the Defense Authorization bill passed Thursday, up to half of those foreign fighters in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba could be sent home. The move marks a substantial victory in President Obama’s long-frustrated effort to close the facility. – Watch Fox: Chief Intelligence Correspondent Catherine Herridge has the details.

[For AP’s full write up, click here. For military-industrial complex all-stars, the detailed summary of the bill is here.]

Avoiding a meltdown: Dems nudge Obama on Iran - In a move that has the hallmarks of approved dissent, a group more than a dozen Democratic senators are joining Republicans to call for enhanced sanctions on Iran if the current deal brokered by the Obama administration on the Islamist country’s nuclear program falls through. Earlier this month, the White House headed off open rebellion among Democrats on the issue, scuttling a bill pending in the Senate Banking Committee. President Obama has threatened to veto this new version, with Press Secretary Jay Carney saying it could disrupt the deal with Iran. The pact negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry would condone Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for promises of transparency and a vow by Tehran’s theocrats to not use fissile material to build bombs. By killing the first bill and re-racking the process, the administration has bought time to keep working on Democratic senators and given hawkish Dems a safe way to express their displeasure with the president’s unpopular Iran détente. Fox News has the story.

Secret service gets passing grade on sex misconduct - An internal report commissioned after more than a dozen Secret Service agents and officers were caught in a prostitution scandal ahead of President Obama’s April 2012 trip to Colombia concludes sexual misconduct is not a widespread problem in the agency, laying the problems at the feet of rogue agents. WaPo has more.

JINDAL TWERKED BY ‘DUCK DYNASTY’ FLAP - Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., told Megyn Kelly there’s a double standard at play in the suspension of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson for his remarks to GQ Magazine about his views on homosexuality. “A&E  is half owned by ABC. I was shocked Miley Cyrus went on TV and did some shocking things.  She's back -- she'll be on ABC during the New Year's Eve special.” Jindal added: “She's on TV and Phil Robertson off?  There is something wrong.” Watch the interview from “The Kelly File.”

DEMS READY JOBLESS JAB - Even though Senate Democrats seemed to wave off the idea of fighting for extended welfare benefits as part of a just-passed budget deal, WaPo’s Ezra Klein explains why liberals should be of good cheer. Pressure groups will be pumping up the issue of restoring federal aid to the long-term unemployed, promising to hit Republicans hard for Christmas cruelty. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sounds like he’s on board, telling reporters the Senate will take up a retroactive extension next month.

[Broken - The latest Fox News poll shows 71 percent of respondents believe the Federal government is broken.]

Arrivederci, AAA - Reuters: “Credit agency Standard & Poor’s cut its long-term rating of the European Union by one notch to AA+ on Friday, saying it had concerns about how the bloc's budget was financed, a view EU leaders and other officials dismissed as misguided.”

[Pa-rum-pum-pum-pump - The final confirmation for Janet Yellen as head of the Federal Reserve will take place when Congress returns Jan. 6. LAT has more.]

BAIER TRACKS: HIBERNATION EDITION - “These are the last tracks for 2013 as I begin a family hibernation. First of all, thank you for reading and signing up for this note. It's been a lot of fun contributing to it this year. Secondly, thank you for watching ‘Special Report’ – we think it gets better every day and 2014 promises to be quite a news year. I look forward to laying down some new tracks in the New Year. Until then…” – Bret Baier

[Ed. note: We love having your insights. Enjoy the down time! You’ve sure earned it.]

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...Kevin Williamson considers why men aren’t buying what President Obama is selling. From Ladies’ Man: “The president’s low standing among the Y-chromosome set, dramatic though it is, is not entirely surprising… he presided over a sickly recovery in which unemployment remains elevated and is significantly higher for men than for women… our once-dynamic economy has grown sclerotic, and economic mobility has declined — and that wasn’t supposed to happen. President Obama represents what admirers such as Michael Grunwald have called a ‘New New Deal.’ American men don’t seem to think it is a very good deal at all.”

Got a TIP from the RIGHT or LEFT? Email FoxNewsFirst@FOXNEWS.COM

POLL CHECK - Real Clear Politics Averages 

Obama Job Approval: Approve – 42.5 percent//Disapprove – 53.6 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29.5 percent//Wrong Track – 63.6 percent 

CAMPAIGN IN WAITING: CHRISTIE MANAGER GETS RGA SLOT - Bill Stepien, former chief of staff and campaign manager for Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., will be the new “adviser on political operations and independent expenditures” for the Republican Governors Association. Christie just took over as chairman of the group, which provide him a launch pad fir 2016: access to donors and a way to broaden his appeal beyond his blue-state base and into more important primary states for the GOP. WSJ has more.

RADEL VOWS RETURN - Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., has completed a nearly month-long stint in rehab after pleading guilty last month to misdemeanor cocaine possession charges. Speaking to reporters, Radel said he planned to return to work despite many calls within his own party to step down. He admitted to using cocaine “a handful of times,” but maintains he was never under the influence while voting. Fox News has the details.

[President Obama commuted the sentences of eight inmates serving time for crack cocaine offenses and pardoned 13 convicts. The president is also calling on Congress to act on sentencing reforms proposed by Attorney General Eric Holder. Fox news has more.]

SUBTLETY NOT STOCKMAN’S STRONG SUIT  - Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, is unhappy about the NRA’s endorsement of Sen. John Cornyn, whom he is looking to unseat in next year’s primary. Stockman is touting his own endorsement by the more conservative Gun Owners of America and offering donors to his campaign a bumper sticker that reads, “If babies had guns they wouldn’t be aborted.” Dallas Morning News has more.

OBAMA’S INTERIOR PICK WAS A GUSHER FOR ENVIROS - President Obama’s pick for a top post at the Interior Department is under fire for steering millions to environmental groups. Rhea Suh, the department’s new assistant secretary for policy management has a history of working with far-left groups that oppose natural gas production. During her tenure at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the group shelled out over $600 million to hard-line enviro groups. Washington Free Beacon has the story.

FOX NEWS SUNDAY PREVIEW: CHRISTMAS CHEER - Chris Wallace welcomes former Arkansas Gov. and Fox News host Mike Huckabee and mega-church pastor Joel Osteen. “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” airs at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET on Fox News. Check local listings for air times in your area.

#MEDIABUZZ: FRIEDMAN, NSA AND ‘DUCK DYNASTY’- Media maven Howard Kurtz hosts Thomas Friedman of the NYT, talking not just about foreign affairs but why he hasn’t been critical of ObamaCare and the president's terrible year. Also, Amy Holmes of The Blaze and WaPo’s Chuck Lane will join Kurtz as to take on the NSA, stumbles by “60 Minutes” and the controversy surrounding Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson. #MediaBuzz airs Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.

SQUARE DEAL - New York Democratic Congressional hopeful Sean Eldridge offered supporters a peek at a favorite recipe from his “Gram.” It turns out the recipe is quite a bit like the one Kellogg’s offers for its Rice Krispie Treats, the only notable difference being the addition of red or green food coloring. The Washington Free Beacon has the sticky  details.

[Ed. note: You never know. “Gram” could be from Battle Creek! I mean, Snap, Crackle and Pop did have lives…]

IT’S OBVIOUSLY LIKE, YOU KNOW, WHATEVER. JUST SAYIN’- For the fifth straight year, the accursed spawn of California’s San Fernando Valley –“whatever” – tops Marist College’s poll of the words or phrases that Americans find most annoying. Perennial annoyance “like” comes in second behind the new juggernaut of lazily disdainful people. What words are you dreading next year? More than four in ten would like to strike “ObamaCare” from discussion.

[Update: Eastern Europe remains awesome - Check out the ‘Chuck Norris’ Christmas greeting from Hungarian animation outfit Delov Digital]

THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING, AND GIVING, AND GIVING…More than seven in ten people said it was okay to re-gift, while 25 percent said it was never acceptable. That’s the findings of new Fox News poll that finds men disprove of the idea more so than women, and that it’s a big no-no in the Midwest.

War on Christmas? - The same poll found 54 percent of respondents do not believe there is a war on Christmas, while 39 percent believe there is a concerted attack on Christmas.

[Ed note: Ahem.]

WAIT. THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT, CAN IT? - Are Queen Elizabeth II, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge sorceresses ensnaring Britain’s children? Looks like the jury is still out. Everybody has a bad day at work now and then, but headline writers and copy editors mistakes get published. The cringiest, most hilarious layout and copy-editing blunders of 2013, via (who else) BuzzFeed.

AND NOW A WORD FROM CHARLES…“The reason Obama, I think, has sunk below what they call in the stock market the support level – a level at which if a stock goes below it looks like it could hit the floor – is because his support level had been on the left and among the young…liberal young people, they are appalled by the NSA and that accounts for their distrust of government and their deep disappointment with Obama. It hasn't driven them to the right, but it's driven them to apathy. And that's why his numbers are going historically low.” –Charles Krauthammeron “Special Report with Bret Baier

[Ed. note: It’s time for the good girls and boys of Fox News First to rest our heads for awhile. We’re signing off until Dec. 28, when we will come roaring back with lots of year-end goodies. We can’t fully express our gratitude for your support in making our launch so successful. We know you value the privacy and good order of your inbox, so we appreciate what a privilege it is to be here. That more than 160,000 of you welcome us in every morning is a point of tremendous pride. And thanks to all our colleagues at Fox News for helping make our first year a great one. Particular thanks to my fellow morning maniacs Mike Maltas and Sean Langille. God bless. – C]

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here. To catch Chris live online daily at 11:30 a.m. ET, click 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.