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Reid tries quick strike on welfare plan

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U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on Capitol Hill in Washington December 17, 2013. ((Reuters))

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Buzz Cut:
• Reid tries quick strike on welfare plan
• Sperling: ObamaCare success is whatever we say it is
• Tracking the Baier: That was fast…
• Liz Cheney cites children’s health in Senate bow out
• Tuber goober gets gig

REID TRIES QUICK STRIKE ON WELFARE PLAN - If Harry Reid wants to put the hammer to House Republicans over resuming federal aid to those whose state unemployment insurance has expired, he will first have to mend some fences on the Senate side. The Senate majority leader, who shattered the remaining shards of goodwill in the upper chamber with his procedural gambit to fast-track the president’s nominees, didn’t sound ready to deal on Sunday. In a CBS News interview, Reid would not rule out blowing up the 60-vote threshold for legislation as he has already done for nominations. Reid said: “We’re not there yet.” To resume the payments to the unemployed, Reid will have to start dealing or get ready for a double-nuclear strike against the minority. The Senate is back in session today, and Reid looks short of 60 votes.

[Watch Fox: Chief Congressional Correspondent Mike Emanuel has the latest from Capitol Hill, including a scheduled vote to confirm Janet Yellen as chairwoman of the Federal Reserve.]

A majority not simple - Reid told Reid told Fox News that he was unwilling to hear Republican pleas to make the welfare benefits part of a larger deal on spending or to offset the outlay with cuts elsewhere. Reid compared the benefits, which lapsed on Dec. 28, to spending on hurricane relief, etc. “We have never offset emergency spending. That’s foolish.” The emergency, according to Reid, is that “the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer.” But that’s not going to get him 60 votes. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said he would vote “no,” expressing frustration that Reid is trying to jam the bill through without Republican debate or amendment. “Unfortunately, the Senate appears to be starting the new year just like the old one ended, with the Democratic leader bypassing committee consideration and cutting off all amendments and debate on an important issue.” If the courtly Alexander is not willing to budge, it seems unlikely that there are four more ready to join Reid’s home-state colleague, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

[“Any discussion on this should be on what reforms can we make…Whether it's unemployment compensation or food stamps, we should require job training so that if a job becomes available, they've got their gear ready to get in the game.”—Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., on CNN’s “State of the Union”]

Overhead smash or long volley? - With the battle over appropriations bills underway and the debt ceiling fight just a few weeks away, Reid’s hope that he could push Republicans on welfare spending without condition looks far-fetched. Democrats would very much like this as a standalone issue. It distracts from ObamaCare’s ongoing problems and could help vulnerable Democrats in states with struggling economies, particularly Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark. Plus it gibes with the preferred Democratic talking point for the election year: President Obama’s quest to reduce the gap between rich and poor. But Republicans, including Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., are saying they’re open to the idea of reinstating extended benefits, but want tradeoffs. If the GOP has the votes to block Reid’s initial overhead smash, the unemployment benefits will almost certainly become part of the larger fiscal debate. 

[Watch Fox: Chief White House Correspondent Ed Henry is tracking Democrats’ push on income inequality ahead of the Jan. 28 State of the Union address and how President Obama hopes to turn that into a winning message for his party in 2014.]

THE $100 BILLION GREEN ENERGY CRASH - “60 Minutes” details how huge government spending on environmentally friendly energy sources turned into a massive bust. “…[President Obama] committed north of a $100 billion in loans, grants and tax breaks to Cleantech.  But instead of breakthroughs, the sector suffered a string of expensive tax-funded flops. Suddenly Cleantech was a dirty word…Over half a billion dollars went to a solar-panel company named Solyndra to build a factory.  When solar was undercut by low prices in China, Solyndra died. Another half billion in loan guarantees went to Fisker, a clean car startup that promised to open a plant in Delaware, but went bankrupt.  And in other cases production was ramped up before there was any demand.”

SPERLING: OBAMACARE SUCCESS IS WHATEVER WE SAY IT IS - Remember the White House estimate that 7 million people would sign up as paying ObamaCare customers by March 31, thereby preventing disruptions of the overall insurance market? No? Neither does President Obama’s top economic adviser, Gene Sperling. In an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sperling claimed “there’s no magic number,” adding, “the key is to enroll as many people as we can.” Asked how the administration would measure success, Sperling said: “Success is having an ongoing strong market.” Insurers, however, warn that without millions of new customers, rate shocks and a “death spiral” could follow for holders of existing policies.

[California’s ObamaCare program is again extending the deadline for premium payments. The state had extended the deadline to Jan.6 and is now pushing it to Jan. 15 over mounting problems with the state’s health Web site. Breitbart has the details.]

ROMNEY RIPS COVERAGE REQUIREMENTS - Former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., slammed President Obama for new health insurance regulations, telling “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” that 70-year-olds should not have been forced to buy maternity or birth control care. Romney, credited with rescuing Salt Lake City’s 2002 Winter Olympics expressed concerns about the direction of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, but the 2012 GOP nominee said he had confidence the country could keep athletes and spectators safe from terror attacks during the upcoming Olympiad.“My guess is the Russians have done a pretty good job,” Romney said. Fox News has more.

PAUL PROGENY PUSHED INTO WELFARE - Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., did not expect to find his son on a welfare program, but that’s where ObamaCare has apparently dropped him. Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” the Kentucky senator said his son “had to go down to the welfare office, prove his existence. Then the next thing we know, we get a Medicaid card.” Despite the long struggle, Paul said he was unsure whether anyone in his family actually has health coverage under ObamaCare. Fox News has more.

[“By arranging for me and other members of Congress and their staffs to receive benefits intentionally ruled out by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the administration has exceeded its legal authority… I believe that I have not only legal standing but an obligation to go to court to overturn this unlawful executive overreach, end the injustice, and provide a long overdue check on an executive that recognizes fewer and fewer constitutional restraints.” –Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., in a WSJ OpEd on his lawsuit over ObamaCare’s exemption for Congress]

CUCCINELLI TAKES LEAD ON PAUL’S NSA LAWSUIT - When Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli leaves office Saturday, he will have a new gig waiting for him: Lead lawyer in the suit by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., against the Obama administration over its domestic spying program. The Richmond Times-Dispatch has details. Paul is seeking class-action status for all Americans with cell phones in a bid to have the Obama domestic spy apparatus declared unconstitutional.

[Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., told Fox News that the suit is evidence that Paul “doesn’t deserve to be in the United States Senate” and that he is, “totally uninformed or he’s part of that hate America crowd that I thought left us in the 1960s.”]

KERRY: NO TROOPS TO HELP IRAQIS - With Iraqi Islamists retaking control of Fallujah, the scene of a costly victory by U.S. and allied forces in 2004, Secretary of State John Kerry faced questions over the possibility of the U.S. providing aid to its Iraqi allies. Kerry, talking to reporters in Jerusalem claimed the Obama administration would do “everything that is possible,” but quickly added, “We are not contemplating putting boots on the ground.” AP has more.

[Kerry says Iran might participate in this month’s U.N. peace talks on Syria. Fox news has more.]

New at Fox News Opinion - KT MacFarland considers the Sad Truth about America and Iraq: “We realize too late that President Bush shouldn’t have taken us into Iraq, and President Obama shouldn’t have taken us out. President Bush and the NeoCons invaded Iraq on grounds that later proved questionable.  It was a war we initially won, then lost, then won again with the surge. President Obama vowed to quit the war and in so doing snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.  He declared victory, but it too was short lived; it lasted less than two years.”

YOU HAVE A SEAT ON THE PANEL: TOO EARLY A RETREAT - President Obama removed troops from Iraq prematurely and for political gain. That was the sentiment shared across the political spectrum during Friday’s “Special Report with Bret Baier” All-Star Panel when columnist Charles Krauthammer stated Obama “ended the war in a way that liquidated our gains.” As measured by Bing Pulse, men and women agreed with Weekly Standard Senior Writer Stephen Hayes’ claim that the U.S effort in Iraq is “basically gone” now that al-Qaeda is resurgent in the western region of the country.

Col. Ralph Peters’ charge that Obama’s “hasty retreat from Iraq” is his “number-one strategic blunder,” drew widespread agreement from Republicans, Democrats and independents alike. Viewer votes spiked to 28,000 per minute when Krauthammer pointed out, “three out of every four dead in Afghanistan, American dead, has occurred under Obama in a war in which he never supported and he essentially abandoned even as it was going on.” In total, 202,000 viewer-panelists made their voices heard, take a deeper data dive and see what they had to say. Make sure you take your seat on the panel tonight.

TRACKING THE BAIER: THAT WAS FAST…The Fox News Channel will today celebrate five years of Bret Baier at the helm of “Special Report.” In January 2009, the indomitable Brit Hume was, no doubt, a hard act to follow. But Baier has quickly become one of the most trusted names in the business and a fixture as the host of Washington’s premier evening news show.

[Ed. note: “Fair, balanced and unafraid” is a lot to live up to every day, but Baier does it with aplomb and, most of all, a spirit of service and generosity for his viewers and colleagues. Way to go, Brother Baier!]

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...Washington Examiner’s Michael Barone considers how the Hispanic vote in 2014: “Obama campaign strategists noted that [ObamaCare] was unpopular among voters generally but evoked very positive responses from Hispanics… Since the Obamacare rollout, Gallup’s numbers show that the president’s job approval has declined more among Hispanics -- 23 percentage points -- than among any other demographic group… The Obamacare rollout — just like the government programs that encouraged home mortgages for not necessarily creditworthy Hispanics — has not produced the favorable results they may have expected.”

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

POLL CHECK - Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 42.3 percent//Disapprove – 53.8 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 30.1 percent//Wrong Track – 63.3 percent 

Generic Congressional Ballot:  Dems – 43.3 percent// GOP – 43.1 percent 

HILLARY TAKES NEXT STEPS ON CAMPAIGN ROLLOUT - Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign is renting its e-mail list to the Ready for Hillary political action committee. Time reports: “On Sunday, the group emailed the Clinton list offering free ‘I’m Ready For Hillary’ bumper stickers, but unlike dozens of recent emails from the group offering schwag, this one had the return address ‘info@hillaryclinton.com’. It’s not for the cash, since Clinton retired her $25 million campaign debt a year ago.

PAC attack - Meanwhile, Maggie Haberman emerges as perhaps the Clintonologist to watch this cycle. Haberman gets the goods on the former first lady’s campaign in waiting, particularly the feud between the super PACs backing the 2016 Democratic frontrunner. Her piece details how the supporters of the former secretary of state solved the conflict between Ready for Hillary and Priorities USA, the Obama-backed PAC that is looking to remain the top Democratic harbor for soft money after Obama is gone. Says Haberman: “Eventually they settled on a solution: Ready for Hillary would focus on collecting and analyzing voter data, accepting donations up to $25,000. Priorities would be the super PAC for mega-donors, working solely on paid advertising.”

CHENEY CITES CHILDREN’S HEALTH IN SENATE BOW OUT - Fox News has confirmed Wyoming Republican Senate hopeful Liz Cheney, the eldest daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, is dropping her challenge against Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. Cheney’s statement: “Serious health issues have recently arisen in our family, and under the circumstances, I have decided to discontinue my campaign. My children and their futures were the motivation for our campaign and their health and well being will always be my overriding priority. Phil and I want to thank the thousands of people in Wyoming and all across the country who have supported my campaign.  As a mother and a patriot, I know that the work of defending freedom and protecting liberty must continue for each generation.  Though this campaign stops today, my commitment to keep fighting with you and your families  for the fundamental values that have made this nation and Wyoming great will never stop.”

PICK SIX: LANDRIEU OVERDUE? - Republicans are hoping to wrest control of the Senate from Democrats this year, but need six seats to do the job. Which six are the most likely to flip from blue to red? So far, your consensus remains that Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., is the most vulnerable Democrat seeking re-election. The rest of your super six, in order: The open seat in Montana, the Louisiana seat held by Sen. Mary Landrieu, the open seat in West Virginia, the open seat in South Dakota and the North Carolina seat held by Sen. Kay Hagan. Reader Cody Hall a political science student at the University of Georgia, argues that Landrieu, who has been in office since 1997 is overdue for a loss: “Landrieu has never won with more than 2 percent of the vote and I believe her [ObamaCare] vote could lead to a 4 or maybe even 5 point loss.”

Share your top six picks. Email them – just your top six, please – to FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.CCOM or tweet to @cstirewalt

KOCH NETWORK KICKING UP MILLIONS IN SUPPORT - An analysis of tax returns and other documents by WaPo found the political network led by billionaires Charles and David Koch financially outpaced other independent conservative groups and even matched those of pro-Democrat labor unions in 2012. The 17 groups in the network raised $407 million during the 2012 campaign cycle and are already starting to organize for the midterm races. A spokesman for Koch Industries defended the organizations practice in a statement to WaPo blasting the liberal Center for American Progress’ lack of transparency and targeting of conservatives by the IRS.

HOUSE HEWS CALENDAR FOR MIDTERMS - House Republicans are looking to play it safe this election year with just 97 days on the 2014 legislative calendar prior to Nov. 4, compared to 135 in all of 2013. Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., told the NYT: “It’s pretty clear to me in the House, we don’t want to make ourselves the issue.”

Drucker describes - Washington Examiner’s David Drucker writes: “…overall, Republicans are sanguine. They are convinced that Obamacare’s problems will persist deep into the New Year and that the law’s troubled implementation since October might have permanently poisoned the president’s relationship with voters and done irreparable damage to his personal image.”

[Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, are leading the call to give judges more flexibility in determining  sentences for drug related offenses. Fox News has more.] 

FIRST LADY HANGS LOOSE - President Obama and his daughters have returned to Washington, but first lady Michelle Obama has remained behind in Hawaii, extending her vacation stay as part of what the White House said was an early birthday present from the president. The first lady turns 50 on Jan. 17, and is planning a massive party at the White House to mark the occasion. The forecast for Honolulu on Tuesday: 79 degrees. For Washington: 19 degrees.

[Gov. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, is encouraging President Obama to select his native state for the taxpayer-financed presidential library that will be built after Obama’s term in office ends. Abercrombie made a video of himself sitting on the beach with his dog. “My pitch to the president is: I’m here with Kanoa. Why don’t you bring Sunny and Bo out and we can sit on the beach?’’ NYT has the details.]

JAN BREWER ‘UNDER SIEGE?’ - Actor Steven Seagal is considering a run for Arizona governor. The action star told reporters that he has discussed a gubernatorial bid with America’s self-proclaimed toughest sheriff, Joe Arpaio. Segal has been working with Arpaio on a new reality series “Steven Seagal – Lawman: Maricopa County.” AP has the details.

TUBER GOOBER GETS GIG - Posting photos of yourself on your couch in your underwear, eating potato chips, and watching TV is not typically the way most job-seekers find work. However, multimedia designer Niek Gooren has found himself back in the world of the employed after launching a self-deprecating Web site chronicling his unemployed life. After sharing the less-than-flattering photos along with his resume, Gooren received over 50 job offers. The Dutch man has since taken a job with a PR firm and has updated his Web site with a photo of himself sipping champagne while lounging in his office. The U.K’s Orange News has the story.

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.