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Obama rekindles ‘poor’ war

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President Obama at end-of-the year news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013.(AP)

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Buzz Cut:
• Obama rekindles ‘poor’ war
• Sister Act: Nuns make potent adversaries
• Obama appointee strikes down Chicago gun regs
• Schweitzer saddles up: The outsider case against Hillary
• What  is a ‘nerd alert,’ Alex?

OBAMA REKINDLES ‘POOR’ WAR - President Obama today will officially launch his latest assault on income inequality. Fresh from weeks of Hawaiian recreation, Obama is expected to harangue Republicans for their resistance to a $6.4 billion welfare package to give aid to those who have exhausted state unemployment insurance. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled a vote for this morning on the measure, but doesn’t seem to have the five GOP votes necessary to advance the spending bill. His home-state colleague Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., is on board and Obama seems to have delivered the support of moderate Maine Republican Susan Collins, who sounded favorable after a Monday chat with Obama – an unusual move for a president famous for frosty relations with members on both sides of the aisle. To get three more votes, though, Reid might need to offer GOPers the chance to amend the bill, at which point they would surely force uncomfortable considerations like paying for it.

[“It's not paid for. So it's about borrowing money from children in the future to pay for a benefit today. The real job is why aren't we creating jobs and why aren't we moving the economy and why aren't we picking the fiscal mess that's here? Why aren't we creating the confidence that needs to be developed for that to happen?” – Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., on “Fox & Friends.”]   

Pass or smash - The White House push for the spending bill is predicated on long-term unemployment being a crisis. Top Obama economic adviser Gene Sperling told reporters, “We have never, over the last half-century, cut off emergency unemployment benefits when long-term unemployment was even barely over half the rate that we have right now.” Of course, neither have federal benefits to the unemployed continued for as long as they have, stretching back to the panic of 2008. Republicans, including moderates like Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., aren’t keen on the idea of an unconditional extension. If they say “no” to Reid’s demand today, however, they can expect a thorough sliming by the president in a speech scheduled for just after the vote. Obama doesn’t seem to think it will pass, given that the White House has invited those whose benefits have expired to stand behind the president for the event.

Obama makes new ‘promise’ - The Hill previews an event President Obama has scheduled for Thursday in which he will further lay out his economic vision: “The president’s remarks are designed to highlight his call to designate so-called ‘Promise Zones’ where the federal government would provide tax incentives, housing assistance, and education grants to fight persistent poverty, and come amid a broader populist push by the White House ahead of the Jan. 28 State of the Union address.”

Midterm messaging - The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is hitting hard at Republicans in the battle over unemployment benefits. In a release the DSCC slams the GOP saying, “Because of Republican Senate candidates and the reckless economic agenda they have embraced, long-term jobless insurance has expired for more than 1 million Americans who have been looking for work for at least 26 weeks, denying families the crucial relief they need while costing the economy an estimated 240,000 jobs.”

[National Journal’s Michael Hirsh looks at how newly confirmed Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen’s old-school liberalism could transform Washington.]

Income politics: where are the jobs? - The U.S. has an unemployment rate over 7 percent, yet there are nearly 4 million U.S. job openings. Republicans argue that by extending unemployment benefits many job seekers will hold out for their “perfect job.”  –Watch Fox: Correspondent Molly Henneberg explores the disparity and what is causing stopping some from getting back to work

YOU HAVE A SEAT ON THE PANEL: BENEFITS FUEL UNEMPLOYMENT - Extending unemployment benefits will only fuel further unemployment. That was the prevailing opinion viewer voters shared with Weekly Standard Senior Writer Stephen Hayes’ during Monday’s “Special Report with Bret Baier” All-Star Panel. As measured by Bing Pulse, Hayes’ statement, “What's surprising to me is Republicans aren’t making a moral case about how often unemployment insurance that goes on forever leads to more unemployment,” attracted high agreement from Republicans, Democrats and independents.  

Charles Krauthammer saw viewer engagement spike when he charged, “The result of Democratic policies is long-term unemployment, a terrible recovery, and all of this would indicate that what you have to do is to change the policies and not put on all the band-aids.” On that point, viewer votes surged to 22,000 per minute. Bing Pulse measured 142,000 votes from viewer-panelists, see the full results here. Your voice matters. Make it heard and take a seat on the panel.    

THE OBAMACARE TAXMAN COMETH - The New Year is bringing a host of new taxes on insurance companies due to ObamaCare. Politico details: “The new levies include a multibillion-dollar assessment on insurance companies based on their market share, a fee that will be used to compensate insurers who take on the most costly policyholders and a penalty for individuals who decide to remain uninsured. A tax on so-called Cadillac health plans, set to begin in 2018, is the last major provision to kick in.

SLOWDOWN IN HEALTH SPENDING NOT DUE TO OBAMACARE - From Washington Examiner: “Health care spending in the United States grew 3.7 percent in 2012, according to a new government study, representing the fourth straight year of relatively low medical inflation. But the report from actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services stipulated that the weak economy over the 2009-2012 time period is the most likely reason for the slowdown in the growth of health spending, not President Obama’s health care law.”

SISTER ACT: NUNS MAKE POTENT ADVERSARIES FOR OBAMA - The Supreme Court will soon rule on an ObamaCare lawsuit from the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic order that operates charity nursing homes across the United States. The nuns want the high court to shield them from an ObamaCare provision that would require them to subsidize contraception for employees despite Catholic doctrine clearing forbidding birth control. Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted temporary relief to the nuns while the court mulls a final decision. The Obama administration wants the case dismissed on the grounds that lay workers at the homes are entitled to subsidized contraception. The clash is proving a publicity nightmare for the administration, particularly after a video from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty describing the orders’ good works made the rounds. Watch Fox: Correspondent Doug McKelway profiles the Little Sisters of the Poor, and why the Obama administration has taken aim at them.

SUPREMES WON’T SHIELD DOCS FROM OBAMACARE - The Supreme Court refused a request from the Association of American Physicians & Surgeons and the Alliance for Natural Health USA to block ObamaCare’s implementation. The doctors group charged Congress incorrectly passed the law because revenue raising bills are supposed to originate in the House under the constitution.

KELLY FILE: JOHNSON SAYS COURTS HAVE OBAMACARE REMEDY - Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., defended his lawsuit seeking to block special ObamaCare subsidies for members of Congress, including himself. In a “Kelly File” exclusive, Johnson told Megyn Kelly that President Obama was ignoring his constitutional duty to faithfully execute the law. “The only way they’re going to start changing this law, Johnson said, is if they feel the full harsh realities of the law.” Watch the segment here.

[Watch Fox: Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., discusses his lawsuit against ObamaCare’s subsidies for Congress in the 10 a.m. ET hour]

OBAMA APPOINTEE STRIKES DOWN CHICAGO GUN REGS - U.S. District Judge Edmund Chang ruled Chicago’s strict new gun laws are unconstitutional and struck them down. Chang said he would hold off the implementation of his ruling while Mayor Rahm Emanuel decides whether to appeal, as he is expected to do. Chang was appointed to the court in 2010 by President Obama. The Chicago Sun Times has more.

[New regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency target wood stoves. AP has details.]

WHITE HOUSE: DRONES CAN HELP IRAQIS - As Islamist militants continue to make gains in Iraq, now controlling strategic strongholds once conquered by U.S. and allied forces, the Obama administration says robot aircraft can help turn the tide. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney pointed to a plan to increase U.S. military sales to Iraq, including surveillance drones. Vice President Joe Biden phoned Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki Monday to express support for Iraq’s government in the effort to drive out the al Qaeda-affiliated groups. The White House is says it plans to accelerate deliveries of military equipment in hopes of helping to turn the tide in Fallujah and other spots in Anbar Province, the site of intense battles fought by U.S. forces during the Iraq war.

[Veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., tells the Hill the U.S. should assist Iraq with “limited air power.”]

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...Conservative economist Thomas Sowell slams liberals for inveighing against “trickle-down economics,” even though no one has ever advocated such a thing. From The Trickle-Down Lie: “While there have been all too many lies told in politics, most have some little, tiny fraction of truth in them, to make them seem plausible. But the ‘trickle-down’ lie is 100 percent lie… The ‘trickle-down’ theory cannot be found in even the most voluminous scholarly studies of economic theories… The time is long overdue for people to ask themselves why it is necessary for those on the left to make up a lie if what they believe in is true.”

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

POLL CHECK - Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 42.4 percent//Disapprove – 53.7 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 30.1 percent//Wrong Track – 63.3 percent 

Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 43.3 percent// Republicans 42.9 percent 

SCHWEITZER SADDLES UP: THE OUTSIDER CASE AGAINST HILLARY - Slate’s David Weigel interviews former Gov. Brian Schweitzer, D-Mont., who seems increasingly ready to take up the outsider mantle against Democratic 2016 frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Schweitzer can fire up the base on some policy sore spots for Hillary, including domestic surveillance (he’s against it) and marijuana legalization (he’s receptive to it). Schweitzer also offered this critique of President Obama, “As governor I had four years to work with the Bush administration and four years to work with the Obama administration, and they’re just not good at getting things done.” When it comes to the Clintons, though, Schweitzer cuts closer to the bone: “But do you recall what the music was, blaring, after they were elected? … Fleetwood Mac, ‘Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.’ So what do we play next time? The Beatles, ‘Yesterday’? In England, a baby’s born and they know he’ll grow up to be king someday. We’re not England. We’re America.”

[Washington Examiner reports the Clintonista political action committee Ready for Hillary is ramping up its ground game in New Hampshire and Iowa.]

So you’re saying it will make a difference? - During an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, CNN’s Jake Tapper said former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will “have to answer” for the raid by Islamist militants on American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya that left four Americans dead. Tapper told Hewitt, “For me specifically, you know my coverage of Benghazi has focused on the State Department’s refusal to take seriously enough the request for added security from diplomatic and security experts on the ground in Libya throughout the year leading up to the Benghazi attack. So there are a lot of questions, and I’m sure if she runs she’ll have to answer them.” Read more courtesy of Daily Caller.

GERLACH RETIREMENT PUTS GOP HOUSE SEAT IN PLAY - Rep. Jim Gerlach’s, R-Pa., is retiring after serving six terms in Congress, turning a safe Republican seat into a top target for Democrats come November. The Philadelphia Inquirer has more.

COMSTOCK READY TO VIE FOR WOLF SEAT - Republican operative turned Virginia state lawmaker Barbara Comstock told the Washington Free Beacon she will run for the House the seat currently held by retiring Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va. Comstock, who worked as an aide to Wolf in the 1990s, represents a delegate district that overlaps with much of Wolf’s exurban Washington territory. The race is expected to draw top-tier Democrats and be one of the most expensive contests in the House this cycle, coming in a swing district in a swing state. Wolf has held the seat since 1981.

NUNN RUN A THROWBACK - Senate hopeful Michelle Nunn, D-Ga., is getting some help from her father’s old friends. The younger Nunn took in a $5,000 donation to her re-election effort from former Sen. Richard Lugar’s, R-Ind., political action committee. Lugar and Nunn’s father, former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., developed a close friendship when they worked together on nuclear non-proliferation during their time in the Senate. Nunn raised an impressive $3.3 million in the first five months of her campaign, including $500 from former Sen. John Warner, R-Va. The dough won’t likely do much, though, unless Republicans have a train wreck of a primary, as Democrats hope. Three members of the House delegation are in the running for the May 20 primary, as is former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., is retiring after two terms. The Hill has the details on Nunn’s retro run.

BLOOMBERG’S BIG BUCKS TO BACK DEMS - Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pouring big cash towards Democrats’ efforts to hold on to the Senate. Politico reports Bloomberg has donated $2.5 million to Harry Reid’s Senate Majority PAC. Combined with donations from DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, the PAC will have plenty of cash on hand.

PICK SIX: OBAMACARE BURNING BEGICH? - The 2014 midterm elections could tip the balance of power in the Senate to the Republicans if the GOP can pick up six seats. Fox News First wants to know which six blue seats are most likely to turn to red this year. The consensus among readers so far (in order of times picked by readers): Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, West Virginia, South Dakota and North Carolina.  But wait! Several readers are saying Sen. Mark Begich’s, D-Alaska, could be frozen out come November. FNF reader “Scott the Strategerist” contrasts Begich’s 2008 victory with today’s political reality, “[T]he Republican candidate [in 2008] had just been convicted on federal corruption charges and Obama's popularity even reached Alaska to some extent.  Even then, it was an extremely narrow victory.  Neither of those factors are present now…  Alaska will go Republican easy!”

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

[The Republican National Committee is launching its first ad-attack of the year blasting vulnerable Democrats for their support of ObamaCare in 12 states. The ad against Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. charges, “2014 is your chance to hold Mark Warner accountable. Tell him this is one New Year’s resolution you’re sticking to.” The RNC is not disclosing how much the ads cost but note a Spanish version will air in Virginia and Colorado, Vietnamese in Louisiana, and Korean in Virginia as well.]

MCCAIN LIKES CHRISTIE - Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno “the people have spoken” and he will not seek the White House again but that he is “very seriously” looking at a sixth-term in the U.S. Senate. When asked about his picks for 2016, the Arizona Senator said Gov. Chris Christie, R-Ariz., is one of his favorites.

[Listen to Fox: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., joins Kilmeade and Friends in the 11 a.m. ET hour]

TOP TWEETS - @laurenashburn’s top tweet pick for this morning, ABC’s Political Director @rickklein: Could Christie do better? RT @WilliamsJon: Best line on cold from Michigan governor @onetoughnerd: ‘Now is not the time to build a snowman.’’’

[Lauren Ashburn of “#MEDIABUZZ” tracks the Twitterverse every day in Top Twitter Talk.]

ALOHA, OPRAH!  - First lady Michelle Obama is enjoying her extended stay in Hawaii, remaining behind after her husband and daughters returned to Washington Sunday as part of what the White House has called an early 50th birthday president from the president. But TMZ reports that the real present may be from Oprah Winfrey. The gossip site cites “law enforcement sources” who say that the first lady is crashing at Winfrey’s 12-bedroom Maui mansion. Another source told TMZ that Winfrey herself will soon arrive to join the festivities.

What does that cost? - Chief White House Correspondent Ed Henry asked Press Secretary Jay Carney if taxpayers would be on the hook for extra expenses because of the first lady’s solo stay in Hawaii. Carney said it’s complicated: “As with all personal travel, the first family will appropriately fund personal expenses… in line with past presidents and first ladies, the first lady will travel via government aircraft…”

Grizzly briefing - White House Press Secretary Jay Carney returned from vacation sporting a hipster beard. Carney’s facial hair set twitter ablaze and has even prompted its own Twitter handle @PressSecBeard. Said @BDayspring: “Never should have made that ‘I'll shave when #ObamaCare works’ bet”

‘JOCK BLOGGERS’ TOPPLE MOST CONSERVATIVE SCHOOL - A 100-yard kickoff return earned the Florida State Seminoles their third national college football title, beating Auburn 34-31 in a comeback thriller. The 2013 Princeton Reviewranked Auburn as the most conservative school in the country while ranking FSU tops for “Jock Bloggers.”

WHAT IS A ‘NERD ALERT,’ ALEX? - Monday’s ‘Jeopardy’ contestants were suffering from something of a news blackout. In the category “TV Anchors Aweigh!” contestants ran aground, identifying, for example Dan Rather as the anchor the “CBS Evening News” (sorry, Scott Pelley). Contestants were similarly befuddled by an answer about CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. But how about this one? “‘File’ this blonde anchor and lawyer under Fox News where she hosts weekdays from 9 to 10:00 PM.” The subject of this clue poked fun at herself on her own show. Watch it here.

[Ed. note: “Jeopardy” stud Chris Wallace would have swept the category]

AND NOW A WORD FROM CHARLES…“What we’re going to end up with is a European level of unemployment, chronic unemployment subsidized. And the fact is, if you subsidize apples, you get more apples; if you subsidize unemployment, you get more of it…It's not that people are lazy… if you have unemployment insurance, then you can make choices which would allow you to turn down a job that perhaps isn't exactly what you want.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier

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.