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Schumer steps up as the head of the Hillary caucus

This Nov. 13, 2014 file photo shows Senator Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Capitol Hill in Washington.

This Nov. 13, 2014 file photo shows Senator Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Capitol Hill in Washington.  (Reuters)

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Buzz Cut:
• Schumer steps up as the head of the Hillary caucus
• Obama threatens veto of bipartisan tax deal
• Circle shrinks for Hagel replacement
• Mitt pulls ahead in new Q Poll
• Groan and wishbone

It sounded odd that Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the man who perhaps most aggressively represents Wall Street’s interests in the Senate, was advertising a speech in which he would urge the Democratic Party to “embrace government.” The two entities would pretty well have to get naked to get any closer, but there’s always appeal among ideologues for the belief that more ideological purity is the answer to political problems. Schumer, however, seemed a strange messenger. While there is a strong Carneysian relationship between Schumer’s financial-sector constituents and a beefy federal government, Schumer is far closer to his fellow former New York Senator and Goldman-Sachs enthusiast Hillary Clinton than any of the self-styled “populist progressives” of his party. So what gives? It turns out that Schumer was making not an argument for government but for governing, a strong echo of the already emerged themes of Clinton’s campaign. Schumer most notably attacked ObamaCare, not for its goals or provisions, but for the way it was introduced, passed and implemented saying that Democrats “blew the opportunity the American people gave them.”

[Okay, so he was wrong that time - “I predict … by November those who voted for healthcare will find it an asset, those who voted against it will find it a liability,” --Sen. Charles Schumer D-N.Y., on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in March 2010.]

Eyes on ’16 - Aside from an attack on President Obama’s decision to plunge ahead on national health insurance amid deep economic insecurity – a very helpful talking point for Hillary and her team as they look for distance from the president and his signature program – the remarks were also an unusually bald attack on soon-to-be-former Majority Leader Harry Reid, who pushed the law across the finish line with procedural mumbo jumbo amid a public outcry. The coming months will see more assaults on Reid, as he makes ready for a daunting re-election bid and loses his remaining clout with members who are making ready for their own races and the restoration of the House of Clinton. With Democrats feeling very certain of a Senate return to power in two years, Schumer is setting himself up as the man to be the next majority leader. In the meantime, he will look to play the part of front man for the Clintonite caucus in the Senate, weighing options of when to join Republicans in passing bills antagonistic to Obama.

Power Play: The threats to Hillary’s coronation in 60 seconds - The latest polls put 2016 frontrunner Hillary Clinton far, far ahead of her potential rival Democrats. So why is the conventional wisdom turning on the former first lady’s inevitability? In just 60 seconds, Chris Stirewalt provides a rapid rundown of the challenges facing Clinton.  Watch today’s Power Play here.

Amid heckling from immigration activists at a Chicago campaign event to celebrate his granting temporary amnesty to an estimated 5 million people in the United States illegally, a perturbed President Obama explained: “But what you're not paying attention to is the fact that I just took action to change the law.” Oops. Remember that Obama’s claim for authority to grant the temporary pardon to illegal immigrants is based on an argument that he is not changing the law, but simply prioritizing the enforcement of it Perhaps sensing that he had given away too much, Obama quickly qualified his boast: “The way the change in the law works is that we're reprioritizing how we enforce our immigration laws generally." Gotcha. This pretty well encapsulates the problem for a president who wants immigration activists to be grateful for a legacy-making move, but doesn’t want to spook the rest of the country with worries that he is birthing new laws by caesarian section.

Temporary amnesty recipients get benefits, exempt from ObamaCare - WaPo: “Under President Obama's new program to protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation, many of those affected will be eligible to receive Social Security, Medicare and a wide array of other federal benefits, a White House official confirmed… ‘If they pay in, they can draw,’ White House spokesman Shawn Turner said by email. He noted, however, that the estimated 5 million immigrants granted protection from deportation will not be eligible for other federal benefits, such as student financial aid, food stamps and housing subsidies. Nor are they eligible to purchase health insurance through the federal health care exchange under the Affordable Care Act.”  

House GOP floats plan to battle Obama on amnesty - Roll Call: “House GOP leaders are likely to float a proposal in their conference next week to fund most government agencies through September 2015, while providing a shorter-term stopgap component for immigration-related programs and initiatives. The current framework, according to a few Republican aides close to the discussions, is being pushed in particular by Tom Price, R-Ga., the incoming chairman of the House Budget Committee, who has close ties to leadership and strong conservative credentials but no official affiliation with the appropriations process…”

NPR: “In a speech in which he said he understands the frustrations of people who feel they're not treated fairly under the law, President Obama also stated, ‘I have no sympathy at all for destroying your own communities.’ The president had been scheduled to speak about immigration policy during his appearance at Chicago's Copernicus Community Center. But he began his remarks by calling for calm in Ferguson, Mo., responding to the fiery unrest that has followed a grand jury's decision not to charge police officer Darren Wilson over the killing of Michael Brown. …Obama also said, ‘Nothing of benefit results from destructive acts. I've never seen a civil rights law, or a health care bill, or an immigration bill result because a car got burned.’…President Obama has ordered Attorney General Eric Holder to organize a series of meetings between police, community leaders and clergy.

NYT: “With negotiators nearing an accord on permanent tax breaks for businesses worth $440 billion over 10 years, President Obama rallied Democratic opposition on Tuesday and promised a veto. “The president would veto the proposed deal because it would provide permanent tax breaks to help well-connected corporations while neglecting working families,” said Jennifer Friedman, a White House spokeswoman. The deal, negotiated by House Republicans and aides to Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the outgoing majority leader, showed how much power has shifted since the Republican election victories this month…The standoff has set up a high-stakes game of chicken. Some 55 tax breaks for businesses and individuals expired last year, and if they are not revived retroactively by Dec. 31, taxpayers will not be able to claim them for the current tax year. Republicans say Congress might pass a one-year retroactive measure that would simply start the fight all over again in January, when they control the Senate and their numbers are fortified in the House.”

Report suggests IRS may have shared data with White House - WashEx:“[T]he Treasury Inspector General has identified some 2,500 documents that ‘potentially’ show taxpayer information held by the Internal Revenue Service being shared with President Obama’s White House. The discovery was revealed to the group Cause of Action, which has sued for access to any of the documents.”

WSJ: “The Environmental Protection Agency is planning to announce Wednesday a sweeping federal air-pollution standard limiting ground-level ozone, or smog, in the atmosphere, according to people familiar with the plan. The proposal will likely reanimate a battle between businesses and environmental groups that has been dormant for three years. In 2011, the EPA estimated that the proposed standard—set then at the toughest level the agency had yet considered—could cost utilities and other businesses as much as $90 billion a year.”

[What will it cost you? – Bloomberg looks at what has been called the costliest EPA rule yet]

Enviros push Obama to clamp down on pesticides - WashEx: “Over 100 scientists worldwide, citing 800 studies, are demanding that the Obama administration follow Europe's lead and put a moratorium on the use of a new-style pesticide blamed for the deaths of 30 percent of American honeybees every year…neonicotinoids are to blame for the substantial declines in honeybees, bumblebees and butterflies, all pollinators needed to help farmers produce billions of dollars worth of food every year.”

The New Yorker’s David Remnick celebrates the character and life of Czech President Václav Havel and how Havel, a former playwright and prisoner, led Czechoslovakia to freedom from Soviet rule, possessed a grace much needed in our time. “Havel was a child of the Czech bourgeoisie, a lab assistant, a soldier, a stagehand, a dramatist, a moral philosopher, a dissident, a political prisoner for four years, and, finally, a President for fourteen…He preferred to seize opportunities rather than to nurse grievances….In his first New Year’s address to the Czech people, Havel admitted that the years of oppression had led them to live in a ‘contaminated moral environment.’ Occupation, resentment, terror, and religious hatred have done the same in a place where despair is a constant shadow. Moral leadership, a moral generosity in politics, will not resolve every question—to suppose that it will is a form of sentimentality—but it is an essential part of what is required in Jerusalem and beyond.”

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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 42 percent//Disapprove – 53 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 27 percent//Wrong Track – 66.5 percent

Former Defense official Michele Flournoy has taken herself out of the running to succeed Chuck Hagel as the next Defense Secretary because, as a well-placed Senate source told Fox News, she wants to be Hillary Clinton’s Pentagon chief, not close out President Obama’s unhappy chapter with the military. Now that two of the three initial prospective Hagel replacements floated by the White House have removed themselves, the administration appears to be moving toward, not surprisingly, core Obama insiders. Among those being considered, Fox News has learned, is Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Johnson, once General Counsel at the Pentagon, was a key player in quietly developing President Obama’s go-it-alone and around Congress immigration plan. Given the unhappy run Obama has had with independent Defense chiefs, it would seem to be the logical next step for a president busy battening down the hatches. Also rumored to be in the running: Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who has been in the administration since Day One.

Extension of Iran nuke talks irks former hostages - The U.S. agreement to extend nuclear negotiations with Iran for another seven months, has not only raised the ire of lawmakers, it has also raised alarms with the Americans held captive in the United States Embassy in Tehran for 444 days, from 1979 to 1981. NYT: “As part of the extension, Iran will continue to receive $700 million a month in funds that were frozen under Western sanctions. That is money the surviving hostages, and their families, believe could be used as a financial settlement for their captivity — a period in which they were interrogated, beaten and subjected to mock executions…[T]he prospect of sending back another $4.9 billion in Iranian funds over the next seven months troubles them, particularly since they are an aging group, with a dwindling chance to be compensated for an ordeal more than three decades ago.”

A Quinnipiac poll released today shows that Republican voters want 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney back in the race, with Mitt leading all other contenders with 19 percent. Former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., sits in second place at 11 percent, with Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J. and Dr. Ben Carson tied at 8 percent. With Romney out of the race, Bush moves solidly into the lead, again followed by Christie and Carson. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues her dominance in the Democratic field beating out Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., by a stunning 44 points, 57 percent to 13 percent. In a head to head race between Democrats and Republicans, Romney would edge out Clinton 45 to 44 percent, while Clinton beats out every other Republican challenger.

Cruz puts Jeb, Christie and Mitt into the same bucket - National Review: “Senator Ted Cruz [R-Texas] won’t be surprised if Mitt Romney runs for president against Chris Christie, the New Jersey Republican who angered conservatives with his embrace of President Obama when Hurricane Sandy struck just days before the 2012 election. ‘There’s one bucket that, for lack of a better word, I’ll call the ‘moderate establishment’ bucket. It’ll be some combination of Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney,’ Cruz told a group of potential donors, according to the New York Observer. ‘My guess is two of the three will run. And my view is whoever’s in that bucket will raise tons of money. A lot of donors will rush to write them checks. And yet if the nominee comes from that bucket, the same voters who stayed home in 2008 and 2012 will stay home again and Hillary’s the winner.’”

Portman gets snarky profile from USA Today - USA Today interviewed Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and delivered a long askance look at his “presidential dithering,” e.g.: “The last election was ‘momentous,’ Portman said, and he wants the new GOP majority in Congress to ‘really dig into some of these issues.’ Fascinating, senator. So when will you be making a decision about 2016? ‘I will be taking time to think about it now and talking to my family and talking to advisers,’ Portman obliged. ‘But I’m in no rush to make a decision.”

Aye, Carly - WaPo: “On a Republican presidential debate stage expected to be filled with more than a dozen current and former politicians, Carly Fiorina envisions herself standing out — as the only woman and the only CEO. …In February, Fiorina will address the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. Helping Fiorina chart her political future are consultants Frank Sadler, who once worked for Koch Industries, and Stephen DeMaura, a strategist who heads Americans for Job Security, a pro-business advocacy group in Virginia.”

Arizona Daily Star: “Attorneys for Ron Barber and Martha McSally will head into federal district court today, fighting over whether 133 rejected ballots in Congressional District 2 should be counted. The McSally campaign is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by her Democratic rival on Monday, arguing Barber’s campaign does not standing in the case. In filings with the federal district court here in Tucson, McSally attorney Brett W. Johnson argues the 133 rejected ballots in Congressional District 2 the Barber campaign wants counted are not enough to help Barber overcome the 161 vote lead McSally currently has in the tight race…Barber attorney Kevin J. Hamilton said on Monday the campaign has so far identified 133 voters whom he said have been disenfranchised, but left the door open to supplementing the legal challenge with additional names if and when they have are identified.”

The history of presidential turkey pardoning pardon is remarkably complicated, thanks stories of Tad Lincoln begging his father to spare the federal fowl, but the tradition certainly is one of the oldest at the White House. The formal process began with President George H.W. Bush in 1989 pardoning the bird and sent him to live out remaining days at the unfortunately named Frying Pan Park in Virginia. The tradition lives on, however the turkeys have since moved on to a more fowl-friendly home at Morven Park in Northern Virginia. President Obama continues the ritual this afternoon with two yet to be named birds, the pardon winner and its runner up. WaPo picks the 27 worst headline puns about presidential turkey pardons. Among the high crimes and misdemeanors against readers: “For two lucky birds, it’s gravy,” “Lame duck pardons a top turkey” and “The stuffing of scandal.”

[Ed. note: One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions has for decades been the annual republishing in my hometown newspaper of the same perfect column about the holiday by the late Adam Kelly, known to his readers as “the country editor.” That tradition took on new meaning for me when I was privileged to have his son, Bob, a great newsman himself, as my mentor. Bob, before he died too young, taught many of us the wisdom of letting our stories and subjects do the talking and keeping ourselves out of it. And though his dad’s column was very personal, it ultimately was not about him. While we might not each be able to enjoy the every blessing its author did, the sentiment and its wisdom in the column endure beyond temporary travails. Fox News First is pressing pause for the holiday and will return on Monday. In the meantime, I wish you and your families bounty and blessings, but most of all, the gift of gratitude, even in the face of challenges.]

“He is the attorney general of the United States and he uses the word condoned. Is there anybody who thinks that arson and looting ought to be condoned? I think that is an astonishing statement by an attorney general and then the contrast with the president is very stark.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier” Watch here.

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News.  Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.