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Buzz Cut:
• End of extended unemployment benefits credited for job surge
• Senator ousts aide over Vets drug scandal
• ‘White dude fest’: Dems complain about lack of diversity on Team Hillary
• Power Index primes 2016 pump
• That’s not creepy at all…

END OF EXTENDED UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS CREDITED FOR JOB SURGE
WashEx: “Sixty percent of job creation in 2014 was caused by the expiration of unemployment benefits, according to a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. In late 2013, a standoff between Republicans and Democrats led to the abrupt expiration of long-term unemployment benefits. Democrats warned that the expiration would have disastrous ramifications, but Republicans had long argued that allowing Americans to collect unemployment benefits for an indefinite period of time provided a disincentive for them to work. The new working paper found that the expiration of benefits was responsible for the creation of over 1.8 million jobs. Nearly 1 million of those jobs were created by workers who would have otherwise stayed out of the labor force if unemployment benefits had been extended. Overall, almost 3 million jobs were created in 2014.”

[In the latest Gallup poll, President Obama’s approval rating has hit 50 percent for the first time since June 2013.]

GOP LEADERS PULL BORDER BILL, BLAME BLIZZARD
National Journal: “…on Capitol Hill, the inclement weather gave Republican leaders a chance to buy time to gather support for a controversial border security bill. The bill, meant to be considered on the House floor Wednesday, was pulled from the schedule Monday, a decision that leadership sources said was made because of the bad weather and the short week. House votes were cancelled Monday evening as members brace for the storm, and the House will recess Wednesday so Democrats can attend their annual retreat in Philadelphia. The measure, authored by Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, was facing opposition from conservatives…It is unclear when the bill will come back to the House floor. Current funding for DHS is scheduled to run out Feb. 28, so a significant showdown between Obama and Republicans on immigration is expected before then.”

Dems try to head off Iran sanctions - The Hill: “A pair of Democratic senators on Monday introduced a resolution in support of allowing nuclear negotiations with Iran to conclude before the passage of further sanctions. The resolution from Sens. Dianne Feinstein [D-Calif.] and Chris Murphy [D-Conn.] states that the Senate is prepared to consider additional sanctions against Iran if the talks fail, as opposed to a bill that will be considered by the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday, which would automatically impose sanctions if the talks fail. ‘This resolution represents a different approach than that of the sanctions bill pending in the Senate Banking Committee,’ a statement from Feinstein's office said. That bill, co-authored by Sens. Mark Kirk [R-Ill.] and Robert Menendez [D-N.J.] would impose new sanctions against Iran if the talks failed by a deadline of June 30 and no earlier than July 6. It also includes a presidential waiver if a deal is near. The White House opposes the bill and says it could derail the talks to roll back Iran's nuclear program.”

[Watch Fox: Chief Congressional Correspondent Mike Emanuel has the latest on Iran sanctions from Capitol Hill.]

Bickering continues over Benghazi committee rules - Fox News: “The chairman of the House select committee investigating the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya defended himself against criticism from Democrats that he had excluded them from meetings with witnesses.” 

DCCC $10 million in the hole - Roll Call: “The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will report raising more than $206 million during the 2014 cycle, a record total, according to a committee aide. The DCCC will start the 2016 cycle $10 million in debt. Also per the aide, that’s less than the $13.5 million in arrears the committee posted following the 2012 cycle. The committee will report the totals in its year-end fundraising report, which includes new filings from Nov. 25 through Dec. 31. In that time frame, the DCCC raised an additional $4.1 million, and had about $2.2 million in cash on hand.”

Grimes looks to stand pat after defeat - WaPo: “Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes [D] announced Monday that she will run for reelection, ending speculation the rising Democratic star might run for governor. ‘It’s been my honor to serve the people of Kentucky,’ Grimes wrote in a post on her Facebook page announcing her decision. ‘More than you can ever know, Andrew and I appreciate your love, your friendship and your support – today, in the past and in the future.’ Grimes challenged now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell [R] in one of the highest-profile contests of 2014.”

[Ed. note: Can you really be a “rising Democratic star” if you just lost a $100 million Senate race that was supposed to be a nail-biter by 16 points?]

SENATOR OUSTS AIDE OVER VETS DRUG SCANDAL
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Under fire for her office's inaction over alleged overmedication at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin [D-Wis.] abruptly ousted one of her top state staffers late last week. Marquette Baylor, deputy state director for Baldwin and chief of her Milwaukee office, was let go on Thursday without explanation. Baylor has been offered a cash payout as part of a severance package if the former aide agrees to keep her lips zipped. ‘It looks like they're trying to pin the blame on her,’ a source said of Baylor's dismissal by Baldwin. But Ryan Hon, a former Tomah VA employee who has acted as a whistle-blower, said Sunday that Baylor is just one of several Baldwin staffers who mishandled the matter and should be let go. He said he talked with Baylor for two hours in late November about the problems at the Tomah medical center and that the Baldwin aide discouraged him from going public with his concerns, saying that doing so might get her and others fired.”

[The Department of Veterans Affairs has launched the first part of an agency wide overhaul to better assist veterans receive their benefits.]

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...
50 years ago today, the Shelby GT 350 made its debut. The supercharged version of the Ford Mustang stayed in production throughout the 1960s and remains a valuable collector’s item. Carroll Shelby, was a high endurance race car driver before retiring to become a car designer. Shelby passed away in 2012 leaving an enduring and interesting legacy. Online buying guide, Supercompressor examined some little known facts about Shelby the man and Shelby the car. He quickly became one of the world’s best drivers when at his first road race, he took a British MG and beat his entire engine class and the class above him. Shelby was a stubborn man often driving races with major injuries and illness including broken hands and a bout of dysentery. The Shelby almost never materialized. It was a car designed with the sole purpose of allowing Ford to compete in the Sports Car Club of America series.

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

POLL CHECK
Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 45.8 percent//Disapprove – 49.2 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 32.2 percent//Wrong Track – 58.8 percent

‘WHITE DUDE FEST’: DEMS COMPLAIN ABOUT LACK OF DIVERSITY ON TEAM HILLARY
Daily Beast: “Does Hillary Clinton need binders full of women? Some Democrats, particularly women and people of color, think so…Their concern started after early leaks about heavy hitters recruited for the likely 2016 presidential candidate’s proto-campaign all had two distinct things in common: they were white and male….Consider the list of some top roles that would be filled when and if a campaign were launched, via The Washington Post: Her chief strategist and pollster: Joel Benenson. Her media adviser: Jim Margolis. Her campaign chairman: John Podesta. Her campaign manager: Robby Mook…This is not to say Hillary Clinton hasn’t been seeking any counsel from women or minorities. She is close to Maggie Williams, who became her campaign manager in 2008. Cheryl Mills, her former chief of staff at the State Department, is expected to be involved on some level in the campaign. Longtime aide Huma Abedin remains a trusted advisor. And political staffers Marlon Marshall and Brynne Craig are also expected to join any future Clinton campaign. But as it stands, white men dominate her inner circle, or at least leaks about her inner circle.”

[WaPo examines the considerable lack of depth in the potential 2016 Democratic field and how the nomination is Hillary’s for the taking.]

KOCH NETWORK SETS $889 MILLION SPENDING GOAL FOR 2016
USA Today: “Top officials in the Koch brothers’ political organization Monday released a staggering $889 million budget to fund the activities of the billionaires’ sprawling network ahead of the 2016 presidential contest. The budget, which pays for everything from advertising and data-gathering technology to grass-roots activism, was released to donors attending the annual winter meeting of Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, according to an attendee. Freedom Partners sits at the center of the vast operation, and in 2012 alone, spent nearly $240 million as it funded nearly three dozen organizations, ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to smaller Tea Party groups. … The spending, unrivaled for an outside organization, represents more than double the nearly $400 million the Republican National Committee [RNC] raised and spent during the 2012 presidential election cycle.”

[The latest USA Today/Suffolk poll shows the Republican field wide open with 45 percent of voters undecided about who the GOP should nominate for 2016.]

POWER INDEX PRIMES 2016 PUMP
Wow! We’re thrilled at the response to yesterday’s inaugural Fox News First 2016 Power Index. Many FNF readers emailed their thoughts and preferences, including John Phillip Sousa IV, chairman of a super PAC backing Ben Carson. Sousa argued that 10 was way too low a ranking for his preferred candidate. “With the organization that Ben Carson has and the reception he gets from HUGE crowds, he has to be ahead of [Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker],” Sousa wrote. “With his ability to get the black vote in the general, [Carson] is probably the only republican who can beat Hillary, or Joe or Warren.”

More from Fox News First readers…

“[Americans] are looking for a leader with a vision which quite simply means prosperity and safety for all Americans. Come on Mitt. Go all in for America.” Craig Petree, Wyoming

“I was so encouraged by Scott Walker’s appearance in Des Moines!  WOW!  When you look at what that man has accomplished in his own state...against all odds! I have no doubt that he could easily handle the job as president of the United States.” –Jean Witte, Indiana

“There is one distinctive individual that in my observations should warrant the most consideration by the Republican Party, and that is Dr. Ben Carson.  He has the greatest intellect of all of them, knowledge to either redesign or replace Obamacare and would undo the harm that Obama and his administration has done to this country.” –J.E. Taylor, Texas

“We need to have a candidate with real management/executive experience. We tried a rookie once and got no hope and a real bad change.” –CharlesJohnson, Kentucky

We’ll be back with our newest 2016 Power Index on Monday. Let us know what you think at FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.COM

[A different stripe - “Even if I’m elected to office, I’m not going to be a politician because they tend to do things that are politically expedient.  And I'm not trying to do things that are politically correct. Those are the things that the American people are looking for.” – Dr. Ben Carson, on “The Kelly File.” Watch here.]

Rubio: U.S. cannot ignore potential terror havens - New today at Fox News Opinion: Citing the lessons of 9/11, Sen. Marco Rubio writes that President Obama and his national security team have put the war on terror on hold. “Syria, Yemen, and Libya are all examples of our failure to learn one of the fundamental lessons of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 -- that failed and failing states breed instability and are potential safe havens for terrorists who will eventually turn their attention toward us. We also cannot afford to ignore another lesson of 9/11 and curtail intelligence gathering capabilities that have been legally and painstakingly established following those horrific attacks.”

Christie takes blizzard of ‘16 questions - The Hill: “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s [R] press conference on the blizzard that is bearing down on the East Coast was peppered with questions about his possible 2016 White House run.”

Corn-fed campaign - Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum continues his swing through Iowa today with a speech to the state’s ethanol trade group.

Branstad urges Jeb to speak at Iowa ag-business forum - Des Moines Register: “[Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad] disclosed that he spoke with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush about a week ago. Bush is considering an entry into the 2016 Republican presidential campaign. He said he urged Bush to attend the Iowa Agricultural Summit on March 7 in Des Moines, adding that Bush told him he was ‘very interested in coming.’”

[Des Moines Register: “Gov. Terry Branstad [R-Iowa] remained Tuesday morning at Iowa Methodist Medical Center, where he was rushed by ambulance Monday after collapsing while giving a speech. His staff said a "flu-like illness" apparently caused him to become woozy during a late-morning appearance…” 


THAT’S NOT CREEPY AT ALL
NPR reports on a new Seattle law that makes it illegal to put food in trash cans. City workers are enforcing the law and violators who have more than 10 percent food in the garbage will have their trash cans tagged. “I’m sure neighbors are going to see these on their other neighbors’ cans,” said Rodney Watkins, a lead driver for Recology CleanScapes, a garbage-collection contractor for the city. Seattle is the first city to enact fines against such acts and while San Francisco and Vancouver mandate composting, they don’t directly penalize residents. “Right now, I’m tagging probably every fifth can,” Watkins says. The new law is meant to help the city reach a recycling and composting rate of 60 percent. For now the tags are for informational purposes, the city plans to start collecting fine in July with single households paying $1 per violation but apartment, condo and commercial dwellers could have a $50 fine.

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The problem I have is that [Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri] the guy who supposedly was involved in this alleged swap was going to be released within about a year anyway…[u]nless you give them life imprisonment they’re going to get out and then they will be completely unshackled and then they can return and kill Americans and continue the jihad.” –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
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.