Architect undermines ObamaCare foundation

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Buzz Cut:
• Architect undermines ObamaCare foundation
• Border crisis saps support for ‘pathway’
• War College may strip senator’s degree
• Poll: Roberts leads, but Wolf gaining in Kansas
• A very Canadian tidal wave

Voters got to know Jonathan Gruber in 2012 when the Obama campaign put the health care policy wonk forward to shut down ObamaCare attacks from Republican nominee Mitt Romney. President Obama was so eager to play up Gruber’s role as a chief architect of ObamaCare because Gruber had been a chief architect of Romney’s state-level health law. Elevating Gruber allowed the campaign to deliver his lines with greater crack: “The core of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare and what we did in Massachusetts are identical," says Gruber in one campaign ad. While Gruber may have helped neuter Romney’s ObamaCare attacks, he may end up helping to neuter the law itself thanks to a video unearthed by free-market think tank the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Gruber, an MIT professor who has become a Democratic health care talking head, also gets paid for talking to industry groups about ObamaCare. In one 2012 speech, Gruber talked about the provision in the law that has state governments administer enrollments, including subsidies. “I think what’s important to remember politically about this is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits,” said Gruber, a MIT professor, in a speech two years ago. Why is that problematic? Because it directly contradicts what the administration argued in court about a lawsuit that could be “devastating” to ObamaCare because it would end the subsidies paid to enrollees in the states that did not voluntarily comply.

The preferred talking point for pro-administration groups has been to dismiss the subsidy gap as a clerical error, not an intentional policy. It goes like this: Congress meant to provide a way to work around non-compliant states, but didn’t get the wording right. It was, in the words of one administration insider deployed to knock down the court decision, a typo. And who was that insider? You guessed it: Jonathan Gruber. This matters not because it is an embarrassing deception for an academic to be caught in, but because it suggests the falsity of the administration’s claim that this was a glitch and not a feature. The administration was eager to highlight Gruber’s role in order to shame Romney, making it hard now to suggest that he was some peripheral figure. Whether this matters in the expected Supreme Court decision is a matter for the legal eagles to consider, but from a messaging point of view this is a Krakatoa-sized eruption.

The plan pretty plainly was to do on subsidies what the administration has tried to do on Medicaid expansion: pressure governors who do not comply and create talking points for Democratic candidates. It’s just that so many states refused to set up their own ObamaCare shops, including those with supportive governors. The rest of the actual glitches in the law and technology made even some liberal governors opt out and kick the can back to Washington. If the White House can’t argue publicly that this is some silly technicality it goes straight to the heart of the main problem with ObamaCare and voters: they don’t think it works.

A very troublesome agency - WSJ’s Kimberly Strassel points out that the agency behind the regulation that may sink ObamaCare is the same one that has left the administration embroiled in a political scandal: “The IRS (famed for nitpicking and prosecuting the tax law), chose to authorize hundreds of billions of illegal subsidies without having performed a smidgen of legal due diligence, and did so at the direction of political taskmasters. The agency's actions provided aid and comfort to elected Democrats, even as it disenfranchised millions of Americans who voted in their states to reject state-run exchanges. And Treasury knows how ugly this looks, which is why it initially stonewalled Congress in its investigation—at first refusing to give documents to investigators, and redacting large portions of the information.”

New round of ObamaCare delays, waivers - Fox News: “The Obama administration is coming under fire for once again making a unilateral change to ObamaCare -- this time, quietly exempting the five U.S. territories and their more than 4 million residents from virtually all major provisions of the health care law. The decision was made a week ago, and was a long time coming. For months, the territories have been complaining that the law was implemented so poorly in their regions that it destabilized their insurance markets. Until now, the Department of Health and Human Services claimed its hands were tied. But last Wednesday, the department reversed course. The about-face has some questioning the department's authority to suddenly grant 4.1 million Americans an out from ObamaCare. …”

A new Fox News poll finds a marked drop in support for the administration’s immigration policy. Support for a “path to citizenship” for illegal immigrants in country sank 7 points since May to 60 percent. At the same time, 24 percent of respondents, a rise of 6 points, said illegal migrants should be sent back to their home country. Fifty six percent of voters surveyed disapprove of Obama’s handling of the current border crisis, 31 percent approve. The poll’s respondents were more closely split on what should be done with the mostly juvenile migrants: 45 percent said they should be deported immediately, 40 percent said they should be allowed to stay.

[President Obama meets today with the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador today to discuss the ongoing flood of migrants from Central America.]

Border bill scrum – With clock rapidly running out before Congress recesses for August, both sides are under pressure to take action to deal with the border crisis, but that doesn’t mean politics is taking a back seat. House Republican are pushing a $1.5 billion proposal to provide essential funding for border agencies and alter laws to enable quicker deportation of illegal juvenile migrants. But Democrats are upping the ante, daring Republicans to vote against their fatter $2.7 billion bill, with includes no changes to deportation restrictions, by attaching additional funds to help Israel replenish its Iron Dome anti-missile system. Not to be cowed, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has introduced  a standalone Iron Dome measure in the Senate where, of course, Majority Leader Harry Reid has allowed many a GOP measure to languish. The prospects for a deal before the clock runs out are looking increasingly slim.

Which is better—merging as soon as “LEFT LANE CLOSED AHEAD” signs are in view or cutting the line at the last minute? Minnesota and Washington Departments of Transportation now encourage drivers to be ill-mannered and cut to the front. Ars Technica: “There’s a name for it: late merging, though advocates prefer the term ‘zipper merging’ because it doesn’t have a negative connotation. According to Ken Johnson, a Minnesota State Work Zone, Pavement Marking, and Traffic Devices engineer, ‘We want people to merge at the point we’re asking them to, so it’s not ‘late,’ per se.’ It works as follows: in the event of an impending lane closure, drivers should fill in both lanes in equal measure. Within a few car lengths of a lane ending, both lanes’ cars should take turns filling in the open lane and resuming full speed.”

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

Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 42.4 percent//Disapprove – 52.9 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 26 percent//Wrong Track – 63.8 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 42.2 percent// Republicans 40.8 percent

Fox News: “An academic review board at the United States Army War College Thursday formally notified the office of a Montana senator [facing voters in November] that it would review a report he plagiarized passages in a graduate paper, Fox News has learned. Fox was told possible consequences for Sen. John Walsh, [D-Mont.,] if the report was found to be true, could include revocation of his master’s degree. Walsh suggested Wednesday that medication he took for post-traumatic stress disorder after service in Iraq may have been responsible for apparently plagiarized passages. His office told Fox it would cooperate with the War College inquiry. Earlier, it released a statement saying, ‘Senator Walsh included 96 citations for a 14-page paper at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He acknowledges the citations were not all done correctly, but that it was an unintentional mistake.’ It also claimed the paper was not a thesis, as had been reported earlier…The senator is running against Republican Rep. Steve Daines to keep the seat Walsh was appointed to in February when Max Baucus resigned to become U.S. ambassador to China.”

Walsh will stay in the race - AP: “Asked if Walsh was considering abandoning his race for election to the Senate against Republican Rep. Steve Daines, campaign spokeswoman Lauren Passalacqua said: ‘Absolutely not.’”

[Schweitzer passes - “Under state law, Walsh has until August 11, 85 days before the election, to withdraw from the race and allow the Montana Democratic Party to select a replacement. However, a source close to [former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer] told The Daily Beast that ‘there is no chance’ that Schweitzer would replace Walsh on the ballot in November…”]

Crispy - “He was looking pretty toasty before. I would say this is bacon now. I would say this is all cooked. I don’t know what else is going to happen. … But the size, the magnitude of this error and how it relates to the core part of his biography, I would say this will probably scupper this campaign.” Chris Stirewalt to Megyn Kelly on “The Kelly File”

Republicans are hoping to pick up an additional six seats to gain control of the Senate this November. Which Democrat-held seats will prove to be the most likely flips for the red team? The current consensus among Fox News First readers: Arkansas (13.5%), Louisiana (11.9%), Montana (11.7%), West Virginia (11%), South Dakota (10.3%) and North Carolina (10.1%). In this week’s installment of Political Pros, Republican strategist Lisa Boothe and Democratic strategist Arley Johnson join host Chris Stirewalt to pick their six. Are their choices the same as Fox News First readers? Watch their predictions here. Then, how will foreign policy shift the balance in the midterm elections? Johnson and Boothe weigh in. Watch here.

Readers say… - Fox News First reader Nadine hopes the Republicans are able to pick a dozen seats this fall but thinks Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Montana, Iowa and West Virginia are the six more likely to flip red.

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

Concerned Veterans for America, a conservative non-profit advocacy group, will debut a seven-figure TV ad today hitting Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, on the reports that he missed more than three quarters of his Veterans’ Affairs committee hearings in the time leading up to the VA waiting-list scandal. “The VA is failing our veterans… Congress was warned, but Bruce Braley ignored it,” the narrator says in the 30 second spot. “When our veterans needed him Bruce Braley was AWOL.” The ad ends urging voters to call Braley to reform the VA. Braley faces state Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, in November.

KSN: “Ahead of the Republican primary on August 5, Senator Pat Roberts, [R-Kan.] leads conservative primary challenger Milton Wolf by 20 points. …It is down from a 33 point lead that Roberts had in June when the last KSN News Poll was conducted….”

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. and Republican challenger Ed Gillespie will battle it out in their first debate Saturday. Warner is ahead in the polls, but Gillespie has continued to try to tie Warner to President Obama. This week, Warner avoided questions about whether he would welcome the president on the campaign trail.

The (Raleigh, N.C.) News & Observer: “U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan’s own words about curtailing the nation’s debt are now being used against her in the latest attack ad from a Republican-aligned outside group. Crossroads GPS, a conservative nonprofit that can take unlimited contributions and doesn’t disclose its donors, start[ed] a new ad Thursday that contrasts the Democratic senator’s words from 2010 with her voting record…It claims Hagan voted to raise the nation’s debt ceiling by more than $5 trillion. The kicker: ‘Tell Senator Hagan to stop making the debt worse, support the balanced budget amendment.’ The ad is part of the organization’s ongoing TV ad campaign that began in May and totals $3.6 million. It does not expressly ask viewers to vote against Hagan, but it is designed to help boost Republican candidate Thom Tillis in the U.S. Senate race.”

[In his mind, she’s going back to Washington - Folk singer James Taylor strums up support for Hagan. The incumbent Senator will raffle off two tickets to Taylor’s concert and a backstage meeting.]

West Virginia senate candidate Rep. Shelley Moore Capito’s, R-W.Va., campaign hits Democratic Secretary of State opponent Natalie Tennant for accepting ad support from the anti-coal billionaire Tom Steyer backed Senate Majority PAC that will begin airing today. “Natalie Tennant has repeatedly denounced those who threaten our coal and our values while accepting their support behind voters’ backs,” said Capito for Senate spokesperson Amy Graham. “Now that Obama’s liberals are trying to save her sinking campaign, Natalie Tennant can no longer hide her true intentions. The fact is, these people wouldn’t be supporting her if they believed she would stand up to them in the Senate.”

[WaPo: “[Senate Majority PAC] will spend a little more than $200,000 on broadcast advertisements attacking Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) in the Beckley, Charleston and Clarksburg markets… Returning to West Virginia, where Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D) is retiring and where President Obama is deeply unpopular, could represent Democratic efforts to expand the Senate playing field and save their majority.”]

Washington Free Beacon: ‘Sen. Mark Begich (D., Alaska) is fundraising on his desire to put an end to gender pay inequality, but women currently working in his Senate office are making just 71 cents for each dollar paid to men. ‘Alaska women make just 74 cents on the dollar compared to Alaska men,’ wrote Begich in an email to supporters this week. ‘And anyone who wants to tell Alaska women that they’re not working hard enough should be ready to find out just how tough Alaska women are.’ The average female salary in Begich’s office is a staggering $23,504 less than the average male salary. Women working for Begich are paid just 71 cents for each dollar paid to men, even less than the statewide statistic used by the senator in his email.’

Nashua Telegraph: “Two leading Senate Republicans, quickly followed by GOP candidate for governor Walt Havenstein, on Thursday accused Gov. Maggie Hassan [D-N.H.] of seeking – without legal authority – to apply the state tax on real estate to shorter-term leases of property.”

Daily Caller: “Possible Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton admitted on Thursday she needs to ‘work on her expectations’ of servile treatment from the press — although her explanation seemed to reveal continued disappointment that reporters are less deferential than when she was secretary of state. Clinton spoke with journalist John Harwood on NPR’s ‘On Point’ radio program. The New York Times reporter asked about recent comments from former NYT editor Jill Abramson, in which she claimed Hillary has ‘incredibly unrealistic’ expectations of journalists — particularly female ones — to be ‘100 percent in her corner.’ ‘Have you been so scalded by your past interactions that it makes it difficult for you to communicate in the way that you would need to as a presidential candidate or otherwise?’ Harwood asked. ‘Well, I don’t think so,’ Clinton replied. ‘I think maybe one of the points Jill was making is that, you know, I do, sometimes, expect more than perhaps I should. And I’ll have to work on my expectations.’ ‘But I had an excellent relationship with the State Department press that followed me for four years, and enjoyed working with them,’ she added. ‘And whatever I do in the future I look forward to having the same kind of opportunity.’”

[Carson tops Hillary in book sales last week – Daily Caller: “[Dr. Ben Carson]’s ‘One Nation’ significantly outsold Clinton’s ‘Hard Choices’ for the week ending July 20. While Clinton’s book sold 10,000 copies, Carson’s sold 16,000.”

Huddle up - Fox News: “After a brutal week for the White House communications team as President Obama took heat for fundraising amid a series of foreign policy crises, Press Secretary Josh Earnest hosted three of his predecessors from [former President Bill Clinton’s] administration for a strategy session on Thursday. Earnest and White House Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri hosted a lunch to chat with former White House press secretaries Mike McCurry, Joe Lockhart, and Jake Siewert.”

[Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass said in an interview with WGBH radio, he doesn’t think about Hillary so much because “it’s not like [they’re] pals.”]

(Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal: “U.S. Sen. Rand Paul[, R-Ky.] takes his crusade for a more inclusive Republican Party to Cincinnati [today], where he will talk to a national civil rights conference about reforming education and changing the criminal justice system to enhance opportunities among minorities. The potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate and Kentucky’s junior senator said in an interview with The Courier-Journal Thursday that he considers his remarks before the National Urban League Conference to be a major speech that will outline issues that ‘have the ability maybe to attract new voters to the Republican Party and to our cause.’ ‘The great equalizer for people of any background is getting a good education, but the education people are getting is not equal,’ Paul said. To change that, state and local governments must embrace alternatives ‘allowing more choices, allowing for vouchers, allowing for charter schools, and just sort of admitting that there are good public schools and bad public schools.’”

[Iowa GOP announced Paul will make 3-day swing across state in early August to open grassroots victory centers.]

‘Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace’ -
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor and Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi will discuss efforts to end the fighting in Gaza. Plus, incoming House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., will discuss the next moves for the House GOP. “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’ - Host Howard Kurtz will tackle the media tangles around the Israeli and Hamas conflict as well as the contentious coverage of the war in Ukraine. Watch “#mediabuzz” Sunday at 11 a.m. ET, with a second airing at 5 p.m.

Buzzfeed: “Two top veterans of President Obama’s campaigns are asking political campaigners to pay $5,000 per person for the chance to learn their secrets and then work for five weeks in an unpaid campaign job somewhere in America. Democratic operatives and progressive activists are questioning this training program launched by Obama campaign architects Mitch Stewart and Jeremy Bird. The $5,000 program promises access to the wizardry of Obama’s presidential bids — and a five-week, unpaid gig on an ‘important Democratic campaign.’ Run by Bird and Stewart’s consulting company, 270 Strategies, the new program’s emphasis on placing paying customers in essentially volunteer roles on Democratic campaigns is atypical in the campaign training industry, and some Democrats say it sets a dangerous precedent. The firm’s first-ever ‘270/360 Training Intensive’ program is scheduled to begin in September.  The program’s website describes a six-week program, consisting of five days of ‘intensive’ campaign training at 270’s Chicago HQ featuring Stewart and Bird and other ‘architects of the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns,’ followed by five weeks of volunteer work on an ‘an important Democratic campaign in the United States.’”

While spending the day on their boat, Wanda Stead, along with her husband, Rick, ventured close to an iceberg near the Newfoundland’s coast to capture a video, passed along to Canada’s CBC. When large chunks of the iceberg crashed into the water it created a wave of emotion in Wanda “Run, Rick, go— GO!,” Wanda screams in the video. “All I could see was this tidal wave coming toward us,” she told CBC. Rick paid heed to his wife’s blood curdling cries and the couple fled. But when the wall of water rolled out it was a very polite tidal wave indeed.

“World opinion is now inflamed over the shooting of the civilian airliner. World opinion on its own is useless. It’s ephemeral and without leadership it does nothing. You have to galvanize it. The Europeans have done nothing except add a couple of names onto a list of people who get their assets frozen and who are denied a visa, so they can’t vacation in Disney World. That is not exactly going to bring down the Russian economy.’ 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