Budget deal: From ‘Hell no’ to ‘Alright’

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Buzz Cut:
• Budget deal: From ‘Hell no’ to ‘Alright’
• 11 days to ObamaCare deadline: Millions face coverage gap
• Hey girl, let’s go get some ObamaCare
• Bubba jumps after host busted for spying
• Megyn gets ‘Style’-ized

BUDGET DEAL: FROM ‘HELL NO’ TO ‘ALRIGHT’ - House members in both parties are swallowing hard on a budget deal set for debate and a possible vote today, but a pathway is clearing for the first long-term spending plan since 2007. As one House Republican was heard saying by Fox News First, he went from “Hell no” to “just plain no” to “alright.”  What turned the tide seems to have been a combination of brawn and brains. House Speaker John Boehner hit hard Wednesday against outside groups attacking the bill: “They're using our members and they're using the American people for their own goals. This is ridiculous.” A closed-door presentation from Budget Chairman Paul Ryan helped convince anxious conservative members that this represented some policy gains and not just a chance to steer around a politically damaging and distracting government shutdown. But will Democrats play along and deliver enough House votes to offset Republican defections?

Hidden leverage for Dems in deal? - Jonathan Strong reports at National Review: “The bill includes language from the Senate Democrats’ budget that voids senators’ ability to raise a budget ‘point of order’ against replacing the sequester cuts with tax increases. The process is quite complicated, but in practice it grants Harry Reid the authority to send tax increases to the House with a bare majority, rather than the 60-vote threshold that would be required under a point of order.”

BAIER TRACKS: SPEAKER TURNS UP THE VOLUME…“For all of the anger Speaker John Boehner aimed at various conservative groups for trying to kill the budget agreement – telling reporters yesterday, ‘It's ridiculous!!’ – I am told he was far more animated behind closed doors with the members of the Republican Conference. (I tried to get Congressman Tom Price, R-Ga., to spill the beans on that discussion when he took the Center Seat on our panel, but he didn't really bite.) Bottom line, Boehner has had it with those groups trying to divide Republicans and fundraise on the divisions. Expect more of these outbursts from the normally placid speaker.” – Bret Baier.

[Watch Fox: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., appears in the 10 a.m. ET hour]

Mitch way will he go? - Reports from the Daily Caller and The Hill say Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will refuse to back the budget plan on offer from Team Boehner. Fellow Kentuckian Rand Paul as well as Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., have already vowed to vote against the package and McConnell is still facing a primary challenge from the right back home. While McConnell’s staff wouldn’t tell Fox News which way the top Republican would vote, it may come down to numbers. If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid loses too many liberal members of his conference angry at the lack of extended welfare benefits in the package, McConnell may have to vote ‘yea’ in order to get to the 60-vote threshold. There are 56 Senate Democrats.

[“We have a government that continues spend more money than it takes in. Doing so at an alarming pace and our children have to pay for it…We'll have a debt crisis in this country. It will continue to destroy jobs, the function of the government, the national security. When will we get serious about dealing with this once and for all?” –Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., On “The Kelly File” Watch here. Read Rubio’s op-ed at Breitbart here.]

11 DAYS TO OBAMACARE DEADLINE: MILLIONS FACE COVERAGE GAP - Newly released administration numbers on ObamaCare enrollments reveal that millions of Americans who lost policies as a result of the law’s regulations have still been unable to sign up for coverage. For new policies to take effect by Jan. 1, consumers must enroll by Dec. 23. Nearly 15 million people who get their coverage through individual policies saw their insurance nixed under ObamaCare. But just over 365,000 Americans have been able to navigate the technical nightmares of ObamaCare’s online signup process to buy policies. And even among those determined few, coverage may still lapse. Insurance industry consultants tell investigative outfit ProPublica that customer’s first premiums must be paid before policies kick in. Some report that just 5 percent of ObamaCare enrollees have paid up so far. The digital failures of the program may result in a snail-mail nightmare as customers try to beat the clock.

[WSJ: “Insurers know that the hardest part of doing business in the individual market is getting customers to write a check. People are accustomed these days to automatic payroll deductions and the unseen lost wages of employer-sponsored insurance.”]

Life or death - WaPo: “One other challenge for patients with high medical bills has been figuring out which health insurance plans on the exchange meet their specific needs. Hemophiliacs, for example, can require $100,000 in monthly prescriptions -- making it crucial to determine whether a particular plan covers their medication.”

You’re covered! Just kidding… - Hill staffers who thought they had signed up for compulsory ObamaCare coverage got emails on Wednesday reading: “Please DO NOT ASSUME you are covered unless you have seen the Confirmation Letter from the Disbursing Office!” Read more from Chief Congressional Correspondent Mike Emanuel.

And how does that make you feel? - A recent Cornell University study reveals only half of the nation’s psychiatrists are likely to accept ObamaCare. Reuters shares the details.  

Missouri schools take ObamaCare hit - ObamaCare could spell cuts in hours for substitute teachers and the possibility of a $150,000 fine for Missouri schools. Washington Free Beacon has the details.

[The Chicago Tribune reports only 7,000 Illinoisans have signed up for ObamaCare.]

OBAMACARE CUTS TO IN-HOME CARE ABOUT TO KICK IN  - From Washington Examiner: “An estimated 3.5 million poor and ill homebound senior citizens will wake up on New Year's Day to discover Obamacare has slashed funding for their home health care program. It will happen because the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services quietly issued a regulation Nov. 22 announcing a 14-percent cut over the next four years in funding for the Home Health Care Prospective Payment program. The rule cuts Medicare payments to home health care providers by 3.5 percent each year beginning in 2014, for a total cut of 14 percent.

Doc shock hearing on Hill - A panel of doctors will appear before the House Oversight Committee today to testify about being dropped from patient provider networks because of ObamaCare. Policy experts will also share how ObamaCare’s mandates are affecting health insurance markets. Watch Fox: Chief Congressional Correspondent Mike Emanuel is following the hearings. 

SEBELIUS BOBS AND WEAVES ON OBAMA MEETINGS  - “A lot.”  That was the answer Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gave when pressed by Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., over how many times she met with President Obama prior to the botched rollout of ObamaCare. A frustrated Sebelius flapped her hands but offered no clear response to the question. Gingrey told Breitbart, “We witnessed more evasiveness from Secretary Sebelius as she bobbed and weaved her way through this… hearing.” He added, “Whether she was unable to answer basic questions or simply refused to do so, it has to stop. She has been tasked with overhauling one-sixth of the economy and so far, Obamacare has been one disaster after another.”

[“It seems awfully late for an inspector general to be investigating this and it seems to me that it offers the perfect excuse to say, ‘Well, we can’t answer any questions because the inspector general is investigating’” – Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani discussing Kathleen Sebelius request for an IG probe into the failures of healthcare.gov “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren ]  

Issa fumes over Sebelius gag order - The Health and Human Services Department has told contractors working on the problem-plagued ObamaCare website not to release documents to congressional investigators, a mandate slammed as “criminal obstruction” by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa in a letter to Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Fox News has the details.

[Watch Fox: Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., appears in the 1 p.m. ET hour] 

ObamaCare marketplace violating security law - Daily Caller reports ObamaCare’s Web site violated the Security Management Act because it did not perform a set of tests called “Security Control Assesments,” according to budget requests.

HEY GIRL, LET’S GO GET SOME OBAMACARE - People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive Adam Levine has been enlisted to use his sex appeal to boost ObamaCare enrollment. Bloomberg reports “The Voice” judge and Maroon 5 front man will be part of the administration’s social media push to promote the entitlement program to young people starting today.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD RAKES IN TAXPAYER DOUGH - America’s leading abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, received an average of $1.5 million a day in taxpayer funds in the previous fiscal year according to the group’s annual report. Daily Caller has the details.

WALK THE DINOSAUR - George Will writes on President Obama’s recent expressions of frustration with bloated and unwieldy government programs: “Obama’s tardy epiphanies do not temper his enthusiasm for giving sauropod government ever-deeper penetration into society. He thinks this serves equality. Actually, big government inevitably drives an upward distribution of wealth to those whose wealth, confidence and sophistication enable them to manipulate government.

DUBERSTEIN TAKES ON HARVARD CHAIR - Former Reagan and Bush 41 insider Ken Duberstein will become the next chairman of the Senior Advisory Committee at Harvard’s Institute of Politics. Duberstein, who served as Reagan’s Chief of Staff, succeeds now U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy.  In an announcement from Harvard Thursday, Duberstein says he’s looking forward to his chairmanship of the bi-partisan advisory group. “As the polarization of today’s Washington, D.C. continues to sour youth on politics, the aim of the Institute – to inspire the next generation to serve – has never been more important.” Joining Duberstein as a new member of the committee: The National Journal’s Ron Fournier, who’s been notably critical of the administration’s lack of transparency and handling of ObamaCare. Other new committee members include Rep. Joseph Kennedy, D-Mass., former Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, former Rep. Susan Molinari, R-N.Y. and former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz. Harvard’s announcement hits the internet later this morning.

BIG BRAIN CALLS FOR BIG HEARTS - Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, the leading think tank on the right, says it’s for conservatives to take the moral high ground. Brooks told  Roll Call that conservatives are not talking the right way about how free-market principles are designed to help the poor. “It’s the emphasis on the ‘why’ of our movement,” Brooks said. “And trying to look at the deep moral truths that enable our free-enterprise system to bestow its blessings on you and me and everybody else, especially those who aren’t as lucky as you and me.”

NUCLEAR FALLOUT HITS SENATE SCHEDULE - Senate Democrats may have changed the rules to prevent Republicans from blocking presidential nominees, but Senate Majority leader Harry Reid & Co. can’t stop the GOP from talking. Republicans have launched an around-the-clock series of speeches on the Senate floor to slow down Reid’s rocket docket of judicial appointments. The nominations must all be dealt with before lawmakers can take up any other business, including the tentative budget deal. Fox News has more.

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...AP's Director of Photography, Santiago Lyon, offers a scathing critique of the Obama White House’s unprecedented clamps on media access Orwellian Image Control for the NYT. “American presidents have often tried to control how they are depicted… but presidents in recent decades recognized that allowing the press independent access to their activities was a necessary part of the social contract of trust and transparency that should exist between citizens and their leaders… Until the White House revisits its draconian restrictions on photojournalists’ access to the president, information-savvy citizens, too, would be wise to treat those handout photos for what they are: propaganda.”

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POLL CHECK - Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 42.3 percent//Disapprove – 53.3 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29.1 percent//Wrong Track – 63.4 percent

BUBBA JUMPS AFTER HOST BUSTED FOR SPYING - Page Six reports former President Bill Clinton cancelled a speech at the Center for Global Dialogue and Cooperation gala in Vienna after he learned the group’s founder was arrested for economic espionage. CGDC founder Stamen Stantchev was sentenced in Romania to 11 years in prison for being a part of an alleged espionage network to steal state secrets and insider information to win consulting contracts. Bubba will be returning a bill totaling more than $300,000 for the cost of a private jet and hotel suite, according to a Clinton spokesperson.

HILLARY PREPPERS REACH FOR GRASSROOTS - The Ready for Hillary political action committee is broadening its fundraising appeal beyond the mega rich with regional events this week, including one in Washington D.C. Boosters of the former first lady’s incipient candidacy are invited to an event at Look restaurant in Northwest D.C. tonight. This follows events in California and Clinton’s onetime home state of Arkansas. More regional pushes to come as the focus shifts away from big bundlers to mobilizing a still-suspicious Democratic base.

A BUSH-BASHING BLOW TO OBAMA AND CLINTON - MSNBC host Rachel Maddow swings a heavy ax at the leadership vacuum left in the Republican Party after the Bush administration, but still cuts close to the bone on a similar phenomenon playing among Democrats in the Obama era. Maddow, writing at WaPo: “Unless Vice President Biden’s presidential hinting suddenly takes a turn for the serious, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton is the obvious inheritor of the party’s mantle. But, as in 2008, the Beltway may be overstating her inevitability. The grass roots aren’t all with her, frankly, and it’s yet to be seen if she’s interested in trying to win them over. Mainstream press may buy big-dollar donors (and more mainstream press), but it can’t buy the passionate volunteers and activists and excitement that are the oxygen for a winning campaign and sustained, effective leadership.”

THE DEMINTING OF THE LEFT? - BuzzFeed looks inside the controversial liberal group Progressive Change Campaign Committee, the super-aggressive brainchild of two former MoveOn.org staffers. Democrats may mock the brazen tactics of the group, but their laughter is starting to sound a bit reedy. To wit: “Now, though, Washington is a town where purity rules and a sense of shame has little use. On the right, Heritage Action — once a digital mirror image of PCCC — just accomplished a transformation from ridiculed gadfly to a central cause of the shutdown of the American government. And PCCC’s Democratic critics are increasingly loathe to discount the group’s high-profile successes, even as they attack its methods.”

THE JUDGE’S RULING: HIGHER AUTHORITY - Judge Andrew Napolitano examines moral imperatives for Americans through the lens of leaker Edward Snowden for Fox News Opinion in Conspiracy so Vast. “The conspirators all agreed that it would be a crime for any of them to reveal the conspiracy. Snowden violated that agreement in order to uphold his higher oath to defend the Constitution… This is more than just a constitutional violation; it is a violation of the natural right to be left alone.”

LEAKS SEND AIDE PACKING - Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., fired executive director Paul Teller for telling. Teller passed on talking points and strategy discussions from the group of House conservatives to outside activist groups, infuriating lawmakers who thought they were speaking in confidence. Outside groups are outraged that Teller got the boot for keeping them in the loop. Fox News has more.

FORMER  SENATE STAFFER TO ANSWER CHILD PORN CHARGES - Ryan Loskarn, former chief of staff for Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.,will be in court today to face charges that he distributed child pornography. Loskarn was arrested at his home on Wednesday following a federal investigation. Alexander cashiered Loskarn and named a new chief of staff within hours of the story breaking. David Cleary, formerly Alexander’s legislative director, moves to the top slot. Fox News has more.

YOU HAVE A SEAT ON THE PANEL: LET PATIENTS DECIDE - Put patients and families in charge of health care, not Washington. That sentiment, aired by Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., found all political parties agreeing when he joined Wednesday’s “Special Report with Bret Baier” All-Star Panel. Bing Pulse measured a spike in audience participation when Price said he feels the government has “an obligation to make sure that every American has health care and the opportunity to gain health coverage that they select, not that they are forced to buy.”

Discussion of ObamaCare’s latest enrollment numbers also heightened viewer interaction. Democrats, Republicans and independents agreed with Weekly Standard Senior Writer Stephen Hayes' claim that only a fraction of a fraction of those the administration claims have enrolled actually have coverage. Votes from audience-panelists soared to 21,000 votes per minute when Charles Krauthammer charged the numbers were a “train wreck” and they were solely something for Democrats “to hang their hats on and pretend everything is okay.” Bing Pulse tallied 239,000 viewer votes during the panel. Take a deeper data dive and see the full results here and don’t miss your opportunity to take a seat on the panel.

PIPE DOWN! - A House panel is taking up a new FCC proposal that could permit in-flight phone calls, as the commission holds an open meeting on the matter. Many lawmakers have already voiced their opposition, including Sen. Lamar Alexander,R-Tenn. and Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., both promising to introduce legislation to restrict phone use if the FCC changes its rules. The Association of Flight Attendants also opposes the rule change. A new Quinnipiac poll shows American’s oppose the rule change by a two-to-one margin.  Watch Fox : Correspondent Doug McKelway is following the latest developments.  

BLURRED LINES IN N.Y. HOUSE RACE - Investments by Democrat Sean Eldridge to Hudson Valley businesses are raising concerns that his venture capital firm has become a de facto political group aimed at bolstering his congressional campaign. Eldridge, the spouse of tech mogul, Obama insider and New Republic Publisher Chris Hughes, is touting the investments in campaign ads aimed at unseating Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y. Lachlan Markay has the details at the Washington Free Beacon.

ABOUT THAT GLOBAL WARMING TREATY…According to insurance broker Willis Re, 2013 had the lowest number of hurricanes since 1982, with only two storms. The result of a quiet season is good news for insurance companies because it not only results in fewer payouts but for consumers, as well, as it drives down reinsurance prices. Reuters has more.

TRIPPIN’ - Thamsanqa Jantjie, the man called a “fake” for his incoherent sign language interpretations during Nelson Mandela’s memorial service is defending himself. He told AP the reason for his erratic gestures was that he was hallucinating. Jantjie said he had visions of angels while walking into the stadium in Johannesburg and was trying not to panic because there were “armed policemen all around me.” Fox News has more.

FROM ONE #43 TO ANOTHER - Words of praise have been few and far between for the University of Alabama’s Cade Foster after he missed three field-goal attempts in his team’s heartbreaking loss to Auburn. However, he still has at least one loyal fan in former President George W. Bush. Bush recently penned a personal letter to the kicker reading, “Dear Cade (#43), Life has its setbacks. I know! However, you will be a stronger human with time. I wish you all the best. Sincerely, another 43, George Bush.” Foster shared a photo of the letter on his Twitter account Wednesday. AP has the story.

MEGYN GETS ‘STYLE’-IZED - WaPo writer Dan Zak puzzles over who the real Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly is and seems to conclude that the TV version isn’t much different from the real thing. “Moderation is a theme in Megyn Kelly’s favorite film, the 1971 “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” a poster of which hangs prominently in her home. She loves the magic of it, the possibility of it, the I-can-change-my-life of it. She loves watching greedy little Veruca Salt disappear down the trash chute, another bad egg bound for justice. Her slate-blue eyes widen, her nostrils flare and she begins to quote the movie. ‘Don’t forget what happened to the boy who suddenly got everything he wanted,’ she says with an edge, like it’s a warning, even though it’s really the set up for a reversal, and for a description of her life right now.”

SNOOZERS ARE LOSERS - Maria Konnikova shares why you may want to reconsider hitting that snooze button in the morning. From the New Yorker: “It may seem like you’re giving yourself a few extra minutes to collect your thoughts. But what you’re actually doing is making the wake-up process more difficult and drawn out. If you manage to drift off again, you are likely plunging your brain back into the beginning of the sleep cycle, which is the worst point to be woken up—and the harder we feel it is for us to wake up, the worse we think we’ve slept.”

AND NOW A WORD FROM CHARLES…“The administration speaks about having had 3 and one-third million signed up by the end of December. They are 3 million short as of now. There is no way it is conceivable that they could sign up that number and even if they did it is not conceivable that the insurers could hand-match the information. I think all of this is to assuage Democrats to give them something to hang their hats on and pretend everything is okay on the recess, but the beginning of January is going to be a train wreck for them.” – 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.