Can McConnell thaw the Senate without getting soaked?

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Buzz Cut:
• Can McConnell thaw the Senate without getting soaked?
• Jeb launches PAC
• Cowboys owner paid for Christie’s private jet flight
• Warren not backing off Hillary Wall Street knock
• Scrabble rabble

The 114th Congress gets underway today in a snowy Washington with all the media attention on the noisy effort by a small group of Republican foes of House Speaker John Boehner to embarrass the GOP leader by denying him a first-ballot victory in his election to a third term. But the real action is over in the other chamber, where we will see the first test of incoming Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s effort to reopen the Senate for actual legislation following years of his predecessor’s Heat Miser-style deep freeze.

[The Hill is keeping a running list on Republicans who are opposing Boehner. Here is where the count stands.]

Piped in - The first order of business in the Senate is a bipartisan bill to force the Obama administration to allow an oil pipeline from Canada to be completed. The eventual Keystone XL vote will be the first test of McConnell’s plan to revive the Senate, which seized up during the Harry Reid-era,. For much of Reid’s reign, even Democrats were usually forbidden to introduce or alter legislation on their own. Today marks the return to “regular order” and the first test of McConnell’s effort to thaw things out. And it comes with considerable risk. Democrats have a plan to punish McConnell for the move by not just killing the bill but bedeviling the process. There seem to be the six Democratic votes needed to advance the legislation, however Reid and his presumed eventual successor, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have hopes of hopes of breaking up the bipartisan fun and protecting President Obama from having to veto the popular plan.

“I think we’ve got all 54 Republicans, looks like they’ll be original co-sponsors and more than half a dozen Democrats. The votes are there.” – Sen-elect Ben Sasse, R-Neb., on the Senate Keystone XL pipeline bill, on “FOX & Friends” this morning.

Tougher path - McConnell is expected to preserve the biggest Reid-era change: lowering the threshold for confirming presidential nominees other than Supreme Court justices from 60 votes to 51 votes. But by reassuming the old, open Senate rules that give broad latitude to all members of both parties to introduce bills and amendments, McConnell is making his job much harder. Not only will he face hijinks from Democrats, but he will give up Reid’s policy of handcuffing problematic members of his own party.

[Watch Fox: Chief Congressional Correspondent Mike Emanuel covers the start of the 114th Congress.]

Horror films have been scaring audiences for years. The person who seeks out the thrill and fear is very different from one who seeks out a drama or a comedy. Studies have shown that the terror in these films induces physiological responses similar to “fight-or-flight”. The New Republic examines personality traits associated with the majority of horror film seekers. The first characteristic is a lack of empathy where studies have shown that participants with strong emotional feelings were more likely to be distressed by the movies. Viewers who tend to be more aggressive and thrill-seeking also tend to find violent scenes funny and exciting. Previous research indicated that when the audience was male with only 2 percent of men experienced negative side effects after viewing a film, though newer studies show that women may be catching up to men in this regard. In a final trait, an offshoot of previous conclusions, viewers of scary films tend to be men accompanied by frightened women. Research has shown that men tend to enjoy these films more when accompanied by a woman who was troubled by the film.

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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 44.1 percent//Disapprove – 51.5 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 27.5 percent//Wrong Track – 64.3 percent

In his most direct step yet towards a 2016 White House bid, Jeb Bush will be filling paperwork today to officially launch his leadership political action committee, which will be called the Right to Rise PAC. In a statement to Fox News, a source close to the former Florida governor said, “We will celebrate success and risk taking, protect liberty, cherish free enterprise, strengthen our national defense, embrace the energy revolution, fix our broken and obsolete immigration system, and give all children a better future by transforming our education system through choice, high standards and accountability.” The Right to Rise PAC would also help pay the expenses of a burgeoning staff, polling, and finance Bush trips across the country as a possible 2016 contender. The formation of this leadership PAC as well as a separate super PAC by Bush supporters – could be used to flush other GOP potential aspirants out of the 2016 field, by essentially, flexing the formidable financial strength of Jeb’s donor network. Bush is holding a private fundraiser Wednesday, in Greenwich, Conn., and more fundraising events are planned in Florida and Washington, D.C. in the next few weeks, as are meetings with major donors.– More from Fox News here.

[Watch Fox: Campaign Carl Cameron has the latest on Jeb’s move.]

And none too soon - Reflecting the reality of 2016 frontrunner status, Jeb is already facing ramped-up scrutiny of his views on same-sex marriage. Reacting to a judge’s ruling allowing gay couples to wed in parts of the former Florida governor’s home state, he told the Miami Herald Sunday “It ought be a local decision. I mean, a state decision,” The state decided. The people of the state decided. But it’s been overturned by the courts, I guess.” NYT, citing his long time opposition to same-sex marriages, said Bush “…struck a conciliatory note on Monday, telling The New York Times that ‘regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law.’…Gay rights leaders said they found Mr. Bush’s statement on Monday encouraging. Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a group that has pushed for same-sex marriage, said that ‘most Republican politicians have been adamant in their opposition and provide no room for evolution.’  Mr. Bush ‘at least is expressing his respect for those who support marriage equality,’ Mr. Sainz said. ‘That’s a big change for Republicans.’”

On same-sex marriage, a consistent view but changing language - Buzzfeed reaches back two decades with a deep dive on Jeb Bush’s views on same-sex marriage. “Two decades ago, Jeb Bush wrote there should be no special rights for LGBT people. ‘This opinion editorial from 20 years ago does not reflect Gov. Bush’s views now, nor would he use this terminology today,’ a spokeswoman said. Jeb Bush has said gay couples shouldn’t be ‘discriminated against.’ He has argued that same-sex parents who ‘love their children with all their heart and soul’ are ‘examples to others.’ … The former Florida governor hasn’t changed his position on same-sex marriage. He opposes it, and has since he first ran for office more than 20 years ago.

But Bush’s recent, somewhat sympathetic language about LGBT rights provides a marked contrast to his early comments on the issue – more in rhetoric than policy.”]

Romney sets speech to key N.Y. business group - News Day: “Former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will be the featured speaker at the Long Island Association’s biannual luncheon in March, the Island’s largest business organization said Monday. The March 25 event will feature a one-on-one discussion with Romney led by LIA president Kevin Law…Past guest speakers include former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.”

The New Jersey Star Ledger reports that a trip by Gov. Chris Christie to watch a Dallas Cowboys game, which included a private jet, was paid for by team owner, Jerry Jones. The governor’s spokesman Kevin Roberts, said, “Governor Christie attended the game last night as a guest of Jerry Jones, who provided both the ticket and transportation at no expense to New Jersey taxpayers.” Despite the criticism for his junkets and love for one of the most hated teams in his home state, Christie said he might do it again and fly to Wisconsin for Sunday’s Cowboys-Packers showdown.

Santorum to huddle with top aides - Bloomberg: “The hour of decision is drawing near. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has invited several former aides to a ‘private briefing’ in Washington, DC, next week….”

Carson Super PAC lifts off - Buzzfeed: “The man behind the Draft Ben Carson for President Committee has launched a new super PAC that will snap into action when Carson announces a presidential bid, he said on Monday. …The Draft Ben Carson for President Committee has raked in huge amounts of cash, receiving $12,027,461 according to the latest FEC tally. It has also spent nearly as much as it’s taken in: $11,265,270.”

WBZ: “…[We] asked [Sen. Elizabeth Warren] if her indictment [of corporate influence over Congress] included former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a major beneficiary of Citigroup political donations over the years. ‘I’m just calling out the problem we have right now in Washington, and Citigroup is an example of these big corporations who have undue influence right there in Washington,’ said Warren. Asked if the public should be wary of Citigroup ties to Clinton and current Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who was chief operating officer of Citigroup in the years prior to the 2008 financial meltdown, Warren said: ‘The public should absolutely be wary of the influence of Citigroup and other large financial corporations and the power they wield in Washington.’”

Another hire for Hillary - Politico: “The high-dollar super PAC that plans to support a Hillary Clinton presidential candidacy is bringing on a new finance director to aid it with the daunting task of raising hundreds of millions of dollars for 2016.  Justin Brennan, who worked on President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign and also raised money for Clinton in 2008, is expected to join Priorities USA as its finance director in the coming weeks, four people familiar with the hire said.”

Australian Broadcasting reports that the country’s Scrabble Players Association is set to reverse the suspension of Mohammed Hegazi, who was banned from playing the board game competitively for one year. The allegations included bullying, intimidation and cheating. A court overturned the ban and ordered the group to print a retraction on Hegazi’s behalf. However the cheating allegations remained and Hegazi was ordered to pay the association’s court costs of just over $3,000. Hegazi fought the deal, though ultimately agreed to the original terms, saying “I'm a bit disappointed because the definition is not legally clear.”

“Republicans are going to have a chance to show how retroactively for the last six years everything has stopped in the Senate - Democrats stopped it, Harry Reid stopped it and they effectively acted as a shield to make [President Obama] look as if he wasn't the one stopping stuff.  Well, now he’s going to be exposed because he’s going to have to exercise the veto.” – 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