Planned Parenthood fight roils ObamaCare debate

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On the roster: Planned Parenthood fight roils ObamaCare debate - Star recruit Mattis said to clash with Trump team - D-Day for Trump on Russia hacks - Power Play: New Congress doomsday for Obamacare? - Men are from Mars, and so are women, apparently

They tell us that everything is new in politics after the 2016 election.

And it’s true… except for all of the issues and 99 percent of the people.

The longstanding fight over the approximately half-billion federal tax dollars provided to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of abortions, has reasserted itself with a vengeance in Washington this week.

Having forgotten the part about “elections have consequences,” Democrats seemed surprised to learn that the ObamaCare repeal measure to be put forward by House Speaker Paul Ryan will include stripping federal funds from the group.

They shouldn’t have been. The same provision was in Ryan’s previous ObamaCare repeal plan and it’s something the speaker and almost all Republicans agree on.

Planned Parenthood has been on the receiving end of federal funds for more than 40 years and is sacrosanct to most Democrats. Since 1977, the group has not been able to use federal funds directly to provide abortions and says that taxpayer dollars support other programs like free birth control and gynecological exams.

Republicans scoff, pointing out that money spent to build, staff and service a clinic is, at least, an indirect subsidy for the abortions.

The issue is controversial now because of the Republican migration towards the pro-life position over the last 20 years. President-elect Donald Trump’s own about face on the subject is reflective of the shift in his party. Trump went from defending partial-birth abortion in 1999 to “totally against abortion” in 2016.

More on that later…

Ryan’s affirmation that shutting off the spigot for Planned Parenthood was still part of his plan will have some interesting political consequences as it relates to ObamaCare.

First, it will tend to calm conservative Republicans who are anxious about a potential bait-and-switch on the repeal. There is growing disquiet in the House and Senate about a plan that calls for repealing in principle now, but not in actuality for two or three years.

Reminding Republicans that other priorities are part of that package will certainly help some on the right accept Ryan’s piecemeal approach.

Democrats are, predictably, incensed. That’s probably okay with Ryan too. This is a major wedge issue for the left. The most ardent proponents of maintaining access for elective abortions are just as intense as their counterparts on the pro-life right.

Whatever policy or messaging priorities Democrats may have, this will create a new center of gravity in the debate. Plus, Ryan wasn’t expecting any Democratic help in the House to pass the repeal. It’s not like they can vote against it twice because they really, really hate it.

The Senate, though, could be a little trickier.

Because of the procedural gimmick Republicans plan to use to pass the repeal through the upper chamber – the same one used by Democrats to pass the law – they only need 51 votes. But then again, they only have 52.

When Republicans passed a similar plan from Ryan through the Senate from 2015, the Planned Parenthood provision cost Republicans two votes. One, Illinois’ Mark Kirk, is a Senator no more. The other, Susan Collins of Maine, is still very much around.

But, they can still lose Collins and count on Vice President-elect Mike Pence in his new capacity as president of the Senate to break the tie in the GOPs favor.

Given the new realities for red-state Democrats, like the suddenly Trump-enthusiastic, pro-life Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Republicans might be able to pick off one from the other team.

But be assured that by the time we get to final passage on the Planned Parenthood measure will take on far greater political implications.

The organization is very important for liberal Democrats, but it remains broadly popular. There’s not a lot of fresh polling on the issue, but last time around only about one-third of voters thought the organization should be defunded compared to 58 percent who supported continued taxpayer support.

And those results came after the revelation of shocking videos in which Planned Parenthood employees callously discuss the harvesting of fetal tissue for sale to medical experiments.

So while Ryan doesn’t need to worry about Democratic outrage on the House side, it could become a potent issue for Democrats looking to slow down the measure in the Senate.

This brings us back to the president-elect. During the campaign, Trump eventually landed on supporting the elimination of taxpayer funds for Planned Parenthood, but repeatedly praised the organization that is anathema to most in his party.

Trump climbed down from his initial opposition to defunding, but not all the way. He maintained throughout about the “wonderful things” Planned Parenthood does.

If this issue becomes central to the debate in the Senate, will Trump hang with Ryan and the pro-lifers? Or tell his party in a series of tweets to drop the issue?

One of the consequences of the political stasis since 2011 is that lots of issue inventory has backed up in Washington. Fights like this one as well as tax reform, entitlements, immigration, authorizing the use of military force, internet regulations, and more have lingered in limbo during the era of divided government.

As both sides of the political divide are being reminded this week, it’s all coming back around.

[Watch Fox: The final installment of “The Kelly File” with Megyn Kelly airs tonight at 9 p.m. ET]

“Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.” – Alexander Hamilton or James MadisonFederalist No. 51

New Yorker: “Verbal rehearsal of material – the shopping list you recite as you walk the aisles of a supermarket – is part of our working memory system. But for some of us talking to ourselves goes much further: it’s an essential part of the way we think. Others experience auditory hallucinations, verbal promptings from voices that are not theirs but those of loved ones, long-departed mentors, unidentified influencers, their conscience, or even God. Charles Fernyhough, a British professor of psychology at Durham University, in England, studies such ‘inner speech.’ …Fernyhough has based his research on the hunch that talking to ourselves and hearing voices—phenomena that he sees as related—are not mere quirks, and that they have a deeper function. His book offers a chatty, somewhat inconclusive tour of the subject, making a case for the role of inner speech in memory, sports performance, religious revelation, psychotherapy, and literary fiction.”

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WaPo: “The honeymoon seems to be ending between retired Gen. James N. Mattis and Donald Trump’s transition team amid an increasingly acrimonious dispute over who will get top jobs in the Defense Department — and who gets to make those decisions. With only two weeks left before Inauguration Day and days before Mattis’s Senate confirmation hearing, most major Pentagon civilian positions remain unfilled. Behind the scenes, Mattis has been rejecting large numbers of candidates offered by the transition team for several top posts, two sources close to the transition said. The dispute over personnel appointments is contributing to a tenser relationship between Mattis and the transition officials, which could set the stage for turf wars between the Pentagon and the White House in the coming Trump administration.”

Former CIA boss Woolsey distances himself from Trump - WaPo: “Former CIA director R. James Woolsey Jr., a veteran of four presidential administrations and one of the nation’s leading intelligence experts, resigned Thursday from President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team because of growing tensions over Trump’s vision for intelligence agencies. Woolsey’s resignation as a Trump senior adviser comes amid frustrations over the incoming administration’s national security plans and Trump’s public comments undermining the intelligence community… The person close to Woolsey described him as having chafed at Trump’s loose style on Twitter. They described Woolsey as a ‘very principled’ diplomat who takes care to communicate the right message with just the right words. ‘This is a guy [for whom] commas, periods, etcetera, all have special meaning,’ this person said.”

[Woolsey explained his decision on “The Kelly File” Thursday. Watch here.]

USA Today: “The nation’s top intelligence officers meet Friday with President-elect Donald Trump on the topic that has generated friction among them: Russian involvement in the 2016 election. Just hours before the intelligence community planned to brief Trump on a report detailing Russian hacking of Democratic officials during the election, the president-elect protested news leaks about the report that is still theoretically secret. ‘How did NBC get ‘an exclusive look into the top secret report he (Obama) was presented?’ Trump tweeted late Thursday. ‘Who gave them this report and why? Politics!’ Trump and aides have questioned the government’s position that the Russians engineered the hacking in order to undermine Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, a conclusion officials reaffirmed during a Senate hearing Thursday.”

Report: Intel identifies go-betweens for WikiLeaks, Kremlin - 
CNN: “US intelligence has identified the go-betweens the Russians used to provide stolen emails to WikiLeaks, according to US officials familiar with the classified intelligence report that was presented to [President Obama] on Thursday. President-elect Donald Trump is scheduled to receive a briefing Friday. In a Fox News interview earlier this week, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange denied that Russia was the source of leaked Democratic emails that roiled the 2016 election to the detriment of President-elect Donald Trump’s rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton.”

The 115th Congress opens with Obamacare in its crosshairs. The GOP got to work repealing the law, while Dems got a visit from President Obama. Political panelists Chuck Rocha and Dave Avella on the political fight – and risk – over repealing Obamacare. WATCH HERE.

Who is Trump taking on: spies or politicians? - Donald Trump stirred the Russian hacking pot this week by seemingly siding with Julian Assange over the CIA and FBI. Chris Stirewalt asks our political panel: who does Trump consider his foes here - Democrats or U.S. intel? WATCH HERE.

“Grow up, Donald. Grow up. Time to be an adult. You’re president. You’ve got to do something. Show us what you have.” – Vice President Joe Biden, in an interview with “PBS NewsHour.”

Obama condemns apparent hate crime in torture of disabled Chicago teen - WLS

Trump confirms taxpayers will initially fund border wall - The Hill

Poll shows just 20 percent back repealing ObamaCare without a replacement - Kaiser Family Foundation

Trump team tells Obama ambassadors overseas to leave their posts by Inauguration Day, breaking precedent - NYT

Self-described ‘ratings machine’ Trump mocks ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ successor Schwarzenegger - Us Weekly

Trump deposed Thursday for civil suit over feud with celebrity chef José Andrés - NPR

Grudge match: Trump, Kasich showdown over Ohio state party boss vote today - Cincinnati Enquirer

Republicans go slow on Trump’s trillion-dollar infrastructure spending plan - Politico

Elizabeth Warren announces 2018 re-election bid - Boston Globe

Gay, naval reservist mayor of South Bend, Ind., jumps in race for DNC chairman - The Hill

Dana Perino said on The Five that she didn’t agree with term limits. Ted Cruz is now sponsoring a term limits bill. As my go to guy, I’m asking you, Chris, what is your opinion of term limits. What are the pros and cons of term limits? I hope you will see fit to respond to my query. I always read Half time report and particularly enjoy I’ll Tell You What with Dana.  It appears y’all will be on T.V. Sunday afternoon.  I’ll be looking for you! Keep up the good work.” – Dianne Dantzler, Chapin, S.C.

[Ed. note: What a good question, Ms. Dantzeler! Term limits are tricky. Certainly, the Framers might have considered them at greater length had they known how long some barnacles would hang on the hull of the ship of state. But there’s another, perhaps larger, problem that the boys in Philadelphia foresaw, but not in its full scope: the dominance of lobbying. Legislation is now extremely complex, partly from federal grandiosity and partly from a desire to obscure unpopular or controversial positions. Lawmakers already turn to lobbyists to help craft legislation, often at the bidding of former members of Congress who are on the other, more lucrative side, of the revolving door. In the end, term limits might produce an even more powerful cadre of lobbyists who had even more sway over the process. The proposed limit of three two-year terms in the House would seem to put lawmakers at a disadvantage when battling entrenched lobbyists. Lobbying is not bad, per se, but when lawmakers, who are, in a way, lobbyists for the people, are overmatched, it’s not healthy. There’s a strong case to be made in either direction, which is why it’s good that the amendment process takes so long. We’ll have lots of time to talk it through.]

“Hey - Love your newsletter but…the Patriots didn’t ‘cheat.’ And they’re still winning without any hints of ‘cheating.’ We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.” – Frank Townley, Dover, Mass.

[Ed. note: Rest assured, Mr. Townley that rabid Patriots fan Sally Persons has already denounced, at length, our position on deflated footballs and other antics of the New England team. On this point, we will have to disagree, but please know you’re point of view is being loudly, and repeatedly, maintained. Oh, and one more thing: Here we go, Steelers!]

“Thanks, Chris, for doing the research for me. I always feel informed and up-to-date after reading your column every day and can truly say (because my grandpa was born in West Virginia) you feel more like a cousin to me than all the ones I know about in that great state. Happy New Year to you and your staff!” – Connie Chancellor, Warner Robins, Ga.

[Ed. note: That’s about the kindest thing you could say to me, Ms. Chancellor. Our purpose here is to help people who lead normal, busy lives put the political news of the day in some useful context. Our republic relies on an informed electorate, but also creates the space and freedom for people to go about their business hopefully secure in the knowledge that their advocates and representatives are pursuing their interests here in Washington. Your full-time job is to be you. Our full time job is giving you concise, relevant information about the government that’s supposed to be, but very often isn’t, serving you. You probably know all that though. After all, you’re at least a quarter West Virginian…]

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You know him as a Fox News contributor and irascible author of the “Nuclear Option” column. But the pride of Pittsylvania County, Va. can add a new title: opinion editor for D.C. conservative daily the Washington Times. Way to go, Carlos!

Hollywood Reporter: “The Washington Post Express, a free daily tabloid given to mass transit passengers in D.C., drew ire on Thursday with its cover about the Women’s March on Washington that mistakenly featured the male gender symbol. … The Express did not outright apologize for the cover but tweeted that it was ‘embarrassed.’ The tabloid later tweeted what the cover should have looked like, featuring the correct gender symbol. The Women’s March on Washington will take place Jan. 21, the day after Donald Trump is sworn into office as the 45th president of the United States. Gloria Steinem is the honorary co-chair of the march, along with Harry Belafonte. The event begins at 10 a.m. near the U.S. Capitol at Independence Avenue and Third Street SW. Olivia Wilde, Jessica Chastain, Samantha Bee and Amy Schumer have all said they are planning on attending.”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in you inbox every day? Sign up here.