Thought Police: Firms must swear ObamaCare not a factor in firings

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Buzz Cut:
• Thought Police: Firms must swear ObamaCare not a factor in firings
• Baier Tracks: Losing focus in Afghanistan
• Oregon ObamaCare cover-up could damage Dems
• Team Christie hauls in cash
• Shirley Temple’s best, worst movie

Is the latest delay of ObamaCare regulations politically motivated? Consider what administration officials announcing the new exemption for medium-sized employers had to say about firms that might fire workers to get under the threshold and avoid hugely expensive new requirements of the law. Obama officials made clear in a press briefing that firms would not be allowed to lay off workers to get into the preferred class of those businesses with 50 to 99 employees. How will the feds know what employers were thinking when hiring and firing? Simple. Firms will be required to certify to the IRS – under penalty of perjury – that ObamaCare was not a motivating factor in their staffing decisions. To avoid ObamaCare costs you must swear that you are not trying to avoid ObamaCare costs. You can duck the law, but only if you promise not to say so.

[“That's the good thing about being president. I can do whatever I want.” – President Obama joking about getting a restricted-access tour of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.]

War of words - With millions of insurance cancellations and workers dumped from employer-based policies due to ObamaCare, a relatively narrow exemption for medium-sized employers might sound like a trifling thing. But to Obama Democrats desperate to hold the Senate in the face of simmering anger over the botched rollout and false promises of the law, any little bit helps. And having the IRS serve as the talking-point enforcer for businesses tempted to speak out about firings under the law will sure help message discipline. Remember, the administration wants to focus on Americans being “transitioned” to ObamaCare not dumped from existing policies, and “freed” from having to work in order to get insurance rather than quitting their jobs in order to get free coverage.

Watch Fox: Chief National Correspondent Jim Angle considers what the delay could mean for those who have seen and may face policy cancellations this year.

[WSJ: “Changing an unambiguous statutory mandate requires the approval of Congress, but then this President has often decided the law is whatever he says it is. His Administration's cavalier notions about law enforcement are especially notable here for their bias for corporations over people. The White House has refused to suspend the individual insurance mandate, despite the harm caused to millions who are losing their previous coverage. Liberals say the law isn't harming jobs or economic growth, but everything this White House does screams the opposite.”]

[Watch Fox: Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., discusses ObamaCare’s latest delay in the 10 a.m. ET hour]

ObamaCare pumps up taxes on gym-goers - WNYW: “Some people who are members of the health club Planet Fitness are finding their membership costs have gone up because of [ObamaCare]…A sign posted at a Falls Church, Va. location says ‘Holders of Black Card memberships will be required to pay a tax on these memberships Starting January 1, 2014 as required by the implementation of provisions of [ObamaCare]…This is not a change in your membership fee but rather a tax required by the government. The reason these accounts are forced to charge the new tax is because they include the option for members to tan at the clubs.  Obamacare has a tax on tanning salons.  It doesn't matter if the member uses or does not use the tanning facilities.”

Pushed by a winter storm forecast for Washington, the House will vote as early as today on a so-called “clean” bill to raise the federal borrowing limit. A source familiar with House Republican discussions told Fox News a plan floated by the GOP to include restoration of funds cut from military pensions in an earlier budget deal simply didn’t have the votes, so they will deal with the pensions in a separate measure. Republican sources say that they will provide some votes for the “clean” bill to raise the debt limit, but expect Democrats to pick up the bulk of the yeas.

Take this phone and shove it - Breitbart’s Jonathan Strong offers this curtain-lifter on the debt limit vote: “After storming out of the GOP's debt ceiling meeting and pacing furiously 100 yards down a hallway deep the bowels of the Capitol, South Carolina Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan wheeled around to face a couple reporters that had managed to keep up with him. ‘Why don’t you talk to my son?’ Duncan asked, pointing angrily at his black iPhone. ‘Tell him about the debt that he’s going to pay. $17.3 trillion right now. This is him on the phone. He's a Clemson student, I’d be glad for you to explain how he's going to pay that back,’ Duncan added, his voice full of sarcasm.”

BAIER TRACKS: LOSING FOCUS IN AFGHANISTAN…“A new video from the Wall Street Journal would suggest that the Obama administration is as adrift and uncertain about its Afghanistan policy as it is about the changing rules for the president’s health law. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R- Calif., posed a simple question for three of the Obama administration’s top Afghanistan specialists: How many American troops have been killed in Afghanistan this year? None of the witnesses at the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Afghanistan had an answer. This is pretty stunning.” – Bret Baier.

As controversy builds over reports that President Obama may order the killing of an American citizen with links to al Qaeda, two of the nation’s intelligence chiefs will testify this morning before the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn will be pressed on the administration’s policies on the use of drone aircraft for killing citizens without trial.—Watch Fox: National Security Correspondent Jennifer Griffin has the latest on the drone debate.

[“It’s extraordinary that this story is leaked by, I think, four American officials. If I were the administration, if I were the president I would be very concerned that four American officials are talking about this to the press off the record. That’s a serious breach of, you know, protecting our national security. If this guy has any brains he’s already figured out who he is and he’s hiding somewhere.— Former N.Y. Mayor Rudy Giuliani, on “On the record with Greta Van Susteren.”]

Victor Davis Hanson
considers The Value of Putin: “[Russian President Vladimir Putin] is a constant reminder to the postmodern Western mind that the human condition has not yet evolved beyond the fist… Putin is a reminder not just of our dark past, where raw force, not morality, adjudicated behavior, but, more worrisome, perhaps of a dark future as well… He ends up existing to warn us in the West of what we are not, and to demonstrate that in a strange sort of way our loud principles without toughness are not much better than his toughness without principles. In that regard, he gives us a valuable look into ourselves – we the hollow men, the stuffed men of dry voices and whispers.”

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

Real Clear Politics Averages

Obama Job Approval: Approve –  43.3 percent//Disapprove – 52.1 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29.0 percent//Wrong Track – 63.3 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 40.7 percent// Republicans 41.7 percent

The massive failure of Oregon’s still-stuck ObamaCare Web site may become the subject of a criminal probe amid allegations that officials created a phony Web site to cover up the failure of the real one to still qualify for additional taxpayer funding. From KATU: “Early in its life, Cover Oregon was given a $48 million ‘early innovator’ grant from the federal government. That amount would later grow to $59 million…. To keep the money flowing, the website would have to hit specific benchmarks between 2011 and 2013. The state needed to show the feds it had picked a company to provide software and technical assistance; it had to demonstrate that the website was safe from hackers; and, most importantly, it had to show that people could actually sign up for insurance on the website…. Despite the fact the website still doesn’t work today, the KATU Investigators found evidence [state contractors] reported to the federal government that the project was going well.”  The deepening troubles could prove to be a problem for Gov. John Kitzhaber, D-Ore., and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., both running for re-election in November.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s second full month at the helm of the Republican Governors Association was a cash bonanza, despite his wrestling with political scandal.  RGA communications director Gail Gitcho told Fox News that in January, Christie and company "raised $6 million... more than twice as much that has ever been raised during the same month in RGA history, and twice as much that was raised in the last comparable cycle (2010) in the same month."

[USA Today: “Christie’s latest attempt to recapture his pre-scandal prominence as a top fundraiser and potential 2016 presidential candidate is taking him to Chicago on Tuesday for a prestigious economic group summit followed by private meetings with donors and a fundraising dinner…”]

More, more, more - AP: “A New Jersey legislative panel intensified efforts Monday to force two key aides to Gov. Chris Christie to turn over documents related to traffic gridlock near the George Washington Bridge as it authorized 18 more subpoenas. Recipients in the third round of subpoenas include executives at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that runs the bridge; a failed Supreme Court nominee who Christie later named to the bridge agency; and the state police aviation unit, which could provide information about Christie’s helicopter travel during the time the lanes were blocked for four days in September.”

WaPo: “Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), a tea party favorite, will speak at a homeschooling rally in Iowa next month, signaling his continued interest in a possible 2016 presidential bid. The event, which will take place on March 18 at the Iowa state capitol in Des Moines, will be hosted by the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators (NICHE), a politically-engaged group that has previously hosted presidential contenders… Cruz traveled to Iowa several times last year, including a stop in October, when he headlined the Iowa GOP’s Ronald Reagan dinner. During that visit, he also traveled to western Iowa, where he went on a pheasant hunt with Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a key political figure in the run-up to the Iowa Republican caucuses, the first nominating contest of the presidential race.”

[Watch Fox: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, appears in the 2 p.m. ET hour]

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is hitting vulnerable Democrats over their support of ObamaCare and its cuts to Medicare in answer to an early round of Democratic attack ads over Republican plans to overhaul the cash-strapped entitlement program. From the committee: “The truth is that Democrats slashed Medicare Advantage to pay for ObamaCare. Nearly 15 million seniors nationwide (close to 30% of all Medicare beneficiaries) rely on Medicare Advantage plans for their Medicare coverage. Many of these are low-income seniors who choose these options because they can’t afford the Medigap policies that more financially secure seniors use.” Targets include Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, Kay Hagan, D-N.C., Mary Landrieu, D-La., Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Mark Udall, D-Colo., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Mark Warner, D-Va., and Reps. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, and Gary Peters, D-Mich.

[National Journal explains why some red-state Democrats are not benefiting from the backing of liberal donors.]

‘Life-long Republican’ candidate donated to Dems - Weekly Standard: “A candidate for U.S. Senate in Iowa, who calls himself a ‘life-long Republican,’ once donated $1,000 to the Senate campaign of Democrat Jon Corzine. Mark Jacobs, a Republican businessman who is running for the Senate seat of retiring Democrat Tom Harkin… has given plenty of money to Republicans over the years, he has also given to… the PAC supporting Arlen Specter, the Republican senator from Pennsylvania who in early 2009 switched to the Democratic Party.”

Pick Six - Which six Democrat-held Senate seats present the most likely path for the GOP to win back control of the upper chamber for the first time in eight years? The current consensus among Fox News First readers: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and Alaska.

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

Tampa Bay Times: “Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio came to support the man he called Pinellas County's next congressman on Monday, and David Jolly responded that ‘it's the highest honor of my life to have your endorsement’… State Democratic Party spokesman Joshua Karp said it showed Jolly ‘is siding with the most dysfunctional fringe and opposing bipartisan, common sense solutions to the most pressing challenges facing our country’… Mail ballots already have been sent out in the race. Election Day is March 11. The special election was called after the death in October of Republican U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, who represented Pinellas in Congress for more than 40 years.”

[House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s House Majority PAC is attacking David Jolly’s past as a lobbyist in a new ad.]

Endorsement battle - Tampa Bay area papers are split in their endorsements, with the Tampa Bay Times endorsing Democrat Alex Sink and the Tampa Tribune backing Republican David Jolly.

From“The only target of a Democrat-driven ‘John Doe’ investigation to speak out publicly against what many Wisconsin conservatives see as a political witch hunt has made good on his promise to take prosecutors to court, charging they violated his civil rights. Eric O'Keefe and his Wisconsin Club for Growth filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Monday against the special prosecutor, the presiding judge and top prosecutors in the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office.”

David Bossie
, former chief investigator for the House Oversight Committee during the Clinton administration, told Megyn Kelly he wished had spent more time investigating then-first lady Hillary Clinton. “We got off track from our investigations with all of the sex stuff,” said Bossie, now the head of the conservative group Citizen United. Bossie said he also wished he had made more of an issue of Hillary’s support of a government-run health insurance regime. “If you know anything about Hillary Clinton’s health- are policies back then, single payer – using Medicare to expand single payer – that is what she believed.” Watch the full interview  from “The Kelly File”

The Republican Party of Kentucky called on Democratic Senate frontrunner Alison Lundergan Grimes to return campaign donations from former Democratic state Rep. John Arnold, who resigned last year amid multiple accusations of sexual harassment, as well as actor and director Woody Allen, now at the center of allegations of sexual abuse. “If Alison Lundergan Grimes really cares about standing up for Kentucky women, she should return both former Representative John Arnold’s and Woody Allen’s donations to her campaign,” said Kelsey Cooper, spokeswoman for the state GOP. “If she doesn’t return the donations, we can only assume she either condones sexual harassment and disgustingly inappropriate behavior in the workplace, or she’s more concerned with her liberal allies’ campaign cash than the women of Kentucky.” Grimes is slated to receive former President Bill Clinton for a campaign visit later this month.

Voters in San Diego today will pick a replacement for ousted Mayor Bob Filner, a former Democratic congressman forced from city hall for gross sexual misconduct. Unions have spent over $2 million in support of Democratic City Councilman David Alvarez as he takes on Republican Kevin Faulconer. The San Diego Union-Tribune has more on the race, which polls show in a dead heat.

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., is offering supporters a chance to meet “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm. From Franken’s e-mail: “Like you, Jon’s a proud progressive and a great supporter. I’m confident you’ll get along great, especially when we’re all hanging out talking about how to move our country forward (and maybe a little about ‘Mad Men’).”

Shirley Temple Black
, once the world’s most famous actress, died Monday at the age of 85. Her obituaries have mostly focused on her wildly successful pre-World War II career as a child star, but Americans have also been reminded of Black’s second career as a conservative politician and diplomat.  Her twenty years of service included her appointment in 1969 as delegate to the U.N. General Assembly, and ambassadorships to Ghana under PresidentGerald Ford and Czechoslovakia during the first Bush administration.  Her trajectory follows that of another actor turned politician, Ronald Reagan. In fact, both had a miserable flop of a movie to thank for their success in later life. “That Hagan Girl” was supposed to cement Black as an adult star following her success as a love-sick teenager opposite Cary Grant in “The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer.” Eager to make it a hit, studio bosses strong-armed Reagan into accepting his role as role as Black’s character’s putative father/benefactor/lover (yuck). Reagan, not wanting to play a part that might give even Woody Allen the creeps, sought mercy in the form of a re-write, but to no avail. Filming was a nightmare, with Regan catching viral pneumonia and missing the birth of his child with then-wife Jane Wyman. The movie was such a famous flop that it sealed Reagan’s reputation as a b-list actor, rather than the a-lister he seemed to be in films like “Sana Fe Trail” and “Kings Row.” Reagan would later cite the box-office debacle as a turning point in his life and career, beginning his pivot away from acting and toward politics. The terrible film also derailed Black’s hopes of becoming a leading lady, and she retired from Hollywood soon after. Twenty years later, both Reagan and Black had new spouses and new careers in politics, him as a candidate for California governor and her running for a House seat.

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…“Generally speaking, you get past the next election by changing your polices, by announcing new initiatives – but not by wantonly changing the law lawlessly. I mean this is stuff that that you do in a banana republic. It’s as if the law is simply a blackboard on which [President Obama] writes any number he wants.” 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. To catch Chris live online daily at 11:30 a.m. ET, click here.