Vets group pressures Senate Dems on VA bill

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Buzz Cut:
• First in Fox News First: Vets group pressures Senate Dems on VA bill
• WaPo skewers Obama foreign policy
• First in Fox News First: AFP celebrates Cotton, hammers Peters
• Save it for Mika, man
• Hunt hogzilla with drones?

Concerned Veterans for America is putting more than $500,000 towards a campaign aimed at pushing a bipartisan bill that would make it easier to uncover abuses and fire officials at the scandal-plagued Department of Veterans Affairs. The legislation easily passed the House last week, but is stalled in the Senate. The ad campaign targets vulnerable Senate Democrats in a bid to put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. From Concerned Veterans CEO Pete Hegseth: “This effort demonstrates how serious CVA is about finally bringing accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Last week’s House vote was overwhelmingly bipartisan—with Speaker [John Boehner], Nancy Pelosi and 388 of their colleagues voting for it.  Yet, for reasons unknown, Senators Harry Reid and Bernie Sanders [I-Vt.] blocked the same bill in the Senate. These ads urge senators to show immediate leadership by co-sponsoring this commonsense VA accountability legislation and demanding it receive a vote.”

Hard hits - On the target list for the negative spots: Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Kay Hagan, D-N.C., Mary Landrieu, D-La., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va. The Shaheen ad is similar to the other pressure plays: “President Obama won’t hold the VA accountable. Senator Jeanne Shaheen can, but she’s done nothing, putting her loyalty toward party and the president ahead of America’s veterans.” Watch it here.

Soft touches - Concerned Veterans will also be airing ads thanking Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Richard Burr, R-N.C. for their support of the Senate measure as well as Reps. David Scott, D-Ga. and Jeff Miller, R-Fla., for helping to pass the House Bill. Here’s the spot praising Nelson. Hegseth said the other positive ads will follow the same format.

[House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller told Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs that three Veterans Affairs officials will appear at a committee hearing today on allegations of an alleged conspiracy to hide the denial of care to veterans at government hospitals.]

At Fox News Opinion - Dr.Marc Siegel offers his diagnosis and prescription for the VA health system: “ For a longer-term solution, the Feds should offer Medicaid or Medicare to all our veterans, to provide an alternative to the VA hospital for those who have no other insurance options. It’s the least we can do for those who fight for our freedom.”

In the wake President Obama’s announcement of his timetable for the final withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and ahead of Obama’s speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. in defense of his foreign policy, the editorialists at the Washington Post were not impressed. WaPo: “The Afghan decision would be understandable had Mr. Obama’s previous choices proved out. But what’s remarkable is that the results also have been consistent — consistently bad. Iraq has slid into something close to civil war, with al-Qaeda retaking territory that U.S. Marines once died to liberate. In Syria, al-Qaeda has carved out safe zones that senior U.S. officials warn will be used as staging grounds for attacks against Europe and the United States. Libya is falling apart, with Islamists, secularists, military and other factions battling for control.”

[Listen to Fox: House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon joins Kilmeade and Friends in the 11 a.m. ET hour to discuss the President’s plans to scale back troops in Afghanistan.]

Conservative super group Americans for Prosperity, best known for searing attack ads this cycle, tells Fox News First it will go positive today in Arkansas with a bio spot for Republican Senate nominee Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. The group, backed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, is putting $1 million behind two ads in Senate contests today. One lauds Cotton’s nearly perfect AFP rating, especially in opposing ObamaCare and farming regulations. The Cotton ad marks the first time the group, which has spent over $40 million on ads since September, has gone with a positive spot. “While we aggressively hold lawmakers accountable for doing the wrong thing, it’s important to also recognize those who stand up for policies that promote prosperity and well-being for everyone.” AFP President Tim Phillips said.

Courting middle class moms in Michigan – The AFP attack ad against Michigan Democratic Senate hopeful Rep. Gary Peters out today is aimed squarely at female voters. The spot features middle-class moms and assails Peters’ for votes on ObamaCare and energy legislation. “Middle class families are struggling and Congressman Gary Peters is making things worse,” says the concerned-sounding female narrator.

[Detroit Free Press: “[Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich.] … held a 44%-38% lead over Republican[Terri Lynn Land] with 18% undecided in an exclusive poll of 600 likely Michigan voters done for the Free Press…The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, showed a 6-point improvement for Peters since February, when he trailed Land 41%-38%...”]

The battle for the chance to succeed conservative icon Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is heating up ahead of the Sooner State’s June 24 primary. The latest edition of “Power Play with Chris Stirewalt” looks at the GOP contest between the outsiders’ choice, former State House Speaker T.W. Shannon and the insiders’ favorite, Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla. Give us just 90 seconds and we’ll give you the lowdown. Watch here.

Iowa’s senate candidates are touting their own personal experience in their latest ads. Rep. Bruce Braley’s, D-Iowa., ad shares his work as a lawyer while Republican Joni Ernst plays up her Iowa roots.

Alaska Republican Senate contender Dan Sullivan is using his record as the state’s department of natural resources commissioner to in a new ad. Sullivan appears in the ad boasting how he worked to expand the Frontier State’s natural energy resources.

[Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, busts Sullivan for cutting a pervious ad attacking Begich for inefficacy… on the roof of a building for which Begich secured funding as mayor of Anchorage.]
Sen. Mark Warner’s, D-Va., first ad spotlights his time spent outside of Washington in the private sector, working with Nextel, prior to his time in the Senate. From the ad: “ I learned a long time ago whether it's running a business or leading a state you make things happen when you put politics aside and work together.”

In a survey conducted for the Charleston Daily Mail on the race to replace retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., holds an 11-point lead over the Democratic nominee Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, 49 percent to 38 percent. Thirteen percent of those surveyed were undecided.

Charleston Post-Courier: “A poll by a conservative energy group suggests U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham could win the June 10 Republican primary without a runoff against any of his six challengers. The survey, conducted by TargetPoint for the right-leaning Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, gave Graham a 56 percent following. His nearest challenger, Upstate businessman Richard Cash, was far behind at just 7 percent.”

The status quo will change dramatically in Washington if Republicans are able to gain an additional six Senate seats. Which six Democrat-held seats are the most likely GOP pickups? The current consensus among Fox News First readers: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and West Virginia. Could Jun. 3 primaries offer any surprises? We want to hear what you think, let us know!

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

Science and technology writer Mark Pontin takes a deep dive into the cloud of space trash that now surrounds our planet, exploring ways to clean it up. From ARS Technica: “As [the film ‘Gravity’] made clear to the general public, it’s getting crowded in Earth orbit. In the nearly 57 years since Sputnik’s launch on October 4, 1957, Earth has seen a cloud of human-created objects continue to grow, expanding like dandelion fluff around our planet. In 2014, there’s good and bad news on the subject…Active debris removal is technically challenging, but potential solutions exist. Things like ‘laser brooms,’ electrodynamic tethers, nanosatellites, solar sails, space grapples, and tugs are being considered…Some of these technologies even exist as more than prototypes, although they’re sequestered away under military control. The bad news is that our international space policy and governance lag behind our technologies. Orbital debris has reached its current disastrous status largely because during the last decade—and there’s no other way to put this—a giant pissing contest has played out in orbit between factions in the US and Chinese militaries.”

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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 44 percent/Disapprove – 52.1 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29.8 percent/Wrong Track – 62.8 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 43 percent/Republicans 42.3 percent

BuzzFeed: “Since stepping down as secretary of state last year, [2016 Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton] has given dozens of speeches…the headlines offer only faint outlines of her positions on issues like income inequality, immigration, and climate change. What does Hillary Clinton really think about the Keystone XL pipeline, for instance? Or the record number of deportations by the Obama administration? Progressive groups in particular say they’re anxious to hear the answers to questions like these. ‘We’re waiting with bated breath to see if she runs and, assuming she’s going to run, what will these positions be,’ said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy For America, the group founded by former presidential candidate Howard Dean. ‘Right now, we have no sense of where she’s going to be’…Bill Burton, a former aide to President Obama who co-founded Priorities USA and now works as a consultant, said the book tour could provide the Clinton groups more material to work with. ‘When you run an outside group, it is very helpful to have some kind of organizing principle,’ said Burton. ‘In the absence of Clinton-as-candidate, Clinton-as-author is going to provide some basis for that.’’’

Retail politics - Democratic 2016 frontrunner Hillary Clinton will kick off her publicity tour for her second memoir with a speech before Chicago’s Food Marketing Institute's convention. Scheduled stops on the tour also include a Harris Teeter grocery store in Chicago and a Costco wholesale club in Northern Virginia.

Howie on how she will handle the press - Howard Kurtz: “Let’s say Hillary’s people are right and that the press is petty, sensationalist, often unfair and sometimes mean to women? Deal with it. It’s like complaining about bad weather. Every candidate has to cope with an adversarial media, and Democrats usually get a break at least on social issues. Team Hillary had a legitimate beef in 2008 that the press was too pro-Obama. But Clinton is a zillion points ahead in the next primary, and she can afford to take the risk of being more open with the media, rather than trying to stage-manage her candidacy through selected book excerpts and the like.”

Fox News: “The oldest-ever member of the House of Representatives has been ousted at age 91, after a primary runoff against a little-known Republican challenger in Texas. Rep. Ralph Hall also Tuesday became the first congressional incumbent to lose a primary this year. He had told voters if he had been elected to an 18th term, it would be his last. Hall was defeated by John Ratcliffe, a 48-year-old former U.S. attorney… He also has won the support of powerful national conservative groups with strong Tea Party ties, including the Club for Growth and Senate Conservatives Fund.”

Tea Party topples Dewhurst - Fox News: “Tea Party-backed candidate State Sen. Dan Patrick defeated three-term incumbent David Dewhurst for the Republican nomination for Texas lieutenant governor Tuesday after a nasty race that evolved into personal attacks. Patrick, a fiery radio talk show host who founded the Tea Party caucus in the Texas state legislature, ousted Dewhurst after a campaign full of attack ads and mudslinging over which candidate was more conservative.”

A poll conducted by Survey USA for by Tampa’s WFLA finds a four point drop in support for Democrat Charlie Crist in Florida’s gubernatorial contest. Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla, gained a point from the previous survey to statically tie Crist, 42 percent to 40.  The poll also finds Scott leading Central Florida, where Crist had enjoyed wide support. Central Florida voters now favor Scott 47 percent to 34 percent.

In a notable display of GOP unity in this often acrid primary season, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor stood alongside conservative all-star Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Tim Scott, R-S.C. for the release of “Room to Grow,” a 121-page policy manifesto aimed at attracting middle-class voters to the GOP.  The book written by the YG Network, a group of prominent conservatives with ties to Cantor, offers proposals on health care, taxes, and education. McConnell praised the work, telling the gathering the GOP needs to combat its elitist image and focus on “Americans whose daily concerns revolve around aging parents, long commutes, shrinking budgets, and obscenely high tuition bills” adding, “these hymns to entrepreneurialism are as a practical matter largely irrelevant.”

During an appearance on “The Kelly File” to promote his book “The Right Path,” MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough cast himself as a conservative insurgent battling “big government Republicans.” When anchor Megyn Kelly pressed the former Republican congressman from Florida on his claims, asking how he could be “a true conservative if you're at war with so many conservative icons?” Scarborough tried to co-opt his questioner, saying, “As you know, I'm a uniter not a divider. [Rush Limbaugh] and I get along very well.” He picked the wrong place for faux familiarity. Kelly shot back: “I don't know that. I don't know you at all.” Check out the whole segment here.

Reuters: “The U.S. Agriculture Department is known for its army of statisticians packing yardsticks and calculators to measure wheat and count soybeans. But the agency needs more firepower for another kind of rural reckoning and is gearing up with thermal imaging weapons. In its crosshairs are aggressive feral hogs that can weigh more than 400 lbs (180 kg) and have been known to carry off newborn calves. They cause about $1.5 billion of damage every year to farm communities and fields, say department officials, and now there are worries they may help spread a deadly pig virus. So the USDA wants to buy thermal scopes that snap onto high-powered rifles to kill the wild beasts…The thermal scopes are part of a $20 million nationwide project to combat the feral swine, which have gobbled down apples in New York state, cleaned out cornfields in North Carolina, and even devoured bovine calves in Mississippi…Another tactic under consideration: drones.”

“I mean, is that how we're now setting the strategy of the United States of America in a war zone, where so many have died and so much treasure and blood has been spent, so a president can leave office looking good?” – 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.