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• Reid cracks the whip
• It’s just not ObamaCare without Obama
• Behind your back: President huddles with tech CEOs
• Below Bush at the end of year five
• Pungent drama
REID CRACKS THE WHIP - It’s crunch time for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, as he and drum major Dick Durbin try to whip up a 60-vote parade for an increasingly unpopular budget deal. The House-passed plan is due for a vote this morning in the Senate and it promises to be close. The main question, as new worries emerge in the middle about stiffing veterans, is whether Reid can keep liberal Democrats in line. The left wing of Reid’s conference is sore about capitulations on demanded welfare extensions and other government spending initiatives. While the plan crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and his Senate counterpart Patty Murray increases user fees for many Americans on things like air travel, it contains no tax hikes, per se. What will liberals want to go along with Reid’s plan? The weeks to come will tell the tale.
BAIER TRACKS: VETS KEY TO BUDGET BATTLE…“The $6.2 billion dollars in ‘savings’ over the next 10 years in the Ryan-Murray budget agreement could be in jeopardy. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., made a compelling case on “Special Report” last night when she took the Center Seat on the panel. The Washington Post lays out the critics’ case. It is a balancing act, but the battle lines are forming.” – Bret Baier.
Fiscal flap - Hawkish Senate Republicans are none-too-pleased about the budget deal after veterans groups voiced their opposition over provisions that would cut retirement benefits for military retirees. Even moderates like Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. are digging in to fight the package, calling the cuts “unacceptable.” Meanwhile, conservatives like Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., are standing tough against the deal for failing to address runaway government spending or reduce the debt. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, says he’ll take it, though. The bill “isn’t everything I’d hoped it would be, and it isn’t what I would have written,” Hatch said in a statement. “But sometimes the answer has to be ‘yes.’” Fox News has more.