The Budget, Business and Puerto Rico

By Emily Cyr

Balancing a budget is not a hard concept, maybe difficult to execute but not tough in theory. Don’t spend more than you make, right? This was a common question among lawmakers during Thursday’s House Ways and Means Committee Hearing on President Obama’s FY 2017 budget.  The hearing came on the heels of House GOP preemptively rejecting the budget, and denying the president’s budget chief the opportunity to testify before the budget committee, a major snub. However, Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew got to field the questions of Congress, and many of them actually had to do with issues outside the continental United States.

One topic brought up by multiple members of the House was inversions. A corporate inversion, most simply put, is when a corporation relocates its legal domicile (in other words, headquarters) abroad to reduce corporate income taxes. And although in name a company may be headquartered in Europe, the majority of their material operations are still in the United States. This is why companies like Pfizer have joined with Allergan- because Allergan calls Ireland, not America, home (though they used to). This is considered the largest inversion ever and both Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew agree that another year of these inversions cannot go on. Preventing that would require overhauling the tax code- which is what Speaker Paul Ryan wanted to do when he was Chairman of Ways and Means.

Another major issue that arose had to do with Puerto Rico and their economic crisis. Just last month, Secretary Lew took a trip to Puerto Rico and now is urging Congress to pass legislation to let Puerto Rico restructure their debt- an action they do not have the capacity to do right now.   Lew stated the people of Puerto Rico are “doing unthinkable things,” and with 3,000 people leaving the island a month, he fears they may never recover.

There were also concerns raised about the lifting of sanctions in Iran, taxes on small business and the credibility- or lack therefore- of the IRS.  Yet despite all these concerns, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY), the last committee member to speak in the nearly three hour session, ended by saying “We do not need to make America great again, we are already great”. Optimistic? Pointed? Interpret as you will. 


Behind the Scenes: Iowa

A few photos from the Fox News/Google debate in Des Moines and Special Report for the Iowa Caucuses. You can find more photos from the week on my Instagram account @BretBaier!

TSA Administrator to FOX: "We're Significantly Better Than We Were"

In a one-on-one interview following his remarks at a Washington Aero Club luncheon in DC, TSA Administrator Peter said that he is confident in his workforce and added that “we’re significantly better than we were.” Neffenger’s comments are in reference to the scathing DHS OIG report leaked last year that found TSA screeners failed to detect weapons being smuggled through airport checkpoints by auditors 67 out of 70 times.

“I am confident that I have the attention of the workforce, that they take it seriously, and that they really want to do the job to the best that they can because they see events around the world they don't want that to happen here. That encourages me.” Neffenger told Fox. “I'm certain that they'll do better, I'm certain that the IG is going to go out and test us again. I hope he does because those results are very valuable to us.”

Looking specifically at the broad terrorism picture and threats posed by ISIS, Neffenger told Fox that of primary concern in airport environments is what happens in areas in which people have not yet gone through security screening. Neffenger alluded to active shooter situations and the San Bernardino attack in outlining the challenges law enforcement agencies and TSA face in securing non-sterile airport zones.

“We're reengaging with local law enforcement to ensure that they're on the lookout for anybody who might do something outside the sterile area of the airport,” Neffenger said. “We're comfortable that we have a lot of procedures in place to help us identify individuals coming into the system, and, of course, identify prohibited items that you don't want to get through. But the real question is outside the sterile area, what do you know?”

In speaking to the MetroJet crash over Egypt last year and potential insider threats at U.S. airports, Neffenger said TSA is taking active steps to enhance screening of airport workers and vendors to ensure the safety of the travelling public and those within sterile areas of U.S. airports.

“Right now we have 900,000 or so people that are badged in some level of access to airports across the nation,” Neffenger told Fox. “They are recurrently vetted – I mean, on a daily basis – against terrorist databases for any information that may indicate that they are people that we need to be concerned about.”

Neffenger also spoke to TSA’s presence at this Sunday’s Super Bowl at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. He noted TSA is deploying agents to screen fans entering the stadium before the game, as well as VIPR Teams (Visual, Intermodal, Protection and Response Teams) that include bomb-sniffing dogs and uniformed Air Marshals. In speaking to potential target that the Super Bowl paints, especially in light of November’s attacks in Paris, Neffenger acknowledged the challenges and complexity of securing such a large venue with droves of spectators.

“Well, I think that everybody has concerns about large congregations of people right now at high profile events,” Neffenger said. “I will tell you that there's been no specific, credible threat reporting against the Super Bowl. But any time you have large numbers of people congregating at an event that's high profile and televised, you just want to make sure that you have all the precautions in place.”

Krauthammer: Trump candidacy has “become normalized”

Charles Krauthammer told viewers Friday on “Special Report” that Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy has “become normalized” among the mainstream GOP.

“You get one or two start to endorse Trump essentially as a signal that it’s ok,” Krauthammer said.

A new Fox Poll out Friday revealed two tiers on the Republican side of the race for the White House. Donald Trump leads the pack with 34 percent with Ted Cruz behind him at 20 percent, Marco Rubio at 11 percent, and Ben Carson at 8 percent. Other GOP candidates are at 4 percent or less.

However, the poll also asked GOP primary voters if there is any candidate they couldn’t support against the democrat nominee in November. Trump topped that list as well with 15 percent saying they would refuse to vote for him.

“The number of people who are against him, Republicans, six, eight months ago was about sixty percent, 59 percent. If you’re down to 15 percent there’s an acceptance,” Krauthammer added.

Special Report Contenders App!

xcited to announce as part of the Fox News 2016 HQ app (available for free in the app store) we have just launched a contenders quiz where you can play each week and see which candidates your views align the most with.

Watch the video, download the app and play with us every Wednesday on Speical Report!

Russians survey new airbase on Turkey's border, US officials concerned

By Jennifer Griffin and Lucas Tomlinson

Russia appears to be making preparations to establish a new airbase in Syria, this time along the border with NATO-member Turkey, a senior US official tells Fox News. 

The move is bound to anger the Turkish government months after the downing of a Russian jet by the Turks.

A handful of Russian military personnel including engineers have been seen in the vicinity of a largely abandoned airfield in Qamishli, a city in northeast Syria along the border with Turkey.  The area is largely controlled by Syrian Kurds, with pockets of regime controlled territory including the airport.

Russia and Syria’s Kurds have a common enemy in Turkey and make natural allies.

Defense officials think Russia could establish another airbase and build-up similar to what occurred previously in September at an airport along Syria’s Mediterranean coast in Latakia, an Assad regime controlled stronghold.

“This could be Latakia all over again,” said the official, speaking about the buildup of Russian forces last fall.  

Days before Russian transport planes and ships arrived in September carrying thousands of Russian troops and supplies, a small group of Russian advisors and engineers visited Latakia on an apparent site survey similar to what is being seen on the Turkish border.  

Eventually over 30 Russian warplanes and dozens of attack helicopters arrived in Latakia and began combat operations against Syrian rebels, some backed by the U.S., in late September.

Qamishli, the town where the new Russian military presence has been observed is home to Syrian Kurds and Assyrians, a Christian people, but the airport is controlled by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“This is another example of the Russians [messing] with the Turks,” said the official who is carefully watching the developments.

The concern is that the potential expansion of the Russian military into northeast Syria on Turkey’s border will spark new tensions in the region after a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 was downed by a Turkish F-16 in late November.

So far, there are no indications that Russia has moved any military aircraft, including jet fighters to the airport in Qamishli. [see map here of airport].

But U.S. officials worry it’s only a matter of time.


Krauthammer on Donald Trump: ‘He’s immune to the laws of contradiction’

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said Wednesday on “Special Report” that Republican president frontrunner Donald Trump constantly contradicts himself -- with no fear of any potential consequences.

“I think the last six months have shown that nothing Trump has ever said in the past, even in the present, can ever be used against him, because for some reason, he’s immune to the laws of contradiction,” he said.

Krauthammer went on to cite Trump’s comments about Ted Cruz’s citizenship during a recent Republican debate.

“He brought up, of course, the Canadian citizenship, he said, ‘I’m protecting you against what the Democrats are doing… I promise I will never sue over this,” Krauthammer said, adding, “Then at a rally three days later, he said, ‘I might just sue.’”

While Krauthammer said this was a “trivial” example, he seemed assured the bevy of contradictions would continue.

Democrats face off in last debate before Iowa and New Hampshire

10 US Navy sailors held by Iran

A senior defense official tells Fox News that the two US Navy riverine vessels were headed from Kuwait to Bahrain when the US Navy lost contact with the boats.

“It appears the two vessels went into Iranian territorial waters,” said the official.  He said U.S. Navy sailors are currently being held on Farsi Island, a tiny island in the middle of the Persian Gulf controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

The official said NONE of the US Navy vessels were disabled.  The official was not aware of how Iran ended up commandeering the US Navy ships.  He did not know if warning shots were fired, but could not rule it out.   

The U.S. Navy informed “earlier today” by Iranian authorities that they were holding the sailors and their “safety and well-being was assured” by Iran and the American sailors “would be allowed to continue their journey.”

The official offered no timeline on when the US Navy sailors would be released.

The official did not know if this incident was tied to President Obama’s State of the Union. 

The Plight of the Yezidis: An Interview With Seed Foundation President Sherri Talabany



Coming Up

Most of the GOP presidential candidates are in South Carolina today -- the site of their next primary-- preparing for another debate tomorrow night in Greenville, SC.

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