Krauthammer: Obama’s environmental plan “egregious”

Charles Krauthammer said Tuesday on “Special Report with Bret Baier”  that President Obama’s plan to ban offshore drilling in parts of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans is “egregious” and reveals the fact that the White House is trying to “nail everything to the floor so it can’t be moved” before Donald Trump takes over.

“Of course it can be moved,” said Krathammer. “The idea that because we're not going to drill the oil or natural gas is not going to be produced is ridiculous and it's going to end up being produced in Nigeria or places all over the world where the environmental standards are infinitely less than they are in the  U.S.”

President Obama invoked a 1953 law -- the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act – which gives him the authority to act unilaterally and declare a permanent drilling ban from Virginia to Maine on the Atlantic and along much of Alaska’s coast.

Krauthammer added this move will not allow us to compete with foreign countries saying, “the Chinese are opening a coal fired plant every week. It’s not going to stop. What we don’t do they’re going to do and all we’re doing is exporting jobs, exporting the waste and exporting the danger.”

Stoddard on Obama’s Syria comments: ‘It was so painful for him’

RealClearPolitics associate editor A.B. Stoddard said Friday on “Special Report with Bret Baier” that she was moved by President Obama’s comments at his annual end-of-the-year press conference on the massacre of civilians in Syria

“I just thought it was very poignant to hear President Obama use phrases like, ‘We were not successful,’ and, ‘I feel responsible,’” she said. “He was so heavy with responsibility, and it was so painful for him.”

Stoddard explained that the president felt there were no easy choices in Syria, and that he believed it would be too much to ask Americans, who already were in the midst of two wars, to invade that country militarily and rescue its people.

“It was a very painful discussion about how there are no options, even for Donald Trump,” she said, concluding, “[President Obama’s remarks] set up for all of us going forward the lack of choices there are at this point, and how much Donald Trump will be boxed in trying to get out of the mess in Syria.

Krauthammer on Syrian Civil War: "Obama decision of doing nothing"- "We see the result now.'

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said Thursday on "Special Report with Bret Baier" that Obama did not do enough to intervene in the Civil War in Syria. Saying "when the redline was crossed we were in a position, the French were gonna help us, of purely an attack from the air or cruise missiles to wipeout the Assad Airforce and to disable the airfields.  That is not invasion, that would have meant you can't drop the barrel bombs."  Krauthammer added "the job of a super power is to deter the other super power.  There was no penalty the Russians had to pay at any stage at tipping the balance in the war and that was a role we could have played short of anything like a ground invasion."

Krauthammer added that Obama's inaction led the Russians to take advantage "when the Russians started to maneuver we didn't have to invade."

He pointed out that "people talk about there are only two alternatives, the passivity of Obama which ended today with Aleppo or invasion." And added " to put it up as the only alternative is to back up the Obama decision of doing nothing and we see the result now."

 

ISIS may have surface-to-air missile system, US gen says

ISIS may have taken Syrian regime surface-to-air missile site

The Islamic State may have taken possession of a Syrian military surface-to-air missile system, the top US general in Iraq told Pentagon reporters Wednesday.  ISIS recaptured the Syrian city of Palmyra over the weekend after Syrian regime troops fled in a hurry, leaving behind a trove of weapons.

“We believe it includes some armored vehicles and various guns and other heavy weapons, possibly some air defense equipment," Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, said. "Anything they seized poses a threat to the coalition.”

Townsend emphasized that if the Russians do not take out the weapons seized by ISIS, “we will.”  In the meantime, Townsend said he would let the Russians “sort that out” since Palmyra is in western Syria where the Russians and Syrian regime routinely carry out strikes. 

A separate US defense official tells Fox News, ISIS is in control of an SA-3 missile system taken from the Syrian regime outside Palmyra.  Townsend would not go into specifics about the possibility that ISIS had in its possession some “air defense equipment.”  

The Washington Post first reported ISIS had taken possession of the SA-3 surface-to-air missile system.  It is not immediately clear if ISIS knows how to use it.

ISIS continues to plan attacks against the West from Raqqa

“They still have the ability to plot and cast into motion attacks on the West and that’s a great concern to us,” said Townsend about ISIS inside Raqqa, reiterating earlier concerns from his last press briefing in late October.  “We are hammering away at them to prevent that.”  Townsend said the three ISIS leader killed in a drone strike last week were actively plotting attacks against the West.

Mosul – 25% retaken by US-backed  Iraqi forces

Townsend says that 25% of Mosul has been recaptured by US-backed Iraqi forces.  He warned that fighting in western Mosul, separated by the Tigris River, could be “potentially harder” because ISIS had put up more defensive positions there.

Townsend said the “locus” of ISIS’s chemical weapons program is based in Mosul, but believes it could be moved as Iraqi forces gain ground there.  He did not specify where the weapons would be moved.

12-15,000 ISIS fighters left

Townsend agreed with special envoy Brett McGurk’s estimation that roughly 12-15,000 ISIS fighters remained in Iraq and Syria.  It’s “ballpark close enough,” Townsend said.

Raqqa – “double or triple” more US-trained Syrian forces needed

Townsend said there have been 3,000 Arab fighters trained to date by the US military in Syria.  He said it would take “double or triple” that number before a US-supported assault force is ready to retake the ISIS capital.  The shortage of US-trained Arab fighters is a “big problem,” he said.  Training more Arab Syrian forces is part of the reason behind the deployment of 200 more US troops to Syria, he said.

Aleppo – US general says his focus is ISIS

“So I watched Aleppo on TV, it's horrible.  Like most of you, and I read intelligence so I get special access to intelligence about Aleppo, but Aleppo is not in our charter here.  So I'm blessed although it's a curse,” said Townsend.

It does complicate our life here, imagine fighting one war with another war raging just beside, and sometimes overlapping our war against ISIL here in northern Syria, so it's certainly a complicator,” he said.

Townsend said Aleppo would not have a significant impact on the US-led coalition’s battle against Raqqa.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Electoral College and Certifying the Electoral Vote



Per Pergram-Capitol Hill

The Founders feared a direct, “popular” election of the President. So while the Founders erected a system for eligible voters to cast ballots for President, they simultaneously constructed a series of circuit-breakers to potentially curb the will of the masses. This would diffuse political power when selecting a chief executive – and is the quintessence of the electoral college.

Creation of the electoral college is the first circuit-breaker. The Founders distributed “electoral votes” based on the population of each state. They granted the smallest states a minimum of three electoral votes – based on the standard distribution of at least two U.S. Senators and one member in the U.S. House of Representatives. But bigger states would command more sway in the electoral college, because, well, they were bigger. Hence, the reason New York and Virginia were power players in the early years.

In essence, voters were choosing “electors” for their state who would cast ballots on behalf of the candidate who emerged victorious. However, electors are free to vote the way they want and not bound to the candidate who prevails in a state. That produces the periodic phenomenon of “faithless” electors casting ballots in the electoral college. 29 states and Washington, DC have laws latching electors to candidates. But those statues are generally viewed as unenforceable. There have only been 157 instances of faithless electors for President or Vice President in the history of the republic. No faithless electors have swayed the outcome of an election.

The last faithless elector incident came in 2004. An unknown elector from Minnesota cast their ballot for then-Sen. John Edwards (D-NC), the Democrats’ vice presidential nominee, instead of now-Secretary of State John Kerry, the Democratic standard-bearer.

Here’s a general outline on the process from here through inauguration day:

In the spring and summer of a presidential year, the political parties of each state nominate electors for each candidate. These electors are typically “loyal” to a given party.

Then election day hits. Technically, voters are casting ballots for electors, not the actual presidential candidates. A candidate “wins” a given state and all of that state’s electoral votes (the exceptions being Maine and Nebraska, which allocate electoral votes proportionally).

The first big step in the process is December 13. This is when all state recounts, challenges and disputes must be resolved.

The Electoral College meets on December 19, by state, in each state capital. The electors then present their ballots for president and vice president.

Each state crafts six certificates of of votes, comprised of two, separate lists. One list compiles electoral votes for President. The other for Vice President. The Governor of each state certifies each list and attests to their accuracy via a certificate.

One certificate is then sent to the President of the Senate. Two go to each state’s Secretary of State.

December 28 is the deadline for the President of the Senate to receive the electoral ballots.

Per the Constitution, the Congress convenes at noon on January 3. Once the new Congress meets, the Archivist of the United States transmits to both the House and Senate the electoral certificates provided by the governors.

January 6 is then the official tabulation of the electoral college. Congress meets in a Joint Session (usually in the House chamber) with the Speaker of the House and the CURRENT Vice President (as President of the Senate) presiding). A simple majority (270 out of 538) are required to win.

Congress tabulates the states electoral slates in alphabetical order. Four vote counters, known as tellers, announce the results. The tellers are typically two House and two Senate members.

Debate can be called for if there is a dispute over a state’s electors. And that’s why the Founders dictated that the House and Senate would serve as the ultimate arbiter of each state’s electoral slate. This is the second circuit-breaker.

If there’s a disagreement, a member of the House and Senate must jointly contest an individual state’s electoral ballots. If that happens, the House and Senate dissolve into their separate bodies, debate the issue for two hours and then vote to accept or reject that state’s electoral vote. The House and Senate later reconvene to finally settle the issue in the Joint Meeting with the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate (the Vice President) presiding.

In early 2001, various members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) aimed to challenge Florida’s electoral slate from the previous fall’s disputed presidential election. Then-Vice President Gore repeatedly asked each CBC member if they had a Senate sponsor to jointly contest the Florida electoral slate. None did.

“I don’t care that it is not signed by a senator,” famously proclaimed Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) when pressed by Gore if she had a Senate advocate.

The irony of course is that the person who stood to benefit from a successful challenge of Florida’s electoral ballot was none other than Gore – the 2000 Democratic Presidential nominee.

In other words, this was getting awkward.

But not for long.

“The chair would advise that the rules do care,” Gore chastened Waters as he rejected her petition.

The move triggered applause from Congressional Republicans in the House chamber.

Officials reported voting irregularities in Ohio in 2004. The late-Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH) raised the issue about Ohio’s electoral slate during the January, 2005 Joint Meeting of Congress certifying the electoral college. Only this time around, Tubbs Jones found a Senate patron in Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). The House and Senate then met separately to debate and vote on the Tubbs Jones/Boxer objection. The House and Senate eventually found the Ohio electoral votes to be in order. President George W. Bush secured a second term in the White House.

There is a final circuit-breaker. Let’s say the House and Senate cannot settle a dispute over the electoral vote and no candidate hits 270? That’s when the House decides the President in what is called a “contingent” election. This has only happened twice in U.S. history. The House votes by state delegation (one vote per state, so California is no more influential than say, North Dakota). A contingent election in 1801 elected Thomas Jefferson. The contingent election of 1825 tapped John Quincy Adams.

House Eliminates Entire Floor to Congressional Office Building

Per Pergram-Capitol Hill

If only cutting government spending were this easy…

The Architect of the Capitol (AOC) has “eliminated” the entire basement floor of the Rayburn House Office Building.

The basement still exists. But it’s not called a “basement” now. And the room numbers are designated as such.

For instance, room B343 (B, standing for basement) no longer exists. And it will be known as room “2049 Rayburn,” office to Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA).

But this is not the first floor. The first floor is one level up.

Confused?

Here’s the reason for the change: Well, the AOC is undertaking a multi-decade (yes, you read that correctly) project to renovate the Cannon House Office Building. That means the elimination of multiple Congressional office suites. So, in an effort to have enough offices for members, some lawmakers now have their offices in what WAS the basement of Rayburn. Even though it’s not called the basement any more.

The AOC says that members didn’t request the change. But Fox is told some lawmakers were rather unenthused about having offices which would be located in the “basement.” And due to the topographical slant of Capitol Hill, many of the offices actually offer rather dynamic views of the Capitol itself and are quite nice. These are not the dregs of Capitol offices. Just the numbers are different.

Many of the members in the basement are quite senior. They include Reps. Mike Simpson (R-ID), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Charlie Dent (R-PA), Tom Graves (R-GA), Jim Costa (D-CA), GK Butterfield (D-NC), Bill Shuster (D-PA), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Robert Brady (D-PA), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Rob Wittman (R-VA), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Dave Schweikert (R-AZ) and Barletta.

The Capitol sometimes delves into such wordplay with its geography and infrastructure. For instance, there is no “back” to the US Capitol. There is the “West Front” and the “East Front.”

But with the basement now eliminated, these lawmakers can all brag that they got in on the ground floor. 

Former Congressman arraigned on 24 felony counts

 

Former Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) is to be arraigned today on 24 felony counts in Springfield, IL. He's charged with theft of government funds, wire and mail fraud, lying on expense vouches and Federal Election Commission reports and filing false tax returns.

Congressman Schock is expected to plead not guilty.

First elected in 2008, the now 35-year-old Schock was the youngest member of Congress. He became known, not for legislation, but model-type photo shoots revealing is physique and an active Instagram account which showed him snowboarding in the Andes Mountains. 

He was also criticized for decorating his Capitol Hill office with a Downton Abbey motif. 

Schock resigned in March, 2015

 

China flies nuclear-capable bomber in South China Sea for first time since Trump call with Taiwan president, US officials

By Lucas Tomlinson

China flew a long-range nuclear-capable bomber outside China for the first time since President-elect Donald Trump spoke with the president of Taiwan, two US officials tell Fox News.  The dramatic show of force was meant to send a message to the new administration, according to the officials.

Even more concerning for the Pentagon, China has been seen by American intelligence satellites preparing to ship more advanced surface-to-air missiles to its contested islands in the South China Sea.

Mr. Trump's call with Taiwan's President Tsai ling-wen broke decades long protocol after American leaders stopped communicating directly with the Taiwan president in 1979, when diplomatic ties were severed and the United States shifted to a new "one-China" policy.  China protested Trump's call with President Tsai.

The Chinese H-6 bomber flew along the disputed "Nine-Dash line" Thursday which surrounds the South China Sea and dozens of disputed Chinese islands, many claimed by other countries in the region.  The Pentagon was alerted to the Chinese flight Friday.  It was the first long-range flight of a Chinese bomber along the U-shaped line of demarcation since March 2015, according to the officials.   

Over the summer, Chinese bombers flew over the South China Sea and the contested islands, but they did not fly nearly as far as this one, the officials said. 

At various points in recent long-range flight, Chinese fighter jets provided escort to the single Chinese bomber.  

In recent days, US intelligence satellites have spotted components for the Chinese version of the SA-21 surface-to-air missile system at the port of Jieyang, in southeast China, where officials say China has made similar military shipments in the past to its islands in the South China Sea.

In February, Fox News first reported that China had deployed an advanced surface-to-air missile system, the HQ-9, to Woody Island, a contested island in the Paracel Island chain in the South China Sea, also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.

The HQ-9 is based on the Russian S-300 missile system and has a range of roughly 125 miles.  

The Chinese SA-21 system, based on the more advanced Russian S-400, is a more capable missile system than the HQ-9.  Depending on the types of missiles used, it could extend the range up to 250 miles and target not only aircraft, but ballistic missiles as well.  

The head of the U.S. military's Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris has repeatedly warned in the past year about China's continued military build-up or "militarization" of the South China Sea.

In October, a US Navy destroyer sailed close to Woody Island in what the Pentagon calls a "freedom of navigation" operation.  The Chinese called the act "provocative."  It was the fourth such operation by the U.S. Navy in the past year.    

China has constructed over 3,000 acres of land atop reefs in the South China Sea in the past few years.   It now has three runways and has sent bombers and fighter jets to a number of them.  

In August, satellite photos appeared to show China making progress on at least two dozen hardened concrete hangers in order to land Chinese bombers and fighter jets as well as in-flight refueling planes, greatly expanding the reach of the Chinese military. 

The photos were collected and studied by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based think-tank.  They showed the construction on China's man-made islands at Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief reefs.  

Krauthammer on Democrats vowing to delay Trump Cabinet Confirmations: 'Revenge is not a good strategy for the Democrats'

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said Tuesday on "Special Report with Bret Baier"  that if the Democrats want to hold up Trump's Cabinet confirmations as payback "they will suffer from that for 8 years."  Democrats are vowing to give Trump's picks the "Garland Treatment" after Obama's pick for the Supreme court, Merrick Garland, was held up.

Krauthammer warned the democrats of the optics of playing politics.  "Revenge is not a good strategy for democrats.  The one thing they don't want to be tagged with immediately is obstructionism."  Krauthammer added "this is going to look like naked partisanship and obstruction for its own sake."

When President Barack Obama entered the oval office congress approved 8 of his cabinet members without delay.  Krauthammer said "if these guys are going to stand around and do procedural stuff that you just show on television is going to look ridiculous."  While Krauthammer understands why you would hold up someone if you think they are extreme or unqualified, he told democrats  they shouldn't do it for revenge.  

Krauthammer on Trump’s conversation with Taiwan: ‘The Chinese are extremely sensitive’

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said Friday on “Special Report with Bret Baier” that a telephone conversation between President-elect Trump and the Taiwanese president was not only politically incorrect, but it could have consequences for the United States’ relationship with China.

“The Chinese are extremely sensitive about these nuances in diplomacy. They've been at it for four thousand years, and the rules were laid down by Kissinger and Nixon when they made the opening, and it was that we'd be allies of Taiwan, but we would have to observe certain rules… that Taiwan is part of China,” Krauthammer said, adding, “Once you have communications with the president of the U.S. direct with the president of Taiwan, then you are impinging on that.”

Krauthammer went on to say that the Chinese can exert power when they feel they’re being wronged.

“The Chinese, when they get upset, can do things. Like take over an island here or there, or tear up an agreement, or start threatening, or do other things that could cause a crisis. I don't think that this is going to cause one, but when he ascends to office, Trump is going to have to be briefed on stuff like this,” he said, concluding that a diplomatic misstep, particularly in the Middle East could cause a “real rupture.”

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