EXCLUSIVE: The chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness is warning that it's only a matter of time before China tries to invade Taiwan and that the Department of Defense needs to shift its focus from enacting "woke" policies to ensuring troops are prepared to address this threat and other threats to U.S. national security.
"You can debate if 2025 is the right year, but it is a matter of when, not if, anymore," Chairman Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla., told Fox News Digital. "And we have to do more with our military readiness to convince China not to make that move."
Waltz said he largely agrees with a memo from four-star Air Force Gen. Mike Minihan – the head of Air Mobility Command – which predicted that the U.S. will be at war with China by 2025.
Minihan's memo to all air wing commanders and other Air Force operational commanders said that he believes war with China is imminent in the next two years, and he said that "a fortified, ready, integrated, and agile Joint Force Maneuver Team ready to fight and win inside the first island chain" needs to be established to prepare for the fight.
Minihan directed his Air Force commanders to report back by Feb. 28 on steps they will take to prepare for the war against China.
Waltz said China's military buildup could peak between 2025 and 2028, and he welcomed Minihan's sober assessment of China's rising power.
"It is refreshing to hear a general officer leading, telling his troops to train harder, that we have to deter war, but if we can’t, that we have to win, and here’s how we’re going to get to victory," Waltz told Fox News Digital. "He is focused on standards and victory – not on diversity, equity and inclusion and climate."
"I think this memo is spot on," Waltz added. "This is the type of mentality that we need our soldiers to see and that we need the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to see."
Waltz, who also sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, said the 2024 U.S. presidential election and the Taiwanese election might have influence on the timing of China’s aggression toward Taiwan. Minihan suggested in his memo that the elections would "distract" the countries, leaving a window for China to make a move.
"Taiwan won’t go so far as to say ‘independence’ because they know that is a trigger for the CCP," Waltz said. "But they are having a more and more aggressive stance toward their own national defense and a closer and closer relationship with the United States."
Meanwhile, Waltz said the Department of Defense’s focus on climate, COVID vaccine mandates and social policies has deterred young adults from joining the military and could hurt United States’ readiness.
Waltz said military personnel are "disturbed" that some senior leaders think "climate is the greatest existential threat," and he said they are concerned about the emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion.
"I think it has affected our readiness, and we’ve had the worst recruiting year in the last year since Vietnam," Waltz said. He said the vaccine mandates have been "deterring young men and women from signing up. People have been leaving the service because of it."
Waltz noted that some officials in the Biden administration have said climate change is an "existential threat" to the United States. That's a reference to comments made by the secretary of the Army, who said the United States should "take all of our tanks and fighting vehicles electric within the next couple of decades."
"Their obsession is having the least carbon-emitting Army," Waltz said. "And I want the most lethal Army."
"The administration’s China policy is just all over the place, and it’s dangerous," Waltz added.
That mirrors an assessment from House China Select Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., who told Fox News Digital that the Biden administration is "divided" on the China threat.
Officials like FBI Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director William Burns and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines have repeatedly warned that China poses the greatest threat to the national security of the U.S. Other officials, like climate czar John Kerry, are more focused on the threat of climate change.
But a senior administration official told Fox News that the Biden team is focusing on climate change as "a way to compete with China."
The official pointed to the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which they say positions the U.S. to "outspend China" for the first time. The official also pointed to the Inflation Reduction Act, saying the administration is focusing on making "huge investments" to create U.S.-based manufacturing jobs and strengthening supply chains.
Fox News reported last summer that China could invade Taiwan within 18 months, according to current and former officials familiar with U.S. and allied intelligence – specifically through amphibious assault and military invasion.
When asked for comment about the Minihan memo, a defense official told Fox News Digital that those comments "are not representative of the department’s view on China."
Still, Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder told Fox News Digital that the Biden administration’s National Defense Strategy "makes clear that China is the pacing challenge for the Department of Defense, and our focus remains on working alongside allies and partners to preserve a peaceful, free and open Indo-Pacific."
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recently said that there has been "increased surface vessel activity around Taiwan" but said "whether or not that means an invasion is imminent … I seriously doubt that."
EXCLUSIVE: The rival group to Stacey Abrams' successful get-out-the-vote (GOTV) organization is touting what it says is the "playbook" to countering Democrat advances in swing states across the country in preparation for the 2024 elections.
The group – Greater Georgia – was founded in 2021 by former Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., with the aim of registering more conservatives to vote, engaging a more diverse slate of voters, and turning out the vote with the necessary ground game infrastructure, all in an effort to prevent similar defeats to what Republicans in the state experienced in the 2020 elections.
Speaking with Fox News Digital, Loeffler detailed the success Greater Georgia saw during the 2022 midterm elections in each of those areas – all things she says can be emulated in other swing states – as well as what improvements she said Republicans needed to make in order to overcome Democrats' financial and organizational advantages.
"We've been a solidly red state for well over a decade. And what we saw in 2022 was wider margins of victory across our state for our statewide elected officials and really– held the majority in the [state] House and the [state] Senate and won more counties in this cycle than in 2020," Loeffler said.
She also pointed to Republican victories in all but one state-wide race in which GOP Senate nominee Herschel Walker was narrowly defeated by incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in a runoff election by less than 35,000 votes, despite the latter spending more than $100 million more on the race.
She attributed this success, in part, to Greater Georgia's recruiting nearly 1,000 grassroots volunteers, registering more than 36,000 new voters, and holding 26 community roundtables to recruit more diverse conservative voters, all of which she detailed in the organization's annual report following the midterms.
When asked about Abrams' GOTV organization, "Fair Fight," and how it saw success in helping elect Democratic Sens. Warnock and Jon Ossoff, as well as deliver the state to Biden over former President Donald Trump in 2020, Loeffler said it came down to its ability to effectively organize and fund a massive ground mobilization of voters.
"When we looked at the landscape after the 2020 cycle, what I saw was a lack of organization and activism on the ground. Now, there were tremendous numbers of people involved and in mobilizing," she said.
"But what we need is organization. And that's what we saw. Being represented on the left was not just massive funding, but a massive ground game, voter contact mobilization. And so I set out to replicate that after I left the Senate in 2021 to make sure what happened to us in 2020 never happens in this state again," she added.
Loeffler explained that she didn't just mean mobilizing on Election Day, but instead building that same infrastructure outside an election year as well – in this case during 2023 with 2024 in mind.
She emphasized that although Georgia was still a red state in terms of values and electoral success in the midterms, it was also "vital" to recognize it as "a canary in a coal mine" for the rest of the country because of its changing electorate, as well as the need to reach those new groups of voters.
"We have seen the trends that are playing out, whether it's younger voters, more diverse voters or independent voters. And we have to have the infrastructure and outreach to conduct that persuasion, mobilization, registration, and then getting them to the polls in 2024," she said.
Loeffler said that one of the biggest takeaways from Georgia Republicans' overall success in 2022 was that Greater Georgia proved a ground game could overcome Democrats' "wall of money" pouring in from blue states, a problem Republicans in other battleground states have also faced.
She later added that Republicans everywhere could benefit from being data-driven in order to maximize outreach to potential voters.
"We have to understand where those margins are for pickup, where the persuadable voters are, and if we're reaching them. Are they registered? Are they engaged? Are they voting? And then what can we do to persuade them?" Loeffler said.
"That's a very data driven exercise. It's not just relying on polling or modeling, but it's doing the work on the ground, being at the doors and making sure that through Election Day, we're conducting the ballot chase all the way to the finish," she said.
Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday announced the state's first-ever border czar to address the influx of migrants coming through the U.S.-Mexico border.
Abbott tapped veteran Border Patrol agent Mike Banks to serve as "special adviser on border matters to the governor," in response to the Biden administration's handling of the border crisis.
"For nearly two years, the state of Texas has taken unprecedented, historic action under Operation Lone Star in response to the Biden administration's refusal to secure the border," Abbott said at a news conference on a border wall construction site in San Benito, Texas. "To continue doing what no other state in the history of our country has done to secure the border, I hired Mike Banks as the state of Texas' first-ever border czar."
"As an award-winning Border Patrol agent, with decades of federal law enforcement and border security experience, Mike is the perfect choice to oversee Texas' fight against the surge of illegal immigration, lethal drugs, and deadly weapons flowing into our state and nation," the governor continued. "I have no doubt that Mike's strong record of leadership and wealth of experience will provide Texans — and Americans — the level of border security expertise they deserve from a proper border czar."
Banks, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steve McCraw and Texas Military Department (TMD) Maj. Gen. Thomas Suelzer were present for Abbott's announcement.
"I am humbled to be selected by Governor Abbott for this opportunity," Banks said. "Protecting our nation’s border is something I have dedicated the last 23 years of my life to, and I am very passionate about it. I look forward to strengthening our relationships with law enforcement partners and the community, leveraging all that we can to further protect our great state of Texas and the United States."
The new Texas border czar is expected to collaborate daily with DPS, TMD and other state agencies, local officials and Texas landowners to deter and prevent migrants from entering Texas illegally through the Mexico border. He also is expected to advise Abbott on situations and strategies at the border, including plans to address migrant surges. He will be based out of Weslaco and travel along the border when necessary.
Banks has more than 30 years of federal law enforcement leadership experience, including 23 years in border security operations and administration along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Abbott has been highly critical of the Biden administration for its handling of the border, which has seen record numbers of illegal crossings since the president took office in January 2021.
In response to what he's described as the federal government's inaction on border security, the governor has launched several initiatives aimed at addressing the border crisis, including sending buses of migrants to sanctuary cities like Washington, D.C., and New York City, allocating $4 billion in funding for Texas' border security efforts and deploying thousands of Texas National Guard soldiers and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers.
"No governor has dedicated more time, energy, and effort in terms of public safety, homeland security, and border security than Governor Abbott," McCraw said at Monday's news conference.
President Biden posed a challenge to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Monday amid rising tensions surrounding the debate over raising the federal debt ceiling: "Show me your budget and I'll show you mine."
Biden made the remarks while responding to a question from CNN about what his message to McCarthy would be during the upcoming meeting between the two, expected to be held Wednesday at the White House.
McCarthy said the discussions would revolve around increasing the debt ceiling, which Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said had been reached on Thursday.
"President Biden: I accept your invitation to sit down and discuss a responsible debt ceiling increase to address irresponsible government spending," McCarthy tweeted Friday afternoon. "I look forward to our meeting."
On the same day, Biden confirmed to Politico that the discussion would be about the debt, however a White House official later insisted the meeting would be a "general" one and not debt ceiling-specific.
The official repeated the administration's previously stated position that the debt ceiling was "not a negotiation."
Last week, Republican senators insisted Biden "will negotiate" on the debt ceiling, with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, calling the president's anti-negotiating stance "unreasonable and ridiculous."
The growing U.S. national debt stands at $31.4 trillion while the federal government's annual budget is currently operating at $6.3 trillion, nearly $2 trillion more than what it spent annually prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked earlier this month about debt ceiling negotiations and whether Biden is willing to "cut any spending" or would be willing to negotiate with Republicans who "want to cut spending as part of a debt limit deal."
"Look, as you’ve heard us say before, we will not be doing any negotiation over the debt ceiling," Jean-Pierre said.
Fox Businesses' Brie Stimson and Peter Kasperowicz contributed to this report.
Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey unveiled a $282 million supplemental spending plan Monday that includes $85 million to help pay for the state's emergency assistance program and other services for eligible families in need of shelter.
The state's shelter system is at capacity and facing significantly elevated levels of demand by families facing homelessness, administration officials said.
In November, former Republican Gov. Charlie Baker opened a temporary shelter in Devens to ease the state’s migrant crisis.
The proposed supplemental budget — which now heads to state lawmakers — will also extend two food security programs that will soon run out of funding, according to Healey.
"Our administration is committed to ensuring that families in Massachusetts have access to the shelter, health care, education, food assistance and other services they need," the Democrat said.
The proposed spending is intended to help expand the number of units available to provide temporary shelter to families facing homelessness and includes investments in housing infrastructure and the shelter provider workforce.
Massachusetts must provide emergency shelter to homeless families under its existing "right-to-shelter" law.
"The supp budget presented us with realistic options today," Democratic House Speaker Ronald Mariano told reporters.
The bill also proposes nearly $22 million in school-based aid to help communities experiencing a large influx of families with school-aged children due to state shelter placements.
It also includes $65 million to extend the universal school meals pilot program through the end of the 2022-2023 school year.
To help the more than 630,000 Massachusetts families facing the end of extra federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits in March, the proposed state spending plan includes $130 million to recipients equal to 40% of the previous federal benefit for three months.
One of the governor’s picks for a powerful regulatory commission has recused himself from any decisions involving a proposed multibillion-dollar merger between a U.S. subsidiary of global energy giant Iberdrola and New Mexico’s largest electric utility.
Commissioner Patrick O’Connell's recusal came just weeks after he was appointed to the Public Regulation Commission under a new structure in which the governor appoints members from a list of candidates vetted by a nominating panel. Previously, voters elected the commissioners.
O'Connell in a filing Friday cited the reason for his voluntary recusal as previous testimony he gave on behalf of a proposed settlement related to the merger while he worked for an environmental group. O’Connell also had previously served as a resource planner for Public Service Co. of New Mexico.
The merger case is pending before the state Supreme Court after the elected members of the previous Public Regulation Commission rejected the $8 billion acquisition. The commission had shared the concerns of a hearing examiner who warned of reliability risks and the potential for higher prices in a state with one of the nation’s highest poverty rates.
Critics also pointed to the track record of the Iberdrola subsidiary, Connecticut-based Avangrid. The company owns utilities in the northeastern U.S.
Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and nearly a dozen other groups have supported the merger, suggesting that Avangrid and Iberdrola's capital could help speed up New Mexico's pursuit of zero-carbon emissions for electricity generation over the next two decades.
Western Resource Advocates, the group O'Connell used to work for, said Monday it will continue to advocate for the merger.
"We’re confident that our position, and that of our supporting partners, will be given fair and thoughtful consideration," said Cydney Beadles, Western Resource Advocates' New Mexico clean energy manager.
Mariel Nanasi, executive director of the group New Energy Economy and an outspoken critic of PNM and the merger, said O'Connell did the right thing as the law is clear when there is a conflict of interest involving a judge or commissioner.
That leaves two appointees on the commission to consider the case if it comes up again — Gabriel Aguilera, who worked for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and James Ellison Jr., a principal analyst from Sandia National Laboratories.
The outgoing Public Regulation Commission members had ordered an economic analysis that was completed in December. It raised anti-competitive and consumer welfare issues.
Iberdrola and Avangrid executives have said acquiring PNM will be strategic and would help the companies further their growth in both clean energy distribution and transmission.
Tamer Cetin, economics advisor to the Public Regulation Commission, noted in the report that the merger may create a monopolistic electricity market in New Mexico in which Avangrid could "dominate all the segments from generation to transmission, distribution, wholesale and retail."
Transmission, wholesale and distribution currently are under PNM control, with generation being the only competitive segment in the New Mexico market. Cetin notes that Avangrid has plans to make multibillion dollar investments as the third largest renewable energy company in the U.S. and that would push out other developers who could supply electricity.
Another pivotal case the new commission will have to hear over the next year includes a billion-dollar rate case that would affect hundreds of thousands of PNM customers.
The North Dakota House on Monday approved a bill that would require school districts to show a video on fetal development as part of life science curriculums.
The bill, which now goes to the Senate, passed by a 60-34 vote. It does not specify which grade levels would see the films, the Bismarck Tribune reported.
It requires the showing of an ultrasound video, at least 3 minutes long, that details early fetal development of the brain, heart, sex organs and other vital organs. The film would be presented during human growth and development discussions and human sexuality instructions.
Republican Sen. Janne Myrdal of Edinburg, one of the Legislature's most ardent anti-abortion members, showed a sample video last month to a House committee from Live Action, an anti-abortion organization.
She said the organization is willing to relinquish its rights to the video and provide it free to the state Department of Public Instruction.
Myrdal said she chose the video because it was the shortest and most scientific video of its kind that she had seen, not because it came from Live Action.
"If that becomes controversial ... it would be media making it controversial or the abortion industry making it controversial because of the source of the video," she told the Tribune.
DPI spokesman Dale Wetzel said the agency didn’t testify on the bill and he had no comment on the video.
Rep. David Richter, R-Williston, opposed the bill because it set academic standards outside of DPI rules and school boards.
And Rep. LaurieBeth Hager, D-Fargo, said she opposed the bill because the House Education Committee did not review it.