“House lawmakers on Thursday adopted a bill to fund the federal government into early next year, but a Republican revolt in the Senate against President Biden’s vaccine policies threatened to grind the government to a halt,” the Washington Post reports.
“The 221-212 vote in the House marked an important development if lawmakers hope to stave off a shutdown set that is set to occur at midnight Friday.”
“The vote comes after House Democrats announced an eleventh-hour deal with Republicans on Thursday morning, following days of frenzied talks as both parties scrambled to prevent Congress from stumbling past the deadline.”
Senate Democratic leaders struck a deal Thursday night with the small group of GOP Senators, giving them a vote on stopping the vaccine mandates with a simple majority in exchange for avoiding a weekend shutdown.
Playbook: “All 100 senators agreed late Thursday night to quickly proceed to a bill funding the government through Feb. 18. The breakthrough came after Schumer gave Republicans a vote (with a simple majority threshold) to defund federal vaccination mandates. He did so only because there were two Republicans absent, meaning that even if Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) sided with Republicans, the amendment would be defeated. (And fail it did, 48-50.)”
“Conservatives will argue they got something out of this drama: a vote on their issue. In reality, it was a face-saving measure. The far-right started out demanding that Congress effectively scuttle the mandates, then reduced their ask to a mere vote they knew would fail, ensuring smooth passage of a continuing resolution a full 30 hours before the shutdown deadline.”
“Another reality: Their shutdown threat was never going to give them what they wanted. Schumer was all too willing to embrace the showdown over vaccines amid the threat of the Omicron Covid-19 variant. Plus, fellow Republicans blasted their demand as irresponsible and pointless.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) ripped into the Republican lawmakers threatening a government shutdown over President Biden’s coronavirus vaccine mandate, The Hill reports. Said Pelosi: “How do they explain to the public that they’re shutting down government because they don’t want people to get vaccinated?” She added: “This is so silly that we have people who are anti-science, anti-vaccination saying they’re going to shut down government over that.”
“The House is beset by historically deep personal animus and vitriol. The Senate is plumbing its own depths of straight-up gridlock,” Politico reports.
“Democratic leaders’ decision to kick some critical business until the end of the year allowed them to write a new infrastructure law and near agreement on a social spending bill. But as the end of the year draws closer, impending deadlines for government funding, the debt ceiling and the annual defense bill are empowering a handful of Republicans to muck everything up — with potentially massive consequences.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) would not rule out supporting a Republican-pushed amendment to the short-term government funding bill that would defund vaccine mandates for private companies, Politico reports.
Said Manchin: “I’ve been very supportive of a mandate for federal government, for military, for all the people who work on government payroll. I’ve been less enthused about it in the private sector. So we’re working through all of that.”
“The Jan. 6 select committee plans to hold ‘multiple weeks’ of public hearings in 2022 to lay out how the violent attack on the Capitol took shape — and how Donald Trump attempted to overturn the election, ” Politico reports.
“It’s the first indication of the committee’s plans for 2022 and how it intends to reveal the findings of its intensive, closed-door probe. And it’s a further signal that the panel intends to finalize its work by the spring, as Chair Bennie Thompson has previously said.”
The House Jan. 6 select committee voted to approve a criminal referral for contempt charges against ex-Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark on Wednesday after he previously defied its subpoena by refusing to answer any questions or hand over requested documents.
But the panel will give Clark one more chance to avoid the criminal referral. The panel set Saturday as another date for Clark to appear to continue his previously aborted deposition.
The committee will be holding its referral to the House for a full vote until after the Saturday session.
The former Trump official sent the committee a letter Tuesday informing them that he’s planning to plead the Fifth. The committee wants to make Clark invoke his right against self-incrimination to specific questions, rather than allow him to make a blanket refusal to testify.
Committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) slammed Clark’s claim to plan on pleading the Fifth as “a last-ditch attempt to delay.”
Daily Beast: “Steve Bannon—the right-wing media personality turned adviser to Donald Trump turned right-wing media personality again—became the first person in nearly 40 years to be indicted on a charge of criminal contempt of Congress last month after he refused to cooperate with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. Now, Bannon appears to be using his criminal case to go after the committee that went after him.”
“Bannon is attempting to force investigators to potentially expose who they’ve talked to and what they’ve said, peek into secret communications on the committee, and create a playbook for other resistant witnesses, according to several legal experts.”
“Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), one of his party’s most centrist members, made an intensely personal case for ambitious climate action in the Democrats’ social spending package,” Politico reports.
“He said this summer’s drought led to the worst year on his farm since they began farming in the 1970s and that he ‘longed’ for the day when his tractor could be powered off a battery, instead of diesel fuel.”
Said Tester: “If we don’t do something about climate change and start today with real solutions, there are going to be a lot of hungry people in this world. A lot of hungry people.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who provided the pivotal vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh despite the sexual assault allegations against him and his anti-abortion beliefs, still supports abortion rights and wants to codify Roe into law, her office insisted yesterday after Kavanaugh signaled a willingness to shatter the landmark SCOTUS decision (something she had said in 2018 that she was Pretty Sure he wouldn’t do).
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) favors passing legislation to enshrine the protections of Roe v. Wade into law, her office told NBC News. Said a spokeswoman: “Senator Collins supports the right to an abortion and believes that the protections in the Roe and Casey decisions should be passed into law. She has had some conversations with her colleagues about this and is open to further discussions.”
“Republicans are on the brink of achieving a decades-long conservative project — overturning abortion rights — but some strategists worry that the party isn’t ready for the political dangers of this monumental victory,” Axios reports.
Jonathan Bernstein: For now, post-Roe politics are unknowable.
Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who revealed in his upcoming book that Trump had tested positive for COVID-19 three days before his presidential debate with Biden, tried to moonwalk away from his bombshell report last night after his ex-boss called it “fake news.”
“The president’s right, it’s fake news,” Meadows told Newsmax.
Meadows accused the media of ignoring how his book had also reported that Trump gotten a negative test result after receiving the positive one–except the media isn’t ignoring that part at all.
Two former Trump officials subsequently confirmed Meadows’ account to the New York Times.
Meadows also not-so-subtly tried to temper Trump’s fury, making it a point to tell Newsmax that his book has “a lot of great stories” that “candidly talk about the miraculous work, the historic work that Donald Trump did.”
“In his new memoir, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows blames just ‘a handful of fanatics’ for the 6 January attack on the Capitol – over which nearly 700 people have now been charged,” The Guardian reports.
After President Donald Trump tested positive for Covid-19 — three says before his presidential debate with Joe Biden — chief of staff Mark Meadows said that despite a second test which was negative he “instructed everyone in his immediate circle to treat him as if he was positive,” The Guardian reports.
Greg Sargent: “In other words, everyone around Trump was apparently told he was potentially contagious, and he even appeared potentially symptomatic, even as Trump roared into the debate as if the opposite were true. If this is right, then what happened at the debate is even worse than you thought.”
“That’s because multiple people around Trump, including his wife, Melania Trump, and his kids Donald Jr. and Eric, all sat maskless at the Sept. 29 debate, according to contemporaneous reports, despite the fact that debate attendees were required to wear masks.”
“President Biden, confronting a worrisome new coronavirus variant and the potential of a winter surge, laid out a new pandemic strategy on Thursday that includes hundreds of vaccination sites aimed at families, boosters for all adults, new testing requirements for international travelers and free at-home tests that will be covered by private insurers or available at community health centers,” the New York Times reports.
“The push to expand access to at-home testing is a tacit acknowledgment by the White House that vaccination, which the president has touted as the path out of the pandemic, is not enough on its own.”
Washington Post: “The omicron variant has been detected in three U.S. states, with Minnesota and Colorado confirming cases Thursday, a day after one was announced in California.”
“President Joe Biden is set to kick off a more urgent campaign for Americans to get Covid-19 booster shots Thursday as he unveils his winter plans for combating the coronavirus and its omicron variant with enhanced availability of shots and vaccines but without major new restrictions,” the AP reports.
“The plan includes a requirement for private insurers to cover the cost of at-home Covid-19 tests and a tightening of testing requirements for people entering the U.S. regardless of their vaccination status.”
Axios: Biden extends mask mandates for travelers into 2022.
“Germany has announced sweeping new restrictions for people who have not been vaccinated against Covid,” the BBC reports.
“House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is trying to quietly extinguish various internal fires as an Islamophobia controversy consumes his GOP conference,” Politico reports.
“The California Republican has sought to handle internal strife privately in a bid to avoid alienating any of his members as he looks to both retake the majority and win the speaker’s gavel next Congress. Rather than putting fellow Republicans on blast, McCarthy has low-key lobbied individuals — and the conference as a whole — to stay on message.”
“When Covid-19 variants arise, the accepted wisdom is that the constellation of mutations they contain developed in an immunocompromised person who contracted the virus and couldn’t shake the infection. But some scientists have an alternative theory for where the latest variant of concern, Omicron, may have acquired the unusual mutations that stud its spike protein,” Stat reports.
“They speculate the virus could have evolved in another animal species.”
“The theory goes that some type of animal, potentially rodents, was infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus sometime in mid-2020. In this new species, the virus evolved, accumulating roughly 50 mutations on the spike protein before spilling back over into people.”
Politico: “President Joe Biden was elected a year ago to manage an out-of-control pandemic, and he secured some undeniable early triumphs by steering a massive Covid relief bill through Congress while ramping up a vaccine distribution program to get shots into the arms of tens of millions of Americans.”
“But right as the president was celebrating progress in the pandemic fight over the summer, the Delta variant sent cases surging, rattling the nation’s economy, and sending the president’s poll numbers tumbling. Now the sudden emergence of the Omicron variant has sparked fears of another devastating wave of the virus, one that could endanger the White House’s plans to focus on Biden’s legislative agenda and efforts to battle inflation and a bottlenecked supply chain.”
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) sharply criticized President Trump’s administration, saying it “didn’t get a lot of stuff done,” Axios reports. Said Christie: “Like, let’s just go through the list of things. The wall isn’t built. Obamacare is still there. We didn’t get an infrastructure package done that we wanted, so now we’re stuck with theirs.”
He added: “And that’s a problem. That management style is a problem. I have no problem in the main with the policies that were followed by the Trump administration, that they attempted to implement. I really think they were very, very solid.”
“Russia ordered U.S. Embassy staff who have been in Moscow for more than three years to leave the country by Jan. 31, in the latest round of tit-for-tat expulsions between Washington and Moscow,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
Emmanuel Macron privately branded Boris Johnson a “clown” and a “knucklehead”, according to reports in France as Anglo-French relations were described as the worst since Waterloo, the Times of London reports.
“The Trump-era ‘Remain in Mexico’ program will resume Monday as long as Mexico officially approves the plan, as expected Thursday,” Axios reports. “President Biden has been forced by court order to restart the controversial program, which makes asylum seekers wait in Mexico for their U.S. court hearings. The administration is simultaneously seeking to end the program, again.”