“The Senate voted on Thursday to pass a $1.7 trillion government funding bill, sending it to the House to avoid a holiday shutdown,” NBC News reports.
“The vote was 68-29 on sweeping legislation that will keep the government funded through next fall and overhaul election laws in an attempt to prevent another Jan. 6…. The bill also includes nearly $45 billion of additional military, economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.”
Overnight on Wednesday into Thursday morning, it looked like the bill might be in danger. “Senators left the Capitol on Wednesday night without a critical deal allowing for votes on a $1.7 trillion government funding package, kicking the bill into Thursday and closer to a shutdown deadline,” Politico reports.
“Lawmakers are at a standstill over a proposed GOP amendment tied to a Trump-era border policy, which could force Democrats to take a politically tricky vote. It’s a U-turn from earlier in the day when leadership hoped the strong pull of leaving for the holidays would speed up passage of the mammoth bill on Wednesday, checking the final item off the Senate’s year-end to-do list before the chamber departs Washington until late January.”
“Though federal cash doesn’t expire until Friday at midnight, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has threatened to switch tracks and back a temporary funding patch into early next year if the upper chamber doesn’t clear the massive spending package by Thursday.”
Punchbowl News: “When many of you went to bed last night, the headlines indicated that the entire omnibus was falling apart because of a disagreement over Title 42 immigration policy. Yet if there’s one thing to know about these kinds of negotiations, it’s that the rhetoric often gets most inflammatory right before there’s a big breakthrough. Hopefully.”
Playbook: “Of course, if the omnibus gets tripped up, $47 billion in aid to Ukraine is among the priorities at risk — quite the split screen with Zelensky’s visit to Washington.”
Punchbowl was right, and by Thursday noon, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (R-NY) announced “we have an agreement now” on the ominbus spending bill that nearly got derailed last night, CNN reports. Schumer has agreed to vote on a 14 amendments before eventually going to final passage which is expected this afternoon. If the Senate approves the bill, the measure then goes back to the House.
Donald Trump on Thursday called on every single Republican senator to vote “no” on the “ludicrous” $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package, The Hill reports. Said Trump, in a video: “It’s a disaster for our country and it also happens to be a disaster for the Republican Party, because they could stop it.” Looks like 18 Republicans ignored the weak man.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) told NewsNation that immigration reform legislation is “not even on the table.”
Said Manchin: “Not going to happen. It’s not even on the table.”
He added: “Unless you’re talking seriously about securing the border, you’re not going to have serious talks about immigration reform. We have stop the insanity that is going on at the border. This is wrong.”
Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) take opposite sides in the debate over Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as Speaker.
Writes Greene: “Lying to the base is a red line for me, and that’s what five of my closest colleagues are doing when they claim a consensus House Speaker candidate will emerge as they oppose Kevin McCarthy.”
Writes Gaetz: “Every single Republican in Congress knows that Kevin does not actually believe anything. He has no ideology.”
Brendan Buck, who advised former speakers Paul Ryan and John Boehner, takes podcast listeners through the possible scenarios of what could happen if Kevin McCarthy fails to get a majority of votes on the House floor on January 3.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), the leader-elect of the House Democratic caucus, lit into his Republican colleagues.
Said Jeffrries: “Look at what’s happening right now. House Republicans are attacking Senate Republicans. Senate Republicans are calling House Republicans silly and immature. The leadership situation is in chaos.”
He added: “Marjorie Taylor Greene is fighting with Lauren Boebert. And George Santos appears to be starring in the sequel to Catch Me If You Can. And it’s not even January 3rd.”
More: “The circus has already come to town. Chaos, crisis. Confusion and craziness. Versus Democrats who deliver for the American people.”
“Capping a year in which they each faced long odds and defied gloomy predictions, the two men stood side by side at the White House on Wednesday — President Biden in a blue suit, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in an olive-green military shirt and heavy boots,” the Washington Post reports.
“The stark sartorial contrast was one of the few differences on display as Biden and Zelensky praised one another and presented a united front during the Ukrainian leader’s visit to Washington, his first appearance abroad since Russia’s invasion. The visit underscored how the relationship between the two men — a 44-year-old born in what was then the U.S.S.R. and an octogenarian born in Scranton, Pa. — has unexpectedly become one of the most vital partnerships in global affairs.”
Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Lauren Boehbert (R-CO) “were spotted blowing straight past a security checkpoint outside the House floor on Wednesday evening as they headed in to attend a surprise address to Congress from Ukraine’s president,” The Independent reports.
House Republicans were reportedly scarce for Zelensky’s address to a joint session of Congress: 86 out of 213 GOP House members showed up.
David Smith of the Guardian evaluates Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s address to a joint session of a “polarized” U.S. Congress.
It takes a lot to impress long-in-the-tooth politicians but the Time magazine person of the year’s combination of star quality and steel core was enough. As every member rose to their feet, applauding and hollering, even Zelenskiy was overwhelmed for a moment. “It’s too much for me,” he said.
He stood at the same spot that American presidents do when delivering the State of the Union address but cut a very different figure with short dark hair, a moustache and beard. The House waived a rule that requires men to wear a jacket and tie inside the chamber, allowing him to wear a sweater in his trademark wartime olive. He read his speech from pages placed on the lectern before him, tracing the words with his index finger as he spoke English in a raspy, accented voice. […]
More than one historian compared the visit to Winston Churchill sailing to America soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Churchill held a press conference with President Franklin Roosevelt and joined him in the ceremonial lighting of the National Christmas Tree. He also addressed Congress in the Senate chamber on 26 December 1941. At the end of his half-hour speech, the chief justice gave a “V” for victory sign and one reporter observed: “The effect was instantaneous, electric. The cheers swelled into a roar.”
Cheers turned to roars again for Zelenskiy when, in a nod to Churchill, he declared: “Ukraine holds its lines and will never surrender.”
Despite an overwhelmingly positive bipartisan reception for the Ukraine president last night, “several Republican lawmakers, including those set to assume top leadership positions, weren’t yet ready to commit to keeping the funding going in the next session,” Politico reports.
“Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) refused to stand during one ovation, even when Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) urged him to.”
Tucker Carlson ripped Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky immediately after the leader delivered a speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night.
Said Carlson: “As far as we know, no one’s ever addressed the United States Congress in a sweatshirt before, but they love him much more than they love you.”
He added: “The president of Ukraine arrived at the White House dressed like the manager of a strip club and started to demand money. Amazingly, no one threw him out. Instead, they did whatever he wanted. American taxpayers, Joe Biden declared, will continue to give Zelensky whatever he demands for ‘as long as it takes.’”
The Bulwark: Right wingers lose it over Zelensky’s speech.
“When videos and photos emerged in April showing bodies of dozens of civilians strewn along a street in Bucha, Ukrainians and the rest of the world voiced horror and outrage. But in Russia, officials had a completely different reaction: denial,” the New York Times reports.
“President Vladimir Putin dismissed the gruesome scene as ‘a provocation,’ and claimed that the Russian Army had nothing to do with it.”
“But an eight-month visual investigation by The New York Times concluded that the perpetrators of the massacre along Yablunska Street were Russian paratroopers from the 234th Air Assault Regiment led by Lt. Col. Artyom Gorodilov. The evidence shows that the killings were part of a deliberate and systematic effort to ruthlessly secure a route to the capital, Kyiv.”
A swirl of late-night developments in the massive fraud case against FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried. SBF reportedly landed at Westchester County Airport shortly before 10:30 p.m. ET Wednesday after being extradited by the Bahamas.
Two top SBF lieutenants, including his sometime girlfriend, have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with prosecutors, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Caroline Ellison, the 28-year-old former chief executive of Alameda Research, the trading firm intertwined with FTX, pleaded guilty to seven counts, including wire fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud. She signed her plea agreement Monday.
Gary Wang, the 29-year-old former chief technology officer for FTX pleaded guilty to four counts, including wire fraud.
Wall Street Journal: “The announcement came shortly after Mr. Bankman-Fried had been transferred to U.S. custody in the Bahamas, where he was arrested last week.”
The Daily Beast obtained a 37-page guide for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (I-AZ) staff.
“And while the document is mostly just revealing of Sinema’s exceptionally strong preferences about things like air travel—preferably not on Southwest Airlines, never book her a seat near a bathroom, and absolutely never a middle seat—Sinema’s standards appear to go right up to the line of what Senate ethics rules allow, if not over.”
“If Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) decides to run for reelection next year, she’ll do so without the help of the big-name Democratic ad makers and pollsters who helped her win her Senate seat in 2018, and without access to the voter database maintained by the Democratic Party,” the HuffPost reports.
“NGP VAN, which manages Democratic voter data, is set to cut off Sinema’s access at the end of January… The ad makers who worked with her in 2018, Dixon/Davis Media Group, have split with her campaign. Two other Democratic sources said polling firm Impact Research made the same decision.”
Rep.-elect George Santos (R-NY) “broke barriers this year when he became the first openly gay non-incumbent GOP candidate elected to Congress,” the Daily Beast reports.
“But according to court records… Santos appears to be the subject of a previously unacknowledged Sept. 2019 divorce with a woman in Queens County, New York. The divorce—which Santos has not discussed publicly—adds new uncertainty to his already shaky biographical and political claims.”
Matthew Yglesias: “GOP congressman may be secretly heterosexual is a wild twist.”
The Forward: Congressman-elect George Santos lied about grandparents fleeing anti-Jewish persecution during WWII.
The Republican Jewish Coalition reacted: “These allegations, if true, are deeply troubling,” coalition director Matt Brooks said. “Given their seriousness, the congressman-elect owes the public an explanation, and we look forward to hearing it.”
Rep.-elect George Santos (R-NY) tweets, after a wave of stories calling into question his entire biography.
“To the people of #NY03 I have my story to tell and it will be told next week. I want to assure everyone that I will address your questions and that I remain committed to deliver the results I campaigned on.”
The New York Attorney General’s office said it is “looking into a number of issues” surrounding Rep.-elect George Santos (R-NY), who was the subject of a bombshell New York Times investigation that questions whether the incoming Republican lawmaker fabricated much of his biography, including his education, work history and financial dealings, NBC News reports.
“The first day of an evidence trial based on an election-challenge lawsuit by Republican governor candidate Kari Lake raised plentiful suspicions but did not reveal evidence of the misconduct she alleged,” the Arizona Republic reports.
“Longtime judicial activist Leonard Leo appears to have helped facilitate the sale of former White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway’s polling company in 2017 — as she was playing a key role in advocating for Leo’s handpicked list of Supreme Court candidates,“ Politico reports.
“The transaction came at a critical moment for Conway — shortly after her ownership of The Polling Company had come under scrutiny from a congressional oversight committee for potential ‘conflicts of interest,’ likely creating pressure to unload it even though its value was unclear because she was its biggest asset and committed to her White House job.”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) told Fox News that conservatives can rebel against liberal culture by swearing off porn and starting a family.
Said Hawley: “That is the single greatest act of rebellion, if you like, against the liberal culture that is suppressing peoples’ desires and that is suppressing their potential.”
He later tweeted: “Rebel against liberal culture: Quit porn. Start a real relationship. Start a family. Have your own ideas — and stand up for them.”
“Many of Mitt Romney’s fellow senators assume his willingness to break from his party — and Donald Trump — means he’s planning for only one term. They may be surprised,” Politico reports.
Whether he could win is “frankly, not a question in my mind,” Romney said in an interview.
Said Romney: “I’ve faced long odds: Getting the nomination in 2012 was a long shot, becoming a Republican governor in one of the most liberal states in America, Massachusetts… So I’m convinced that if I run, I win. But that’s a decision I’ll make.”
The co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party privately told supporters that donors would rather “lose this whole state” than help GOP candidates because they “hate” Donald Trump, according to a recording of a strategy session obtained by the Detroit News.
Politico: How Democrats could use their big Michigan win to set up the 2024 race.
Retiring Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) told the AP that too many politicians in Washington “don’t care” about the country.
Said Leahy: “There are too many people who think, ‘What can I say that will get me on the evening news or give me a sound bite or get me on this Twitter account,’ or something else. They don’t care about the country. They care about their political ambitions.”
Joe Perticone: “After three consecutive election cycles in which Republicans have underperformed or been outright crushed, Ronna McDaniel’s campaign to hang on as chair of the Republican National Committee has hit a bump in the road.”
“She now has challengers looking to take her job, including right-wing lawyer Harmeet Dhillon, who personally has profited from the Trump era and the McDaniel-run RNC…”
“A source close to Dhillon estimates their whip count to be around 60 of the 168 committee members who will vote on the next chair. The source also noted that many are defections from McDaniel’s initial list of 101 supporters from the November letter.”
“The U.S. Postal Service will buy 66,000 vehicles to build one of the largest electric fleets in the nation, Biden administration officials will announce Tuesday, turning to one of the most recognizable vehicles on American roads — boxy white mail trucks — to fight climate change,” the Washington Post reports.
“A German court convicted a former Nazi camp secretary of complicity in the murder of more than 10,000 people during the Holocaust, in what is likely to be the last process connected to Nazi crimes against humanity in Germany,” Politico reports.
Women were banned Tuesday from private and public universities in Afghanistan with immediate effect and until further notice, Bloomberg reports.
“The Taliban have arrested five women taking part in a protest in the Afghan capital, Kabul, against the ban on women attending universities,” the BBC reports. “Three journalists were also arrested.”
“The Taliban banned girls from attending primary school, effectively instituting a total ban on the education of girls and women and dealing one of the most dramatic blows yet to women’s freedoms since seizing power last year,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Wednesday’s announcement came a day after the Taliban government closed universities to women and further restricts opportunities for Afghan girls and women, who have been pushed out of public and professional life since the hard-line movement took power.”
“Women now need a male guardian to travel more than 48 miles, or to undertake basic tasks such as entering government buildings, seeing a doctor or taking a taxi. They are banned from nearly all jobs, except medical professions and, until Wednesday, teaching. Women also can no longer visit public parks.”
“Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, announced on Wednesday that he had succeeded in forming a coalition government that is set to bring him back to power at the helm of the most right-wing administration in Israeli history,” the New York Times reports.
A signed copy of the transcript of the New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, calling a minor opposition party leader an “arrogant prick” has been sold for more than $63,000 at an auction to raise money for prostate cancer, The Guardian reports.
All funds would go to prostate cancer research “for pricks everywhere,” the auction said.
“Pope Francis warned Vatican bureaucrats on Thursday to beware the devil that lurks among them, saying it is an ‘elegant demon’ that works in people who have a rigid, holier-than-thou way of living the Catholic faith,” the AP reports.
“Francis used his annual Christmas greeting to the Roman Curia to again put the cardinals, bishops and priests who work in the Holy See on notice that they are by no means beyond reproach and are, in fact, particularly vulnerable to evil.”