Day 314: "A cause for concern."
1/ Biden called the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus “a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” urging Americans to get vaccinated, obtain booster shots, and to wear masks in indoor public places. Biden added that he didn’t believe there would be a need for lockdowns, saying “We’re throwing everything we have at this virus, tracking it from every angle; I’m sparing no effort, removing all roadblocks to keep the American people safe.” While administration officials believe the current vaccines likely provide protection against the new variant, it’ll be a few weeks until scientists know how effective they are against Omicron. Drugmakers, however, cautioned that existing vaccines could be less effective and the CDC now recommends that all adults “should” get a booster shot. The new Covid-19 variant has been detected in more than a dozen countries, though not yet in the U.S. Biden, meanwhile, announced travel bans on South Africa and seven other countries, warning that it’s “almost inevitable” that the variant will turn up in the U.S. “at some point.” (NPR / New York Times / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Politico / ABC News / CNBC)
2/ The White House told federal agencies they can delay punishing the roughly 3.5% of federal workers who failed to comply with Biden’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate, which took effect last week. Agencies instead will pursue “education and counseling […] as the first step in an enforcement process” and take no further actions beyond letters of reprimand for unvaccinated employees until Jan. 1, 2022. As of last week, 92% of the roughly 3.5 million people in the federal workforce and the military had received at least one shot, while an additional 4.5% had requested exemptions. (Bloomberg / Washington Post / Reuters)
3/ Trump argued that the pursuit of his White House records by the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack could permanently damage the presidency. “The [committee’s] clear disdain for President Trump is leading them to a course of action that will result in permanent damage to the institution of the presidency,” Trump’s attorneys wrote in a brief filed in federal court. Trump has asserted executive privilege over his White House records, which Biden has refused to grant. Earlier this month, Federal Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled against Trump, saying that he had no power to override the current administration’s decisions. A federal appeals court will hear oral arguments on November 30 in the historic case. Stephen Bannon, meanwhile, filed a motion to request all documents in his contempt-of-Congress case be made public, saying “Members of the public should make their own independent judgment as to whether the U.S. Department of Justice is committed to a just result based upon all the facts.” (NBC News / CNN / Washington Post)
4/ The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol plans to vote on holding a second Trump ally in contempt of Congress. The committee will meet this week to vote on whether the full House should refer Jeffrey Clark to the Justice Department on criminal contempt charges. Clark, a former Justice Department official involved in Trump’s unsuccessful efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, appeared for a deposition Nov. 5 but refused to answer questions, saying he was “duty bound not to provide testimony to your committee covering information protected by the former president’s assertion of executive privilege.” (Associated Press / New York Times / Bloomberg / CNN / CNBC)
5/ The Pentagon ordered an investigation into a U.S. airstrike in Syria in 2019 that killed dozens of women and children. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s decision follows recent allegations that the Trump administration covered up the airstrike, which killed 80 people. Gen. Michael Garrett will examine the strike over the next 90 days to determine whether any recommendations from previous inquiries were carried out, and whether anyone should be held accountable. (New York Times)
Notably Next: The Supreme Court will take up a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade on Wednesday; government funding runs out Friday; the U.S. could hit the debt limit as soon as Dec. 15; Democrats hope to pass Biden’s Build Back Better plan in the Senate by Christmas; and the House and Senate both need to pass the annual defense policy bill.
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