Day 332: "Deliberate efforts."
1/ Biden acknowledged that the Build Back Better bill will not clear Congress this year despite efforts and pledges by Democrats to pass the $1.75 trillion social spending and climate bill before Christmas. “It takes time to finalize these agreements, prepare the legislative changes, and finish all the parliamentary and procedural steps needed to enable a Senate vote,” Biden said after it became clear that his team, so far, has failed to secure Joe Manchin’s vote. Pushing back the Build Back Better bill until next year means that the Dec. 15 child tax credit payments, which have been sent to families for the past six months but expired Wednesday, will be the last ones until the program is renewed. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the administration has “talked to Treasury officials and others about doing double-payments in February as an option,” if the Build Back Better Act passes in January. (Politico / Bloomberg / CNBC / Business Insider / Bloomberg)
2/ The Senate parliamentarian rejected the Democrats plan to include immigration reform in the social spending bill for the third time. Elizabeth MacDonough said provisions to extend work permits and provide temporary deportation protections for some immigrants who have been in the U.S. since before 2011 don’t comply with Senate rules associated with the reconciliation process. A so-called reconciliation bill can’t have provisions that are driven more by policy changes than by changes in the federal budget. Democrats had argued that the work permits and other provisions would have a budgetary impact. (Wall Street Journal / Associated Press / NPR / Politico / Bloomberg)
3/ The Trump administration engaged in “deliberate efforts” to undermine the nation’s response to the coronavirus for political purposes, the House Select subcommittee on the coronavirus said in a report. The committee said the administration repeatedly overruled public health and testing guidance by the nation’s top infectious disease experts, blocked officials from speaking publicly in order to promote Trump’s political agenda, and attempted to interfere with other public health guidance. The subcommittee also found that the Trump White House blocked the CDC from conducting public briefings for more than three months after a top CDC official in late-February 2020 “accurately warned the public about the risks posed by the coronavirus.” (NBC News / CNN)
4/ New York state reported its highest number of new Covid-19 cases in a single day of the entire pandemic. The 21,027 new cases surpassed the previous record of 19,942 set in January, and about 8% of total all Covid-19 tests were positive. Nationwide, hospitalizations have increased by about 3% and deaths rose by about 7% over the past week. (CNBC / Bloomberg / Washington Post)
5/ The Biden administration plans to replace all of the nation’s lead water pipes in the next decade. The Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan will use $15 billion from the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed last month. Up to 10 million households, schools, and care facilities currently get their drinking water through lead pipes. (CBS News / NBC News)
6/ The FDA permanently lifted major restrictions on access to abortion pills, allowing doctors to prescribe the drugs online and have them mailed to patients or sent to local pharmacies. The drug, mifepristone, is approved for use in combination with another medication, misoprostol, to terminate pregnancies up to 10 weeks. Before the coronavirus pandemic, doctors could prescribe the pills to patients who were able to pick them up in person. In response to Covid-19, however, the Biden administration suspended that requirement, allowing them to be mailed to patients instead. (New York Times / NPR / Politico / Axios)
7/ A Florida man was sentenced to five years in prison for assaulting police officers with a fire extinguisher, a plank, and a long pole during the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol – the longest sentence for a Capitol rioter so far. Robert Palmer had argued that he should get a more lenient sentence because Trump has not been held accountable, which U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected. Roger Stone, meanwhile, asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to every question asked during his 90-minute deposition with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot. And, a judge rejected a request from Fox News to dismiss a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems over baseless claims by Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, and their guests that Dominion was using algorithms in voting machines that were created in Venezuela to rig multiple elections for Hugo Chávez, the late president. “Fox possessed countervailing evidence of election fraud from the Department of Justice, election experts, and Dominion at the time it had been making its statements,” Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis wrote. “The fact that, despite this evidence, Fox continued to publish its allegations against Dominion, suggests Fox knew the allegations were probably false.” (NBC News / Politico / CNN / Washington Post / Bloomberg / Washington Post / CNN)
8/ The Republican National Committee agreed to pay up to $1.6 million of Trump’s personal legal bills. The payments are meant to help Trump defend himself in parallel fraud investigations by New York Attorney General Letitia James and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. At issue is whether the Trump Organization committed fraud by manipulating the value of assets to obtain loans and tax benefits. (Washington Post / New York Times)
Programming Note: As in years past, WTFJHT will publish on a modified holiday schedule to end the year. We’ll be publishing on Wednesday, Dec. 22 and again on Wednesday, Dec. 29 – unless, of course, something truly WTF-y happens. We’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming starting Monday, Jan. 3. WTFJHT supporting members can also expect an end of year member update from me next week on the status of WTFJHT, where we’re going with this thing in 2022, and – most importantly – an update on Baby S. and what he’s eating and doing the days. If you want to get in on the update, become a supporting member today.
Happy holidays and stuff from Matt, Joe, Baby S., and Ramona (the cat).
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