1/ The U.S. economy grew 5.7% in 2021 – its fastest pace since 1984, when the country was rebounding from a recession and an era of high inflation. From October to December, GDP increased at a 6.9% annualized pace. Consumer spending also jumped to 7.9%, the most since 1946, but consumer prices reached 7% – the fastest year-over-year inflation since 1982. A record-breaking 6.4 million jobs were also added in 2021. (Washington Post / Associated Press / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Politico / CNBC / Bloomberg / NBC News)
2/ The Biden administration’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for health care workers takes effect in roughly half the U.S. today, and will extend to the rest of the country in coming weeks. The mandate covers about 10 million workers at hospitals and nursing homes that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding. The Supreme Court blocked Biden’s vaccination-or-testing mandate for large employers earlier this month, but upheld a vaccination requirement for health care workers at facilities subsidized by federal funds. These medical facilities will lose funding if they do not comply. (Washington Post / New York Times)
3/ A record 14.5 million Americans signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act for 2022, eclipsing the previous enrollment record by nearly 2 million. “Health care should be a right, not a privilege, for all Americans,” Biden said, crediting the American Rescue Plan that Democrats in Congress passed last year, which increased subsidies and lifted the income cap to allow more people to be eligible for assistance. The enhanced benefits under the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package only last through the end of the year unless Congress takes further action. Biden’s proposed Build Back Better plan would extend the subsidies through 2025. Joe Manchin, however, has repeatedly said he opposes “a historic expansion of social programs” like Build Back Better because, he says, they would only feed inflation. (The Hill / NBC News / Washington Post / CBS News)
4/ Biden formally announced the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and reaffirmed his commitment to nominating the first Black woman to the court. “It’s long overdue in my opinion,” Biden said, noting that he would announce his choice by the end of February after reviewing candidates and their records. Republicans, meanwhile, have already preemptively attacked Biden’s unnamed Supreme Court nominee as a “radical liberal.” Senate Democrats need only a simple majority to confirm Biden’s future nominee in the 50-50 Senate. (NBC News / Washington Post / New York Times / Bloomberg / Business Insider)
5/ The Biden administration approved more than 3,500 oil and gas drilling permits in its first year – nearly 900 more than the Trump administration. Despite announcing a halt on any new federal oil and gas leasing, the Biden administration set a record for the largest offshore lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico, and the Interior Department plans to auction off oil and gas drilling rights on more than 200,000 acres by the end of March, followed by 1 million acres off the coast of Alaska. In 2021, a federal judge blocked the Biden administration’s temporary suspension of new oil and gas drilling leases on public lands, writing that the authority to suspend oil and gas leasing lies “solely with Congress.” Interior Department appointees, meanwhile, say they were forced to resume leasing because they could be held in contempt if they didn’t follow the judge’s order. (Washington Post)
6/ Russia said there is “little optimism” about the diplomatic efforts by the U.S. and NATO to deescalate tensions along Ukraine’s border. The U.S. said it had offered a “diplomatic path forward” in the standoff with Russia over Ukraine. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, however, said: “We can’t say that they took our concerns into account or showed any readiness to take our concerns into consideration.” Last month, the Kremlin demanded that Ukraine and Georgia be permanently barred from joining NATO while calling on the military alliance to pull back its forces and equipment in Central and Eastern Europe, which the U.S. and NATO rejected. Republican leaders, meanwhile, have been pushing Biden to toughen his stance against Russian aggression, while the the party’s far-right has questioned why the U.S. would support Ukraine at all. (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times / Axios / NBC News)
poll/ 43% of Americans said they would support Biden if the 2024 presidential election were held today, while 33% said they’d vote for Trump, 16% said they would choose a different candidate, and 6% said they wouldn’t vote. In a hypothetical race against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, 41% said they would vote for Biden, while 33% would support DeSantis. (The Hill)
poll/ In Georgia, 49% of registered voters said they would support incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, while 47% said they’d support Democrat Stacey Abrams. In 2018, Abrams lost to Kemp by 1.4 percentage points. (Quinnipiac)
poll/ 34% of Georgia voters approve of the job Biden is doing as president – down from 51% in May. 71% of Georgians believe the nation is on the wrong track. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
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