1/ The Supreme Court agreed to an expedited review of the Biden administration’s plan to cancel student-loan debt, announcing that it will hear full oral arguments in February. A final ruling is expected by June. In the meantime, the court said the plan – which would cancel up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt for more than 40 million borrowers – remains blocked. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals issued that injunction in November in response to a legal challenge by six Republican-led states, who claim that the program was an unlawful exercise of presidential authority and would affect state revenues and tax receipts. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / CNBC / Bloomberg / New York Times / NBC News / CNN)
2/ The Senate passed legislation that would force a labor agreement between freight railroad companies and their workers, averting a potential Dec. 9 national rail strike. In a separate vote the Senate rejected a proposal to add seven days of paid sick leave to the deal. Under the tentative agreement, which several unions had rejected it because it lacked paid leave time, rail workers will receive a roughly 24% pay increase by 2024, more schedule flexibility, and one paid personal day. The legislation now goes to Biden. It was the first time since the 1990s that Congress has used its power to regulate interstate commerce to intervene in a national rail labor dispute. (Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Axios / NBC News / Politico / CNBC)
3/ The latest projections from the Bureau of Reclamation show that by July water levels at Lake Powell, the nation’s second-largest reservoir, could fall to the point that the dam no longer has enough water to generate hydroelectricity for 4.5 million people. Lake Powell is currently a quarter of its original size with water levels having fallen 170 feet amid the warming climate and historic drought. If water levels drop another 38 feet, the surface would approach the tops of eight underwater openings, which allow the Colorado River water to pass through to the Glen Canyon Dam. This is known as “minimum power pool” status, and in addition to being unable to produce power, the dam would have limited ability to pass water downstream to the cities and farms in Arizona, Nevada, and California. The Glen Canyon Dam already generates about 40% less power than it originally did, and the Colorado River is the region’s most important waterway, serving roughly 1 in 10 Americans. “A complete doomsday scenario,” the deputy power manager at Glen Canyon Dam said. (Washington Post)
4/ The House Ways and Means Committee received six years of Trump’s returns from the Treasury. The committee first asked for Trump’s returns three years ago, but the Treasury Department, however, refused to comply with the request while Trump was in office. Trump then sued to block the release of the records. The committee declined to say if they would release any of the returns publicly. (CNN / CNBC / Bloomberg)
5/ A federal appeals court halted the special master review of thousands of documents seized from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. The decision allows the Justice Department to continue its investigation into the mishandling of classified government documents. (Washington Post / Axios / CNN / CNBC)
6/ Kevin McCarthy demanded that the Jan. 6 committee chairman preserve all records and transcripts from the investigation into the attack on the U.S. Capitol. McCarthy also vowed that Republicans would hold their own hearings into “why the Capitol complex was not secure” on the day a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol seeking to stop the certification of Biden’s electoral win. (Washington Post / Politico)
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