1/ The Biden administration expanded its use of a Trump-era Covid-19 immigration policy to immediately turn away migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela crossing the border from Mexico illegally to claim asylum. As part of the new immigration rules, the Biden administration will allow up to 30,000 migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela to legally apply for entry each month, as long as a U.S. sponsor applies for them first. “The failure to pass and fund this comprehensive plan has increased the challenges that we’re seeing at the Southwest border,” Biden said. “The Republicans haven’t been serious about this at all.” Last month, the Supreme Court allowed Title 42 to remain in effect while a legal challenge by 19 Republican state attorneys general played out. In November, a federal judge ruled that Title 42 was unlawful, and scheduled the policy to expire on Dec. 21. (NBC News / New York Times / NPR / Washington Post / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / CNN)
2/ The Federal Trade Commission proposed banning noncompete clauses in employment contracts, which limit workers from switching jobs or start competing businesses. Under the proposed rule, it would be illegal for companies to enter into or enforce noncompete contracts with employees or independent contractors. The rule would also require companies to rescind existing noncompete clauses and inform workers that they are void. Some 30 million people – about 1 in 5 workers – are bound by noncompete restrictions. If enacted, the FTC estimates that is would raise wages by $300 billion a year. “The freedom to change jobs is core to economic liberty and to a competitive, thriving economy,” said FTC Chair Lina Khan said. “Noncompetes block workers from freely switching jobs, depriving them of higher wages and better working conditions, and depriving businesses of a talent pool that they need to build and expand.” (Associated Press / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / NBC News / Politico / Axios / Bloomberg)
3/ Kevin McCarthy lost his 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th bids for House speaker. In what has become the longest speaker contest in 164 years, McCarthy has started to make concessions he previously ruled out to a group of 20 Republicans lawmakers who have continued to block his bid for the speaker’s gavel. McCarthy agreed to allow for one member to force a vote to oust the speaker – down from a previous threshold of five and a change that the McCarthy had said he wouldn’t accept – and to put more members of the House Freedom Caucus on the House Rules Committee, which controls the legislation that reaches the floor. Until a speaker is chosen, the House cannot pass laws or swear in its members. (CNN / Politico / NBC News / Associated Press / New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / NPR / Bloomberg)
4/ About 204,000 people applied for first-time unemployment benefits last week – down from the previous week’s total by 19,000 and below the pre-pandemic weekly average of 218,000. Companies, meanwhile, added 235,000 jobs in December – well above economists’ expectations of 150,000 and the 127,000 reported for November. (CNN / CNBC / Wall Street Journal)
5/ The Federal Reserve said it expects interest rates to remain high for “some time” as it tries to bring down inflation.Officials warned of “an unwarranted easing in financial conditions, especially if driven by a misperception by the public of the committee’s reaction function, would complicate the committee’s effort to restore price stability” – meaning market rallies threaten to hinder their ability to bring inflation down to their 2% target. Starting from near zero in March, the Fed raised interest rates to a target range of 4.25% to 4.5%, its highest level in 15 years. Officials project that rates will rise to a level above 5% in 2023 and hold it there until some time in 2024. No officials said they expected to cut rates in 2023. (New York Times / CNBC / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)
6/ The U.S. and Germany will send Ukraine armored combat vehicles and an additional Patriot air defense system. The U.S. is sending about 50 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, a tracked armored combat vehicle that carries a turret-mounted machine gun, as well as a second missile defense system. Germany will provide 40 of its Marder Infantry Fighting Vehicle. (Politico / Washington Post / Bloomberg)
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