The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden's message on the 'omicron' variant

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--> A midday take on what's happening in politics and how to have a sense of humor about it.*

*Ha. Haha. Hahah. Sniff. Haha. Sniff. Ha--breaks down crying hysterically.

 

TALK OF THE MORNING

Will the variant and its creepy-sounding Star Wars battleship name please see itself out?:

 

 

Via The New York Times’s Nick Cumming-Bruce, “The World Health Organization warned on Monday that global risks posed by the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus were ‘very high,’ as countries around the world rushed to defend against its spread with a cascade of border closures and travel restrictions that recalled the earliest days of the pandemic.” https://nyti.ms/3cXK5y7

JUST NOW — President BidenJoe BidenBiden says he didn't 'overpromise' Finland PM pledges 'extremely tough' sanctions should Russia invade Ukraine Russia: Nothing less than NATO expansion ban is acceptable MORE GIVES AN UPDATE ON THIS NEW VARIANT:

President Biden just addressed the nation on the new omicron COVID-19 variant. Livestream of Biden’s remarks: https://bit.ly/3cXnYrC 

Biden’s message: “This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic.”  

Biden does expect the variant to hit the U.S.: “Sooner or later, we are going to see cases of the Omicron variant here in the US.” https://bit.ly/3E89vFb 

On what we know about the variant: “Biden notes Delta variant deaths have gone down and vows, ‘We're going to fight and beat this new variant as well. We're learning more about this new variant every single and as we learn more we're going to share that information with the American people candidly and promptly.’” (Via Bloomberg’s Jennifer Epstein) https://bit.ly/2ZA1KsJ 

Biden’s contingency plan: “ ‘We do not yet believe that additional measures will be needed,’ President Biden says, but adds his team is working with Pfizer and Moderna on contingency plans if they’re needed.” (Via CNN’s Kaitlan Collins) https://bit.ly/3D4460C 

How you can protect yourself: “The best protection against this new variant or any of the variants out there, the ones we’ve been dealing with already, is getting fully vaccinated and getting a booster shot.” (Via The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant) https://bit.ly/3o042e2  

Livestream of Biden’s remarks: https://bit.ly/3cXnYrC

QUESTIONS RELATED TO THE NEW VARIANT:

What countries have confirmed cases of the omicron variant?: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa and the United Kingdom. The number of cases in each country, via CNN: https://cnn.it/3d4HKRS 

What about the U.S.?: Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said yesterday that the variant is “almost definitely” in the U.S. already.  And infectious diseases expert Anthony FauciAnthony FauciLet's stop saying 'breakthrough cases' — it isn't helping The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Voting rights week for Democrats (again) Trump-DeSantis tensions ratchet up MORE said he “would not be surprised” if it has spread to the U.S. https://cbsn.ws/3xwcK6Y  

How many cases have been confirmed?: “As of Friday, fewer than 100 cases of the strain had been confirmed, with many of them being young people in South Africa.” More from CBS: https://cbsn.ws/3xwcK6Y   

When was the omicron variant first detected?: On Nov. 9 in South Africa

QUESTIONS RELATED TO THE VACCINES:

The $$ question — do the COVID-19 vaccines work on the new variant?: Scientists are scrambling to find out. The variant may be more easily transmissible, but it’s also possible the vaccine prevents serious illness and death. https://nyti.ms/3D4EiRV 

What if the vaccine does not protect against this new variant?: Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are already on the case. The companies are preparing to tweak the formula for a booster if necessary. More from The New York Times: https://nyti.ms/3D4EiRV

VOX HAS A HELPFUL EXPLAINER ON WHAT WE KNOW — AND QUESTIONS YOU MIGHT HAVE — ABOUT THE OMICRON VARIANT:

https://bit.ly/3D2bB8o

CASE NUMBERS:

Coronavirus cases in the U.S.: 48,235,081 

U.S. death toll: 776,651 

Breakdown of the numbers: https://cnn.it/2UAgW3y

VACCINATION NUMBERS:

Total number of vaccinations administered in the U.S.: 454 million shots have been given. 

Seven-day average of doses administered: An average of 1.85 doses

For context: The U.S. population is roughly 331 million. 

Breakdown of the numbers: https://bloom.bg/3iVTPLH

It’s Monday — welcome back! I’m Cate Martel with a quick recap of the morning and what’s coming up. Send comments, story ideas and events for our radar to cmartel@thehill.com — and follow along on Twitter @CateMartel and Facebook.

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NEWS THIS MORNING

Jack is giving up his pet bird:

Via CNBC’s Jessica Bursztynsky and Lauren Feiner, “Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is stepping down as chief of the social media company, effective immediately. Parag Agrawal, the company’s chief technology officer, will take over the helm, the company said Monday. https://cnb.cx/2ZAzeqX 

Why? — he didn’t really say: “ ‘I’ve decided to leave Twitter because I believe the company is ready to move on from its founders,’ Dorsey said in a statement, though he didn’t provide any additional detail on why he decided to resign.”

IN THE WHITE HOUSE

It’s the most festive time of the year:

This morning, first lady Jill BidenJill BidenHarris invokes MLK in voting rights push, urges Senate to 'do its job' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Djokovic may not compete in French Open over vaccine requirement The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat MORE unveiled the White House’s holiday decorations for this year.  

The Hill’s Alex Gangitano’s description of the décor — it feels like I’m there!: https://bit.ly/3E9F0Pd

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS:

Fun tidbit — Jill Biden used some photos that have never been seen publicly: Via CNN’s Kate Bennett, “The Christmas trees in the State Dining Room are huge and covered with framed photos of the Biden’s and former first families at the White House during holidays. [First lady Jill Biden] pulled many from her personal albums, never before seen publicly.” https://bit.ly/31cEf9j 

^ Including a photo of the Trumps: Here’s the photo Biden included of former President Trump and former first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpRaskin: Grisham told Jan. 6 panel about 'names that I had not heard before' Grisham says former Trump officials meeting next week 'to try and stop him' Former Trump press secretary to meet Wednesday with Jan. 6 committee MORE: https://bit.ly/3D51IXe 

I love the snowy trees: https://bit.ly/3o2IXj5 

And the mini replica of the White House: https://bit.ly/3E4TWhD 

And the table floral arrangements: https://bit.ly/3o4dWLH 

Oh — and the red boxes!: https://bit.ly/3E4w2m9

So festive!: 

 

Holiday decorations at the White House

Hyperlink https://bit.ly/3Ek31mZ 

How cool?: 

 

The White House gingerbread house 

Hyperlink https://bit.ly/3dg8gIt

HAPPENING WEDNESDAY

One of the biggest Supreme Court cases in a while:

Via The Hill’s John Kruzel, “The justices will hear arguments Wednesday over a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks in a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.” https://bit.ly/3E6C8T9

What abortion opponents are hoping: Conservatives hope this case will finally lead to the dismantling of Roe v. Wade. 

What’s different now: The Supreme Court now has six conservative justices and just three more liberal justices. 

What to expect: https://bit.ly/3E6C8T9

THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS

Start your engines — it’s showtime!:

Congress is back in session this week for a chaotic legislative sprint before the end of the year. 

When are they back?: The Senate is back today. The House returns tomorrow. 

How long are they expected to stay in Washington?: Until Dec. 13, though I would be very surprised if they didn’t delay their departure. 

What is on the to-do list: Fund the government before Saturday, pass the National Defense Authorization Act this week, move the Build Back Better Act through the Senate — oh and don’t forget the impending debt limit.  

Breakdown of each from The Hill’s Jordain Carney: https://bit.ly/3dg6bw9

‘NO DEAL IN SIGHT AS CONGRESS NEARS DEBT LIMIT DEADLINE’:

Via The Hill’s Alexander Bolton: https://bit.ly/3cY00fJ

NOTABLE TWEETS:

I laughed a little harder than you would expect:

 

No SALT talk at Thanksgiving!

Hyperlink https://bit.ly/3D5aMvB

^ If you don’t get the joke: One of the debates in the Build Back Better Act is whether to lift the cap on the state and local tax deduction — or “SALT.” https://nyti.ms/3CYmyb3

ON TAP:

The Senate is back today. The House is out. President Biden and Vice President Harris are in Washington, D.C. 

10 a.m. EST: President Biden and Vice President Harris received the President’s Daily Brief. 

10:45 a.m. EST: President Biden and Vice President Harris received a briefing on the omicron variant. 

2 p.m. EST: President Biden meets with CEOs to discuss holiday shopping and supply chain issues.

3 p.m. EST: The Senate meets.  

5:30 p.m. EST: A cloture vote in the Senate. The Senate’s full agenda today: https://bit.ly/3o5g5GM

WHAT TO WATCH:

11:45 a.m. EST: President Biden delivered an update on the omicron variant. Livestream: https://bit.ly/3D4vAD6 What to expect: https://bit.ly/2ZBXM2M 

1 p.m. EST: White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiRussia: Nothing less than NATO expansion ban is acceptable Biden huddles with group of senators on Ukraine-Russia tensions White House: Blood donation restrictions 'painful' amid mass shortage MORE holds a press briefing. Livestream: https://bit.ly/3d1v7XO 

3:45 p.m. EST: President Biden delivers remarks on the supply chain issues and elevated prices during the holiday season. Livestream: https://bit.ly/31aRRSu

IN LIGHTER NEWS:

Today is National Chocolates Day.

*Runs in and interrupts everything* — Did I hear pancakes?!?!:

Via Yahoo News, “Rare ‘ice pancakes’ were spotted floating atop Lake Superior near Ashland, Wisconsin, footage posted on November 26 shows.” https://yhoo.it/3D8rmKS 

How that happened: “The phenomenon occurs when waves and cold air temperatures cause discs of ice to grow on the water’s surface.”  

Video of the rare, funky ice: https://yhoo.it/3D8rmKS

And to brighten your Monday morning, here are a few dogs who love to wiggle: https://bit.ly/30Rn7q2