The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Biden to tackle omicron risks with new travel rules
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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Wednesday, the first day of December! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators. Readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 776,639; Tuesday, 778,601; Wednesday, 780,233.
Jolted by the omicron variant and already anticipating a winter surge of COVID-19 infections, the Biden administration is preparing to tighten testing requirements for all travelers entering the United States, including returning Americans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced (The Hill).
President Biden, who sees the pandemic as the top priority for the U.S. economy and his presidency, plans on Thursday to announce an overhauled COVID-19 strategy for the winter in which the federal government would require everyone entering the country to be tested one day before boarding flights, regardless of country of departure or vaccination status, according to The Washington Post, The Associated Press and many outlets.
“It’s going week to week here to determine what we need,” Biden told reporters on Tuesday as he returned to Washington from Minnesota where he touted an infrastructure law he signed last month. Asked how long U.S. travel restrictions will be imposed on eight countries in southern Africa, the president said, “We’re going to learn a lot more in the next couple of weeks about the lethality of this virus, about how much it spreads, about whether what we have can control it, etc. So it will depend on those issues.”
The new coronavirus strain has not been identified in the United States, but infectious disease experts believe it is likely already circulating here at a time when scientists are racing to figure out how transmissible or virulent the omicron strain may be among both vaccinated and unvaccinated people of all ages. Some scientists believe the new variant may be wily enough to infect fully vaccinated and boosted people more often, even if most do not become severely ill (The Wall Street Journal).
The Washington Post: A visual timeline of how omicron and its mutations spread from southern Africa to at least 19 countries in a week. … Saudi Arabia detected its first case of omicron, it said today (The Associated Press).
Administration officials also are considering a requirement that all travelers get retested within three to five days of arrival. Some administration officials are debating a controversial proposal to require all travelers, including U.S. citizens, to self-quarantine for a week, even if their COVID-19 test results are negative, according to the Post. There are also discussions about punishing those who flout any such requirements with fines and penalties, which would be the first such crackdown on testing and quarantine measures affecting travelers in the United States and likely would be challenged in court.
The Hill: The White House said on Tuesday that no options other than broad new lockdowns had been ruled out. Given the urgency of limiting the spread of what might be a highly transmissible variant, officials want to move quickly when it comes to travel, recognizing full well that restrictions, mandates and punitive federal actions are deeply unpopular in many communities in the U.S.
The Hill: Separate court rulings on Tuesday halted Biden’s vaccine mandates for federal contractors and health workers, the latest in a string of legal setbacks as the administration seeks to blunt the effects of a pandemic.
Since receiving warnings about omicron a week ago, many countries that had eased their border restrictions have reimposed tighter precautions and requirements, including Great Britain.
Because nations are left in limbo to await scientific data about the variant’s capabilities, officials around the world are adopting patchwork responses that have created confusion, uncertainty and dislocations for travelers and businesses ahead of the holiday season. The situation on Tuesday as omicron turned up around the globe contributed to uncertainty in financial markets (The Associated Press).
The sudden emergence of the variant had led some Federal Reserve watchers to speculate that the central bank would avoid any major policy shifts in the near term. But Fed Chairman Jerome Powell adopted a hawkish posture on Tuesday in testimony to the Senate Banking Committee, focusing more on the threat from rising inflation than on the likelihood that omicron could seriously weaken the economy (The Associated Press). Powell said the Fed is likely to act more swiftly to tighten its low-interest-rate policies.
In effect, the president and his advisers and the nation’s central bankers appear keen to get ahead of distinct threats they have the responsibility to anticipate, using weaponry at their disposal. In the Fed’s case, it could begin to raise its key short-term interest rate as early as the first half of next year. A higher Fed rate would, in turn, raise borrowing costs for mortgages, credit cards and some business loans.
The Hill: Powell says the Fed will consider faster tapering amid surging inflation. He also said the word “transitory,” recently used by the Fed to describe recent inflationary pressures as temporary, should be deep-sixed.
More headlines: Japan on Wednesday asked international airlines to suspend all new reservations on incoming flights until the end of December in an “emergency” effort to respond to COVID-19 and omicron risks (The Associated Press). … A COVID-19 antiviral treatment pill for high-risk adults developed by Merck was narrowly approved on Tuesday by an independent panel advising the Food and Drug Administration and could be available within weeks (The New York Times). … National Guard members who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as required will be barred from training and docked compensation, the Pentagon announced (The Washington Post). … Former President Obama accompanied Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Tuesday to meet and reassure Washington, D.C., elementary school students while they received second doses of COVID-19 vaccines. … In the Republican Party, anti-Fauci and anti-science pushback has evolved into caustic political talking points designed to appeal to base voters ahead of the 2022 elections (The Hill). … To serve in the banking supervisory position open at the Federal Reserve, Biden is considering Richard Cordray, the first director of the independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a favorite of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) (The Wall Street Journal).
A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK
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Frank, a local beekeeper in New Jersey, promotes his hand-poured honey on Facebook and connects with local beekeepers on the platform, too.
This holiday season, support a small business like Frank’s Honey on Facebook and Instagram.
LEADING THE DAY
POLITICS: A week after a high-profile exit from the Pennsylvania Senate race, a higher-profile entrance took place as celebrity physician Mehmet Oz took the political plunge in a bid to replace outgoing Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).
Oz, the longtime TV show host, made his campaign official on Tuesday and talked up the need to “heal” the nation while taking issue with the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are angry at our government and at each other,” Oz wrote in an op-ed. “We have not managed our crises as effectively as past generations. During the pandemic, I learned that when you mix politics and medicine, you get politics instead of solutions. That’s why I am running for the U.S. Senate: to help fix the problems and to help us heal.”
Oz’s campaign told the Morning Report that the longtime physician will “invest significant resources on his own” into the bid, including a multi million-dollar ad buy to kick off the campaign, in addition to a separate fundraising apparatus. He will also follow it up with a local media blitz and events across the state in the coming days.
The campaign launch had been whispered through the political universe for weeks and came just over a week after Sean Parnell suspended his bid after losing legal custody of his three children. According to one Pennsylvania GOP source, Oz made calls to top party officials, including state committee members, on Monday ahead of the official announcement.
Less than 24 hours into the campaign, Oz has the attention of political watchers in the commonwealth. However, questions continue to swirl about how he will handle being tagged as a carpetbagger. Oz, a longtime New Jersey resident, voted in the Garden State in the 2020 presidential election and moved to Pennsylvania only last December.
“He starts out as the clear frontrunner in terms of name ID and resources,” one Pennsylvania GOP operative told the Morning Report. “But I haven’t seen him address anywhere in his announcement why he’s best qualified to represent Pennsylvania. That will be his campaign’s biggest challenge over the next month heading into the PA GOP endorsement process next year. I think people are very intrigued given his profile but skeptical about his ties to the Commonwealth.”
Although Oz is a relative political neophyte, the team he has assembled is exactly the opposite. Chris Hansen, who served as executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in the 2018 cycle, is his top consultant, with Casey Contres, who ran former Sen. Cory Gardner’s (R-Colo.) reelection campaign last year and has experience in Pennsylvania politics, taking on the same role. He has also hired Jamestown Associates to run his media operation and TAG Strategies for fundraising and digital efforts. Erin Perrine, a top spokeswoman for former President Trump’s 2020 campaign, is his top communications adviser.
If elected, Oz would be the first Muslim American U.S. senator.
The Philadelphia Inquirer: Dr. Oz officially joins the Senate race in Pennsylvania.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Atlanta City Council member Andre Dickens wins runoff election, will become city’s 61st mayor.
> Jan. 6 latest: A federal appeals court on Tuesday sounded unpersuaded that Trump can assert executive privilege to block a House investigative committee examining the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol from obtaining his White House records (The Hill and Politico). As they questioned Trump’s lawyers, the judges repeatedly expressed skepticism that a former president could override a decision by the sitting president to release documents to Congress, particularly when the incumbent has decided it’s in the national interest to release records to investigators.
Trump’s lawyers have indicated they plan to appeal if they lose. They could ask the full bench of the D.C. Circuit or the Supreme Court to take up the case, but it’s unclear if either court would do so. It’s also unclear if the House committee will attempt to fight any efforts to prolong the case while other courts review the matter.
The files at issue are drawn from former adviser Stephen Miller; former deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin, and former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, among other former top Trump aides. The National Archives has identified the documents sought by Congress in periodic batches since early September and expects to produce additional tranches in the coming months, Politico reports.
While Trump battles with the court, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows struck a deal for initial cooperation with the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack. He was among those subpoenaed by the panel to obtain documents and testimony. His agreement to be interviewed staves off a potential criminal contempt charge for now (CNN).
The Guardian: Trump called aides hours before Capitol riot to discuss how to stop Biden victory.
The Hill: Midterm elections loom over Supreme Court abortion fight.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CONGRESS: Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is planning to bring the party’s massive social spending bill to the floor as soon as the week of Dec. 13 pending decisions by the Senate parliamentarian on what can be included in the final bill.
“As soon as the necessary technical and procedural work with the Senate parliamentarian has been completed … the Senate will take up this legislation,” Schumer told reporters during a press conference on Tuesday. “Once that’s complete, we’re ready to move Build Back Better to the floor.”
Don’t expect this bill to be passed until right before Christmas, or later.
Until then, Democrats are awaiting the final word from the parliamentarian on a number of topics, including a third attempt to include immigration-related provisions in the multi trillion-dollar proposal (The Hill).
The Hill: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is working on “adjustments” to energy policies in Biden’s spending plan.
Rachel Frazin and Zach Budryk, The Hill: Democrats push tax credits to bolster clean energy.
The Hill: Paid leave advocates ramping up the pressure on Manchin and Schumer.
Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, Schumer said that he had a “good conversation” with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) about raising the debt ceiling amid ongoing discussions before a mid-December deadline set by the Treasury Department.
Schumer, speaking on the Senate floor, said Congress needs to deal with the debt ceiling “soon.” Yellen warned congressional leaders that they have until Dec. 15 to raise the nation’s borrowing limit.
“I recently had a good conversation with the Republican leader about this issue, and I expect to continue those talks on achieving a bipartisan solution to addressing the debt limit,” Schumer said. “I look forward to achieving a bipartisan solution to addressing the debt limit soon” (The Hill).
McConnell didn’t reveal details about the talks when pressed by the press on Tuesday.
The Hill: Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, McConnell discuss debt limit during brief meeting.
Scott Wong, The Hill: GOP beginning to jockey for post-election leadership slots.
The Hill: GOP infighting just gets uglier.
Politico: Reps. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) keep feuding, despite effort by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to intervene.
The Hill: Dems to target Section 230 in Frances Haugen hearing.
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A playbook to revive the Biden presidency, by William A. Galston, columnist, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/3o9d6gP
The false feminism of Elizabeth Holmes and Ghislaine Maxwell, by Molly Roberts, editorial writer, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3I8ceB6
A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK
Support a small business like Frank’s Honey
Millions of small businesses like Frank’s Honey rely on Facebook to find local supporters. When the owner, Frank, could no longer rely on in-person sales during COVID, Facebook helped him “pivot and get creative finding new customers.”
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 10 a.m.
The Senate convenes at noon and resumes consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden will deliver remarks rescheduled from Monday about supply chains and holiday shopping at 12:35 p.m. He will also commemorate World AIDS Day, launch a national HIV/AIDS strategy initiative to end the epidemic by 2030, and kick off a process to replenish the global HIV/AIDS fund at 2:30 p.m. Biden and first lady Jill Biden, plus Vice President Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff, will lead a menorah lighting for Hanukkah in the East Room at 5:30 p.m.
The vice president will also convene the National Space Council meeting at 1:30 p.m., to be livestreamed on WhiteHouse.gov/Live.
The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 1:30 p.m., with Fauci joining press secretary Jen Psaki.
INVITATIONS to The Hill’s Virtually Live events: TODAY at 1 p.m., “Regulating Cannabis,” with Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), and state and additional federal authorities on the subject (information HERE); and THURSDAY at 1 p.m., “Investing in Maternal & Infant Health,” with Reps. Alma Adams (D-N.C.) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), plus federal and advocacy organization experts (information HERE).
The White House Historical Association co-hosts an in-person and virtual holiday-themed discussion at 7:30 p.m. with Luci Baines Johnson, daughter of former President Lyndon Johnson and former first lady Lady Bird Johnson (pictured below in 1964). The LBJ Foundation will livestream the program on its YouTube channel; registration to participate is HERE.
➔ INTERNATIONAL: Ukraine on Wednesday urged NATO to prepare sanctions to try to deter an attack by tens of thousands of Russian troops massed at its border (Reuters). … Turkey is experiencing a debilitating lira crisis. “Our money has no value,” complained one retired bank employee. Demonstrators and economists blame President Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan for interference in monetary policy and a determination to lower interest rates. Business has stalled around the country as inflation scares away domestic shoppers and causes producers to hoard goods (The New York Times). “I have never defended raising interest rates, I don’t now, and will not defend it,” the president said. “I will never compromise on this issue.”
➔ NEWS MEDIA: CNN on Tuesday suspended Chris Cuomo, a ratings star, “indefinitely” after documents revealed that he was more involved than publicly known while helping his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who resigned his office after a cascade of former female aides and acquaintances stepped forward to accuse the governor of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment. Chris Cuomo had apologized to CNN colleagues for breaching traditional journalistic boundaries and for advising the governor, but had been supported by CNN President Jeff Zucker. The new information emerged from transcripts released by the New York attorney general’s office that CNN said raised “serious questions” (The Washington Post).
➔ TECH: Twitter announced on Tuesday that users may no longer share private media, including photos and videos, of another person without their permission, a decision made with privacy and security in mind. “Sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person’s privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm,” Twitter said in a statement on Tuesday. “The misuse of private media can affect everyone, but can have a disproportionate effect on women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities” (The Wall Street Journal).
And finally … Among holiday bakers and chefs everywhere, here’s an article with a question to contemplate: Who owns a recipe?
It turns out that U.S. copyright law is intended to protect “original works of authorship” by barring unauthorized copying of all kinds of creative material, but recipe creators are mostly powerless in an age and a business that thrives on sharing, reports The New York Times.
Because of the internet, social media and self-publishing, not to mention a long tradition of emulation in American cooking (transformed into a profession, commercial enterprise and “culinary arts”) — protecting original recipes is tough. “It is easier to find stuff to plagiarize, it is easier to plagiarize and it is easier to publish whatever you plagiarize,” Jonathan Bailey, a copyright expert in New Orleans, told the Times. The law views a recipe merely as a factual list of ingredients and basic steps rather than as creative expression.
At this time of year, those ingredients remain sugar, butter, spice and all things nice.