Overnight Finance

On The Money — Biden stresses calm amid omicron fears

Happy Monday and welcome to On The Money, your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

Today's Big Deal: President Biden says a new, more infectious variant is "cause for concern, but not cause for panic."  

We'll also look at the looming debt ceiling deadline and the key players for Biden's big spending bill in the Senate.

But first, find out what it takes to throw a White House holiday party amid a pandemic.

For The Hill, we're Sylvan Lane, Naomi Jagoda and Aris Folley. Reach us at slane@thehill.com or @SylvanLane, njagoda@thehill.com or @NJagoda and afolley@thehill.com or @ArisFolley.

Let's get to it.

Biden says lockdowns not needed 'for now' 

President Biden said Monday that his administration was not recommending further restrictions on businesses or in-person gatherings to combat the coronavirus pandemic amid concerns about the new omicron variant.

Speaking from the Roosevelt Room, Biden described vaccinations as the best possible tool to defeat the virus and any emerging variants. He said his administration would outline a strategy to combat COVID-19 during the winter months later this week.

Biden later told reporters that "lockdowns" were off the table "for now" as his administration weighs measures to respond to the omicron variant, much about which remains unknown.

"If people are vaccinated and wear their mask, there is no need for the lockdown," Biden said.

The background: 

  • Lockdowns refer to closures of or restrictions on businesses, schools and other in-person gatherings. The federal government generally cannot impose such steps but can recommend them for states or cities.   
  • When the coronavirus raged last year, many states and cities implemented restrictions on businesses and large gatherings to stop the spread of the virus. 
  • Officials have curbed such restrictions as coronavirus vaccines have become widely available in the U.S.

Biden described the omicron variant as a "cause for concern" but not panic, encouraging Americans who have not yet gotten vaccinated or received their booster shots to do so immediately.

Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels have more here.

LEADING THE DAY

No deal in sight as Congress nears debt limit deadline

Congress is only a couple of weeks away from hitting the Dec. 15 deadline to raise the federal debt limit, and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) don't appear to be anywhere close to a deal.

  • Democrats insist that Schumer will not burn up a week of Senate floor time to use the budget reconciliation process to raise the debt limit with only Democratic votes. 
  • And Republicans say there's no way that McConnell will be able to round up 10 Republican votes to quash an expected filibuster from conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and allow Democrats to pass debt limit legislation with a simple majority under regular order.

The big problem, according to senators and Senate aides, is that there aren't any easy ways forward. Alex Bolton tells us why here.

I'VE GOT MY EYES ON YOU

Key senators to watch on Democrats' social spending bill

All eyes will be on the Senate following the Thanksgiving break, as Democrats in the chamber seek to pass a massive social spending and climate package that is a key component of President Biden's economic agenda.

The House passed a version of the package shortly before Thanksgiving and the Senate is expected to take up the legislation after the holiday break. Lawmakers are hoping to get a bill to Biden's desk by the end of the year. 

But Senate Democrats face challenges in passing the measure. They will need to make changes to the House bill in order to accommodate the priorities of both moderates and progressives. 

They may also have to make some changes to the bill in order to comply with the rules for the budget reconciliation process, which Democrats are using to prevent a Republican filibuster.

Additionally, Senate Democrats will have to withstand criticisms from Republicans who are seeking to sink the bill.

Naomi takes a look here at five senators to keep an eye on during the debate on the bill.

NEW DIRECTIONS

Treasury redirecting rental assistance funds to address backlogs

The Treasury Department is planning to shift federal rental aid from some jurisdictions with unused funds as other areas stare down to areas staring down a backlog of requests.

The department said on Monday that the office has begun a process to reallocate available aid from grantees that have unused funds, as it works quickly to distribute more than $46 billion in assistance allocated to states during the pandemic.

Read more from Aris here.

Good to Know

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Monday said that he will bring President Biden's spending bill to the Senate floor once the parliamentarian finishes reviewing it and that it is his "goal" to pass the roughly $2 trillion bill by the end of the year. 

Here's what else have our eye on:

  • President Biden is under fresh pressure from climate activists after rejecting their push to replace Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell.  
  • Senate Republicans are struggling to save funding for construction of former President Trump's long-sought wall on the U.S.-Mexico border as Democrats press forward with plans to rescind nearly $2 billion in funding for his signature project.
  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ordered Amazon and eight other large retailers to send information to the regulatory agency about supply chain disruption factors and the steps they have taken to mitigate the disruptions. 
  • President Biden on Monday met with 10 CEOs from major retailers and grocers to discuss the holiday shopping season, touting the success of last week's Black Friday sales.
  • Federal workers who do not comply with the Biden administration's coronavirus vaccine requirement will not face serious penalties such as suspension or removal until January.

That's it for today. Thanks for reading and check out The Hill's Finance page for the latest news and coverage. We'll see you tomorrow.

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