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House votes to fund government amid shutdown threats by Senate Republicans – as it happened

The Guardian
The Guardian
 2021-12-03

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12.57am GMT

Today's politics recap

  • A government shutdown is still imminent. The House has passed a stopgap measure to continue funding the government through mid-February and the Senate is poised to vote on the bill tonight. Some Republican senators have threatened to oppose the bill unless an amendment is added to defund vaccine mandate efforts.
  • Joe Biden outlined the federal government’s plan to respond to the coronavirus pandemic in light of the spread of the Omicron variant, emphasizing vaccinations. The government will renew its push to get people vaccinated, including launching “hundreds of family vaccination clinics” across the country where people of all ages can get their booster shots and vaccinations.
  • Symone Sanders, chief spokesperson and senior adviser to Kamala Harris, said that she is leaving her post at the end of the year. The news has raised questions of embattlement in the vice president’s office.
  • The Biden administration is set to reintroduce the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy . The policy requires those who are seeking asylum in the US to await the decision on their application outside of the US. The supreme court ruled that the federal government must reinstate the policy as it places an undue burden on states at the border.

– Lauren Aratani and Maanvi Singh

Updated at 1.04am GMT

11.54pm GMT

“It is looking good” that the Senate will pass the resolution to keep the government funded through February tonight, said Senate Leader Chuck Schumer. “It’s looking very good.”

Discussions are ongoing in the Senate over an amendment to defund vaccine mandates, which Republican Senators have demanded in exchange for their support in scheduling a vote on the stopgap spending legislation. But with several Republicans missing from the Senate today, and Democrats unlikely to support the amendment, it’s almost certain to fail even if it is taken up.

Updated at 11.55pm GMT

11.07pm GMT

Due to certain Senate rules, all 100 senators would need to get on board to schedule a vote in order to quickly pass the stopgap spending plan before the Friday deadline.

So, a threat by even a few Republicans to oppose legislation to fund the government over objections to vaccine and testing mandates for businesses has real teeth at the moment.

Although it seems likely that a prolonged shutdown will be averted, a brief shutdown is possible as GOP Senators insist on adding an amendment barring funding for vaccine mandates. The House Freedom Caucus, a group of rightwing Republicans in the House, urged Senate colleagues to oppose the stopgap bill “unless it prohibits funding – in all respects – for the vaccine mandates and enforcement thereof”.

Updated at 11.23pm GMT

10.40pm GMT

House approves short-term legislation to avert government shutdown

The House voted 221 to 212 to keep the government funded through mid-February, a day before is scheduled to run out of money. Representative Adam Kinzinger was the only Republican to vote for the resolution.

But a shutdown is still looming, with some Senate Republicans threatening to vote against legislation to keep funding the government over the White House’s vaccine and testing mandate for employers. Some senators say they will not vote for the bill to keep the government open without an amendment barring funding for the mandate.

Updated at 11.00pm GMT

10.27pm GMT

In the latest attempt by the party to thwart White House efforts to increase vaccine take-up, Republicans are preparing to shut down the American government on Friday unless Democrats agree to not direct money towards enforcing a vaccine mandate for larger companies in the US.

If the disgruntled Republicans, who reportedly include Senator Mike Lee, from Utah, are successful, the government would effectively run out of money on Friday and could be forced to furlough workers and shut down some federal services.

The need for vaccine mandates, which have been introduced by Joe Biden , has taken on additional importance as the US braces for the impact of the Omicron coronavirus variant .

The plot by the right comes after some Republican states have already sought to diminish mandates, by expanding unemployment benefits for employees who have been fired or quit over the requirement to get the vaccine.

On Wednesday, the House Freedom Caucus, a group of rightwing Republicans in the House of Representatives, urged their Senate colleagues to block the funding bill, also known as a continuing resolution, “unless it prohibits funding – in all respects – for the vaccine mandates and enforcement thereof”.

In a letter to Mitch McConnell , the Senate minority leader, the Freedom Caucus said the Democratic-dominated House was set to vote in favor of the stopgap funding bill on Wednesday. The bill will then go to the Senate, where Democrats need Republican votes to pass the bill by Friday night.

The House Freedom Caucus said that deadline gave their Senate colleagues “important leverage” to prevent funding for mandates.

Biden introduced vaccine mandates, which require employees to be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing, for federal workers and contractors in July . In September, Biden ordered healthcare workers to be vaccinated and companies with 100 workers or more to require Covid-19 vaccines or testing, which the government said would cover more than 100 million employees. Those measures have been put on hold by court rulings, after Republican state attorneys general, conservative groups and trade organizations have sued to stop the regulations.

The appeal by House Republicans came after Politico reported that some Republicans in the Senate were open to blocking the stopgap funding bill.

“I’m sure we would all like to simplify the process for resolving the [continuing resolution], but I can’t facilitate that without addressing the vaccine mandates,” Lee told Politico.

Read more:

Related: Republicans threaten government shutdown to undermine vaccine mandates

10.00pm GMT

Today so far

Here’s a quick summary of what’s happened so far today:

  • A government shutdown is still imminent as leaders in Congress struggled today to agree on a bipartisan stopgap measure. House leaders said they had reached an agreement on a bill that would extend current government spending levels until mid-February, though the House has yet to vote on the bill. Some Republican Senators are saying they will not agree to a stopgap bill unless Democrats agree to defund enforcement of the federal vaccine mandate.
  • Joe Biden gave remarks on new actions the federal government is taking to address the pandemic, including expanding access to boosters for Americans and launching a new campaign to encourage people to get their booster shots.
  • S ymone Sanders , chief spokesperson and senior adviser to Kamala Harris, said that she is leaving her post at the end of the year, further prompting questions of embattlement in the vice president’s office.
  • The Biden administration is set to reintroduce a Trump-era policy that requires those who are seeking asylum in the US to await the decision on their application outside of the US. The supreme court ruled that the federal government must reinstate the policy as it places an undue burden on states at the border.

Stay tuned for more live updates.

Updated at 10.19pm GMT

9.41pm GMT

Donald Trump is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit against him filed by writer E Jean Carroll, who has accused the former president of sexual assault, on the ground of a state law meant to protect free speech, according to the Washington Post .

The law allows for the quick dismissal of lawsuits against wealthy companies and people if they can prove the claims against them have no substantial basis. If a lawsuit is dismissed under this law, the person who brought forth the lawsuit must pay the defendant’s legal fees.

Carroll has sued Trump for defamation in 2019 after Trump said that she made up her sexual assault accusation to sell her new book.

Roberta Kaplan, Carroll’s attorney, said in a statement that Trumps’ request is a “transparent effort to delay” the lawsuit from going to court.

9.21pm GMT

Two former Georgia election workers are suing a far-right conspiracy website for defamation saying that the site knowingly published false stories about them, which led to harassment and threats.

The lawsuit , which was filed on Thursday, says that Gateway Pundit published multiple false stories about them after a Trump attorney said at a hearing in George that he saw a video of several poll workers stuffing ballots from suitcases under a table. He gave the first name of one of the women – Ruby Freeman – which ultimately led to targeting reporting from Gateway Pundit, the women allege. Freeman is joined in the lawsuit by her daughter, Shaye Moss, who is also accusing the site of defamation.

The women say that the false stories “have not only devastated their personal and professional reputations but instigated a deluge of intimidation, harassment and threats that has forced them to change their phone numbers, delete their online accounts and fear for their physical safety.”

The suit says that the FBI recommended Freeman leave her home for two months because of threats.

8.59pm GMT

A Minnesota man who traveled to New York City and attended an anime convention has tested positive for the Omicron variant, New York governor Kathy Hochul said earlier today. This is the second confirmed case of the variant in the US.

The convention was held in mid-November and took place in the city’s main convention center. Hochul said the state is anticipating more cases though “this is not a cause for alarm”.

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio also said that there will likely be community spread and that the city will reach out to conference attendees to be tested.

8.42pm GMT

The Republican governor of Missouri commissioned an analysis of whether mask mandates helped to save lives and prevent Covid-19 in the state but never made the findings of the analysis public, according to the Kansas City Star .

The analysis was conducted in early November, but its findings were not made public until news outlets made a public records request for the results. The study found that mask mandates in the state’s largest cities were effective in helping to prevent higher Covid-19 cases.

Mask mandates have been a controversial issue in Missouri, with the state’s governor Mike Parson criticizing them and conflicts within local jurisdictions over mandates happening across the state.

8.20pm GMT

Georgia governor Brian Kemp is already taking pointed jabs at Stacey Abrams, who announced yesterday she will be running for governor next year.

In a tweet thread yesterday, Kemp criticized Abrams’ “far-left agenda” and said that she hurt the state because of her “ultimate ambition of becoming president”.

Kemp spoke on Abrams again today saying that her announcement is “a rallying point for Republicans. Because we know it’s not just the Georgia radicals we’re facing. It’s going to be the Hollywood crowd and everyone else flooding money in here.”

7.53pm GMT

Republicans in the Senate swiftly blocked an attempt to get universal background checks on the table following Tuesday’s school shooting in Michigan.

“I hope many of my colleagues took a minute to watch cell phone video from the school shooting in Michigan,” Democratic senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said on the Senate floor. “Absolutely terrifying watching children fleeing their classroom in fear that their lives were about to be ended.”

Murphy pushed forward the bill that passed the House in March that expands background checks to allow an expanded 10-day review for gun purchases and transfers.

Chuck Grassley, speaking in opposition of the bill, said on the Senate floor that the background checks “will not prevent crime and will turn otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals.”

7.28pm GMT

As Joe Biden was walking off the stage after delivering his remarks on the federal government’s new actions to address the pandemic, he responded to a question on the squabble in Congress over the impending government shutdown.

“I don’t believe that will happen,” Biden told reporters. “There’s a plan in place unless someone decides to be totally erratic.”

7.10pm GMT

Joe Biden outlines new federal actions to address coronavirus

Joe Biden just delivered a speech at the National Institute of Health outlining the federal government’s plan to respond to the coronavirus pandemic in light of the spread of the Omicron variant.

“We’re going to fight this variant with science and speed, not chaos and confusion,” Biden said.

Biden laid out five key points of the plan that emphasizes vaccines. The federal government will renew its push to get people vaccinated, including launching “hundreds of family vaccination clinics” across the country where people of all ages can get their booster shots and vaccinations. There will also be a national campaign encouraging the over 100m people who are eligible for booster shots but have not gotten theirs to get their shots. He also called on employers to provide paid time off to employees to get their booster shots.

Biden also said that the mask mandates on airplanes, buses and trains as well as airports and stations will continue through March. At-home coronavirus tests will be reimbursed for those who have private insurance, while the government will distribute 15m tests to community health centers and rural clinics to get tests to those uninsured or who are on Medicaid.

6.40pm GMT

Today so far

Here’s a quick summary of what has happened today so far:

  • House leaders have reached an agreement on a stopgap bill that would extend current government spending levels until mid-February. Now it’s up to the Senate to prevent a government shutdown from happening at Friday at midnight by passing their own stopgap measure.
  • Symone Sanders , chief spokesperson and senior adviser to Kamala Harris , said that she is leaving her post at the end of the year, further prompting questions of embattlement in the vice president’s office.
  • The Biden administration is set to reintroduce a Trump-era policy that requires those who are seeking asylum in the US to await the decision on their application outside of the US. The Supreme Court ruled that the federal government must reinstate the policy as it places an undue burden on states at the border.

Joe Biden is set to announce his plans for federal action to address the pandemic in light of the Omicron variant, so stay tuned for more live updates.

Updated at 10.19pm GMT

6.18pm GMT

Republican senator Mike Lee is speaking on the Senate floor on Republican’s threat to cause a government shutdown if Democrats don’t agree to defund the federal vaccine mandate.

Lee is saying that he wants a vote on his amendment to defund the mandate.

It is unclear whether Lee has the support of all his fellow Republicans, with Mitch McConnell saying earlier today that he is not a fan of holding up government funding to fight the mandate.

5.48pm GMT

Insiders in Washington are paying close attention to the trip Kamala Harris and transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg are taking to North Carolina together. Why? Because of a purported rivalry between the two because of their similar presidential ambitions. Here’s more from the LA Times :

Donna Brazile calls the purported rivalry between Vice President Kamala Harris and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg “gossip” and “manufactured BS.”

“With an emphasis on the B and the S,” added Brazile, a former Democratic Party chief and current confidant to Harris.

Alas, Washington is a town that thrives on hypotheticals, intrigue and — yes — gossip. So, no matter how many times people like Brazile try to bat it down, the speculation persists.

Here is the theory: The pair of bold names in the Biden administration are vying to be next in line for the party’s nomination, either in 2024 should President Biden, the oldest president in U.S. history at 79, step aside — or in 2028 if he runs again.

Thursday, the two protagonists in this latest Beltway drama will hit the road together. Anyone hoping for a riveting oratorical showdown in Charlotte, N.C., will have to settle for speeches about potholes and rural broadband access. The topic of the day is infrastructure.

But rest assured, television analysts will provide authoritative takes on their body language as they tour the Charlotte Area Transit System Bus and Light Rail Garage. Some may note who speaks most passionately about the nation’s deteriorating bridges or who fails to capture the excitement of bus rapid transit lanes.

“I’m sure that it will be dissected aplenty,” said Elaine Kamarck, a former aide to Vice President Al Gore who researches the presidential nominating process at the Brookings Institution think tank. “Whether it means anything is anybody’s guess.”

5.19pm GMT

White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to questions on the departure of top Kamala Harris staffer Symone Sanders saying that departures from the White House after the first year is expected, downplaying reports that Sanders’ departure confirms reports of turmoil in the vice president’s office.

“It’s a normal course of events that people are ready to do something new, they’re ready to spend time with their families, they’re ready to sleep more. That’s to be expected in the first 18 months to two years of any White House,” Psaki said.”

“It’s only natural after a couple of years to be ready for something new.”

4.41pm GMT

In a press conference this morning, Nancy Pelosi slammed Republicans who want to threaten a government shutdown if Democrats don’t agree to defunding enforcement for the federal vaccine mandate for large employers.

“We’re not going to go for their anti-vaxxing. If you think that’s how we’re going to keep government open, forget that,” she said. Pelosi also said that she doesn’t think Republicans have enough votes to shut down the federal government.

“How do they explain to the public that they’re shutting down government because they don’t want people to get vaccinated?” she said . “This is so silly.”

4.23pm GMT

It seems like Senate Democrats will not only have to negotiate with their Republican colleagues who might try to use the impending government shutdown as a bargaining chip, but may also have to negotiate with one of their own members. Centrist Democrat Joe Manchin is “working through” whether or not he agrees that the Senate should defund funding for the mandate’s enforcement.

House Republicans have been pushing their counterparts in the Senate to use the government shutdown as a way to push for exactly that, encouraging them to not pass a stopgap measure unless Democrats agree to defund the mandate.

Manchin told reporters that while he supports a mandate for people who work on government payroll, he’s “less enthused” about a mandate for private companies.

4.02pm GMT

House leaders reach deal on stopgap measures to avert government shutdown

House leaders announced a deal settled on a stopgap measure that would avert a government shutdown and extend the current level of government funding until mid-February.

The House will put the measure to a vote today, leaving it up to the Senate to deal with the impending government shutdown that will occur on Friday at midnight if a stopgap measure is not passed.

Richard Shelby, a Republican senator from Alabama who is the top GOP member of the Senate appropriations committee, seemed optimistic about a potential deal in the Senate, telling reporters this morning: “I’m pleased that we have finally reached an agreement.”

It is still unclear whether all 50 Republican senators have agreed to a stopgap measure. House Republicans have been pressuring their Senate colleagues to use the government shutdown as a bargaining chip against the federal vaccine mandate for large businesses, though Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell indicated he does not support that plan.

“Let’s be clear, if there is a shutdown, it will be a Republican, anti-vaccine shutdown,” Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said on the floor this morning.

Updated at 4.19pm GMT

3.39pm GMT

The Biden administration has reportedly struck an agreement with the Mexican government to resurrect the controversial “Remain in Mexico’” arrangement that requires asylum seekers to stay outside the US while their claims are considered.

The US and Mexican governments will announce the resumption of the program on Thursday, according to the Washington Post , following its previous suspension by Joe Biden after he became president. It will initially begin in San Diego and in the Texas cities of Laredo, Brownsville and El Paso next week.

Biden had called the arrangement inhumane after it was used by Donald Trump’s administration to return more than 60,000 asylum seekers across the border to Mexico, where they were often preyed upon by criminal gangs. Many people were left waiting for months in limbo in Mexico as their fate was determined.

In October, Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, said that the program “had endemic flaws, imposed unjustifiable human costs, pulled resources and personnel away from other priority efforts, and did not address the root causes of irregular migration”.

However, Republican officials in Missouri and Texas sued Biden’s administration in federal court to prevent the scrapping of the return to Mexico policy, claiming that it would place an undue burden on them from incoming migrants.

The supreme court ultimately concurred with the states, placing an injunction on the federal government in August which forced it to resume the program. Since then, federal officials have been negotiating with their Mexican counterparts on how the scheme will resume.

Related: US reportedly reaches deal to restart Trump-era ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy

Updated at 4.03pm GMT

3.17pm GMT

Donald Trump could end up with $100m in profit for selling a building he turned into a a Trump hotel that has reported millions in losses over the last four years, according to the Washington Post .

Trump brought a 60-year lease to the property in 2013 for $200m and now a Miami-based investment firm is hoping to turn the building into another luxury hotel, sans the Trump name. CGI Merchant, the investment firm, has indicated its willing to pay $375m for the lease, netting Trump a profit of over $100m.

Experts say that the price is in-line with what the lease could be worth, though some question whether the investment firm and Hilton Worldwide, which is hoping to turn the building into a Waldorf Astoria, will be able to make a profit from a new hotel in the building.

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The Old Post Office Pavilion, now a Trump Hotel, in Washington DC. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

2.58pm GMT

Seems like Mitch McConnell is suggesting to reporters that he’s not a fan of the push from House Republicans to use the government shutdown as a bargaining chip against the federal vaccine mandate. McConnell is saying that the courts will likely strike down the mandate, and using a shutdown to address it will “create chaos and uncertainty”.

This is the first time that McConnell has spoken about the proposition from House Republicans.

2.38pm GMT

News of the departure of Symone Sanders, Kamala Harris’ chief spokesperson and senior adviser, has further confirmed reports that the vice president’s office is beset with internal problems, with Sanders being the second high-profile exit over the last few weeks.

Some reports from as early as this summer say that Harris’ office has been experiencing low morale and poor communication between aides and top officials.

Sanders sent an email to office staff last night about her exit, with Harris’ chief of staff Tina Flournoy saying that Sanders told Harris “a couple of months ago” she would be leaving her post at the end of the year, according to Politico , which first reported her exit.

Sanders has worked with Joe Biden and Harris for over three years, first working on Biden’s presidential campaign.

Ashley Etienne, Harris’ chief of communications, announced her departure in November. Two others – Harris’ director of press operation and her deputy director in her communications department – have also told others that they are departing, according to the Washington Post .

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Symone Sanders Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP

2.11pm GMT

The House rules committee just added to their already-scheduled 9.30am meeting this morning an item to discuss a stopgap bill that would temporarily extend the current level of government funding to at least February. It seems like House Democrats are really gunning to get the ball rolling – and for good reason: the longer they stall the bill, the closer a government shutdown is.

Updated at 2.44pm GMT

1.55pm GMT

Good morning, and welcome to today’s politics live blog.

Democrats in Congress are rushing today to make a deal with Republicans that would prevent a looming government shutdown. Talks between House Democrats and Republicans stalled yesterday over a stopgap spending bill that would temporarily extend the current level of government funding.

Another potential stalemate popped up on Wednesday when a group of House Republicans encouraged their colleagues in the Senate to use the potential shutdown as a bargaining chip. They are encouraging Senate Republicans to block the stopgap measure unless Democrats agree not to direct money toward enforcing the federal vaccine mandate for large companies. Republican House and Senate leaders have not commented on the proposal.

Here’s what else we’re keeping an eye on today:

  • Joe Biden will unveil new federal actions to combat the coronavirus later today. Biden is expected to extend the federal mask mandate as well as require international travelers to be tested before entering the US.
  • Symone Sanders, a senior adviser and chief spokesperson for Kamala Harris, is reportedly planning to depart from her role at the end of the year. Her exit will be the second in Harris’ communication team in recent weeks.

Stay tuned for more live updates.

Comments / 73

TOWL
12-02

it doesn't matter if it's shut down. Because the Congress gets paid anyway. It only hurts government funding people getting funding for living .

Reply(2)
14
VLaw
12-02

No pay for elite meaning congress and anyone higher or assisting them in not making the decisions Americans are screaming about

Reply(1)
7
David L Hartshorne Jr
12-02

Once again the country and it's people are being forced at gun point by the GOP is blocking the budget before Christmas again. What makes me sick is it's just a game to them but hard on the country.

Reply(10)
16

Comments / 0