What are they trying to distract us from?
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- One day after the House passed a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government at existing levels through December 23, the Senate voted 71-19 on Thursday to do the same. When President Joe Biden signs the legislation into law later today, it’ll avert a government shutdown that would’ve otherwise gone into effect Saturday morning. The stopgap measure—which was supported by a number of Senate Republicans but only nine Republicans in the House—buys appropriations negotiators an additional week to hammer out the details of a larger spending package for fiscal year 2023. Some conservatives, including Rep. Chip Roy, have been harshly critical of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for working with Democrats to pass the spending package now, rather than wait for Republicans to retake the House majority in a few weeks.
- The Senate also voted 83-11 on Thursday to pass the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes and directs about $850 billion in defense- and military-related spending. The measure—which has already passed the House with bipartisan support—repeals the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate and is about $50 billion larger than President Biden’s request, but the president is expected to sign it into law regardless.
- The Commerce Department reported Thursday that U.S. retail sales fell 0.6 percent month-over-month in November, the largest such decline this year and another sign consumers are wary of a slowing economy, spending less on cars, home projects, and holiday-related purchases. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 750 points Thursday on the news, as investors price in the likelihood of a recession.
- The White House announced Thursday that, ahead of a possible winter surge, the Biden administration is resuming its partnership with the U.S. Postal Service to send government-purchased COVID-19 testing kits to Americans who request them through COVIDTests.gov or at select schools, community health centers, rural health clinics, and long-term care facilities throughout the country. Tests can be requested now and will ship starting the week of December 19.
- The average number of weekly confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States increased about 48 percent over the past three weeks according to CDC data, while the average number of weekly deaths attributed to the virus—a lagging indicator—increased 2 percent. About 31,300 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, up from about 21,900 three weeks ago.
- The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced Thursday that outgoing Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker will succeed Mark Emmett as president of the organization beginning March 1, 2023. Baker, a moderate Republican, last year opted against running for a third term in office.
- The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial jobless claims—a proxy for layoffs—fell by 20,000 week-over-week to a seasonally adjusted 210,000 last week, remaining near historic lows and indicating the labor market remains tight.
China’s Rocky Road to Reopening
Thursday morning, readers perusing the People’s Daily—the Chinese Communist Party’s primary mouthpiece—found some marvelous news. “After three years of efforts, we have the conditions, mechanisms, systems, teams and medicine to lay the foundation for an all-round victory in the fight against the epidemic,” the paper announced, per a translation.
China’s propaganda apparatus has executed a dizzying pivot in recent weeks, switching from emphasizing the dangers of COVID-19—and the importance of embracing the harsh lockdowns that had come to define the country’s pandemic response—to arguing new variants aren’t that lethal and China’s longstanding mass testing and forced quarantine policies were no longer necessary. What changed? Several weeks of the most open protest against the Chinese Communist Party in over 30 years.