Happy Wednesday! If you’re running for president and asked whether you’ve ever been on Jeffrey Epstein’s jet, the best answer you can give is “no, of course not.” The second-best answer you can give is “I was on Jeffrey Epstein’s jet one time.” The third-best answer you can give—the one Robert F. Kennedy gave Fox News’ Jesse Watters last night—is “I was on Jeffrey Epstein’s jet two times.”
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy said Tuesday Israel would consider another “temporary pause” in its war against Hamas in exchange for the release of more of the 137 remaining hostages taken by the terrorist organization. At a fundraiser yesterday, President Joe Biden blamed Hamas’ refusal to release its remaining female hostages for the breakdown of ceasefire negotiations, and condemned the “unimaginable cruelty” of the terrorist organization for using rape and torture as an instrument of their October 7 attack. Meanwhile, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on Tuesday pushed further into Khan Younis, the largest city in southern Gaza, where Hamas leadership is believed to be hiding. Yaron Finkelman, commander of the Israeli military’s Southern Command, described Tuesday as “the most intense day since the beginning of the ground operation, in terms of terrorists killed, the number of firefights, and the use of firepower from the land and air.”
- Job openings fell to 8.73 million in October, the Labor Department reported Tuesday, marking a 6.6 percent decline since September and indicating that the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes are cooling the labor market. The numbers represent the lowest mark in nearly two-and-a-half years, and brought the ratio of open jobs to available workers to 1.3 to 1. The hires rate ticked down from 3.8 percent in September to 3.7 percent in October, while the quits rate—a sign of workers’ confidence in their ability to find new employment—remained at 2.3 percent.
- The House Ways and Means Committee released a report on Tuesday purporting to show that then-Vice President Biden used email aliases and private email addresses to communicate with one of his son Hunter’s business associates hundreds of times. IRS whistleblowers provided the committee with the relevant metadata showing 327 separate instances of communication between 2010 and 2019, with the majority occurring during Biden’s time as vice president. A search warrant is required to access the content of the exchanged emails.
- Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama announced on Tuesday that he would end his blanket hold on military promotions—a one-man boycott originally launched to protest the Biden administration’s military abortion policy. The hold applied to hundreds of pending promotions, and had recently come under fire from several of Tuberville’s GOP colleagues. The Senate unanimously approved more than 400 military promotions just hours after Tuberville lifted the block.
- House Financial Services Chairman Patrick McHenry, who served as speaker pro tempore after Kevin McCarthy’s ouster earlier this year, announced on Tuesday his intention to retire from Congress at the end of his current term. “Through good and bad, during the highest of days and the lowest, and from proud to infamous times, the House is the venue for our nation’s disagreements bound up in our hopes for a better tomorrow,” the North Carolina Republican wrote in a statement. “There has been a great deal of handwringing and ink spilled about the future of this institution because some—like me—have decided to leave. Those concerns are exaggerated. … There are many smart and capable members who remain, and others are on their way. I’m confident the House is in good hands.”
Running Out of Money and Time
While the statement, “There is no magical pot of funding available to meet this moment,” may technically be true for any number of issues facing lawmakers on Capitol Hill today, White House budget director Shalanda Young was referring specifically to U.S. funding for Ukraine in a letter to Congressional leaders earlier this week. Previously appropriated aid to the embattled country, she said, will be gone by the end of the year. “We are out of money—and nearly out of time.”
Despite the dire warnings of dwindling days and missing money pots, Congress doesn’t seem to have made much progress on passing additional funding for Ukraine since President Joe Biden first introduced his supplemental funding request in October. Republicans appear to have reached broad agreement—even in a political moment when GOP in-fighting seems to be the norm—on insisting any Ukraine aid be paired with the imposition of stricter border security measures. But making aid to the war-torn nation dependent on both parties finding common ground on perhaps the most intractable legislative problem of the last two decades could augur ill for Ukraine’s effort.
Congress has thus far allocated a total of $111 billion in funding for Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022. Still, Young paints a bleak picture: Of the current appropriations, “[The Department of Defense] has used 97 percent of the $62.3 billion it received, and [the Department of State] has used 100 percent of the $4.7 billion in military assistance it received,” she wrote. “Approximately $27.2 billion, or 24 percent, has been used for economic assistance and civilian security assistance (such as demining) to Ukraine, which is just as essential to Ukraine’s survival as military assistance. State and USAID have used 100 percent of this amount.”