10 things you need to know today: December 22, 2017

Congress approves a stopgap spending bill to avert a shutdown, the U.N. condemns Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and more

Nikki Haley during a Security Council meeting on Jerusalem
(Image credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

1. Congress passes a stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown

Congress approved a stopgap spending bill on Thursday to avert a government shutdown a day before the deadline. Senators approved the measure 66-32 following a 231-188 vote in the House. Republicans had to scramble to rally support within their ranks after most House Democrats refused to back the bill. In the Senate, 17 Democrats went along, some of them facing re-election in red states next year. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and some of the party's potential 2020 presidential candidates voted against it, as did Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky. The bill keeps government agencies funded through Jan. 19 and keeps the popular Children's Health Insurance Program funded through March.

The Hill

2. U.N. condemns Trump over Israel despite U.S. threats

The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to condemn President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The nonbinding resolution against "illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of occupied Palestinian territory" declared any moves to settle Jerusalem's fate outside of a broader peace deal to be "null and voided." The United States' ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, warned that the U.S. would be "taking names" of those nations opposing the U.S. in the vote, and Trump suggested that the U.S. would cut foreign aid to any nation voting to condemn the U.S. The 128-9 vote, with 35 abstentions, was interpreted as a harsh rebuke of Trump's decision and its impact on peace efforts.

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The Washington Post

3. Pence makes surprise visit to Afghanistan

Vice President Pence made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Thursday, the first by him or President Trump since they took office. Pence arrived under heavy security and met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and other leaders. He also visited U.S. troops. The trip came four months after Trump outlined a new "fight to win" strategy calling for attacking enemies in Afghanistan to break the stalemate in the 16-year war, America's longest. Trump rejected fixed timetables for stepping away from the ongoing fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda, and called for basing U.S. assistance and cooperation on the situation on the ground and the actions of the governments of Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan.

USA Today

4. Justice Department requests FBI evidence on Uranium One deal

Federal prosecutors, on orders from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, have started requesting evidence collected by the FBI in its now dormant investigation into the controversial Uranium One deal, NBC News reported Thursday, citing multiple law enforcement officials. The effort is interpreted as partial fulfillment of a promise an assistant attorney general made to Congress last month to examine the 2010 transaction, in which the Obama administration allowed the sale of a company with control over major U.S. uranium mining facilities to Russia's state atomic energy company. Hillary Clinton was then secretary of state, and Republican lawmakers suspect Clinton of supporting the deal to benefit Clinton Foundation donors, although nine federal agencies signed off and State Department officials say Clinton did not intervene.

NBC News

5. ObamaCare enrollments strong despite GOP efforts to dismantle it

HealthCare.gov enrollments surged at the close of open-enrollment season, putting participation on track to approach last year's figures despite Republican efforts to dismantle ObamaCare. The Trump administration cut the enrollment period in half and reduced advertising. Still, nearly 9 million people signed up for coverage through the Dec. 15 deadline in the 39 states using HealthCare.gov, the Trump administration reported Thursday. Another 2.5 million have enrolled using state-run marketplaces, some of which are allowing people to enroll for another few weeks. President Trump has said that the health-care law is "dead," and the new GOP tax overhaul scraps the individual mandate to buy insurance, considered a pillar of ObamaCare.


6. Catalan separatists keep majority in snap elections

Voters in Catalonia returned secessionists to power on Thursday in snap elections with record turnout of 81 percent. The vote restoring separatists' narrow majority marked a stunning setback for Spain's central government, and an unexpectedly clear victory for former regional president Carles Puigdemont, currently in exile in Belgium. Two months ago, 2 million Catalans supported secession from Spain in a referendum, and the wealthy region's leaders unilaterally declared independence. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy reacted by dissolving the regional legislature and calling the early election, hoping for a vote in favor of national unity.

The Washington Post

7. Judge dismisses emoluments suits against Trump

A New York judge on Thursday dismissed two lawsuits by restaurant workers, a hotel event booker, and a watchdog group who accused President Trump of violating the Constitution's emoluments clause because foreign governments and related entities patronize his hotels and other businesses. U.S. District Judge George Daniels ruled that the plaintiffs were unable to show injury related to payments by foreign governments to Trump businesses. He also said Congress is the "appropriate body to determine" if the clauses have been violated. An attorney for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said there is "no question that there will be an appeal, and our legal team is in the process of exploring our next steps."

The Associated Press Politico

8. U.S. imposes sanctions against 52 over human rights and corruption

The Trump administration on Thursday imposed sanctions on 52 people and entities for alleged human rights violations and corruption. The people targeted included a top Myanmar general, Maung Maung Soe, the first high-level official from the country to face U.S. penalties for the deadly ongoing crackdown against Rohingya Muslims. Maj. Gen. Maung Maung Soe was in charge of soldiers whom survivors have accused of stabbing babies, beheading boys, gang-raping girls, and burning entire families to death. More than 620,000 Rohingya refugees have fled into neighboring Bangladesh. "Today, the United States is taking a strong stand against human rights abuse and corruption globally by shutting these bad actors out of the U.S. financial system," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

The New York Times

9. Papa John's CEO steps down

Papa John's founder and CEO John Schnatter will step down next month, and be replaced by Steve Ritchie, the company's chief operating officer, the company announced Thursday. Schnatter faced a wave of criticism after publicly criticizing NFL leaders over player protests during the national anthem calling attention to police mistreatment of African Americans. "The controversy is polarizing the customer, polarizing the country," Schnatter said in a Nov. 1 earnings conference call. White supremacists praised Schnatter for the remarks, and Papa John's apologized two weeks later. Ritchie would not say whether the controversy played a role in Schnatter's departure, but said it was "the right time to make this change."

USA Today The Associated Press

10. Sports broadcaster Dick Enberg dies at 82

Hall of Fame sports broadcaster Dick Enberg died Thursday at his home in the San Diego neighborhood of La Jolla. He was 82. Enberg's excited calls of "Oh, my!" punctuated coverage of major events including Super Bowls, Olympics, Final Fours, and Angels and Padres games over a 60-year career. Enberg got his big break over nine years of broadcasting UCLA basketball during an era when the Bruins dynasty won eight NCAA titles. He called the "Game of the Century," when Houston beat UCLA in 1968 to snap the Bruins' 47-game winning streak, the most historically significant contest he ever covered.

The Associated Press

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.