Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 1, 2022

House Democrats pick Hakeem Jeffries to succeed Nancy Pelosi, House committee gets Trump's tax records, and more


House Democrats choose Hakeem Jeffries as new leader

House Democrats on Wednesday chose Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) as their leader in next year's Congress. Jefferies will be the first Black leader of a major political party in Congress. His rise marks a generational shift, as he succeeds House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has served as the top Democrat in Congress for two decades as speaker and minority leader. Jefferies will step into the job as Republicans take control of the House, after winning a narrow majority in the November midterm elections. Jefferies promised in a letter to colleagues that he would empower rank-and-file Democrats and focus on taking back the majority in 2024.


Treasury Department sends House committee Trump's tax returns

The House Ways and Committee has received several years of former President Trump's tax returns from the Treasury Department, ending a three-year legal battle, news outlets reported Wednesday. The news came after the Supreme Court last week rejected Trump's challenge of a lower court's ruling that the House had the authority to get the documents from the Internal Revenue Service. Trump had argued that no Congress had "ever wielded its legislative powers to demand a president's tax returns," and said setting this precedent would have "far-reaching implications." House Democrats fought for the returns, saying they needed them to review the IRS's presidential audits. Trump's lawyers said lawmakers wanted the returns for political purposes.


House approves bill seeking to prevent devastating rail strike

The House on Wednesday passed a bill seeking to impose a new contract on rail workers to prevent a strike that could devastate the economy. President Biden called for Congress to intervene as railway workers vowed to strike by Dec. 9 if unions and rail companies couldn't reach a new agreement. The bill passed the House 290-137 and now heads to the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have both called for approving the legislation quickly. A separate measure requiring seven days of paid sick leave for railroad employees — a key demand of rail worker unions and progressive Democrats — passed by a narrower margin, and faces uncertain prospects in the evenly divided Senate.


Fed chair says interest rate hikes could slow

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday that the central bank will continue raising interest rates to cool the economy and bring down the highest inflation in decades, but indicated the central bank would likely start making smaller hikes, possibly at its next meeting. The Fed has made four straight three-quarter point increases, stoking concerns that the unusually aggressive moves would push the economy into a recession. But Powell suggested in a speech to the Brookings Institution that the Fed might raise its benchmark short-term interest by just a half percentage point in December. "We think that slowing down at this point is a good way to balance the risks," Powell said. Stocks soared after Powell's remarks.


Gas prices fall as demand drops 

Gasoline prices have fallen sharply as China's coronavirus crisis and protests threaten to hurt the global economy and bring down demand. AAA reported that the average U.S. price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.50 on Wednesday, making it about as cheap to fill up now as it was before Russia invaded Ukraine in February. GasBuddy, which tracks pump prices, said the average price of a gallon could fall to $3 by Christmas. Experts said the savings could give consumers holiday spending money they didn't think they'd have. "People are realizing that they might be back to spending $50 to fill their tank instead of $80," said Duke University economics professor Emma Rasiel.


Appeals court rejects Biden administration bid to revive student debt relief

A federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected a Biden administration request to overturn a ruling by a lower court in Texas blocking President Biden's $400 billion student loan forgiveness program. The brief order by a three-judge panel of the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit set up a likely appeal to the Supreme Court. The high court is already considering an appeal of a ruling by the St. Louis-based 8th Circuit appeals court that also blocked the program, which offers $10,000 in loan forgiveness to borrowers making less than $125,000 a year, and another $10,000 in student debt forgiveness to Pell grant recipients. The Biden administration two weeks ago started notifying people approved for debt relief under the stalled program.


Chinese official says pandemic fight enters 'new stage'

A senior pandemic response official in China said Wednesday that the country's effort to contain its coronavirus outbreak "faces a new stage and mission," the latest sign that Beijing is easing its "zero COVID" lockdowns after the eruption of mass protests last weekend. The comments by Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan, made to national health officials, came as Shanghai and several other areas started lifting lockdowns even though infection rates remain higher than earlier in the pandemic. China reported 36,061 cases on Wednesday, down from 37,828 on Tuesday. The recent protests, the biggest China has seen in decades, started after critics said lockdown restrictions hampered the response to an apartment building fire that killed 10 people.


Indiana AG asks medical board to investigate abortion doctor 

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) has asked a state medical board to discipline Dr. Caitlin Bernard, who provided an abortion this summer to a 10-year-old rape victim who couldn't terminate her pregnancy in Ohio, which had enacted a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. Rokita said Bernard violated privacy laws by sharing the girl's story with IndyStar "to further her political agenda," and failed to immediately report the rape to Indiana authorities. Bernard's lawyer called the complaint "a last-ditch effort" by Rokita, who opposes abortion, to intimidate Bernard and other abortion providers, and said Bernard fully complied with the law. Records show that Bernard reported the case to the Indiana Department of Health within a three-day window as required.


Biden announces relocation funding for native tribes hurt by climate change

The Biden administration will provide $75 million to help three Native American tribes move away from coastal areas or rivers to higher ground as climate change causes sea levels to rise. The Newtok Village and Native Village of Napakiak in Alaska, and the Quinault Indian Nation in Washington state will each receive $25 million to begin relocating buildings inland. The administration is awarding $5 million grants to eight more tribes for planning relocations. Research has shown that historically oppressed and disenfranchised U.S. tribal groups face high exposure to the effects of climate change. "We must safeguard Indian Country from the intensifying and unique impacts of climate change," Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.


Fleetwood Mac singer-songwriter Christine McVie dies at 79

Fleetwood Mac singer-songwriter Christine McVie died Wednesday after a brief illness, her family announced through her verified Instagram account. She was 79. McVie, born Christine Perfect, married Fleetwood Mac bassist John McVie and joined the group in 1971. The British rock star left the band after 28 years, then returned in 2014. She wrote some of Fleetwood Mac's biggest hits, including "Little Lies," "Everywhere," "Don't Stop," "Say You Love Me," and "Songbird." Fleetwood Mac was one of the most popular rock bands in the world in the 1970s and '80s, and its 1977 album Rumours sold more than 40 million copies, making it one of the top selling records of all time.


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