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House passes bill to give U.S. Postal Service $25 billion and reverse policy changes

The House passed a bill on Saturday to give the U.S. Postal Service $25 billion and reverse operational changes made during widespread mail delays. 26 Republicans supported the measure, but the bill is unlikely to move forward after a White House veto threat.

Why it matters: More Americans than ever are expected to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, but on-time delivery for priority and first class mail has continued to drop since early July.


Catch up quick: DeJoy this week suspended his proposed cost-cuts to the USPS until after the 2020 election to "avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail."

  • Democrats' bill would keep USPS leaders from making changes that "impede prompt, reliable, and efficient services" to mail delivery through January 2021.
  • The bill would require all election mail to be handled as first class and ban removing or decommissioning sorting machines and collection boxes — following reports from Oregon, Montana, Manhattan and Pennsylvania that the Postal Service was unbolting and hauling away mailboxes.

What they're saying: The bill, introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), received total support from Democrats, who argue the policies previously implemented by DeJoy, a Trump mega-donor, fed President Trump's efforts to "sabotage the election by manipulating the Postal Service," as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put it in a letter to colleagues last week.

  • GOP support: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), who voted in favor of the bill, called for a bipartisan effort to "address serious challenges USPS has been facing for quite some time now." Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) said he believed "a healthy, functioning Post Office is critical to our nation's wellbeing."
  • Maloney released an internal USPS briefing prior to the House vote that detailed ongoing delays for priority and first class mail. "To those who still claim there are 'no delays' and that these reports are just 'conspiracy theories,' I hope this new data causes them to re-think their position and support our urgent legislation today," she said.
  • Trump tweeted ahead of the vote: "Representatives of the Post Office have repeatedly stated that they DO NOT NEED MONEY, and will not make changes."

The other side: During a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Friday, DeJoy asserted that the Postal Service "is fully capable and committed to delivering the nation’s election mail fully and on time."

  • He later said he was "extremely highly confident" that any ballots mailed seven days before the election would be delivered on time, and denied having any substantive policy conversations with Trump about USPS reforms.

What's next: DeJoy will testify before the House Oversight Committee on Monday.

  • Maloney chairs the committee.

The USPS declined to comment.

Iran's nuclear dilemma: Ramp up now or wait for Biden

The world is waiting to see whether Iran will strike back at Israel or the U.S. over the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran's military nuclear program.

Why it matters: Senior Iranian officials have stressed that Iran will take revenge against the perpetrators, but also respond by continuing Fakhrizadeh’s legacy — the nuclear program. The key question is whether Iran will accelerate that work now, or wait to see what President-elect Biden puts on the table.

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U.K. clears Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for mass rollout

The United Kingdom became on Wednesday the first Western country in the world to license the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for widespread use.

What they're saying: "Today’s emergency use authorisation in the UK marks a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19," said Albert Bourla, the chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer, per the Guardian.

  • "This authorisation is a goal we have been working toward since we first declared that science will win, and we applaud the MHRA for their ability to conduct a careful assessment and take timely action to help protect the people of the UK."

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Biden tells NYT he won't immediately remove U.S. tariffs on China

President Trump's 25% tariffs imposed on China under the phase one trade deal will remain in place at the start of the new administration, President-elect Biden said in an interview with the New York Times published early Wednesday.

Details: "I'm not going to make any immediate moves, and the same applies to the tariffs," Biden said. He plans to conduct a full review of the current U.S. policy on China and speak with key allies in Asia and Europe to "develop a coherent strategy," he said.

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Trump threatens to veto Defense spending bill over social media shield

President Trump tweeted Tuesday a threat to veto a must-pass end-of-year $740 billion bill defense-spending authorization bill unless Conress repeals a federal law that protects social media sites from legal liability.

Why it matters: Trump's attempt to get Congress to end the tech industry protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is the latest escalation in his war on tech giants over what he and some other Republicans perceive as bias against conservatives.

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The walls close in on Trump

With Bill Barr's "Et tu, Brute!" interview with AP, President Trump is watching the walls close in on his claims of fraud, hoaxes and conspiracies.

Why it matters: Trump and his legal team continue to claim election fraud. But the Republican governors of Arizona and Georgia have certified their elections, a loyalist like Barr has weighed in, and lower-ranking officials have taken potshots.

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Congress plots COVID pandemic-era office upgrades

The House plans to renovate members' suites even though staff are worried about an influx of contractors and D.C. is tightening restrictions on large gatherings, some staffers told Axios.

Why it matters: The Capitol has been closed to public tours since March. Work over the holiday season comes as U.S. coronavirus cases spike, Americans beg for more pandemic assistance and food lines grow.

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Trump applies extreme pressure on Bill Barr to release so-called Durham Report

President Trump and his allies are piling extreme pressure on Attorney General Bill Barr to release a report that Trump believes could hurt perceived Obama-era enemies — and view Barr's designation of John Durham as special counsel as a stall tactic, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Speculation over Barr's fate grew on Tuesday, with just 49 days remaining in Trump's presidency, after Barr gave an interview to the Associated Press in which he said the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread fraud that could change the election's outcome.

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CDC to cut guidance on quarantine period for coronavirus exposure

The CDC will soon shorten its guidance for quarantine periods following exposure to COVID-19, AP reported Tuesday and Axios can confirm.

Why it matters: Quarantine helps prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which can occur before a person knows they're sick or if they're infected without feeling any symptoms. The current recommended period to stay home if exposed to the virus is 14 days. The CDC plans to amend this to 10 days or seven with a negative test, an official told Axios.

  • The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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