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Senate adjourns without extending expiring unemployment benefits

The Senate has adjourned until 3 p.m. on Monday, as Congress failed to reach an agreement on extending unemployment benefits that are set to expire on Friday.

Why it matters: Tens of millions of Americans are out of work and have been receiving $600 per week on top of their regular unemployment payments. That money has been used both to pay expenses and to prop up the broader economy via consumer spending.


The state of play: Congress and the Trump administration are still painfully deadlocked over the next stimulus bill, with at least 20 Senate Republicans pledging to vote "no" on another massive relief package no matter what.

  • Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) attempted Thursday afternoon to unanimously pass a short-term extension of the benefits at a reduced level of $200 per week, which was summarily rejected by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
  • Schumer then attempted to pass the $3 trillion relief bill that House Democrats approved in May. That, too, was blocked and condemned by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as a "totally unserious proposal."

Between the lines: "The legislative shenanigans were not meant to actually enact policy, but rather to help further the political blame game as Congress prepared to leave town without an agreement," the Washington Post notes.

The big picture: The staggering 32.9% contraction in annualized GDP last quarter quantifies just how big a hole the U.S. economy is in — dwarfing the previous record set in 1958, when GDP shrank at an annualized 10% rate.

  • If it wasn’t clear before today, the economy is going to need support to dig its way out. And that assumes we don’t fall back in, which may already be happening as the coronavirus surge forces some states to clamp down again.
  • "The path of the economy will depend significantly on the course of the virus," Fed chair Jerome Powell said yesterday. "It's so fundamental."

Zoom out: When the U.S. shut down its economy and passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March, a GDP contraction of this size was not out of the realm of possibilities, notes former Treasury official Tony Fratto.

  • What nobody was projecting was that weekly unemployment claims would still be running at 1.4 million in July — the product of a failed coronavirus response.

The bottom line: More than 30 million Americans could see their incomes drop 50%–75% when the unemployment benefits expire.

In photos: Fortified capitols see only small protests

Small groups of protesters rallied outside fortified statehouses over the weekend ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

The big picture: Some rallies attracted armed members of far-right extremist groups but there were no reports of clashes, as had been feared. The National Guard and law enforcement outnumbered demonstrators, as officials took security steps to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection, per AP.

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Trump to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations before leaving office

President Trump plans to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations on his final full day in office Tuesday, sources familiar with the matter told Axios.

Why it matters: This is a continuation of the president's controversial December pardon spree that saw full pardons granted to more than two dozen people — including former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, longtime associate Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father of Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

  • Those set to be pardoned before Trump exits the White House will be a mix of criminal justice and people connected to the president, the sources said.
  • CNN first reported this news.

Go deeper: Convicts turn to D.C. fixers for Trump pardons

Schumer's m(aj)ority checklist

Capitalizing on the Georgia runoffs, achieving a 50-50 Senate and launching an impeachment trial are weighty to-dos for getting Joe Biden's administration up and running on Day One.

What to watch: A blend of ceremonies, hearings and legal timelines will come into play on Tuesday and Wednesday so Chuck Schumer can actually claim the Senate majority and propel the new president's agenda.

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Members of House and Senate fear for their safety away from a hardened Capitol

This is how bad things are for elected officials and others working in a post-insurrection Congress:

  • Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) said she had a panic attack while grocery shopping back home.
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said police may also have to be at his constituent meetings.
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told a podcaster he brought a gun to his office on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 because he anticipated trouble with the proceedings that day.
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Off the rails: Trump mainlines election conspiracies as Oval Office descends into madness

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 3: The conspiracy goes too far. Trump's outside lawyers plot to seize voting machines and spin theories about communists, spies and computer software.

President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."

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Convicts turn to D.C. fixers as they seek pardons from President Trump

A flood of convicted criminals has retained lobbyists since November’s presidential election to press President Trump for pardons or commutations before he leaves office.

What we're hearing: Among them is Nickie Lum Davis, a Hawaii woman who pleaded guilty last year to abetting an illicit foreign lobbying campaign on behalf of fugitive Malaysian businessman Jho Low. Trump confidante Matt Schlapp also is seeking a pardon for a former biopharmaceutical executive convicted of fraud less than two months ago.

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Conservatives plot to punish the tech industry for deplatforming Trump

Capitol Hill conservatives are gaming out a multi-front war on the tech industry as retribution for deplatforming President Trump and others on the right, congressional sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: When you're in the minority, you figure out who you are as a party. With Republicans now looking up at the Democrats, they're searching for a unifying issue. This is one, at least for now.

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Kevin McCarthy warned members to not call out colleagues by name, citing potential political violence

Members of the House Republican Conference ignored leader Kevin McCarthy last week when he warned them against criticizing colleagues by name based on intelligence that doing so could trigger more political violence.

Why it matters: McCarthy made clear that name-dropping opponents, instead of spelling out complaints in more general terms, can put a literal target on a politician, especially with tensions so high following the events of Jan. 6.

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