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On the roster: Trump vetoes national defense bill – I’ll Tell You What: The 3rd (Or 4th) Trivia Extravaganza – Biden formally introduces education secretary – Georgia Senate runoffs get Hollywood boost – Watch out for hangry octopuses
TRUMP VETOES NATIONAL DEFENSE BILL
Fox News: “President Trump vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 Wednesday, calling it a ‘gift’ to U.S. adversaries China and Russia, making good on a promise to veto if it did not repeal a law that shields certain Big Tech companies from liabilities. ‘My Administration recognizes the importance of the Act to our national security,’ the president wrote to House members after vetoing the bill. ‘Unfortunately, the Act fails to include critical national security measures, includes provisions that fail to respect our veterans and our military’s history, and contradicts efforts by my Administration to put America first in our national security and foreign policy actions.’ In his letter, he singled out Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act as a reason for the veto, arguing that failing to terminate it ‘will make our intelligence virtually impossible to conduct.’ He also took issue with language in the NDAA that would require ‘the renaming of certain military installations.’”
Pelosi pushes bigger stimulus checks after Trump intervention – Fox News: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday called on GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy to join her in backing a boost to the coronavirus stimulus checks – which would bump them to $2,000 – because of a last-minute demand from President Trump. Trump in a video posted to Twitter on Tuesday night demanded that lawmakers amend the coronavirus stimulus package they passed Monday to include $2,000 checks for individuals instead of $600 checks, while also insisting that ‘wasteful and unnecessary’ items be cut from the year-end spending package that was attached to the pandemic aid. Pelosi and Democrats had wanted much higher stimulus checks, too, but settled on the $600 figure in bipartisan negotiations with their Republican counterparts. … Pelosi wants to bring a stand-alone piece of legislation to the House floor Thursday morning to increase the stimulus check amount in time for Christmas, daring Republicans to object.”
And how this ends you may ask? – Politico: “Some say President Donald Trump is in burn-it-down mode and is more than willing to veto the Covid relief/funding package, ending his presidency in a lengthy shutdown, with bluster and crisis. Others say he’s not explicitly threatening a veto, and everyone should calm down. … The government is funded through Monday at 11:59 p.m. The current legislation to extend that funding and renew Covid relief is the bipartisan bill that passed Congress early Tuesday morning… That bill is in the enrollment process, and will reach the White House by Thursday or Friday. … But the immediate concern is that the government shuts down Monday night — imagine a shutdown during a pandemic.”
Robert Verbruggen: ‘One More Round of Chaos for Trump’ – National Review: “Last week, Trump reportedly thought about demanding $1,200 or even $2,000 stimulus checks in the COVID-relief bill. But his aides advised him this would blow up the negotiations, so he didn’t. Instead, he waited until after the bill passed — with $600 checks — and released this video last night. … This is going to cause chaos, and I’m not sure where it will end up. Maybe Trump is bluffing and will end up signing the bill, perhaps in exchange for some face-saving promises from Congress. Maybe he’ll veto it, in which case Congress will have the votes to override him, unless too many politicians who supported the bill the first time around defect. Maybe Trump will execute a ‘pocket veto’ … Maybe Congress will cave, sending Trump another piece of legislation tacking on more money.”
[Ed. note: Soooooo…. I know it must feel a bit like we’re leaving you in the lurch, but it’s time for our Christmas break. The Congress has finished its work on the legislative equivalent of a double-decker bacon cheeseburger served on glazed donuts. It’s too big to eat without making a mess, impossible to fully digest and not nearly as appetizing together as it is in its constituent parts. Now, the president says he may send the order back for not having enough caloric content. There are multiple scenarios that may play out ranging from President Trump’s threat being an empty one to a government shutdown and no coronavirus relief package before the Biden administration takes the ball. But the federal government, like the Grinch, cannot keep Christmas from coming. Whatever happens, the blessings and afflictions of this great nation will be the same on Monday as they are this afternoon. We will return with enthusiasm next week to see what this Laurel & Hardy act passing itself off as a government has done and may do next. But we need a couple of days to focus on our families and loved ones and to celebrate what, in our faiths, is the greatest gift ever given to mankind. That’s not to say that what the government does in the next four days isn’t important or that its dysfunction doesn’t have real consequences for all Americans and our posterity. But it is to say that like a toddler who has flung herself to the ground in the cereal aisle, the outcome will not be improved by our fevered attention. Our prayer for you, gentle readers, is that you also can place your attention on the things that matter, not the histrionics of third-rate politicians. And based on what we have read from you in the many years of this note and its predecessors, our readers are wise enough to do just that. Have a merry Christmas, dear ones. You deserve it.]
THE RULEBOOK: AGREE TO DISAGREE
“When men exercise their reason coolly and freely on a variety of distinct questions, they inevitably fall into different opinions on some of them. When they are governed by a common passion, their opinions, if they are so to be called, will be the same.” – Alexander Hamilton or James Madison, Federalist No. 50
TIME OUT: A WHITE HOUSE CHRISTMAS
People: “The White House at Christmas is something to behold… But it wasn’t always quite such a spectacle and, in fact, first families have decked the halls in a variety of different ways. ‘The first White House Christmas party occurred less than two months after the first occupants moved in,’ Stewart D. McLaurin, president of the White House Historical Association, explains. That was in November 1800, when John Adams and his wife, Abigail, became the first president and first lady to move in to the White House. The next month, they hosted a Christmas gathering at their new home. … In 1894, then-President Grover Cleveland displayed the first electric-lit tree in the White House, placing it in the oval room in the residence… But it wasn’t until First Lady Mamie Eisenhower festooned the halls of the ‘people’s house’ in the 1950s that the property became such a holiday highlight, McLaurin tells PEOPLE.”
Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
GOT A WILD PITCH? READY TO THROW A FASTBALL?
We’ve brought “From the Bleachers” to video on demand thanks to Fox Nation. Each Wednesday and Friday, Producer Brianna McClelland will put Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt to the test with your questions on everything about politics, government and American history – plus whatever else is on your mind. Sign up for the Fox Nation streaming service here and send your best questions to HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM.
I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: THE 3RD (OR 4TH) TRIVIA EXTRAVAGANZA
As has become an I’ll Tell You What holiday tradition, Peter McMahon joins his wife Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt for a trivia episode. At the top of the show, the three discuss their favorite dessert items and current European Union trade conflicts between Britain and France. Then, Chris & Peter face off in their annual trivia challenge. Plus, they share their predictions for 2021. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE
BIDEN FORMALLY INTRODUCES EDUCATION SECRETARY
Bloomberg: “President-elect Joe Biden introduced Connecticut schools commissioner Miguel Cardona as his pick for education secretary, saying he was a ‘brilliant’ educator with a tested record. ‘Like the rest of the team, Dr. Cardona is qualified on Day One,’ Biden said at an event in Wilmington, Delaware, calling Cardona’s nomination an easy choice. ‘He’s a education secretary who truly understands’ the difficulties facing families and schools struggling to teach children during the coronavirus pandemic. Biden said Cardona would be charged with implementing the new administration’s ambitious plans for education, including forgiving student debt. ‘Our legislative plan means if you choose to go to into public service our country will wipe out your debt over time,’ Biden said. Cardona, a Latino, adds to the diversity of Biden’s cabinet, which he pledged would ‘look like America.’”
Team Biden weighs school testing plan – Politico: “President-elect Joe Biden is weighing a multibillion-dollar plan for fully reopening schools that would hinge on testing all students, teachers and staff for Covid-19 at least once a week, according to four people with knowledge of the discussions. The proposal under consideration calls for the federal government to cover the cost of providing tests to K-12 schools throughout the country. These could then be administered regularly by staff at each school, providing results in minutes. The developing plan closely tracks with recent recommendations from The Rockefeller Foundation to invest billions into the creation of a K-12 testing system that would reassure teachers and students it is safe to resume in-person schooling. Biden has vowed to reopen the majority of schools within his first 100 days in office…”
In news conference Biden hits Trump on Russia blamed hack – AP: “President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday assailed the Trump administration for failing to fortify the nation’s cyber defenses, and called on President Donald Trump to publicly identify the perpetrator of a massive breach of U.S. government agencies — a hack some of Trump’s top allies have blamed on Russia. Biden, who is being briefed on high-level intelligence in preparation for taking office next month, said planning for the hack began as early as 2019. Several federal agencies, including the Treasury Department, have said they were targeted. ‘There’s still so much we don’t know,’ Biden said during a news conference in Wilmington, Delaware. ‘But we know this much: This attack constitutes a grave risk to our national security. It was carefully planned and carefully orchestrated.’ The U.S. government has not made a formal assessment of who was behind the attack, but both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr have said all signs point to Russia.”
Walks back ‘Day 1’ promise to reverse Trump immigration policies – WaPo: “President-elect Joe Biden said Tuesday he will keep his pledge to roll back the Trump administration’s restrictive asylum policies but at a slower pace than he initially promised, to avoid winding up with ‘2 million people on our border.’ Biden said immigration is one of the urgent matters he will tackle starting next month as the nation emerges from ‘one of the toughest years we’ve ever faced,’ ticking off a list that included the coronavirus, the economy, racial-justice issues and ‘historic and punishing wildfires and storms.’ Biden had promised to end on ‘Day 1’ a program that requires tens of thousands of asylum seekers, mainly from Central America, to await their U.S. immigration hearings in Mexico. But the president-elect said creating a system to process thousands of asylum seekers will take months, because the government needs funding to put staffers such as ‘asylum judges’ in place.”
Mocks questions about Hunter – Fox News: “President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday laughed off a question about the federal investigation of his son Hunter, in what’s become part of a pattern for him to mock or belittle reporters who broach the topic. As Biden ended his press conference Tuesday, Fox News reporter Peter Doocy shouted a question on whether he still believed the stories by the New York Post and other outlets about his son’s business affairs were a ‘Russian disinformation campaign and a smear campaign.’ Biden chuckled, then said, ‘Yes! Yes! Yes! God love you, man. You’re a one horse-pony,’ meaning to say ‘one-trick pony’ for the repeated questions on the subject. Biden, who has not named his pick for attorney general, added he would allow his Justice Department to be ‘totally on its own’ about any judgments on the matter.”
Dems to choose new party chair the day after inauguration – Fox News: “The Democratic National Committee (DNC) will formally choose its new chair the day after President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated. The national party will hold its Winter Meeting on Jan. 21, Fox News confirmed. And the annual gathering will be held virtually this time amid the coronavirus pandemic. At the top of the agenda at the confab will be electing the national party’s new leadership. Outgoing DNC Chair Tom Perez long ago said he would not bid to serve another four-year term. While DNC committee members will vote for the chair, the real decision maker in the process is Biden, who now as president-elect is leader of the Democratic Party. ‘It’s ultimately President Biden’s choice,’ longtime New Hampshire Democratic Party chair and former DNC vice chair Ray Buckley told Fox News. Biden – at least publicly – has yet to make his views known on whom he’d like to see steering the national party.”
GEORGIA SENATE RUNOFFS GET A HOLLYWOOD BOOST
AJC: “The crowds began to gather outside Santa Fe Mall in Duluth hours before the rally started, with dozens of Latino voters parked in neat rows in front of an outdoor stage, partly to hear from U.S. Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock — and partly to hear from their high-wattage supporters. … Celebrities aren’t just promoting campaigns. They’re staging entire shows on their behalf and personally stumping for them on the campaign trail ahead of Jan. 5 runoffs for control of the U.S. Senate. And while most of the star power is helping Democrats, U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue are getting in on the act, too. … Republicans love to hate Hollywood, and Vice President Mike Pence made time this month during stump speeches in Augusta and Columbus to talk about Republicans sending a message about Christian values to ‘Democrats in Washington and liberals in Hollywood.’ But the GOP has leaned on its own celebrities to help out ahead of the runoffs, too. The Lee Greenwood Band belted out fan favorites after a Republican rally in Canton a few weekends ago, and Loeffler joined Travis Tritt for a concert in Smyrna earlier in the month.”
Georgia Sec. of State seeks to end no-excuse absentee voting – AJC: “Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Wednesday asked Georgia state representatives to end no-excuse absentee voting, a proposal that would limit the voting method used by over 1.3 million people in the presidential election. Raffensperger wants to reduce absentee voting after promoting it during the coronavirus pandemic, when he mailed ballot applications to registered voters before the primary election. In last month’s election, about a quarter of Georgia’s 5 million voters ballots cast absentee ballots as Democrat Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump. ‘It makes no sense when we have three weeks of in-person early voting available. It opens the door to potential illegal voting,’ Raffensperger told the House Governmental Affairs Committee. ‘From a logistical challenge, it’s a tremendous burden on our counties’ that run elections.”
LAYOFF NUMBERS REMAIN ELEVATED
AP: “The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell by 89,000 last week to a still-elevated 803,000, evidence that the job market remains under stress nine months after the coronavirus outbreak sent the U.S. economy into recession and caused millions of layoffs. The latest figure, released Wednesday by the Labor Department, shows that many employers are still cutting jobs as the pandemic tightens business restrictions and leads many consumers to stay home. Before the virus struck, jobless claims typically numbered around 225,000 a week before shooting up to 6.9 million in early spring when the virus — and efforts to contain it — flattened the economy. The pace of layoffs has since declined but remains historically high in the face of the resurgence of COVID-19 cases.”
Trump admin close to a deal with Pfizer for more vaccine doses – NYT: “The Trump administration and Pfizer are close to a deal under which the pharmaceutical company would bolster supply of its coronavirus vaccine for the United States by at least tens of millions of doses next year in exchange for a government directive giving it better access to manufacturing supplies, people familiar with the discussions said. An agreement, which could be announced as early as Wednesday, would help the United States at least partly offset a looming vaccine shortage that could leave as many as 110 million adult Americans uncovered in the first half of 2021. … In the negotiations, the government is asking for 100 million additional doses from Pfizer from April through June. The company has signaled that it should be able to produce at least 70 million, and perhaps more, if it can get more access to supplies and raw materials.”
In final days Trump pardons 15 and commutes 5 sentences – AP
AUDIBLE: PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE
“It’s a good flux. It’s better than the status quo.” – Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., talking to Politico about the uncertainty of the Senate majority until after Jan. 5, specifically when it comes to knowing the makeup of individual committees.
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WATCH OUT FOR HANGRY OCTOPUSES
Metro: “If you had to pick which creature is the schoolyard bully under the waves you probably wouldn’t have gone with the octopus. But it turns out the cephalopods will lash out and punch fish for seemingly no reason other than spitefulness. This has been captured on film and analysed by scientists in a new paper for the scientific journal Ecology. They say that this thuggish behaviour – which they call the ‘active displacement’ happens while octopuses team up with fish to hunt together. When things are getting a bit hectic, the octopuses will lash out at the fish to keep them away from the grub. It’s a bit like shoving someone else out of line at the queue for the buffet. ‘Octopuses and fishes are known to hunt together, taking advantage of the other’s morphology and hunting strategy,’ explained marine biologist Eduardo Sampaio from the University of Lisbon in Portugal.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“I personally like Christmas because, since it is a day that for me is otherwise ordinary, I get to do nice things, such as covering for as many gentile colleagues as I could when I was a doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital. I will admit that my generosity had its rewards: I collected enough chits on Christmas Day to get reciprocal coverage not just for Yom Kippur but for both days of Rosh Hashana and my other major holiday, Opening Day at Fenway.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Dec. 17, 2004.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up