Skip Navigation
Breaking News

The Ticker

Breaking news from Washington and beyond

Illustration by Dave Murray

Three Incredibly Popular Things That Congress Chose to Leave Out of the Spending Bill

U.S. lawmakers unveiled a sweeping $1.7 trillion government spending bill. Still, they managed to exclude some popular provisions.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

U.S. lawmakers unveiled the massive omnibus bill early Tuesday. The spending bill lays out the federal budget for 2023.

The $1.7 trillion package is expected to pass both chambers by Thursday and then be sent to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature the following day, just before the current budget expires.

Here are three major things that the bill has left out.

1. Drug reform

Two measures seeking to reform marijuana and cocaine policy have been left out of the omnibus, despite bipartisan support for both.

Congress had sought to allow cannabis companies to open bank accounts. Since marijuana is currently illegal under federal law, most banks won’t take a dispensary’s deposits, forcing the businesses to operate on a mostly cash basis. As a result, weed stores are prime targets for robberies.

But despite bipartisan and banking industry support for the act, senior Senate Republicans shot it down. This comes as a heavy blow to Biden’s efforts for cannabis reform. In October, the president pardoned thousands of people convicted of marijuana possession and said his administration would review how the drug is categorized.

The second measure, the EQUAL Act, was aimed at reducing the disparity in sentencing for crack versus powder cocaine offenses. Current laws for crack cocaine are much stricter: An individual needs to possess 500 grams of powder cocaine to trigger the five-year mandatory sentence, but only 28 grams of crack. These rules disproportionately affect people of color.

The act would have evened out the amount of powder and crack cocaine needed to trigger the minimum sentence, but despite having 11 Republican Senate co-sponsors, it failed to make the omnibus.

2. The Afghan Adjustment Act

The omnibus also leaves out the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would have expanded the special immigration visa program to help people fleeing Afghanistan and created a path to permanent residency for those already here.

Tens of thousands of Afghan refugees in the United States are at risk of deportation because they have a temporary status known as “humanitarian parole.” The act would have helped those people stuck in legal limbo and aided many more U.S. allies still trapped in Afghanistan. Former U.S. military officials urged Congress to pass the act.

The act had bipartisan support, but not a filibuster-proof majority, and it stalled for months in Congress. And now it hasn’t even made the mega-spending package.

Advocates are now hoping Senator Chuck Schumer will bring it for a floor vote as a standalone amendment.

3. The Child Tax Credit

The omnibus does not revive the expanded Child Tax Credit, which helped lift millions of children out of poverty over the past year.

The CTC was dramatically expanded in the first months of the Biden administration. Up to $3,600 per child was delivered to parents—including to households that were previously ineligible because they had no income—and helped cut the national child poverty rate nearly in half.

But those benefits expired last December, and roughly four million kids fell back into poverty.

The $12 billion act to revive the CTC is a tiny fraction of the overall bill and the massive defense budget that Republicans demanded. Democrats had indicated they were willing to compromise on an array of corporate tax cuts that the GOP wanted in exchange for the CTC, but Republicans were unwilling to negotiate.

What’s Next for George Santos?

The New York GOP representative-elect appears to have lied about his credentials. Here’s what could happen to him next.

George Santos leans on a table in what looks like an empty office space. He smiles and looks to his right. Around him are several "George Santos for Congress" yard signs.
Jackie Molloy/Bloomberg/Getty Images

What will happen next to Representative-elect George Santos?

A bombshell New York Times report charged Monday that the New York Republican had fabricated the bulk of his résumé. Santos responded later that day by invoking twisted identity politics, rather than any actual evidence of his background or policy plans.

House Republicans have remained silent on Santos. When they take control of the House in a few weeks, their majority will be by just a few seats. If he were forced to resign, there’s no guarantee another Republican would take his place. He ran unopposed during the primary, and he won his district—which went for President Joe Biden in 2020—by just eight points.

What’s more, he supports Kevin McCarthy’s bid for speaker of the House. McCarthy is struggling to rally his entire party behind him and will need all the backers he can get.

Democratic Representative Eric Swalwell raised that exact concern after the report broke: “Will @GOPLeader expel Santos or strike a #CorruptBargain so McCarthy can be Speaker?” he demanded on Twitter.

Other Democrats have been equally outspoken in condemning Santos and the Republican Party. Incoming House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries slammed Santos as untrustworthy on Twitter, calling him “woefully unqualified” and “clearly unfit to serve” in a separate statement.

But Democrats have stopped short of calling for Santos to resign. Both the spokesman for and the chair of the House Ethics Committee declined to comment to The Washington Post about whether they would investigate Santos. And once Republicans take power, it’s unclear how far any efforts to punish or even expel him will go.

The Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent, bipartisan watchdog group, has yet to release a statement on whether it will investigate him.

Either way, it seems the one definite point on Santos’s résumé is about to be “New York representative.” That he was able to ride his shoddy biography to victory is all the more humiliating for the state’s Democratic Party, which suffered major losses during the midterm elections. One such casualty was Mondaire Jones, a popular incumbent who lost the nomination to Democratic Party Chair Sean Patrick Maloney—who ultimately lost the district to his Republican challenger.

Jones, a member of the House Ethics Committee, pointed out his party’s basic failing when it came to Santos.

George Santos Responds to Report of His Made-Up Résumé: I’m a Gay Latino

The New York representative-elect responded to a report about the holes in his résumé with the worst version of identity politics (and a made-up quote from Winston Churchill).

Jackie Molloy/Bloomberg/Getty Images

George Santos responded Monday evening to the shocking report that he fabricated his entire résumé—and his reaction left a lot to be desired.

Santos’s lawyer released a statement accusing The New York Times of a smear campaign against the Republican New York representative-elect.

Rather than provide any actual evidence about his claimed education, work history, or charitable work, Santos’s team opted instead to try and “own the libs” by pointing out that Santos is gay and Latino.

The statement also accused the Democrats of “broken promises and failed policies” but did not mention any of the work Santos has done to try to resolve that, or whether he even has a plan to do so.

Santos’s lawyer also cited a quote he attributed to Winston Churchill—except the phrase is actually a modernized translation of a Victor Hugo quotation.

That Santos was able to ride a shoddy résumé to victory is even more humiliating for the New York Democratic Party, which suffered major losses during the midterm elections. The party focused too much on reshuffling power and failed to do basic opposition research. As a result, no one caught the holes in Santos’s purported biography.

Arizona Representative Ruben Gallego Is Definitely Eyeing a New Campaign, Based on Who He’s Talking To

The Arizona congressman is one of the top Democratic prospects for the Senate in 2024, since Kyrsten Sinema announced she is now an independent.

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Representative Ruben Gallego is looking to draw from the teams that propelled Senator Raphael Warnock and Senator-elect John Fetterman to victory in the 2022 midterms, according to five Democrats with knowledge of those talks.

Gallego is one of the top prospects eyeing running for the Arizona Senate seat currently represented by Senator Kyrsten Sinema. Earlier this month, Sinema announced her decision to leave the Democratic Party and become an independent. Since then, Gallego has been interviewing vendors and consultants about a future federal campaign—a surefire tell in political campaign circles that another campaign is on his mind.

Gallego has already brought on Democratic pollster GBAO strategies. If he does run for Senate, he’s going to use Aisle 518 Strategies for digital fundraising and New Deal Strategies, a political messaging and consulting firm founded by Rebecca Katz.

GBAO Strategies did polling for Warnock. Aisle 518 was a consultant on Arizona Senator Mark Kelly’s reelection campaign in the 2022 midterm cycle. And Katz, along with Democratic admaker Bill Hyers, was one of the masterminds behind Fetterman’s hard-fought victory in Pennsylvania.

As Gallego gathers seasoned consultants, Sinema has been losing them. The digital progressive consulting firm Authentic dropped her as a client, according to Politico. Dixon/Davis Media Group, a boutique firm that has been a vendor for Senate and congressional races, especially out West, also parted ways with Sinema before her announcement, Democratic sources tell The New Republic.

That Gallego is continuing to lean on these consultants in particular offers a few clues about what kind of campaign the Arizona congressman would run. All of these firms were part of teams that won Senate races in serious battleground states. That Gallego is keeping them around suggests he’s looking to run a statewide election in 2024 and he knows he will need staff and advisers who have won tough fights already. That’s the kind of situation the Arizona congressman will likely find himself in: a three-way battle with Sinema and whoever Republicans look to prop up.

This piece has been updated.

The George Santos Story Is an Indictment of New York Democrats

The incoming Republican representative won a district that easily went to Joe Biden in 2020. And now, weeks after the election, a new report reveals that he seems to have made up the bulk of his résumé.

Ronda Churchill/Bloomberg/Getty Images

If you need any more proof that New York Democrats dropped the ball during the 2022 midterm elections, look no further than the latest reports on George Santos.

The MAGA Republican, who won Long Island by just eight points, has reportedly fabricated almost his entire résumé, according to The New York Times. The Times was unable to find records of his claimed jobs, college education, or charitable work.

This is the second time that Santos has run for that House of Representatives seat. The first time was in 2020. No one caught the holes in his autobiography during either campaign.

Santos’s Democratic opponent in November, Robert Zimmerman, told Semafor Monday that he had raised questions about Santos’s background—though he did not publicly raise any of these issues during his campaign. The Washington Post also reported that Zimmerman’s campaign had made three payments to a company called Deep Dive Political Research but did not say what the funds had been for beyond “research consulting.”

There was some local reporting earlier this year on Santos’s sudden financial success, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s campaigning arm, put together a memo on Santos as well. The 87-page memo mentioned that Santos’s animal rescue charity wasn’t registered with the IRS, but mostly focused on his ties to Donald Trump and his embrace of the former president’s message.

New York was a major failure for Democrats during the midterms. In general, the party performed far better than predicted. But in New York, Democrats took a beating. DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney lost his district by a few thousand votes, in one of the tightest races in the entire country that night.

The state has been reliably blue in the past. Registered Democratic voters in the state outnumber Republican voters more than 2-to-1. The district that Santos won was represented by a Democrat and went solidly for President Joe Biden during the 2020 election. It should have been a win for the Democratic Party.

Instead, the New York Democrats focused too much on trying to reshuffle power and ended up losing four House seats to Republicans, including Santos. They tried too hard to brand Santos as an extremist, and dropped the ball on basic opposition research. The fact that he was able to get his supposed résumé by them with no questions asked is just further proof of their failure.

January 6 Committee Urges DOJ to Charge Donald Trump for Insurrection

The House select committee recommended the Justice Department pursue four criminal charges against the former president, including inciting or assisting an insurrection.

Alex Wong/Getty Images/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Footage of Donald Trump is played on a screen during a hearing of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, D.C., on October 13.

The House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol on Monday unanimously recommended the Department of Justice pursue criminal charges against former President Donald Trump.

The committee voted to ask the Justice Department to pursue at least four criminal charges against Trump related to the January 6 attacks: obstructing an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to make false statements, and inciting or assisting an insurrection.

The panel also recommended the Justice Department pursue at least two criminal charges against Trump lawyer John Eastman, for obstructing an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

“We understand the gravity of each and every referral we are making today, just as we understand the magnitude of the crime against democracy that we described in our report,” said committee member Representative Jamie Raskin. “We have gone where the facts and law lead us, and inescapably, they lead us here.”

Moreover, the committee referred four Republican members of Congress to be sanctioned by the House Ethics Committee, citing their defiance of complying with congressional subpoenas. They are Representatives Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan, Andy Biggs, and Scott Perry.

The committee will also publish a final report Wednesday that will lay out further details of the comprehensive probe that has interviewed over 1,000 people, reviewed over one million documents, and subpoenaed dozens of people, including Mark Meadows, Stephen Bannon, Representative Kevin McCarthy, alongside Trump.

While the January 6 panel’s investigations come to a close, and criminal and ethics referrals are made, other investigations continue. A Georgia-based investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election results has called individuals including Meadows, Senator Lindsey Graham, and others to testify and hand over documents.

This piece was updated.

Incoming New York GOP Congressman Seems To Have Made Up His Entire Resume

A new report found Representative-elect George Santos lied about his employment history, his college, and a lot more. How did New York Democrats miss all of that?

Ronda Churchill/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A MAGA Republican New York representative-elect appears to have fabricated almost his entire resume, The New York Times reported Monday.

George Santos was elected in November to represent Long Island. The way he tells it, he is the son of Brazilian immigrants who graduated from Baruch College, with a stint at New York University. He then went on to work for multiple Wall Street firms before launching his own financial management firm. His family owns multiple real estate properties, and he founded an animal rescue charity.

Except, none of that might actually be true. And the biggest question is, how did Democrats fail to catch any of this during the election?

Neither Citigroup nor Goldman Sachs, two of the main places Santos claims to have worked, were able to verify his employment, according to the Times. Neither Baruch nor NYU could find a record of Santos attending their institutions. What’s more, the time Santos says he was at Baruch overlaps with a criminal investigation into him for fraudulent purchases in Brazil.

He says his family owns 13 rental properties, but none were listed on the required financial disclosure forms for his campaign. His multimillion-dollar company has no reported clients, website, or even a LinkedIn page. Santos claimed that four employees from one of his companies—he did not specify which—were killed in the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. But the Times said that none of the victims’ names matched employees at the companies he mentioned in his biography.

The IRS couldn’t find any records that the animal rescue charity Santos says he founded in 2013 held tax-exempt status, and neither the New York nor New Jersey attorneys general offices could find records of the organization being registered as a charity.

And yet Santos still won his district by more than eight percent, helping Republicans flip a seat and clinch a hair-thin majority in the House of Representatives. It seems Democrats failed to do any due diligence on him and instead focused on trying to brand him as an extremist.

Read more at The New York Times.

Almost Every Country Signed a Historic Deal To Protect Nature. America Wasn’t One of Them.

Republicans helped take America out of the global conversation at the COP15 U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity.

ANDREJ IVANOV/AFP via Getty Images
Marco Lambertini (2nd from right), the director general of WWF International, speaks during a press conference following the release of new COP15 text during the United the Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on December 18, 2022.

On Monday, nearly 200 countries agreed to rein in the ongoing global loss of nature, pledging to protect 30 percent of the planet—land and oceans—by 2030. The goal, known as 30x30, was agreed to at the COP15 U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) summit in Montreal, Canada. The United States was one of two countries not signing.

Currently, about 17 percent of land and 8 percent of oceans on the planet have some form of conservation measures in place. The global effort to increase those figures comes three years after a 2019 U.N. report showed 75 percent of land-based environments and 66 percent of marine environments have been “severely altered” by human actions—leading to some 1 million animal and plant species at risk of extinction.

The massive environmental cost translates to an equally large financial cost. Between 1997 and 2011 alone, the world is estimated to have lost up to 31 trillion U.S. dollars per year from biodiversity loss spurred by degrading action and preservatory inaction.

The United States was one of two countries not involved in shaping and signing the agreement. Citing threats to commercial interests and infringements on American and land sovereignty, Republicans have blocked the U.S. joining the CBD since its conception in the 1990s. A two-thirds Senate majority is required for ratification. (The only other country to not sign the agreement was the Holy See.)

President Biden has yet to make a case that Republicans are blocking America’s involvement on the global stage as they side with financial interests and make abstract claims for “sovereignty,” while America’s actual natural landscape deteriorates.

While the U.S. did not sign onto the U.N. agreement, the Biden administration has announced its own 30x30 plan. But with the U.S. refusing to join the 30x30 goal alongside other nations, there is less collaboration and trust shared to actualize the goal.

The worldwide push to stem environmental degradation is only one step towards reversing the damage humans have caused, and replacing those systems with something better. And as has been evident with the Paris Agreement’s stalled climate goals, an agreement is just words until proven otherwise.

This article was updated.

Elon Musk’s Twitter Poll Results Are In: The People Don’t Want Him as CEO

Musk asked in a Twitter poll if he should step down as CEO. People overwhelmingly said “yes.”

Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Since taking over Twitter, Elon Musk has made a habit of governing by poll. But he may wish he had held off on the latest one.

Musk asked his followers Sunday night if he should step down as head of Twitter, promising to “abide by the results” of the poll. The poll closed Monday morning, and the results are clear: More than 17.5 million people voted, with 57.5 percent saying “yes” and only 42.5 percent saying “no.”

Musk’s purchase of Twitter in late October has been rocky, to say the very least, and many analysts assumed the deal started as a joke that then went too far. It’s been rumored that Musk never wanted to take the company’s reins in the first place and has been looking for a way out.

Since taking over, Musk has fired almost all of the top executives and the entire board of directors, as well as nearly half the company’s workforce. Many other employees have quit. Advertisers have left the platform in droves due to Twitter’s increasingly lax content moderation rules.

Meanwhile, hate speech has flourished and Nazis are being allowed back on the platform. Musk seems to be governing by whim rather than following a business plan.

It’s gotten so bad that Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren sent a letter over the weekend to the board chair of Tesla, which Musk founded, questioning whether he was qualified to continue leading the electric vehicle company.

In her letter, Warren cited reports that Musk had improperly reallocated Tesla funds and employees to Twitter to keep the social media platform afloat, and warned that he could have Tesla overpay for advertising space on Twitter to fill the void left by other companies.

And on Friday, the European Union threatened to impose sanctions on Twitter after Musk suspended multiple journalists’ accounts.

Unfortunately More on Elon

Congress Has Days to Prove Whether It Cares About Afghans

The Afghan Adjustment Act would help tens of thousands of Afghans who remain in legal limbo. And the deadline for Congress to pass it is coming up.

Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post/Getty Images
Veteran James Powers talks with young Afghan refugees during an event promoting the Afghan Adjustment Act on October 23, in Billlings, Montana.

As the government scrambles to put together final touches on a bill to fund the government, the fate of countless Afghans hangs in the balance.

Tens of thousands of Afghan evacuees residing in the United States remain in limbo, without a certain path to permanent residency. Even more Afghan allies have been left behind since the U.S. military withdrawal last August.

Advocates have spent the better part of about a year and a half lobbying for the Afghan Adjustment Act, a bill that would expand the special immigration visa program to include previously omitted groups of people who aided the U.S. military, establish pathways to resettle allies still trapped in Afghanistan, and provide a pathway to permanent legal residency for the tens of thousands of evacuees now in the U.S. Advocates now seek to attach the bill to the government’s omnibus spending package.

The bill boasts bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress but has stalled for months, to much-warranted frustration. “Afghans have been let down by the entirety of this war,” said Arash Azizzada, co-founder of Afghans for a Better Tomorrow.

It took one year for Congress to even introduce the Afghan Adjustment Act, but it was produced promisingly, with bipartisan support out of the gate. But five months later, Congress has not included the bill in the continuing resolution or the defense spending bill, nor has it just passed the bill on its own. Even before the act was a standalone bill, advocates lobbied Congress to attach the measures to a May Ukraine-focused spending bill to no avail.

Despite bipartisan support in both chambers, the bill still falls short of a guaranteed filibuster-proof majority. This week, The Wall Street Journal editorial board endorsed the bill, and numerous other senators came out in support of the act: Republicans Roger Wicker and Jerry Moran and Democrats Patrick Leahy and Jeanne Shaheen. All this signals the last-second momentum that could perhaps finally push the legislation over the top—not a moment too soon.

On Thursday, the Senate passed another one-week continuing resolution to keep the government afloat through December 23. Final spending allocations for the government omnibus are said to be unveiled as soon as Monday.

“If there’s a failure to keep the promise to Afghans, it will be a bipartisan failure. Both parties own what comes next,” said Azizzada.