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Congress Leaves Afghan Refugees Out of Year-End Deal

Tens of thousands of Afghan evacuees could be forced to leave the U.S. next year after being cut out Congress’s new spending compromise.

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A mother and her son walk through the National Conference Center in Leesburg, Virginia, which has been redesigned to temporarily house Afghan nationals, in August.

Although the omnibus package of bills to fund the government expands the number of special immigrant visas to Afghan allies still trapped in Afghanistan, it does not address the plight faced by tens of thousands of Afghan evacuees settled in the United States: They do not currently have a pathway to permanent residency, and their eligibility to remain in the country expires in August 2023.

Veterans’ groups and human rights organizations had been hoping that the Afghan Adjustment Act would be included in the omnibus. The bipartisan bill would have provided additional vetting for Afghans already in the U.S.—a priority for Republicans—and then offered a path to permanent residency. However, the bill was dropped from the omnibus that was released Monday night, in large part due to opposition from GOP Senator Chuck Grassley, who worried that vetting requirements were insufficiently stringent. When I asked Senator Chris Coons of Delaware on Tuesday why the measure had been dropped from the omnibus,  he succinctly replied: “Ask Chuck Grassley.” Coons had spearheaded the effort to pass the legislation in the Senate.

“I’m hopeful that in the next Congress, we can take this up and move it quickly,” Coons told reporters on Tuesday. “I am hearing from Afghans in Delaware regularly that this harms their ability to find employment, find housing, get access to health care, [and] really fully engage in life in the United States. And I think we’re at risk of not honoring those who served alongside us for 20 years.”

Advocates are pressing for the Afghan Adjustment Act to be added to the omnibus as an amendment, but it’s unclear if that could receive sufficient support from Republicans. Meanwhile on Tuesday the Taliban announced that all women are now banned from attending universities in Afghanistan.

Biden: The Iran Nuclear Deal Is “Dead”

President Joe Biden made the comments to a group of activists in November, as seen in a newly resurfaced video. But administration officials are confirming what he said: The U.S. is not interested in a deal right now.

Joe Biden
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The Biden administration isn’t interested in a nuclear deal with Iran, at least for now.

A newly resurfaced video shows President Joe Biden declaring the Iran nuclear deal “dead,” though he hedges and says the United States won’t formally announce it. The video was shared on Twitter by an Iranian software engineer living in the United States, who said that it was originally captured in California on November 4.

Biden is asked by a member of the crowd to admit that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the official name for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, is dead: “Can you just announce that?”

“No,” Biden responds, adding that he couldn’t do so for “a lot of reasons.”

But after that initial denial, the president appears to change his message and goes on to admit, “It is dead, but we’re not gonna announce it.”

“We just don’t want deals with the mullahs,” the person in the crowd says. “They don’t represent us. They’re not our government.”

“Oh I know they don’t represent you,” Biden says, “but they’ll have a nuclear weapon that they represent.”

Thanks to the video’s brevity, Biden’s statements aren’t entirely clear, but Axios got an administration official to confirm the core aspects: that Biden’s administration is  not currently interested in a nuclear deal with Iran.

The JCPOA is not our focus right now. It’s not on the agenda,” a White House National Security Council spokesperson told Axios.

“We don’t see a deal coming together anytime soon,” the spokesperson added, referring to Iran’s brutal crackdown on protesters and its support for Russia in its war on Ukraine. “Our focus is on practical ways to confront them in these areas.”

In October, U.S. envoy for Iran Robert Malley also said that the administration is “not going to waste time” on trying to revive the nuclear deal. The Biden administration has voiced support for the protesters in Iran, and last week the U.S. played a large role in kicking Iran off the U.N. women’s rights commission.

The video of Biden comes at a sensitive time, as EU and Iranian officials on Tuesday met in Jordan to discuss reviving nuclear negotiations.

Iran is also in the midst of a three-day economic shutdown, which is set to end Wednesday evening. Daily protests have rocked Iran since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Jina Amini in police custody in September. The Iranian government has cracked down on these protests with brute force. Since Amini’s death, more than 500 other Iranians have been killed, including nearly 70 children, and more than 18,000 arrested, according to figures from the Human Rights Activists News Agency.

Iranian protesters have called for an end to the Islamic Republic—and for the West to stop saving its murderers. A nuclear deal with Iran would involve some sort of sanctions relief, as it did last time around, and is seen by many as extending a lifeline to the regime at a particularly precarious time.

The Government Funding Bill Does a Lot to Prevent Another January 6

Congress’s newly unveiled spending bill includes two key reforms, which will go a long way in safeguarding the country from another attack like January 6.

A shot of the Capitol Building from the outside, being swarmed by protesters. There are a lot of American flags, Trump flags, and "Trump 2020" banners.
Selcuk Acar/NurPhoto/Getty Images
Protesters storm the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The newly unveiled federal budget bill contains two measures that will be crucial for preventing another attack like January 6 from happening.

The $1.7 billion omnibus spending package reforms how Congress counts Electoral College votes after a presidential election and also includes a major budgetary boost for U.S. attorneys investigating January 6 cases.

The Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act, which has bipartisan support, reaffirms that the vice president has only a ministerial role when Congress counts the Electoral College votes and cannot, as former President Donald Trump insisted, overturn the election results.

The bill also raises the minimum number of lawmakers required for an objection to the results to move forward.

The act has the full support of Democrats and the backing of many Republicans, including outgoing Representative Liz Cheney, who warned that the risk of another attempt to steal a presidential election is still high.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has not commented on the act—or really, for that matter, the insurrection—but he did urge Congress to pass the full omnibus.

The omnibus also increases the U.S. attorneys’ budget by $212.1 million for a total of $2.63 billion in 2023. The House Appropriations Committee explained the funds were necessary “to further support prosecutions related to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and domestic terrorism cases.”

The FBI has arrested about 900 people connected to the insurrection and has the identities of hundreds more. A total of about 3,000 people could be charged over storming the Capitol, when all is said and done.

NBC reported in October that the Department of Justice is critically underfunded for the January 6 investigations, so the boost from the omnibus could help locate and charge anyone who was thinking of becoming a repeat offender.

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.

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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.