Manchin and Sinema continue to stand in way of Build Back Better and voting rights – live


Show key events only

16:41

16:15

15:57

Manchin and Sinema continue to stand in way of Build Back Better and voting rights – live

Jon Henley

France will dramatically tighten restrictions on travel from Britain to slow the spread of the new Omicron variant, effectively banning all non-essential journeys.

The government announced in a statement that incoming travellers would require “an essential reason to travel to, or come from, the UK, both for the unvaccinated and vaccinated” from midnight on Saturday (11pm GMT Friday).

“People cannot travel for tourism or professional reasons,” it said, adding that the British government had itself said that the UK would face “a tidal wave” of new infections fuelled by the Omicron variant.

France had therefore “chosen to reinstate the need for an essential reason for travel from and to the UK”, it said.

In addition, all arrivals from the UK will need a negative PCR or antigen test taken within the previous 24, rather than 48 hours, and will have to quarantine in France for seven days – reduced to 48 hours if they can produce a new negative test.

15:31

Despite the growing concerns over the Omicron variant, Dr Anthony Fauci expressed hope that families will still be able to gather for the holidays if people are vaccinated and boosted.

Good Morning America (@GMA)

"If you and your family are vaccinated and boosted hopefully, you should feel comfortable about having a holiday situation where you have dinners and gatherings in your own home."

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks on the COVID surge heading into the holidays. https://t.co/9OSjXvpVmJ pic.twitter.com/CtYzFHGs3W

December 16, 2021

“If you and your family are vaccinated and boosted hopefully, you should feel comfortable about having a holiday situation where you have dinners and gatherings in your own home with family and friends,” the president’s chief medical adviser told “Good Morning America” today.

Fauci added, “But that will only be safe if people get vaccinated.”

As of now, 65% of the Americans aged five or older are fully vaccinated against coronavirus, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But only 30% of American adults have received booster shots as of now.

15:03

US hospitals brace for potential Omicron surge in January

A wave of new Omicron cases is beginning to surge in America and could peak as early as January, the Centers for Disease Controls (CDC) has warned, as states are scrambling to prepare for overloaded hospitals. The US has passed 800,000 deaths, including 1 in 100 Americans over the age of 65.

The Omicron variant accounted for nearly 3% of Covid cases in the US as of Saturday – up from only 0.4% the week before, according to data from the CDC. The variant is expected to continue rising rapidly, based on the experiences of other countries and could be dominant within weeks.

“I suspect that those numbers are going to shoot up dramatically in the next couple of weeks,” Céline Gounder, infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist at New York University and Bellevue Hospital, told reporters on Wednesday. She expects an Omicron wave to peak in late January and then come down sometime in February.

In a meeting with state health leaders on Tuesday, the CDC presented two scenarios, based on models, for how the variant might drive infections in the next few weeks and months. Omicron and Delta cases could peak as soon as January or a smaller surge of Omicron could happen in the spring.

14:40

14:33

According to reports, Joe Manchin has expressed criticism of the proposal to continue the expanded child tax credit program through the Build Back Better Act.

The coronavirus relief package that Joe Biden signed in March included changes to the program, such as allowing families with children to receive monthly checks (rather than an annual lump sum after filing taxes) and making the credit fully refundable (so more low-income families could access the benefit).

Democrats want to continue the expanded program for one year through their $1.75tn spending package, but Manchin has reportedly expressed concern about the cost of doing so.

The main issue is that Manchin believes all the programs in the bill should be viewed on a 10-year basis, even though some of them expire after just a year or a few years.

And if the expanded child tax credit program were extended through the next decade, which the current version of the bill does not call for, it would require significantly more funding than the bill allocates.

But the expanded tax credit is a point of pride for Biden and other Democrats from the relief bill, so they will likely be very hesitant to cut it from the spending package. The negotiations continue, so stay tuned.

14:32

Centrist senators throw up roadblocks for Build Back Better and voting rights

Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.

Senate Democrats had initially hoped to pass their Build Back Better Act before the end of the year, but that deadline is slipping away, as talks between Joe Biden and Joe Manchin drag out.

Politico reports:

The legislation looks increasingly likely to stall over the impending holiday break, prompting Biden himself to bemoan the slow pace. And Manchin (D-W.Va.) grew frustrated on Wednesday when questioned about whether he opposes a provision in the bill to extend the expanded child tax credit, deeming those queries ‘bullshit’ and denying that he wants to end the $300 monthly check many families receive for children. ...

‘The talks between [Biden] and Manchin have been going very poorly. They are far apart,’ the source said.

Because of the stalled negotiations, Democrats were instead looking to pass a voting rights bill this month, by approving changes to Senate rules to circumvent a Republican filibuster on the issue.

But now Kyrsten Sinema is putting the brakes on that idea as well. Here is Politico again:

The Arizona moderate is making clear that she intends to keep protecting the Senate’s 60-vote requirement on most legislation and she isn’t ready to entertain changing rules to pass sweeping elections or voting legislation with a simple majority. ...

In a statement to POLITICO, a spokesperson said that Sinema ‘continues to support the Senate’s 60-vote threshold, to protect the country from repeated radical reversals in federal policy which would cement uncertainty, deepen divisions, and further erode Americans’ confidence in our government.’

This centrist opposition means that Biden’s hopes of ending his first year in office with a significant legislative accomplishment are quickly disappearing, along with Democrats’ agenda.

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.