In This Episode
- Lawmakers introduced a bipartisan agreement on a spending bill to keep the government funded — but it’s bringing out the claws among Republicans. Rep. Kevin McCarthy went after Sen. Mitch McConnell for supporting the spending package, in what may be a move to muster support for his bid to become House Speaker.
- The Federal Reserve hiked its target interest rate by half a percentage point on Wednesday. This is the seventh time the central bank has raised rates this year, and warned that more increases could come in the new year.
- And in headlines: survivors of the Club Q shooting testified before Congress, an autopsy report revealed that American soccer journalist Grant Wahl died of an aortic aneurysm, and Oregon Governor Kate Brown commuted the sentences of 17 people on the state’s death row.
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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Thursday, December 15th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What A Day where we hope that whether Argentina or France wins the World Cup, we can settle the debate of whether it’s called soccer or football.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it feels like our country is kind of the odd man out on this one.
Juanita Tolliver: As we usually are Priyanka.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, seriously. [laughter] Why is that?
Juanita Tolliver: That’s that good old American exceptionalism. We got to be different.
Priyanka Aribindi: Main character energy.
Juanita Tolliver: Eek. But in the worst ways. [music break]
Priyanka Aribindi: On today’s show, Texas’s attorney general reportedly tried to gather information about transgender people in that state. Plus, the White House plans to once again send out free at home COVID tests.
Juanita Tolliver: I’m so into that. But how are they going to pay for it? Congress has not appropriated more coin, so we’ll see. But send out those tests y’all.
Priyanka Aribindi: Money bag Joe will always find a way.
Juanita Tolliver: Find a way and deliver again, you know. But first, we’ve got a bipartisan agreement on the framework for a spending bill to keep the government funded and it’s bringing out the clause amongst Republicans as McCarthy and others attack McConnell for supporting the spending package. It’s like Republicans are giving us a sneak peek of the rancor to come in the next Congress as McCarthy and McConnell face off.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Listen, the girls are fighting and–
Juanita Tolliver: Yes.
Priyanka Aribindi: –we are here for it. Keep it going.
Juanita Tolliver: I love drama. I live for drama.
Priyanka Aribindi: I love mess. [laughter]
Juanita Tolliver: Congressional leaders in both chambers have been working on negotiating the terms of this bill for weeks now. And as soon as McCarthy got wind of the fact that McConnell was helping advance those talks, he decided to go run his mouth on television and called out McConnell by name. Listen to what McCarthy said:
[clip of Kevin McCarthy] We’re 28 days away from Republicans having the gavel. We would be stronger in every negotiation. So any Republican that’s out there trying to work with them is wrong.
[clip of unindentified interviewer] So that includes Mitch McConnell?
[clip of Kevin McCarthy] Why wouldn’t you wait with the hand that’s stronger?
[clip of unindentified interviewer] Does that include McConnell?
[clip of Kevin McCarthy] Yes. Why would you want to work on anything if we have the gavel inside Congress.
[clip of unindentified interviewer] You just won the house.
[clip of Kevin McCarthy] We have a stronger– yes. Wait till we’re in charge.
Juanita Tolliver: And apparently McConnell was completely caught off guard by this call out. Multiple senators describe McConnell as being blindsided. But in response, McConnell told reporters on Tuesday that the bipartisan deal that’s in the works is, quote, broadly appealing. And when asked about McCarthy’s opposition yesterday, McConnell replied, quote, I like Kevin and I’m pulling for him to be speaker. Wink. When I read that quote, I was like, oh, it’s clear that the Republican girlies are fighting right now.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, no, he hates this man. Should we all expect this tension to continue into the next Congress? Like what’s going to happen here?
Juanita Tolliver: Yes and no, right? Like, yes, we should expect McConnell and McCarthy to be at odds as they’ve been on legislation that has passed recently, including gun reform, chips and manufacturing jobs and infrastructure investments. But we should also recognize two important things. One, even though McCarthy is hemming and hawing over the spending bill, in what world would he be able to unite the fractured GOP House conference to get to a deal if this went into the next Congress? And two, his opposition stems from the fact that he is still fighting for his life to get to 218 votes. So he’s going to do and say whatever the Greenes, the Gates’s and the ghost czars of the world want him to do, he has no choice but to try his best to posture as a faux extremist in order to keep people like that on his side. So, yes, that energy’s going to continue. But no, it absolutely will not be authentic.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, but like, I feel like he doesn’t even get any credit. Like, even if it’s like he’s just doing it to like appease these people, it’s still like, that’s fucking crazy.
Juanita Tolliver: Indeed. That part, that’s the baseline.
Priyanka Aribindi: You have no credit from anybody for doing that. You mentioned that, you know, McCarthy is still campaigning to be the next speaker of the House. How’s that been going for him?
Juanita Tolliver: Girl. It gets worse every single day. So–
Priyanka Aribindi: Like terrified to ask.
Juanita Tolliver: McCarthy has advanced from debasing himself and accepting any terms laid out by Marjorie Taylor Greene to now passing out buttons that read okay, like it’s a lackluster com strategy, right? Like, I mean, we saw that from him in the midterms, but this button, it’s given the vibes like he’s the okay the weak but safe option you know apparently okay stands for only Kevin. What a sad slogan.
Priyanka Aribindi: Jeez.
Juanita Tolliver: Like I’m embarrassed.
Priyanka Aribindi: Jeez.
Juanita Tolliver: This is like some high school level campaign.
Priyanka Aribindi: It is embarrassing.
Juanita Tolliver: Add that to the fact that apparently Trump is now making calls on Kevin’s behalf to right wing extremists in the GOP conference to try to get them on McCarthy’s side. Now, we should not assume that those calls are going to be effective at all, but it’s a new low that Trump has to be involved anyway. And we have to keep in mind that McCarthy has five Republicans who say they will never support him, and that’s enough already to keep him from the golden number of 218. But on top of that, seven Freedom Caucus members have sent over a list of demands that includes the option to vote McCarthy out of the speaker post if he crosses them or pisses them off at any point. Honestly, I don’t think McCarthy has any option but to accept these terms and try to pick off one of those never Kevin folks.
Priyanka Aribindi: [laugh] Jeez, what a, what a mess.
Juanita Tolliver: Dark.
Priyanka Aribindi: For him. Yeah, this is going to be crazy. I mean, what else should we be keeping an eye on with regards to both the speakership and this omnibus bill?
Juanita Tolliver: Look, keep an eye on the countdown to January 3rd and what deals McCarthy cuts in the meantime. And get ready for some mess. A messy GOP fight on the House floor in public in the new year. And with regard to the omnibus, watch for final votes later today on the continuing resolution to fund the government from December 16th to December 23rd, and then watch the negotiations on the final omnibus bill, which will run at about 4000 pages and include about two trillion dollars in funding. Of course, Republicans are still going to try to make cuts and Democrats are going to try to hold on to as much as possible while both parties will support language for the electoral count act. So let’s just say it’s going to be a busy run up into Christmas Eve on the Capitol.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Listen, you might be thinking like, oh, like, it’s so sad they have to work up until–
Juanita Tolliver: Not.
Priyanka Aribindi: –Christmas and might– no these people never work in the first place. Like, maybe it’ll be good for them to be pulling some extra shifts close to the holidays to understand what it’s like for the rest of us out here. [laughter] Yesterday, also in the news, the Federal Reserve hiked its target interest rate by half a percentage point. That puts the benchmark at its highest level since 2007.
Juanita Tolliver: All right. We’ve talked about this before, but let’s do a quick recap. Why are they doing this and what can we expect from the higher interest rates?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So, I mean, if you feel like we have talked about this a lot this year, you are not wrong. The Fed has raised interest rates seven times since March, from near 0% to around 4.5%, which is where it’s hovering right now.
Juanita Tolliver: Yikes.
Priyanka Aribindi: They are doing this to combat inflation and there are signs that it’s been working. Inflation did slow slightly last month. I mean, still hanging out at just over 7%, which if you go to the grocery store or shop online, if you spend money on just about anything and you were spending money the year before, two years before, you have noticed that things are more expensive.
Juanita Tolliver: Big change.
Priyanka Aribindi: You can tell. You can tell it’s not nothing. But back in October, that figure was around 7.7%. So right now it’s still high, obviously, but it’s lower than what economists were expecting even for this month. So it is a positive sign. But the Fed still did raise interest rates, which means it will become even more expensive to borrow money, whether that’s via your credit card, mortgage rates, student loans, or car loans, whatever it may be. That is the effect of this on regular people and our everyday spending.
Juanita Tolliver: And we know this is also going to disproportionately impact Black and Brown people, low income people who rely on credit cards, for example, to help–
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Juanita Tolliver: –make ends meet each month.
Priyanka Aribindi: This makes it more difficult for anybody who can’t afford to pay all cash for–
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: –everything that they need.
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: At any given time, which is really hard to do.
Juanita Tolliver: And as you said, they’ve been raising rates for a while now. Was there anything different about this announcement, though?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So this time the hike was smaller. Central bankers raised the rate by half a percentage point versus the three quarter point increase that they’ve done the past four times. And they did this because we have seen inflation slowing. But like I just said, inflation is still high. And this is not the last hike that we should expect to see. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said, quote, “It’s good to see progress, but let’s just understand, we have a long ways to go to get better price stability.” So we should count on more rate increases into the new year. Policymakers forecast that the rates could reach between five and 5.25%.
Juanita Tolliver: Wow.
Priyanka Aribindi: By the end of next year. So it’s just getting more and more expensive to borrow money. Try to avoid, if you can, or if you know you need to, preferably do it now versus then cause it’s not getting better any time soon. The Fed also provides some of its predictions for the coming year. For example, they expect unemployment to be slightly higher and slower GDP growth. And I mean, I hate to say it, but all of those things are consistent with the R word.
Juanita Tolliver: Girl. Like I’ve been watching the layoff announcements month after month and we’re seeing it across all industries, tech, finance, like it’s everywhere. So–
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Juanita Tolliver: I’ve been feeling like this is where we’ve been headed towards for a minute, but do you really think it’s a recession? I feel like if I whisper it it’s not real.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, yeah, yeah exactly. Um. You know, it’s been what’s on everybody’s mind. I don’t think anyone can tell you definitively. Certainly I cannot. I am not an economist. Don’t take your advice from me in that respect. Jerome Powell says he thinks that the economy still could avoid a recession. But, you know, these policies and these forecasts aren’t painting that same picture or at least they’re not quite yet.
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I mean, I don’t envy the job of the people at the Fed at all. If they move too fast to combat inflation, it could backfire real quickly. If they don’t do enough, it could get much worse out there. Seems like a very hard job.
Juanita Tolliver: Yes.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m really hoping that they get it right for all of us. Obviously we’ll continue to follow this more on all of this very soon, but that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break].
Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: Survivors of the Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs testified before Congress yesterday, urging lawmakers to take action on gun violence and ensure the safety of LGBTQ+ people nationwide. The House Oversight Committee heard from three people who were there the night the shooter stormed the nightclub, killing five people and wounding 25 others last month. One of them was James Slaugh. He, his boyfriend and his sister were shot during the massacre.
[clip of James Slaugh] The fear based and hateful rhetoric surrounding the LGBTQ+ community, especially around trans individuals and drag performers, leads to violence. It incites violence. We shouldn’t have to fear being shot when we go to our safe spaces or anywhere for that matter.
Juanita Tolliver: Ugh. That just breaks my heart.
Priyanka Aribindi: That’s the reality that it’s become. And it’s cruel and it’s terrifying. And Congress needs to do something. Club Q owner Matthew Haynes and bartender Michael Anderson also testified before the committee asking lawmakers to ban semi-automatic weapons like the one that was used by the shooter.
Juanita Tolliver: It’s a simple request. Congress take action. We’ve now learned the cause of American journalist Grant Wahl’s sudden death last week. According to his wife, infectious disease specialist Dr. Celine Gounder, the autopsy report revealed that Wahl died of an aortic aneurysm, that’s when a huge bulge forms in the wall of the large artery that carries blood away from the heart and suddenly ruptures. Dr. Gounder sat down with CBS yesterday and said this:
[clip of Dr. Celine Gounder] It’s just one of these things that had been likely brewing for years. And for whatever reason, it happened at this point in time.
Juanita Tolliver: Oh, I’m so sorry for her and the rest of Grant’s family. Wahl collapsed Friday in Qatar while covering the World Cup quarterfinal match between Argentina and the Netherlands. He was 49 years old.
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s so sad. A new report from The Washington Post found that the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sought out data on trans residents, raising concerns about how such information might be used to target them. According to the records obtained by the Post, Paxton’s office asked the state’s Department of Safety earlier this year to create a list of people who change the gender markers on their driver’s licenses within the last two years. Officials came back with 16,000 records, but reportedly struggled to identify which ones were actually related to someone transitioning. It’s unclear exactly why Paxton’s office wanted this information. Spoiler alert probably not for anything good.
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: But given that this is the same attorney general that investigated families of trans children for child abuse earlier this year. Yeah, yeah we can probably guess that they’re not trying to do anything great here.
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: Paxton’s office has denied the existence of these records, but activists worry that such data could be used to keep Texans from transitioning or restrict their access to gender affirming health care.
Juanita Tolliver: This guy is a straight up, horrible dude, and he’s clearly targeting a marginalized community, so he just got to go. Oregon Democratic Governor Kate Brown yesterday commuted the sentences of all 17 people on the state’s death row. Their death sentences were changed to life in prison without parole. This is Brown’s final month in office before Governor elect and fellow Democrat Tina Kotek takes over. Brown has used her executive power of clemency extensively during her tenure. At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Brown granted clemency or pardons to nearly 1000 people convicted of crimes. Oregon is one of 27 states that still allows for the death penalty, but no one has been executed there since 1997.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, if you’re a Democratic governor around the country, if you’re any governor around the country, I hope you’re taking notes because you can do this. And there will be very few consequences, if any at all.
Juanita Tolliver: That part.
Priyanka Aribindi: And some news that’s good if you don’t think about it for too long. The Biden administration is reportedly reopening its popular partnership, a collab, if you will, with the US Postal Service to send at home COVID 19 rapid tests to households that request them at no cost. The move could be announced today as part of a broader COVID plan. Sources told Politico it’s being funded using leftover money from the American rescue plan. Of course, we’re all excited to get more packages in the mail, even if they are uncomfortable medical tests that make you sneeze a lot after you take them. But what’s motivating the move is less of a cause for celebration, a potential winter surge in COVID cases that public health experts have long warned us about. Nationwide, the daily average of new infections has gone up by 55% over the past few weeks, according to The New York Times. But as we know, many new infections go unreported given the availability of at home testing.
Juanita Tolliver: This is a big deal as we go into holiday months and it’s colder and people are gathering inside. And remember, I talked to the surgeon general, Dr. Murthy, about this. And this was a big part of the funding that he was flagging and saying that Congress needed to do more because this is an example of what that money can be used for. So I’m excited to see the Biden administration find the coins to deliver this at a time when folks need it.
Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. And I mean, aside from the COVID of it all, I’m excited to feel like a woman in STEM. Every time I do that little COVID test [laughter] in my house.
Juanita Tolliver: Yes.
Priyanka Aribindi: And those are the headlines. [music break]
Juanita Tolliver: That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Enjoy your packages from COVID Santa, money bag Joe and tell your friends to listen.
Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading and not just declining prices some day in a distant future maybe like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe.
Juanita Tolliver: I’m Juanita Tolliver.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
[spoken together] And goodbye to the word soccer.
Priyanka Aribindi: We’re done with that.
Juanita Tolliver: We can rebrand everything now. It’s football.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Juanita Tolliver: It’s football.
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s ball. [laughter] [music break] What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.