5 things to know for Dec. 8: Congress, Germany, Jan. 6, Pandemic, Same-sex marriage

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Originally Published: 08 DEC 21 06:37 ET
Updated: 08 DEC 21 06:50 ET

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1. Congress

Two key pieces of legislation passed the House late yesterday. Democrats, joined by lone GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger, voted to pass a new debt ceiling plan to raise the country’s borrowing limit and avoid a disastrous default later this month. It will now be taken up by the Senate, where Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have reached a deal to let Democrats raise the ceiling on their votes alone — a plan McConnell backs because it absolves the GOP of any responsibility for the critical vote. The annual National Defense Authorization Act also made it through the House with strong bipartisan support. The bill sets the policy agenda and authorizes nearly $770 billion in funding for the Department of Defense. This year’s version also changes the way sexual harassment and assault is handled in the military, and authorizes millions to assist with defenses in Ukraine.

2. Germany

Olaf Scholz has been voted in as Germany’s new chancellor, ending Angela Merkel’s 16 years at the helm. This was an expected victory for the 63-year-old leader of the Social Democratic Party. The SPD narrowly prevailed in September’s federal elections, and have been engaged in negotiations ever since. Even though Scholz and Merkel are from opposing parties, he is seen as a like-minded successor in many ways. He served as vice-chancellor and finance minister in Merkel’s grand coalition government, a powerful position in German national politics, and has positioned himself as a safe and pragmatic leader with moderate and centrist political views. Scholz will be inheriting the difficult job of steering Germany through a time of diplomatic uncertainty in the European Union, and must do so without the hard-won international reputation of his predecessor.

3. Capitol riot

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows will no longer cooperate with the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection. A letter from his attorney says Meadows was ready to voluntarily appear for a deposition, but “actions by the Select Committee have made such an appearance untenable.” The committee has formally subpoenaed the phone records of more than 100 people, including Meadows and many other Trump officials and associates. The records do not include the content of the calls, but rather details about who called or texted whom, when, and for how long. Meadows’ reversal means he is once again in danger of being held in contempt of Congress and could face jail time — a punishment the committee says they are not afraid to pursue.

4. Pandemic

The Omicron coronavirus variant partly evades the protection offered by the Pfizer vaccine, according to researchers in South Africa. This is the first experiment to directly examine how Omicron may behave in vaccinated people. The research also shows people who were infected and later vaccinated seem to have more protection, and boosters are also likely to be effective. Believe it or not, researchers say this is good news. They were concerned the variant would fully escape the vaccine’s protection, which it doesn’t. Meanwhile, a convention may give the US its first look at how Omicron spreads. The CDC has joined investigations into the aftermath of the Anime NYC 2021 event held last month, where about 53,000 were in attendance. Many have since reported contracting the virus.

5. Same-sex marriage

Chile’s Congress has voted to approve a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. The bill was first introduced by former President Michelle Bachelet, but was revived after current President Sebastian Piñera — a right-wing, conservative politician — said earlier this year that he supported marriage equality. “In this way, all people without distinguishing by sexual orientation, will be able to live love and form a family with all the protection and dignity that they need and deserve,” he said in June. When he signs the bill, Chile will join Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Uruguay and parts of Mexico in the group of Latin American countries that have legalized same-sex marriage. Across the world, Tokyo’s Metropolitan government will start a system that effectively allows same-sex marriage in Japan’s capital starting next year. The only place in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage is Taiwan.


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