What Happened, What You Missed: December 6-10


Pfizer Says Three Vaccine Doses Are Effective Against Omicron

Pfizer announced on Wednesday that three doses of its COVID-19 vaccine – two initial doses plus a booster dose – neutralized the Omicron variant at levels comparable to what two doses against earlier variants like Alpha and Delta.  While the preliminary data cited by Pfizer says two doses offer significantly less protection against infection from Omicron, the company is confident that two doses will still offer strong protection against hospitalization and death from the new variant.  While Pfizer’s announcement is encouraging, their findings on the effectiveness of their vaccine against Omicron has yet to be peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal. Also, researchers are still studying how well vaccines work against the variant in the real world.

Surgeon General: American Youth Are Facing Mental Health Crisis

In an advisory issued on December 7, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy stated that American youth are facing a mental health crisis.  In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated existing mental health problems, the advisory cites other sources of stress including gun violence, climate change, racism, and social conflict.  In an interview, Murthy said the US cannot wait until the end of the pandemic to address the mental health crisis.  Some of the advisory’s recommendations include addressing economic and social barriers that contribute to poor mental health, ensuring every child has access to high-quality, affordable mental health care, and recognizing that mental health is a crucial component of overall health.

Nunes Resigns from Congress to Lead Trump’s New Media Company

On December 6, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) announced he will resign from Congress at the end of 2021 to become the CEO of the Trump Media & Technology Group, which is a recently formed media company that former President Donald Trump founded.  His announcement comes amid a redistricting process in California, where draft maps were likely to change his congressional district from majority Republican to majority Democratic.  Nunes (pronounced NEW-ness), who has represented California’s San Joaquin Valley in Congress since 2003, is the second highest-ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, and he would have been poised to chair the powerful committee if the GOP retakes the House majority next year.  California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, will call a special election to fill the remainder of Nunes’ term once he officially steps down.

Senate Clears Bill to Raise Debt Ceiling by Simple Majority

On Thursday night, the Senate passed a bill in a 59-35 vote that would allow Senate Democrats to raise the debt ceiling by a simple majority vote.  Thursday’s vote is the result of a one-time agreement between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to tweak Senate rules and allow the Senate to advance the measure without any GOP votes.  Next week, the House and Senate plan to pass another bill that will actually raise the debt ceiling by at least $30 trillion to prevent the federal government from defaulting on its debt obligations.  Of note, last night’s bill would also avert billions of dollars in looming Medicare cuts to providers.

ICYMI: RIP Senator Bob Dole

Earlier this week, former Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS) passed away in his sleep at the age of 98.  The former Senator was a decorated World War II veteran, served in both chambers of Congress for a total of 36 years, served as the Republican Majority leader, and was a presidential candidate in 1996.  During his tenure in Congress, Sen. Dole worked across the aisle to advance Social Security, protect the disabled, and reworked the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, amongst many other issues. He was laid in state at the US Capitol on Thursday where President Biden and congressional leaders paid their respects to honor his memory. President Biden in his remarks stated, “America has lost one of our finest patriots [and Dole] too was a giant of our history, and that’s not hyperbole.” A formal departure from the Capitol will be held early Friday morning ahead of a funeral at Washington National Cathedral and ceremony at the World War II Memorial.

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