SCOTUS Strikes Down Biden Vax Mandate – The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers, but it will allow a similar mandate to continue for workers at federally funded health care facilities.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s emergency measure went into effect on Monday. It said that employers with more than 100 workers must require their workers to either get vaccinated or tested every week.
The decision comes less than a week after the court listened to oral arguments on the administration’s sweeping vaccination rules, which would have affected more than 80 million people.
Inflation Hits Four-Decade High – Inflation rose last year to the largest 12-month increase since 1982, according to data released yesterday. The consumer price index, which tracks the price of a basket of goods and services, rose 0.5% in December and jumped 7% for the full year, according to data from the US Labor Department.
The cost of used cars and trucks was the largest contributor to price increases in December (up 3.5%) and the full year (up 37%). Energy costs fell in December (down 0.4%) for the first time since April due to decreases in gasoline and natural gas, but were still up 29% for the overall year. Gasoline was up 49% for the year. Experts point to heightened demand and supply chain disruptions for the price surge.
The Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates at least three times this year in an effort to slow borrowing and bring down inflation.
Is Omicron Peaking? – The current US COVID-19 surge may be close to peaking, according to researchers who suggest the highly transmissible omicron variant may soon run out of vulnerable candidates for infection. The cautious optimism comes as average daily cases dipped Tuesday for the first time since Christmas.
A widely cited model currently predicts the number of COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization will peak around Jan. 26. The projections also suggest almost 80% of cases will either go untested or tested but unreported—the model peaks at more than 6.2 million total infections per day.
Separately, a new study comparing the omicron and delta variants showed a 91% reduction in death and a 53% reduction in hospitalization with the omicron strain.
Sinema Says She Won’t Support Senate Rules Change – Sen. Kyrsten Sinema reiterated her long-standing support for the 60-vote Senate filibuster during a floor speech Thursday, dampening Democrats’ hopes of reforming filibuster rules in order to pass voting rights legislation.
President Biden earlier this week threw his support behind changing filibuster rules in order pass voting rights legislation, and will attend the Senate Democratic caucus lunch later Thursday to make his case.
Sinema has long made clear her opposition to abolishing the filibuster.
Sinema on Thursday said that while she supports efforts to amend voting rights legislation in the face of Republican efforts to curtail voting access, she would not support changes to the filibuster.
During the oral arguments, the court’s conservative majority seemed generally uncomfortable with the scope of OSHA’s requirement.”
Oath Keepers Arrested – Federal officials arrested Stewart Rhodes, leader of the antigovernment Oath Keepers militia group, in connection with the Jan. 6 storming of the US Capitol. The 56-year-old Rhodes, who was arrested outside Dallas by the FBI, faces charges of seditious conspiracy, among other counts.
While more than 700 people face charges linked to activities from the day, the majority relate to disorderly conduct and entry of a restricted building. Within the larger crowd, officials allege a number of militia and far-right groups carried out a premeditated attack on the Capitol that included mapping out entry points and how to navigate the complex’s underground tunnels. The charge of seditious conspiracy carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Ten other members of the group were also arrested and face similar charges.