The US state department knows of 100 American citizens and permanent residents who are still in Afghanistan and are ready to leave the country, a senior state department official told Reuters Monday.
The state department is working to get these people on flights out of the country, the official said.
“Our highest priority in Afghanistan, of course, remains [to be] helping those American citizens who wish to leave the country,” the anonymous official told the news agency.
About 124,000 people have left Afghanistan after the Taliban took over the country in August. The official said that 85 American citizens and 79 permanent residents have left the country since the US formally left the country on 31 August.
Joe Biden to get Covid-19 booster shot Monday afternoon
Joe Biden is scheduled to get his Covid-19 booster shot this afternoon at 1pm, the White House announced this morning. Biden will also be giving remarks upon getting his booster shot.
Biden, who got his second shot 11 Jannuary, indicated last week that he planned to get his third dose of the vaccine as soon as possible and encouraged Americans to do the same.
Doctors and vaccine clinics have reported widespread confusion over who is eligible for a booster shot.
Last month, the Biden administration said they recommended Americans should get a booster shot eight months after their second shot and would work to make booster shots accessible to Americans.
Weeks later, scientists at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a review of research that suggested not everyone needs a booster shot. Then, last week, the FDA went on to recommend that only Americans 65 and older and people 50 to 64 with underlying conditions should get the shot. Then, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky said that people in high-risk, high-contact jobs will also be eligible.
To put some context to why this week’s negotiations among Democrats are so important, let’s take a look at Joe Biden’s most recent approval ratings.
Last week, Gallup reported Biden’s lowest approval rating of his presidency, dropping to 43%, with 53% now disapproving of the president, according to a survey distributed at the beginning of the month.
After the controversy around Biden’s withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in August, it may come as no surprise that Biden’s approval ratings have dropped so low. Gallup noted that while presidents tend to have a honeymoon period with their approval ratings, only Donald Trump had as low of approval ratings at a similar point during his presidency. Biden has specifically lost the support of a high percentage of Independents, going from approval of 61% independents to his new low of 36%.
The spending bills that Congress is debating this week will be crucial for the rest of Biden’s presidency, and the Democratic party at large, as his first year as president comes to a close. Biden reportedly spent his weekend at Camp David calling lawmakers, urging them to support the bills.
John Podesta, former counselor to Barack Obama, told Politico that not passing the bills this week would be “disastrous” for Democrats, whose majority in Congress is at risk next year during the 2022 elections.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is traveling to Saudi Arabia today to meet with Crown Price Mohammed bin Salman as the US pushes for a cease-fire in the war in Yemen. Sullivan will also be traveling to the United Arab Emirates and Egypt during his trip to the Middle East. Sullivan will be the highest-ranking official from the Biden administration to visit Saudi Arabia.
Besides a rough agenda, which was first reported by Axios, not many details about Sullivan’s trip have been released.
Biden’s administration has received criticism for its handling of relations with Saudi Arabia as the White House has attempted to criticize the country for its human rights record while also attempting to cooperate with the country. Biden waived punishment for the crown prince despite a CIA investigation that confirmed the crown prince authorized the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. The White House also quietly hosted Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister Prince Khalid bin Salman in July, though Biden did not meet with him during his visit.
Democrats work to pass major spending bills
Good morning, and welcome to the US politics live blog.
It’s a big week in Washington as Democrats in Congress work to pass three major spending bills.
The House is focused on passing the $1tn bipartisan infrastructure bill that was passed in the Senate last month. The bill includes $550bn in spending for new funding for roads, public transportation and expanding internet broadband access, among other things.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are trying to avoid a government shutdown that is set to happen on Friday if a bill that would fund the government until December is not passed. Democrats have attached to the spending bill a resolution that would increase the debt ceiling, which Republicans have opposed. Republicans said they will not pass the spending bill unless the debt ceiling measure is removed.
Finally, Democrats in both chambers are ironing out a bill – which is being called the reconciliation bill – worth about $3.5tn that includes some of Joe Biden’s biggest campaign promises. It includes funding to incentivize purchases of electric vehicles, free or subsidized daycare and expansions to Medicare, among other things.
House and Senate Democratic leaders are working to convince their moderate members to pass the bill, though moderates say they won’t budge unless the price of the bill is significantly decreased.
One Washington reporter tweeted that this week is set to be “one of the most intense weeks in Congress”. We’ll be keeping an eye out for developments on these bills and other news today, so stay tuned.