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President Joe Biden speaks about gas prices at the White House.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

What We're Watching: Biden's gas tax holiday plan, deadly quake in Afghanistan, Italy's Five Star party woes

Biden’s gas tax holiday fuels tepid response

In a bid to address rising gas prices at home, President Joe Biden on Wednesday called for a gas tax holiday that would lift federal taxes on gas and diesel for the next three months. The move aims to show that the White House is taking the plight of Americans seriously after gas prices topped a whopping $5 a gallon last week. But Congress is unlikely to approve the suspension. Even Democrats – including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – have canned the idea, saying that it is tokenistic because lifting federal taxes (18 cents per gallon) will barely move the needle, and that any small gains will be made by … oil companies. Critics also say that it won't have a significant impact on the base price of gas, with all taxes on average (state and federal) accounting for just 12% of the overall price. Indeed, this is the latest (desperate) attempt by the Biden administration to tackle the rising cost of living that is pummeling working-class Americans and contributing to his cratering poll numbers ahead of November’s midterm elections. The next step? In July, Biden will travel to Saudi Arabia to try and get Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to pump more oil.

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3 Takeaways From State of the Union Address | US Politics In :60 | GZERO Media

Biden's State of the Union address: 3 takeaways

Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares his perspective on how the State of the Union address.

Today's topic is: Three takeaways from last night's State of the Union address.

My first takeaway is that Biden hasn't backed down at all from his aggressive and very progressive agenda, listing off a series of policies that excited Democrats, but are really non-starters with Republicans, from gun control to immigration reform. None of this is going to happen because Biden lacks the votes in the House and definitely in the Senate. And the parts that do happen are really up to the whims of one man, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin who signaled today that he was willing to work with the White House on parts of Biden's agenda, including drug price reform, money for decarbonization, reforming the tax code, and deficit reduction. And it's really up to Democrats to decide if that would be enough for them.

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Biden’s SCOTUS Pick to Replace Breyer Must Appeal to Senate Dems | US Politics In :60 | GZERO Media

Biden’s SCOTUS pick to replace Breyer must appeal to Senate Democrats

What does Stephen Breyer's retirement mean for President Biden? Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, discusses how Biden and the Democrats will likely handle the Supreme Court nomination process.

What does Stephen Breyer's retirement mean for President Biden?

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announced retirement this week, giving Biden the opportunity to appoint a new justice and maintain the balance on the court, which is currently divided 6-3, favoring Republican appointees. Whoever Biden nominates is extremely unlikely to get even a single Republican vote, but the nominee is likely to come relatively quickly and be confirmed well before Republicans take the Senate in the November midterm elections.

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What We’re Watching: Biden’s omicron message, Ukraine invasion rumblings, Haitian migrants sue US, China hearts US natural gas

Biden’s omicron message to America. It’s fair to assume that many Americans were anxious to hear what President Biden had to say at a presser Tuesday about the omicron variant ripping through US cities. So what did the commander-in-chief tell the huddling masses? First, he stuck to the White House script, reiterating that vaccinations, boosters, and masks are crucial to minimizing risk from omicron. Second, he reassured parents that schools will stay open despite the surge. There’s other good stuff in the works too: 1,000 military personnel will be deployed to help strained hospitals, and the government will purchase half a billion COVID tests that Americans will be able to order to their homes for free. That’s great, but this scheme won’t be ramped up until January, several weeks into a surge that many analysts say was highly predictable and that the White House should have prepared for. Current testing failures have been particularly problematic in hard-hit New York City, where cases have risen 80 percent in two weeks. But the Biden administration has still failed to offer guidance for 15 million Americans who received an initial single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot, which scientists say doesn’t offer much protection against omicron. Biden’s message was clear: this isn’t March 2020, go celebrate the holidays with your families. But did he convince millions of very worried Americans?

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Biden's Rocky First Year | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Biden's rocky first year

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

It's been a very tough week in the United States, both because in New York, and, of course, the glad tidings of New York very quickly come to a theater near you, are increasingly concerns about breakthrough COVID cases. The potential for hospitals to get overwhelmed, even if omicron turns out to be significantly milder than previous variants. If you have 10X the number of cases and one-third the hospitalizations, you're still going to overwhelm hospitals. And what happens in New York does not stay in New York. It's not like Vegas here. It goes to the rest of the world and it goes across the country.

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Larry Summers: Rising Inflation Makes Society Feel "Out of Control” | GZERO World

Larry Summers: Rising inflation makes society feel "out of control”

The economic consequences of high inflation are already bad enough.

But for Larry Summers, sometimes the psychological trauma that comes with it can do even more damage to a society.

"A society where inflation is accelerating is a society that feels out of control."

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Podcast: Inflation nation: How Larry Summers predicted skyrocketing prices in the US

Listen: As the holiday shopping season gets underway, consumers are facing empty shelves and sky-high prices. What explains the supply chain crunch and how is it related to the highest levels of inflation in the US in 30 years? On the GZERO World podcast, Ian Bremmer is joined by economist Larry Summers, who served as the Treasury Secretary under President Clinton and as the Director of the National Economic Council under Barack Obama.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

What We're Watching: Israel finally gets a budget, US expands vax mandate, Portugal elections loom

Israel's political breakthrough. Israel's government has passed a budget for the first time in more than three years. This might sound boring, but it's actually a big deal: for years, former PM Benjamin Netanyahu refused to do it for political reasons, resulting in a lengthy stalemate with four divisive elections in just two years. Getting it done is a big win for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who managed to get his ideologically-diverse coalition of eight parties to agree on the 2021 budget. Failure to pass it by November 14, as per the coalition deal, would have resulted in yet another election, likely a death knell for the current government which only came together this summer at the eleventh hour. The bill includes $10 billion for Arab communities over five years demanded by Mansour Abbas, head of Ra'am, an independent Arab party that serves in the coalition. For now, Bennett and his main partner, the centrist Yair Lapid, are proving wrong the naysayers who warned that the diverse coalition was doomed to collapse. Negotiations now continue over next year's budget ahead of the March 2022 deadline, but passing the 2021 budget has made a fresh vote — and Netanyahu's dream of returning to power — even less likely.

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