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The numbing down of American politics

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: United States Capitol building
A man walks by the Capitol building, on Feb. 26, 2021.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans are barreling towards a government shutdown right before Christmas.

The former president of the United States tested positive for Covid-19 before his debate with Joe Biden (before a subsequent negative test), NBC’s Kristen Welker and Monica Alba confirm.

A former Trump Justice Department official plans to invoke his 5th amendment rights in the House’s Jan. 6 probe.

And on top it all, more than 2,000 Americans died from the coronavirus on Wednesday.

While these stories have generated headlines, outrage and grief, they’ve also produced collective numbness to stories that would have rocked the political world a decade ago.

More congressional dysfunction? Been there, done that.

Unsafe protocol by the former president — along with his standard denial? Tell us about it.

Stonewalling an investigation into what happened on Jan. 6? A familiar story.

Thousands more dead in a pandemic? Of course.

We’ve all gotten so used to congressional dysfunction, bad behavior by elected officials, folks unwilling to tell investigators what they know and death from a pandemic — that they’ve become blips on our news feeds and websites.

Rather than full-blown stories that shake us to the core.

Biden to announce plans to combat omicron variant

Earlier this week, we told you that the Biden White House had an opportunity to reset its messaging and handling of the coronavirus. And it looks like they’ve taken it.

At 1:40 p.m. ET at the National Institutes of Health, President Biden delivers remarks on the administration’s plans to combat the omicron coronavirus variant, which was detected in California, the CDC said on Wednesday.

Those plans include:

  • requiring that all international travelers to the U.S. test negative for Covid one day before their departure;
  • mandating that private health insurers fully reimburse Americans for purchasing at-home Covid tests;
  • launching a nationwide campaign for fully vaccinated adults to get a booster shot;
  • and promoting the vaccination for school children across the country.

But as NBC’s Heidi Przybyla, Shannon Pettypiece and Lauren Egan report, those measures fall short of what Israel and other European countries are already doing.

“Many foreign governments are requiring proof of vaccination for airline travel and restaurant dining, as well as stricter rules for travelers from southern Africa, where the omicron variant was first detected.”

Georgia’s going to have it all in 2022

Democrat Stacey Abrams’ announcement Wednesday that she will run for Georgia governor confirms that the Peach State will have it all in 2022.

A competitive general-election gubernatorial race? Check.

A Trump-led campaign to deny GOP Gov. Brian Kemp for the party’s nomination against Abrams? Yup.

A Senate race between incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock and (most likely) Herschel Walker that could help decide Senate control? Absolutely.

A Democrat-versus-Democrat battle over which current incumbent congresswoman (Lucy McBath or Carolyn Bourdeaux) gets to represent Atlanta’s suburbs under the state’s new redistricting map? Looks like it.

Even a battle for secretary of state between the state’s now well-known incumbent Brad Raffensperger versus Trump-backed Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga.? Check again.

And all happening in a state President Biden won by just 11,779 votes in 2020, as well as a state where there’s a full-blown criminal investigation into Trump’s efforts to overturn Biden’s win there? You betcha.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

19: The number of House Democrats who have announced their retirements or that they’re running for another office – after Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said he wouldn’t run for re-election.

4: The number of victims who have died in this week’s school shooting in Michigan after a 17-year-old passed away Wednesday morning.

$750 million: The amount that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says his philanthropy is donating to charter schools.

48,708,331: The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 141,250 more since yesterday morning.)

787,212: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 2,053 since yesterday morning.)

462,263,845: The number of total vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 1,490,337 since yesterday morning.)

41,933,410: The number of booster vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 807,346 since yesterday morning.)

59.4 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

71.2 percent: The share of all Americans 18-years and older who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Symone Sanders, Vice President Harris’ chief spokesperson, is leaving the administration before the end of the year.

The Jan. 6 committee is recommending the House hold Trump Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark in contempt of Congress.

U.S. and Mexican government officials tell the Washington Post the two governments have agreed to re-start the policy that has asylum seekers remain in Mexico while waiting for their claims to process in America.

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins supports codifying Roe v. Wade into law as court considers the future of abortion access in America.

The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee floated the possibility that the reconciliation bill gets delayed until 2022 because of more immediate concerns like raising the debt limit and funding the government.