Morning Report — Israel-Hamas extend truce; House split on aid 

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President Biden is intent on freeing more hostages held by Hamas. Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) claims to be “optimistic” he can pass U.S. aid to Israel and Ukraine. New York Rep. George Santos (R) thinks he’ll get booted from the House this week. And TV jousting between two governors, one of whom needs a boost in his 2024 bid for the White House, could be a ratings if not political winner Thursday night. 

But first, this morning’s updates from the Middle East.  

A temporary truce that had been set to end today between Israel and Hamas was extended another two days and appears to be holding today. Eleven Israeli hostages, women and children taken from Kibbutz Nir Oz on Oct. 7 regained their freedom Monday. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said an extension of the pause in fighting, a lull originally set for four days, could be an opening to reunite Israeli family members taken captive by Hamas and now separated. 

The terms of the truce — a one-day pause for every 10 hostages released by Hamas coupled with a swap of three Palestinian prisoners held by Israel for every Israeli hostage released — remains in place. On Monday, a Red Cross bus carrying Palestinian prisoners freed by Israel arrived in the West Bank town of Ramallah.  

President Biden, in a Monday statement praising the prime minister and leaders in Qatar and Egypt who are involved in negotiations, said the U.S. stance is to prioritize the release of civilians held against their will in Gaza

“We will not stop until all of the hostages held by Hamas terrorists are released,” the president said. 

Biden, who continues to oppose a formal cease-fire while defying domestic criticism, applauded additional humanitarian aid now entering Gaza because of the pause in fighting. 

At least nine Americans, including seven men and two women, are still believed to be held by Hamas. 

The New York Times and CBS News: Here is what’s known about the 11 Israeli hostages released Monday out of the estimated 240 people abducted Oct. 7. A spokesperson for Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the group included three French citizens, two German citizens and six Argentinian citizens. In exchange, Israel released 33 Palestinians — 30 minors and three women. 


3 THINGS TO KNOW TODAY

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) organized a Monday briefing by senior Israel Defense Forces officials for Democratic senators who have been critical of Israel’s war in Gaza.  

Elon Musk, wearing a green blast-protective vest, met Monday with Netanyahu and toured the locale in Israel of a Hamas attack last month. His visit appeared to be aimed at calming the outcry over his endorsement of an antisemitic conspiracy theory on X, formerly known as Twitter. His message cost his company advertising, and the White House denounced the billionaire for “abhorrent promotion of antisemitic and racist hate.” 

Here’s what to know as Google prepares to delete inactive personal accounts (and all the data and photos those accounts contain) beginning Friday. 


The potential release of another 20 hostages from Gaza by midweek, if the truce agreement holds, only postpones tough questions Biden and the U.S. face as Israel vows to resume its offensive to eradicate Hamas in a war that has already cost thousands of civilian lives in Gaza.  

The Hill: U.S. warns Israel over the next phase of military operation into southern Gaza. 

Biden last month lashed himself to Israel’s war aims while embracing an ultimate two-state solution that has gone nowhere for more than three decades. The mounting death toll and the risks of a wider war in the Middle East animate Biden’s conversations with Netanyahu. Those conditions also fuel clashes in U.S. cities, debate in Congress and erode support for the president among younger voters. 

“Freeing hostages is one way to try and extend the truce, get aid into Gaza and hostages out,” Aaron David Miller, a longtime Middle East negotiator now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told The New York Times. “But there’s a moment of decision coming when Israel seeks to resume its ground campaign. Will he press Israel to stop or at least try to shape its operations in the south? 

A report Monday in Israel said Netanyahu, bargaining for his political survival, told Likud lawmakers that only he can block a Palestinian state, a stance that clashes with U.S. policy. 

The New York Times: Gazans hope for a permanent cease-fire. 


LEADING THE DAY 

© The Associated Press / Mark Schiefelbein | Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) at the Capitol earlier this month. 

CONGRESS 

Johnson said Monday he is “confident and optimistic” about funding for both Ukraine and Israel — but he did not commit to tying the two together, saying Ukraine funding must be accompanied by border policy changes. His comments come as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has pledged to bring a vote on the supplemental funding for Israel, Ukraine and the Indo-Pacific region as soon as next week (The Hill). 

Schumer accused Republicans in a Sunday letter of holding up the emergency foreign aid package by insisting on unrealistic immigration reforms. He repeated that argument Monday on the Senate floor. 

“The biggest holdup to the national security supplement is an insistence by some Republicans, just some, on partisan border policy as a condition [for] Ukraine aid,” Schumer said. “This injected a decades-old, hyperpartisan issue into overwhelmingly bipartisan priorities.” 

UKRAINE AID IS PROVING A MAJOR TEST for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), whose ability to marshal GOP support for funding the war in Ukraine will be challenged as Democrats plan to advance supplemental defense spending legislation that includes border security reforms that do not go far enough for many of his fellow GOP lawmakers. McConnell has played it safe thus far as he deferred to Johnson in major spending strategy decisions, writes The Hill’s Alexander Bolton. But before the Thanksgiving recess, McConnell broke with Johnson, arguing funding for Ukraine and Israel should remain tied together, giving the Ukraine funding a better chance of attracting Republican votes. 

Ukrainian forces are close to exhausting their supply of crucial weapons and ammunition. Policy experts warn that if Congress fails to deliver more aid for Ukraine, it will give Russia the opportunity to turn the tide of the war.   

NO GOVERNMENT FUNDING BILLS ARE SCHEDULED to hit the House floor this week, an ominous sign for Republicans returning to Washington for the first time since their Thanksgiving recess. Lawmakers face a mid-January deadline to fund the government or enter a partial government shutdown, and the window for completing its work is fast closing. Johnson is facing pressure from some of the same Republicans who toppled his predecessor, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) (The Hill). 

“We need to show some real guts [on spending cuts],” said Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), who was among the eight Republicans who helped oust McCarthy. “That’s what we’ve kind of asked for.” 

NBC News: Santos could face expulsion from the House this week. He survived an earlier effort to oust him from Congress, but a scathing Ethics Committee report has changed the minds of several of his colleagues. 


WHERE AND WHEN 

The House meets at noon. 

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m.  

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9 a.m. in the Oval Office. Biden and first lady Jill Biden will travel to Atlanta to attend a 1 p.m. memorial tribute for the late former first lady Rosalynn Carter, at which former President Jimmy Carter, former first ladies Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama and Melania Trump, as well as former President Clinton, will be present. The Bidens later will fly from Georgia to Colorado, where the president will headline a Denver campaign reception at 6 p.m. MST. 

Vice President Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff will attend the Rosalynn Carter memorial event in Atlanta at 1 p.m. and fly to Washington. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Brussels where he will meet separately in the morning with Norwegian Foreign Minister Esper Barth Eide and Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan. The secretary will meet at 1 p.m. with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg before beginning the first session of the NATO foreign ministers meeting at 1:30 p.m. Blinken in the afternoon will meet with the foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the European Union before beginning the second session of the NATO meeting in the evening. 


ZOOM IN 

© The Associated Press / Rich Pedroncelli and Charlie Neibergall | California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) will face off in a Fox News debate Thursday. 

POLITICS 

Thursday will see one of the more unusual debates of this election cycle, when GOP presidential candidate Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who is not a candidate, square off on Fox News with Sean Hannity as moderator. In The Memo, The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes the clash offers DeSantis a chance to recapture some momentum in the presidential race but it also presents risks. DeSantis is not generally an outstanding debater, and Newsom could land some damaging rhetorical blows as the Florida governor tries to use California as Exhibit A when it comes to what’s wrong with Democratic policies.  

For Newsom, who is not eligible to run for reelection as governor, there seem to be fewer downsides unless he makes an obvious misstep. But the clash will by its nature raise suspicions about what he is up to. DeSantis, who agreed to debate, accuses Newsom of running a shadow campaign for the White House. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) recently delivered a shot across Newsom’s bow when he said that two Democrats other than Biden are running for the White House but only one — Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) — “has the guts to announce it.”  

Los Angeles Times: Hannity, who organized the event for Fox, says he and Newsom “hit it off.”  

Politico: Hannity wants a red vs. blue state debate. Newsom and DeSantis have other plans. 

Americans of all political stripes say they’re weighing Biden’s track record on education as the 2024 presidential election looms. The president campaigned in 2020 with a list of education pledges, including increased funding, support for teachers and student loan forgiveness, which was of particular importance to younger voters who now tell pollsters they’re increasingly ho-hum about Biden’s reelection. The Hill’s Lexi Lonas reports how 2020 pledges stack up as the president’s third year in office nears its close.  


2024 ROUNDUP:

Former President Trump, who never came close in the White House to repealing and replacing ObamaCare, a GOP goal, is reprising that political battle cry by telling voters he’s “seriously looking at alternatives” (Axios and The Hill). Facts: An estimated 18.2 million people this year, the vast majority with subsidies, have individual market coverage through the Affordable Care Act, the highest enrollment since 2016. An estimated 59 percent of Americans in May said they had a favorable opinion about the ACA, enacted in 2010, compared with 40 percent who said they had an unfavorable view of the law last spring.  

The Hill takes a look at five redistricting cases that will impact 2024: New York, Wisconsin, Georgia, Louisiana and Alabama

A left-leaning nonprofit group hires a former Republican aide for the abortion fight. 


ELSEWHERE 

© The Associated Press / Kamran Jebreili | Dubai will host this year’s United Nations climate summit, COP28. 

ENVIRONMENT 

Biden is expected to skip the United Nations COP 28 climate summit in Dubai this week but will send top U.S. officials — including Secretary of State Antony Blinken — in his place, the White House said. It’s the first time in his presidency that Biden, who attended the previous two COP summits and has put tackling climate change at the center of his policymaking, will skip the meeting. Environmental policy forms a key part of his administration’s national security strategy.  

More than 70,000 delegates are expected to attend COP 28, which begins on Thursday — including Pope Francis, who confirmed his attendance on Sunday despite having a lung inflammation (The Hill and Axios). No country should think itself immune from climate catastrophe, said U.N. climate chief Simon Stiell, who will oversee the COP28 summit.  

“We’re used to talking about protecting people on the far-flung frontlines. We’re now at the point where we’re all on the frontline,” Stiell told The Guardian before the summit. “Yet most governments are still strolling when they need to be sprinting.” 

The Washington Post: Why an oil kingdom is hosting the COP28 climate summit — and other questions, answered. 

Reuters: COP28 attendees: Who is going to the U.N. climate conference in Dubai? 

The Hill: Leaked documents show the United Arab Emirates’s effort to push fossil fuel deals amid leadership of global climate summit. 


COURTS 

Trump will take the stand in his own defense next month in his $250 million New York civil fraud trial, his attorneys said in court Monday. Trump will be the defense’s last witness, on Dec. 11. His son Eric Trump is scheduled to take the stand Dec. 6. Both have already testified in the case as witnesses for New York Attorney General Letitia James’s (D) office, who’s suing the Trumps and their company alleging they inflated financial statements to the tune of billions of dollars (NBC News). 

Trump on Monday urged a New York appeals court to continue to pause the gag order against him in his civil fraud trial, saying that threats to the judge and his law clerk do not “justify” limiting the former president’s constitutional right to defend himself. James’s office and the court urged the appeals court to put the gag order back in place last week following “serious and credible” threats that have inundated Judge Arthur Engoron’s chambers since the trial began in October (CNN). 

Trump’s company no longer prepares the sweeping financial statements now under scrutiny in his civil fraud trial in New York, an executive testified on Monday. Mark Hawthorn, the chief operating officer of the Trump Organization’s hotel arm, told the court that the firm bearing the name of the former president prepares audits and some other specific financial reports, but “there is no roll-up financial statement of the company” (The Associated Press). These “statements of financial statements” from 2014 to 2021 are at the center of James’s lawsuit, which alleges the company sought lower taxes and better insurance coverage and misled lenders by falsely inflating and deflating the value of its assets, which Trump and his sons have repeatedly denied (The Hill). 

Reuters: A judge on Monday rejected Trump’s request to see records from the congressional investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, which the former president said may be relevant to his defense against election interference charges. 

The Hill: The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in early December on a case that has the potential to broadly reshape the U.S. tax code and cost the government hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue. 

The Hill: Idaho is asking the Supreme Court to let it enforce a near-total abortion ban while the state appeals a lower court’s ruling that the ban conflicts with a federal emergency care law.  

The Dallas Morning News: The Texas Supreme Court will hear a case today challenging state’s near-total abortion ban. 


OPINION 

■ A labor strike over shoplifting, by The Wall Street Journal editorial board. 

■ The potentially high ceiling for Trump’s running mate, by J.T. Young, opinion contributor, The Hill


THE CLOSER 

© The Associated Press / Evan Vucci | This year’s White House holiday decoration theme is “Magic, Wonder and Joy.” 

And finally … Thanks to hundreds of volunteer decorators from across the country, the holiday season is in full swing at the White House. While it’s easy for adults to become jaded about decorations, children tend to feel eager excitement over the bright lights and the promise of toys. That glee is the focus of this year’s White House holiday display, themed “Magic, Wonder and Joy.” 

Books and reading — a focus for first lady Jill Biden, a community college English professor — are highlighted. The library displays vignettes that celebrate the tradition of holiday bedtime stories, including a brass bed with a cat that resembles Willow, the Bidens’ cat.  

“It is a time for our senses to awaken — for each of us to smell the aroma of favorite family recipes, to hear the warmth of a dear friend’s voice, to see the glow of lights and decorations, to taste the sweetness of candies and treats, and to feel the quiet stillness and strength of faith,” the first lady writes in her introduction to this year’s White House booklet. 

She also has a South Lawn surprise in store Wednesday: ​​the unveiling of an ice rink for the holidays.    

Want more information about White House holiday decorations past and present? The Washington Post breaks it down. An official video tour of the decorated White House is HERE, and information about in-person holiday tours is HERE


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