Congress faces twin deadlines of government shutdown, debt ceiling – National and International News – TUE 30Nov2021

Members of Congress are facing impending deadlines to avert government shutdown and a federal debt default.



Congress faces twin deadlines of government shutdown, debt ceiling. Trial of Epstein partner Maxwell finally underway. Negotiators seek limited Israel, Hamas truce.




Congress faces twin deadlines of government shutdown, debt ceiling

Members of Congress have returned to Washington with a full plate after a holiday recess. The two most urgent items are the federal budget and the debt ceiling. Congress must either pass a budget or a continuing resolution by the end of this week to avert a government shutdown. If President Biden does not sign an agreement by the end of this week, non-essential government services will grind to a halt. Currently, Republicans and Democrats disagree about how far into the future they want to fund the government. Democrats want to put off a full on budget war until January, while Republicans are pushing for a longer term agreement by the end of the week.

Debt ceiling

The real elephant in the room is the fast approaching deadline to raise the federal debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says Congress must raise the debt ceiling by December 15 to avoid a government default on its debts. A default would likely trigger a downgrade in the government’s credit rating and have dire and widespread economic consequences. Last month, Democrats and Republicans agreed to a temporary resolution, setting up another standoff for December.

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Trial of Epstein partner Maxwell finally underway

Ghislaine Maxwell is finally appearing in a federal court in New York to face charges she helped her former lover, deceased billionaire sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, to procure and groom underage girls for sex. Maxwell has been in federal detention since July 2020 after being arrested nearly a year after Epstein died in federal custody. 

Dozens of victims have alleged that throughout the 90s and early 2000s, Epstein and Maxwell jointly headed up an organized crime ring built on blackmail and underage sex. Throughout that period, the pair rubbed shoulders with the world’s elite, including billionaires, politicians and royals. Maxwell faces up to 80 years in prison for her part in the conspiracy if convicted. 

After a lengthy jury selection process, prosecutors and defense attorneys presented opening arguments yesterday. Prosecutors described Maxwell as Epstein’s partner in crime and one of the lynchpins of his underage trafficking operation. Stunningly, Maxwell’s attorneys mounted a rather distasteful defense not only of Maxwell herself, but of convicted paedophile Epstein, comparing him to a “21st century James Bond”. 

Today, a pilot who worked for Epstein between 1991 and 2019 described Maxwell as Epstein’s “Number 2”

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Negotiators seek limited Israel, Hamas truce

In May this year, Israeli and Hamas forces engaged in an 11-day war which killed about 250 people, mostly Palestinian civilians. In the months since, longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was ousted and a coalition government sworn in. The coalition, headed by current right-wing Prime Minister Naftali Bennet, also includes some Arab parties. Many hoped this coalition would promise a more peaceful coexistence between Israel’s Jewish and Muslim populations. But this promise has been slow to materialize.

But behind the scenes, it appears that at least some efforts are being made to stave off further hostilities. After a strict years-long blockade, Israel is finally allowing some small scale imports of building materials into Gaza. The blockade had prevented Gaza from rebuilding even since the last major outbreak of hostilities in 2014. In both the 2014 and 2021 wars, Israeli rockets had flattened dozens of residential tower blocks in Gaza.

Israeli and Hamas negotiators are also working on a possible prisoner exchange. Israel holds dozens of Hamas prisoners, while Hamas is believed to be holding two live Israeli civilian captives and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers.

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