Post-election Democratic wins carry asterisks: The Note

Governing from here only gets harder.

December 13, 2022, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

There might be a touch of poetry here: President Joe Biden on Tuesday will sign a bill guaranteeing federal recognition for same-sex marriages slightly more than a decade since he famously vaulted the issue into the national conversation.

Things have hardly moved in straight lines since then. This post-election governing period is no different.

Democrats are squeezing what they can out of what remains of their united control of Washington. But the to-do list -- avoiding a shutdown and a debt-ceiling showdown, aid for COVID-19 relief and Ukraine, taking care of the young immigrants known as "Dreamers" reforming the Electoral Count Act -- will likely stay longer than the already-done list when Republicans take control of the House in three weeks.

A newly developing crisis at the southern border is the latest complicating factor, tied up as it is with pandemic-era policies. Pentagon spending is on track to clear Capitol Hill only with Democrats acceding to GOP demands to lift the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for troops -- over the objections of the defense secretary as well as the commander-in-chief himself.

Democrats have spent much of the past two years arguing, often internally, over what must get done and why more can't be achieved. Not long ago, many were worried that focusing on what wasn't happening at the expense of what was passed would take away from efforts to hold the House and the Senate.

The House wasn't held, and the Senate was. Last week brought a cherry on top for Democrats whose worst fears of this midterm year weren't realized -- and then a quick reality check courtesy of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz.

Governing from here only gets harder, in the narrowly divided Senate, the GOP-led House and with a president under reelection pressures. There aren't many wins Democrats can expect that won't involve tougher compromises than those being reached this month -- as well as fierce pushback from Republicans plus some Democrats.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden delivers remarks in Washington, October 17, 2022.
President Joe Biden delivers remarks in Washington, October 17, 2022.
Leah Millis/Reuters, FILE

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

The nation's highest court will hear an additional case challenging the Biden administration's plan to forgive millions of federal student loans.

The case involves two borrowers who claim they have been unfairly denied relief under the program.

The administration is seeking to forgive up to $20,000 in federal loans for borrowers making less than $125,000 a year. But this case and a previous one filed by six states could affect whether that will come to fruition.

A Supreme Court ruling in these cases could impact some 43 million borrowers. As legal challenges mount, borrowers have been left in limbo for the long term. For now, though, the loan payment moratorium has been extended to June of next year.

The Biden administration has argued that it has the authority to proceed with such a program citing the HEROES Act, which allows the for the secretary of education to reduce or eliminate the obligation to repay student loans during a national emergency, in this case the COVID-19 pandemic. Critics say the president exceeded his authority.

Hearings on the cases are slated for February.

PHOTO: Students walk past Royce Hall on the campus of UCLA, Nov. 17, 2021, in Los Angeles.
Students walk past Royce Hall on the campus of UCLA, Nov. 17, 2021, in Los Angeles.
Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

The highly anticipated testimony from FTX founder and former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried before the House Financial Services Committee hit a roadblock on Monday evening when authorities announced his arrest in the Bahamas.

“Earlier this evening, Bahamian authorities arrested Samuel Bankman-Fried at the request of the U.S. Government, based on a sealed indictment filed by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. We expect to move to unseal the indictment in the morning and will have more to say at that time,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement on Monday.

ABC News’ Aaron Katersky reports that while the specific charges against Bankman-Fried will not be unsealed until sometime Tuesday, a source familiar with the situation describes the case as a multi-count fraud indictment.

Prior to his arrest, lawmakers had hoped to press Bankman-Fried about the financial mismanagement and collapse of his two companies -- the $32 billion cryptocurrency exchange FTX and the hedge fund Alameda Research. After initially rebuffing a request from the financial committee, Bankman-Fried agreed to testify remotely with a preface about the extent, he claimed, that he could comment.

"I still do not have access to much of my data -- professional or personal. So there is a limit to what I will be able to say, and I won't be as helpful as I'd like," Bankman-Fried wrote in a tweet over the weekend.

Prior to the collapse of FTX, Bankman-Fried was making a mark on politics through eye-popping sums of campaign donations. According to OpenSecrets, he contributed "more than $990,000 to candidates plus an additional $38.8 million to outside groups” throughout the 2022 election cycle. In a May 2022 podcast appearance, Bankman-Fried also set his sights on 2024, saying he could spend $1 billion or more on the presidential cycle.

Although Bankman-Fried’s prospects of following through on that idea appear slim, the fallout of the FTX collapse could bring political spending into sharper scrutiny.

PHOTO: In this file photo taken on Feb. 9, 2022, Samuel Bankman-Fried, founder and CEO of FTX, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
In this file photo taken on Feb. 9, 2022, Samuel Bankman-Fried, founder and CEO of FTX, testifies during a Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry hearing about "Examining Digital Assets: Risks, Regulation, and Innovation," on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images, FILE


ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. "Start Here" begins Tuesday morning with ABC’s Rebecca Jarvis on former CEO of FTX Sam Bankman-Fried’s arrest by Bahamian authorities at the request of the U.S. government. Then ABC’s Matt Rivers reports on the surge in crossings along the Texas-Mexico border. And, National Geographic’s Michael Greshko reports on the upcoming announcement of a breakthrough in nuclear fusion technology.


  • At 3:30 p.m. ET, President Joe Biden will sign the Respect for Marriage Act into law and celebrate the legislation on the White House's South Lawn.
  • White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will brief at 2:15 p.m. ET.

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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back Wednesday for the latest.

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