Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. On this day in 1823, President James Monroe articulated — what else? — the Monroe Doctrine, warning Europe’s colonial powers to stay out of the Western Hemisphere. “The American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for colonization by any European powers,” Monroe said in an otherwise routine message to Congress.

The big idea

Biden toughens his tone on Republicans. A bit.

Maybe it’s the poor job approval numbers. Maybe it’s the dawn of the midterm elections season. Maybe he doesn’t see as much value in happy talk about bipartisanship now that he has his infrastructure law. Maybe it’s frustration at the GOP’s opposition to his efforts to battle the coronavirus.

Whatever the reason, President Biden sounded tougher on Republicans on Wednesday than he has in his nearly 10 months in office. With the rise of the omicron coronavirus variant and renewed battles with the GOP over keeping government open and paying America’s debts, it could be we’re seeing a new attitude from the man with the biggest megaphone in the country.

“My Republican friends are talking a lot about prices, but they’re lined up against my Build Back Better plan, which would go right at the problem for rising costs for families. Why is that?” he said. “I don’t want to speculate on anyone’s motive. But it’s always easier to complain about a problem than to try to fix it.”

The White House still seems content to leave the scorched-earth stuff to former aides to Barack Obama or key Hillary Clinton supporters, who naturally have more freedom to attack because they don’t speak for the president of the United States. (More on that below.)

But for a politician whose middle name might as well be “let’s find a way to make a deal,” Biden’s remarks seemed notable.

This is, after all, Joe Biden, who praised bipartisanship a month ago in one of the most naturally partisan venues in the world: A grass roots event for the Democratic National Committee.

“I know I get in trouble when I talk about ‘bipartisan,’ because people say, ‘Why the devil would I like any Republicans?’ Well, it's important. We are — unless we get — generate consensus in America, we're in trouble,” he told party activists on Nov. 9.

Sharpening his rhetorical knives

In his remarks Wednesday, Biden repeatedly took aim at Republicans, especially their lockstep opposition to his Build Back Better package that expands social spending and includes proposals to battle the climate crisis.

He highlighted comments by Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee and who told the Wall Street Journal earlier this month rising inflation will be a “gold mine” for the GOP.

“One Republican senator even said that rising prices were, quote, ‘a gold mine,’ end of quote, for Republicans politically,” Biden said. “Imagine rooting for higher costs for American families just to score a few political points.”

Republicans, the president said, “have a lot of speeches about high prices, supply chains, and other challenges we are facing, but they don’t offer any answers. So, they’re just doing the ‘no’ vote. That's their plan: Vote ‘no.’" 

Biden said his proposal would lower the costs of child care and elderly care but the Republican approach is “pay more.”

“Look, remember: We're in a situation that as far as Republicans are concerned, they'd rather the bills at your kitchen table be higher so the tax bills of corporate conference rooms and big mansions can be lower,” Biden said.

According to a Monday report in Politico, it’s a conscious change of tack that will delight some Democrats.

Laura Barrón-López, Christopher Cadelago and Jonathan Lemire reported “Democratic lawmakers and party leaders say Biden needs to relentlessly hammer GOP lawmakers for opposing his economic priorities and hampering progress on the pandemic and inflation.” They quoted deputy White House communications director Kate Berner as promising Biden is “going to be strong and aggressive and call out Republicans.”

For now, the relentless hammering is coming from outside the White House, from alums of Obama’s White House and Democrats who labored to elect Clinton in 2016. Their latest tack is accusing the GOP not only of rooting against economic recovery but in favor of the virus, which has killed more than 780,000 people in America.

From the bleachers

As Eric Schultz, ex-deputy press secretary to Obama and now a senior adviser to the former president, tweeted Wednesday: “Republicans have decided the Biden presidency rests or falls on his ability to beat back the virus. And they have chosen to be on the side of the virus.”

Schultz, who told The Daily 202 he’s “in fairly regular touch” with the Biden White House, pointed in an email to conservative  opposition to vaccine and mask mandates amid the rise of the omicron variant.

“Republican resistance to all of the scientifically proven tools we have to prevent transmission is not only more glaring and irresponsible, it’s more deadly,” he said. ”If you oppose vaccine and mask mandates and peddle disinformation, you’re rooting for the pandemic. There’s no reason to tiptoe around that.”

Josh Schwerin, a veteran Democratic communicator who held senior roles in super PACs designed to help Clinton in 2016 and Biden in 2020, charged Republicans “want covid to continue to spread because they think it helps Republicans and hurts Biden.”

Reached for comment by The Daily 202, Schwerin said he was not coordinating with the White House, but seemed to invite the West Wing to take a harder line.

“I don’t know if the White House will start calling Republicans out more forcibly,” he said. “I do think they have space to be more aggressive while retaining their ability to be the trusted messengers on health care that they absolutely must continue to be.”

What's happening now

Can a shutdown be averted? (Again)

House, Senate leaders announce government funding deal as they race to avert shutdown

Will both chambers pass identical bills by midnight on Friday to avert a shutdown? If they do, the new date to watch will be Feb. 18.

“The agreement on a new stopgap spending measure paves the way for the House to vote before the end of the day, though swift action still seemed uncertain in the Senate, where some Republicans have threatened to grind the government to a halt as they protest President Biden’s vaccine and testing mandates,” Tony Romm reports.

  • Long-term: “Lawmakers either must adopt another short-term deal or complete their work on roughly a dozen longer-term appropriations bills that fund the government for the remainder of the 2022 fiscal year.”
  • Money for Afghan refugees: “Democrats and Republicans also included as part of the stopgap another $7 billion in assisting Afghan evacuees. But they generally did not address a slew of unresolved policy issued that they had hoped to tackle as part of the continuing resolution, a reflection of the tense talks that delayed a vote on government funding for days.”
The Post’s Paul Kane explains how a group of Republicans objecting to federal vaccine requirements could potentially force a government shutdown. (Adriana Usero, JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

Blinken urges Russia’s Sergei Lavrov to choose diplomacy on Ukraine or face high price

“[U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken] said Moscow and Kyiv should each fulfill their obligations under the 2014 Minsk peace process, which was designed to end a war between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces in the east of the former Soviet republic,” Reuters’s Humeyra Pamuk and Johan Ahlander report.

“Washington was willing to facilitate this, Blinken said, but ‘if Russia decides to pursue confrontation, there will be serious consequences.’”

Biden, Mexico reach agreement to restart Trump-era 'Remain in Mexico' program

“The Biden administration said Thursday Mexico has agreed to cooperate on restarting the Migrant Protection Protocols policy as long as the U.S. takes key steps to address Mexico's human rights concerns with the controversial, Trump-era program,” USA Today's Courtney Subramanian reports.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

Trump could pocket $100 million in deal for money-losing D.C. hotel

“The former president’s company recently signed a contract to sell its lease of the historic Old Post Office Pavilion to Miami-based investment firm CGI Merchant, which hopes to turn the property into a Waldorf Astoria in partnership with Hilton Worldwide, according to three people familiar with the arrangement who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of the transaction. One of the people said the price was $375 million, which would eclipse the previous record for hotel sales in Washington,” Jonathan O'Connell and David A. Fahrenthold report.

Experts say that price would also net Trump a hefty profit, probably $100 million or more, based on the financial documents and the company’s lease with the government. That would provide Trump with a rate of return that many hedge fund managers would envy, thanks to a market that is snapping up hotels in the expectation the pandemic will wane and travel will roar back.”

… and beyond

U.S. rushed contracts to COVID-19 suppliers with troubled plants

“In all, less than 20% of the companies awarded fast-track contracts examined by Reuters were experienced manufacturers with a clean FDA record for their U.S. plants in the two years prior. Four of every five either had no U.S. manufacturing experience, poor domestic inspection results or serious recalls before their COVID contract awards,” Reuters’s Marisa Taylor reports

“‘These are red flags,’ said Peter Lurie, a former FDA associate commissioner who is now president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. ‘The government ought to be able to find companies in this country that aren’t tainted by previous poor performance.’”

Omicron rising

Minnesota man who traveled to NYC for convention Is 2nd U.S. omicron variant case

“The U.S. has now confirmed its second omicron variant case -- in a Minnesota resident who recently traveled to New York City for a two-day convention at the Javits Center in Manhattan, the state's Department of Public Health said Thursday,” NBC New York's Jennifer Millman reports.

  • The first case: “The San Francisco resident, who arrived Nov. 22 from South Africa, began feeling ill around Nov. 25 and got tested for the coronavirus Nov. 28, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said Wednesday at a news conference,” Lena H. Sun, Katie Shepherd and Alissa Greenberg report.

Germany announces nationwide lockdown for the unvaccinated

“Unvaccinated people will be banned from accessing all but the most essential businesses, such as supermarkets and pharmacies, to curb the spread of coronavirus, outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel and her successor, Olaf Scholz, announced Thursday, following crisis talks with regional leaders,” CNN’s Nadine Schmidt and Frederik Pleitgen report.

The Biden agenda

Biden takes on variants

‘We are pulling out all the stops’: White House details strategies to combat delta, omicron variants

“Within hours of the first confirmed infection from the new omicron variant in the United States, the Biden administration on Thursday announced an array of measures to protect Americans, including campaigns to increase vaccinations and booster shots, more stringent testing requirements for travelers entering the country and plans to make rapid at-home coronavirus testing free for more people,” Dan Diamond, Lena H. Sun and Tyler Pager report.

Under pressure to cancel student debt, a top federal aid official points to Biden: ‘It is a decision for the White House to make’

“‘On general loan forgiveness, many people seem to have a great deal to say, but as the chief of FSA, I do not,’ [Federal Student Aid director Richard] Cordray said. ‘Instead, I will simply say it is a decision for the White House to make, not for me. And, whatever they decide, FSA will faithfully implement,’” Business Insider’s Ayelet Sheffey reports.

Investigator in Republicans’ Wisconsin 2020 election review sought to overturn Biden’s victory

“The man leading a review of the 2020 election on behalf of Wisconsin Assembly Republicans, Michael Gableman, says he’s not trying to overturn the election results, but he revealed Wednesday that one of the investigators he has hired did, in fact, file a lawsuit that sought to overturn the 2020 presidential election results,” CBS News’s Adam Brewster reports.

Students that have experienced gun violence at school since Columbine, visualized

The Washington Post tracks down how many children have been exposed to gun violence during school hours since the Columbine High massacre in 1999. So far, more than 278,000 students have witness the violence. Explore our dataset here.

Hot on the left

Opinion: ‘Roe’ is dead. The Roberts court’s ‘stench’ will live forever.

“Public opinion hasn’t changed. The science hasn’t fundamentally changed. No new legal theory has been promulgated. The only difference is the court now has a majority hellbent on settling scores in the culture wars,” columnist Dana Milbank writes.

“There’s good reason, Justice Elena Kagan said, why the Supreme Court has given great weight to precedent — and particularly to ‘super precedent’ such as the 1973 Roe decision, affirmed by the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision. It’s ‘to prevent people from thinking that this court is a political institution that will go back and forth depending on what part of the public yells the loudest.’”

Hot on the right

Trump intervenes in Ohio Senate primary — for himself

Trump’s intervention in the race illustrates how he views the 2022 midterm election: as a tool to bolster and measure his own political standing ahead of a potential 2024 bid. The former president has been endorsing Republican candidates across the country and using their successes to trumpet his popularity within the party. And when he believes he hasn’t gotten enough credit he’s lashed out: After Republican Glenn Youngkin’s upset win in last month’s Virginia gubernatorial race, the former president steamed that he wasn’t getting enough recognition,” Politico's Alex Isenstadt reports.

Today in Washington

At 1:15 p.m., Biden will visit the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., where he’ll deliver remarks on the pandemic at 1:40 p.m.

5:30 p.m.: Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff will attend the National Christmas Tree Lighting on the Ellipse. Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland will deliver remarks.

In closing

Do NOT kiss under the mistletoe this year, advises British minister

Thérèse Coffey, a member of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet responsible for work and pensions, told people not to smooch as the omicron coronavirus variant adds a new layer of fear to the pandemic,” Adela Suliman reports.

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.