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Up First briefing: House passes spending bill; U.S. split on Israel's actions in Gaza

The House of Representatives, led by Speaker Mike Johnson, voted Tuesday to advance a two-tier government spending bill.
J. Scott Applewhite
The House of Representatives, led by Speaker Mike Johnson, voted Tuesday to advance a two-tier government spending bill.

Good morning. You're reading the Up First newsletter. Subscribe here to get it delivered to your inbox, and listen to the Up First podcast for all the news you need to start your day.

Today's top stories

Congress is on track to avoid a government shutdown, after the House voted overwhelmingly — with Democratic support — to approve a two-tier spending bill. The unusual approach would keep some government offices open through Jan. 19, and the rest through Feb. 2, all at current funding levels. The Senate is expected to vote on the plan later this week, and the White House says Biden will sign it if it gets to his desk.

  • Yesterday was a dramatic day on Capitol Hill. Tennessee Rep. Tim Burchett accused former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of shoving him in a hallway, a charge McCarthy denies but has been accused of before. NPR's Claudia Grisales, who saw the altercation firsthand, told Up First that it's just the latest sign of how deeply divided House Republicans remain after weeks of increasingly personal infighting. 

The Israel Defense Forces said in a social media post early Wednesday that it is carrying out a "precise and targeted" operation against Hamas inside Al-Shifa Hospital. Israel has long said that Hamas militants are embedded in Gaza's main hospital, a claim U.S. officials publicly backed on Tuesday. Many patients, doctors and civilians remain in the hospital, where conditions have deteriorated since it ran out of fuel to power its generators.

  • Meanwhile, objections over Israel's operations in Gaza appear to have caused rifts at the U.S. State Department. Some employees have signed dissent cables urging the administration to call for a cease-fire. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports that while not much is known about the memos' content or exact number of signatories, U.S. officials say they're listening and meeting with staff
  • The latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds that Americans are split over Israel's response to Hamas' Oct. 7 attack. A majority of Democrats now say it's been too much, while a majority of Republicans say it's been about right — but there are big generational and racial divides. NPR spoke with voters in the swing state of Michigan about how they're thinking about the conflict.  

Check out npr.org/mideastupdates for more coverage, differing views and analysis of this conflict.

President Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping will meet today on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco. Their first face-to-face talks in a year come at a tense point in the countries' rocky relationship, and they have a lot to discuss. NPR's Tamara Keith says one of Biden's goals for the meeting is to restore the military-to-military communications channels that China broke off more than a year ago.

  • Keith says there are also signs that there could be an agreement aimed at reducing the flow of ingredients used to make the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl — though notes that there hasn't been much progress since the two countries pledged to do so in 2018.
  • This is Xi's first U.S. visit in six years, and Keith reports that the logistics have been carefully choreographed, "right down to what President Xi will see out of windows."  

Life advice

If you can't avoid holiday travel, you can at least try to book it strategically.
/ Photograph by Reet Talreja/Unsplash; Collage by Kaz Fantone/NPR
Photograph by Reet Talreja/Unsplash; Collage by Kaz Fantone/NPR
If you can't avoid holiday travel, you can at least try to book it strategically.

You don't need experts to remind you how stressful holiday travel can be. In fact, Scott Keyes, founder of the travel site Going.com, says his biggest piece of advice is "just don't do it." But what if you have no choice? He suggests the best days and times to take off:

  • Fly on the holiday, whether it's Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve or New Year's Day.
  • Avoid peak travel days right before and after those holidays.
  • Wait for January if possible  — Jan. 8 is when Keyes expects prices to drop dramatically.
  • Fly early and direct to increase your odds of an on-time arrival.

Today's listen

Hip-hop legend André 3000 plays the flute on <em>New Blue Sun, </em>his first album in 17 years.
/ Kai Regan/Courtesy of the artist
Kai Regan/Courtesy of the artist
Hip-hop legend André 3000 plays the flute on New Blue Sun, his first album in 17 years.

André 3000 hasn't put out an album since legendary hip-hop duo Outkast split in 2006 — until this week. He announced in an interview with NPR Music's Rodney Carmichael that he'll release his debut solo album, New Blue Sun, on Friday. And it's a surprise for fans in more ways than one: It will feature no rapping or even singing, but instrumental, improvisational recordings of him playing the flute. Listen to their wide-ranging conversation and read more here.

3 things to know before you go

A photo of Dr. Roland Pattillo sits in the living room of Pat Pattillo.
/ Lynsey Weatherspoon for NPR
Lynsey Weatherspoon for NPR
A photo of Dr. Roland Pattillo sits in the living room of Pat Pattillo.

  1. Dr. Roland Pattillo, an oncologist, stem cell researcher and professor, died in May at 89. He played a key role in keeping Henrietta Lacks' story alive
  2. Taylor Swift isn't only converting new Kansas City Chiefs fans at home. With one lyric change onstage in Argentina, she sent interest in the team surging abroad. (KCUR)
  3. Tesla's futuristic Cybertruck has earned plenty of critics before even hitting the market. But Giorgetto Giugiaro — the legendary designer behind the DeLorean DMC-12 — is not one of them.

This newsletter was edited by Majd Al-Waheidi.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.