Next steps for Build Back Better, omicron detected in nearly every state: 5 Things podcast

Taylor Wilson

On today's episode of the 5 Things podcast: What's next for Build Back Better?

The legislation remains stalled. Washington correspondent Ledyard King reports on the culprit. Plus, a jury continues deliberating in the trial of Elizabeth Holmes, the omicron variant has now been detected in almost every state, COVID-19 keeps wreaking havoc on the sports world and White House correspondent Michael Collins reports on what the IRS would do with increased funding.

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Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text. 

Taylor Wilson:

Good morning. I'm Taylor Wilson and this is 5 Things you need to know Monday, the 20th of December, 2021. Today, the latest on Build Back Better, plus the case of Elizabeth Holmes and more.

Here are some of the top headlines.

  1. Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has denied saying she was sexually assaulted. That's despite a November social media post by her accusing a former top communist party official of forcing her into sex. She briefly dropped out of sight after the initial accusation.
  2. Chile has elected a new president. 35 year old leftist, Gabrielle Boric, will be the second youngest leader in the world.
  3. And Tom Brady was shut out for the first time in 15 years last night as the New Orleans Saints blanked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers nine to nothing.

Taylor Wilson:

A number of initiatives on Capitol Hill remain in jeopardy today. They range from universal preschool to Medicaid expansion and paid family and medical leave. Most Democrats had pushed for them to be part of president Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan, but the bill requires the support of every Democrat in the Senate to move forward. And West Virginia moderate, Joe Manchin, says, he will not support the domestic policy legislation. Washington correspondent, Ledyard King, reports on the bill's latest development.

Ledyard King:

Well, it's likely going to mean that Build Back Better is not going to happen anytime soon. The White House is still optimistic that they can convince Manchin to get on board, but he's been hesitant for weeks, for months about such a massive package. Now they may take pieces out of it and work with Manchin on aspects that he might go for, but as a whole tapestry of the legislation, it's dead for now. But this is Washington. No can mean maybe. And so it's not going to stop the White House and Manchin's colleagues in Congress from lobbying him. And like I said, I think there may be opportunities where they take a piece of this or a piece of that and do a separate bill on that. There's different aspects that he might go for.

One of the main thrusts of the bill was climate change. Well, Joe Manchin represents the state whose identity and economy is based on coal and natural gas. So, even if some of the programs in there were voluntary, where they try to... they put billions of dollars to incentivize states and utilities and local governments to switch from fossil to clean energy, that's still a threat to West Virginia's economy. And so in a 50/50 Senate, which is why Joe Manchin is powerful, because all it takes is one democratic Senator to say, no, it's just it was a hard sell to begin with, and today Joe Manchin basically uttered what we all thought.

Taylor Wilson:

The White House responded strongly to Manchin's move and Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, issued a statement noting that Manchin and President Biden were not far apart on negotiations as recently as last week. She also said the White House will work to get Manchin back on board. For more, including Ledyard's full piece, check out a link in today's episode description.

A jury will continue deliberating today in the trial of Elizabeth Holmes. She faces 11 charges of fraud and conspiracy, and is at the end of a three month long trial. Holmes founded the medical technology company, Theranos, as a teenager in 2003. And she claimed the company's new testing device could scan for hundreds of diseases and other problems with just a few drops of blood taken with a finger prick instead of a needle.

But the US Justice Department sees things differently. Holmes faces charges that she defrauded doctors, patients and investors by marketing faulty blood tests, putting lives at risk and losing billions of dollars of venture capital. Holmes was at one point known as the youngest self-made female billionaire. She also modeled herself after Steve Jobs adopting his signature black turtlenecks as part of her own style. Her story also spawned books and an HBO show looking into the fraud allegations.

[Trailer: The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley]

Taylor Wilson:

If convicted on all counts, the 37-year-old faces up to 20 years in prison.

The omicron variant of COVID-19 has now been detected in 43 states and makes up nearly 3% of confirmed cases around the US. Overall, COVID-19 case numbers are skyrocketing in some parts of the country. That includes New York City, which yesterday passed its all time daily record of COVID-19 cases for the third day in a row. As for omicron, Dr. Anthony Fauci made the media rounds over the weekend, including an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press. There, he said that omicron could possibly replace the delta variant as the dominant strain of the virus. Around the world, cases involving omicron are doubling every 1.5 to three days in places with community transmission.

As of this morning, it's been detected in 89 countries around the world and doctors are warning that two of the main drugs used to treat COVID might not work as well against omicron. The antibody drugs from Regeneron and Eli Lilly have been the go-to treatments for early COVID-19 for more than a year, but both drug makers are warning that recent lab testing suggests their therapies will be much less potent against omicron. The companies do say they can develop new omicron targeting antibodies, but that they're not expected to launch for at least a few months.

Coming up tomorrow, President Joe Biden is set to address the nation with the latest plan to fight the virus. As for what to do this week in terms of holiday gatherings, Dr. Fauci says that people should be fine to travel as long as they're vaccinated and have a booster shot along with wearing masks in crowded indoor settings. For all the latest on omicron and more from the COVID-19 fight, stay with our live COVID updates page on

COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on the world of sports. More than a hundred NFL players tested positive for the virus this past week and 24 players on the Cleveland Browns alone went onto the COVID reserve list. The league even moved two games to a rare Tuesday night time slot, and tonight there will be a rare Monday double header.

Meanwhile, the NBA postponed three games yesterday and another for today, and the NHL has three games postponed for tonight. Elsewhere, across the pond, the English Premier League postponed six of its scheduled 10 matches over the weekend.

President Joe Biden wants more money for the IRS, but what would the agency do with it? White House correspondent, Michael Collins, fills us in.

Michael Collins:

The president is proposing to give the IRS $80 billion over the next 10 years. The idea is that this would help them be able to collect taxes that currently are not being collected. And we're talking about taxes that are not being paid by large corporations and wealthy people. The administrations insist that none of this money would be used to go after anyone who makes less than $400,000 a year.

There is very strong opposition among Republicans to the president's proposal of giving the IRS $80 billion. The Republicans have for the last decade have initiated a bunch of budget cuts for the IRS, and they don't like the idea of giving the IRS additional money. They make the argument that what this would do would basically enable the IRS to unleash an army of auditors and regulators that would pry into the lives of ordinary hardworking Americans.

The administration and Democrats, other Democrats as well, insist that the Republicans are misleading the American public about what this would do. Again, they say that if anyone who makes under $400,000 a year would not be affected by this. What they're really trying to do, they say, is make sure that large corporations and wealthy Americans who aren't paying their fair of share of taxes are targeted, and that they must pay their taxes as well. Again, anyone who makes less than $400,000 a year, the administration says, would not be affected by this. Audit rates of anyone making less than $400,000 a year would not increase.

Taylor Wilson:

For more, search IRS on

And you can find new episodes of 5 Things seven mornings a week right here, wherever you find your pods. Thanks to PJ Elliot for his great work on the show, and I'm back tomorrow with more 5 things from USA TODAY.