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President Trump with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Photo: AP

We've learned that after months of frosty distance, President Trump picked up the phone yesterday and called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — ahead of a week when they absolutely have to work together on a budget, or risk losing tax reform.

Why it matters: Well-wired Republicans privately think chances for tax cuts are still pretty bleak. If Trump and McConnell are able to patch things up even temporarily, Republicans have a better chance at avoiding an embarrassing legislative shutout that could imperil their majorities.

  • The stakes: They need to get a budget done in the Senate this week. No budget, no tax reform. It's that simple.
  • Jonathan Swan hears that the two had a productive conversation on the agenda, and bonded over their joint effort to nominate and confirm conservative judges across the country.
  • Trump was upbeat and brought up a Kim Strassell column in The Wall Street Journal, "Scalias all the way down," giving the president credit for "remaking the federal judiciary."

I'm told the two speak behind the scenes more frequently than is leaked, with judges and tax reform as regular topics:

  • They also are said to trade intel such as whip counts.
  • That makes Trump's public and private slaps at McConnell seem even more bizarre, although it fits with the reality that much of what this president says is for show.
  • The two will have lunch at the White House tomorrow.

Be smart: This is a truce that both sides need — not a thaw, or a change in how they view each other. You can count on Trump to attack McConnell on Twitter again soon, and keep courting "Chuck and Nancy."

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Go deeper

Axios Investigates

Exclusive: Airbnb hosts Xinjiang rentals on land owned by sanctioned group

Data: Axios research, Airbnb, Australia Strategic Policy Institute's International Cyber Policy Centre; Map: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Airbnb has more than a dozen homes available for rent in China's Xinjiang region on land owned by an organization sanctioned by the U.S. government for complicity in genocide and forced labor, an Axios investigation has found.

Why it matters: The listings expose Airbnb to regulatory risk under U.S. law. They also land yet another American tech company in the crossfire between the U.S. and China.

Travel bans upend holiday plans amid new virus fears

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Just when it seemed safe to travel overseas again, along comes Omicron.

Why it matters: The emergence of the new coronavirus variant couldn't come at a worse time, just weeks before millions of people are expected to travel for the holidays to reunite with loved ones they've missed during the pandemic.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
1 hour ago - Health

Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The emergence of the Omicron COVID variant is turbocharging the push for vaccine boosters, and experts say a booster may soon become a requirement to be considered "fully vaccinated."

Why it matters: Booster uptake has been sluggish so far, and adding a third shot to vaccine mandates would be highly controversial.

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