January 17, 2024

โ˜€๏ธ Good Wednesday morning! Smart Brevityโ„ข count: 1,327 words ... 5 mins. Thanks to Erica Pandey for orchestrating. Edited by Emma Loop and Bryan McBournie.

๐Ÿ—ณ๏ธ Situational awareness: ABC News canceled the only debate before next week's New Hampshire primary after Nikki Haley said she won't debate unless Trump does. Only Ron DeSantis agreed to participate. Go deeper.

1 big thing: Federal power on chopping block

Photo: Kent Nishimura/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today in a case that could significantly roll back the federal government's regulatory power.

  • Why it matters: It may not be as sexy as cases involving former President Trump. But this one has major implications for all future presidents' ability to advance their agenda through executive action, Axios senior editor Sam Baker writes.

Zoom in: The case before the court this morning challenges the doctrine known as "Chevron deference."

  • If the doctrine goes away โ€” which is likely โ€” the courts will second-guess agencies more often. And that will likely mean that fewer regulations will survive.

How it works: When a law passed by Congress isn't crystal clear on a point, courts have historically deferred to the interpretation of whichever agency in the executive branch is tasked with implementing that law.

  • The idea was to make the process easier for everyone. But the doctrine has become a prime target on the right: Agencies have relied on it to advance a host of tough regulations, especially environmental rules.

๐ŸฅŠ Reality check: The court's conservative majority has so far seemed largely united in its desire to roll back federal regulatory power. The Chevron deference is already on its way out.

  • Even in recent cases where the justices sided with federal agencies, they've usually done so after conducting their own statutory analysis โ€” not simply by rubber-stamping those agencies' judgments.
  • And the conservative justices have invoked other legal tests that make it harder for the executive branch to enact particularly sweeping rules across a host of policy areas, from public health to the environment to student loan forgiveness.

๐Ÿ‘€ A ruling is expected by June.

2. ๐Ÿ’ธ Upbeat America

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Americans overall have a surprising degree of satisfaction with their economic situation, Axios' Felix Salmon writes from the Axios Vibes survey by The Harris Poll.

  • Why it matters: That's in spite of dour views among certain subsets of the country โ€” and in contrast to consumer sentiment polls that remain stubbornly weak, partly because of the lingering effects of 2022's inflation.

๐Ÿงฎ By the numbers: 63% of Americans rate their current financial situation as being "good," including 19% who say it's "very good."

  • Outlooks for the future are also rosy. 66% think 2024 will be better than 2023. 85% of us feel we could change our personal financial situation for the better this year.

๐Ÿ“Š Stunning stat: 77% of Americans are happy with where they're living โ€” including renters, who've seen housing costs surge over the last few years.

  • A substantial majority of renters are happy renting, with 63% of them saying they're not interested in owning a home and having a mortgage.

The reality is similarly upbeat: Rents finally started falling rather than rising recently.

3. ๐Ÿšจ Freezing temps threaten migrants

People wait for food at a migrant landing zone during a storm in Chicago last week. Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP via Getty Images

Arctic temperatures hitting New York, Chicago and Denver are endangering newly arrived migrants and complicating cities' efforts to manage limited shelter space, Axios' Stef W. Kight, Monica Eng and Alayna Alvarez report.

Why it matters: It's a new crisis for strained official and non-government networks trying to care for migrants across the country.

  • It's also another trial for the thousands of people who have taken perilous journeys from their home countries โ€” often with warmer climates โ€” to seek a better life in the U.S.

๐Ÿ”Ž Zoom in: Border crossings used to decline or stay low during the winter months โ€” ticking up as the weather warmed.

  • This year, December set a new record for illegal border crossings.

What's happening: Chicago has temporarily suspended a new 60-day shelter limit because of subzero temperatures.

  • Denver hasn't been enforcing its 14-day shelter limit for migrant adults, due to temperatures.
  • In New York City, 350 migrant families and 23,000 migrant adults have maxed out new shelter limits, according to city stats provided to Axios.

Go deeper.

4. ๐ŸŽต Charted: Music slowdown

Data: Luminate's 2023 Year-End Music Report, sourced from Pitchbook. Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Luminate's 2023 Year-End Music Report, sourced from Pitchbook. Chart: Axios Visuals

About half as many major music catalogs were sold last year compared to the market's high point in 2021, Axios' Tim Baysinger reports from data from the music firm Luminate.

What's happening: The music royalties market is coming down from its 2021 high. But the growth of streaming music continues to increase the value of song rights.

๐Ÿ”ญ Zoom out: The global music industry had a record-setting 2023, with more than 4 trillion on-demand audio song streams.

  • That's a 22.3% increase from 2022's 3.4 trillion streams.

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5. ๐Ÿ•ณ๏ธ Hamas' astonishing tunnel network

An Israeli soldier secures a Hamas tunnel in northern Gaza on Jan. 7. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

Stunning stat: There are between 350 and 450 miles of tunnels in Hamas' network beneath Gaza, The New York Times reports, citing senior Israeli defense officials' estimates.

  • Why it matters: That's an enormous network to sit under an enclave that is only 25 miles at its longest point.

"One tunnel was wide enough for a top Hamas official to drive a car inside," The Times reports.

  • "Another stretched nearly three football fields long and was hidden beneath a hospital."
  • "Under the house of a senior Hamas commander, the Israeli military found a spiral staircase leading to a tunnel approximately seven stories deep."

Go deeper: What we know about the tunnel network.

6. ๐Ÿ  Exclusive: Airbnb tackles housing crisis

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

With rentals in cities and towns across the U.S., Airbnb has had a front-row seat to the nation's housing affordability crisis.

  • Now, the company wants to help solve it, Axios' Erica Pandey writes.

Today, Airbnb is announcing the formation of a new housing council of experts, chaired by Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, former mayor of Baltimore and former president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

  • The council will advise Airbnb on how it can throw its weight behind initiatives that work to increase America's housing supply and drive down prices.

Airbnb's advocacy could come in the form of donations โ€” the company recently made a $3 million donation to a California affordable housing non-profit โ€” or supporting relevant laws: Airbnb recently backed a Colorado ballot initiative to put tax dollars toward new workforce housing.

7. โš–๏ธ Scoop: Barr's law firm expands

Pat Cipollone. Photo: The Torridon Group

The Torridon Group โ€” a law and consulting firm founded by former Attorney General William Barr and former Facebook general counsel Ted Ullyot โ€” is adding a team of new lawyers, including former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, and former deputy White House counsels Pat Philbin and Kate Todd.

  • Barr told Axios the firm, based in Virginia, will add a Washington office now that it's equipped to take on "every facet of litigation, regulatory and enforcement proceedings, investigations, crisis management, and strategic counseling,"

Why it matters: Barr said Torridon lawyers have the perfect mix of public and private experience for complicated, high-stakes matters. But he said it's still a "smaller boutique firm that can give individual attention at reasonable rates."

Also joining Torridon are Tara Helfman and John Coghlan, as partners; Chase Harrington and Kyle West, as associates; plus former White House counsel Fred Fielding and former acting DEA administrator Tim Shea, who'll be of counsel.

8. ๐Ÿฅž 1 fun thing: Breakfast facelift

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Cereal is (largely) out. But hot honey sandwiches, cinnamon roll pancakes and wonuts โ€” a waffle/donut hybrid โ€” are in as more chefs try to lure us out for breakfast.

  • Why it matters: Fine dining restaurants, fast-food outlets and supermarkets are doubling down on breakfast and brunch, convinced they can squeeze more revenue out of society's most-skipped meal, Axios' Jennifer A. Kingson writes.

๐Ÿณ What's happening: Wendy's has added English muffin sandwiches. Taco Bell is testing breakfast tots. Burger King is piloting Grill'wich breakfast sandwiches.

  • All that gives the market leader, McDonald's, a run for its money.

๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Fine-dining chefs โ€” who historically held their nose at serving brunch โ€” are reluctantly opening their restaurants in the morning, recognizing they can deliver showpiece meals to the power-breakfast crowd.

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