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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It appears that the IRS has supplanted federal worker paychecks as the first true pain point in the Trump administration's partial government shutdown — IRS refunds will now be paid during the shutdown, a reversal from previous statements, the White House's Office of Management and Budget told reporters today.

Behind the scenes: Until recently, Trump had been saying privately that he doesn’t think the American people care about shutdowns and that a shutdown wouldn't hurt him politically, a source familiar with the situation told Axios.

  • But Trump's opinion can soon change with harmful effects kicking in imminently — with paychecks, federal housing and food for poor people all potentially threatened. 
  • Pence said Monday he’d never heard Trump say anything like that, and he said that Trump was alert to the needs of the roughly 800,000 federal workers affected by the shutdown. 
  • A White House official told me earlier today that they are most worried about food stamps being cut off and believe the next 72 hours are crucial to put political pressure on Democrats, given real effects of the shutdown are looming.

Details on the IRS:

  • "Final decisions were still being worked out, including how many people would be brought back to work at the IRS and when the tax filing season will begin," according to the Washington Post.
  • Acting OMB director Russell Vought said the administration wants the shutdown to be as "painless as possible consistent with the law."
  • VP Mike Pence: "We’re going to continue to take steps like that to mitigate the impact."

Between the lines: "The IRS plans for this shutdown and for one that could have occurred during last year’s tax-filing season both listed 'issuing refunds' among the activities that can’t be performed during a shutdown," the WSJ's Richard Rubin and Peter Nicholas report.

  • "Administration lawyers may have been using a different theory—that the power to issue refunds was implied by the permanent appropriations for the refunds themselves. That is the exception the government uses to pay Social Security benefits."
  • "It is hard to see the legal justification for reversing past practice and paying refunds," said Sam Berger, a former senior OMB official under President Barack Obama.

P.S. Trump will address the nation tomorrow at 9 pm ET regarding the ongoing partial government shutdown. Some networks haven't decided whether to air the speech. They declined to air an Obama immigration speech in 2014. Go deeper.

Go deeper

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker will not seek re-election in 2022

Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker (R) speaking during a press conference in November 2021. Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), a moderate who typically ranks as one of the nation's most popular governors, said Wednesday that he and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito (R) will not seek third terms in 2022.

Why it matters: The decision leaves the gubernatorial race wide open and will likely affect multiple down-ballot races next year. Baker was expected to be the front-runner had he joined the race.

3 hours ago - Health

CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers

Travelers with their luggage arrive at a COVID-19 testing location at the airport in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 23, 2021. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday night that it is working to impose stricter testing requirements for international travelers due to the spread of the new Omicron variant.

The big picture: The new rules would require all international travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to show a negative test taken a day before their flight to the U.S. Currently, the CDC says fully vaccinated travelers are allowed to show a test taken no more than three days before their departure, AP reports.

Republicans threaten to shut down government over vaccine mandates

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in the Capitol in November 2020. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Conservative Republicans in the House and Senate are planning to force a government shutdown Friday to deny funding needed to enforce the Biden administration's vaccine mandates on the private sector, according to Politico.

Why it matters: Congress has until the end of the week to pass a stopgap measure to extend funding into 2022, though objection from a small group of Republicans could shut down the government.