Happy Friday! Bessie Hendricks, believed to be the oldest living person in the United States, died on Tuesday in Lake City, Iowa at the age of 115.
She was the only one old enough to remember how we wriggled out of our last speakership stalemate, and now she’s gone. Rest in peace, Bessie.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- Members-elect failed once again to elect a Speaker of the House on Thursday, as no candidate for the position received the requisite majority support in the seventh, eighth, or ninth, tenth, or eleventh round of voting before the chamber adjourned for the evening just after 8 p.m. ET. Rep. Kevin McCarthy once again faced 21 Republican defections on all five rounds of balloting, with one lawmaker voting “present” and 20 lawmakers throwing their support behind a combination of Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, and former President Donald Trump. McCarthy and his allies believe they are close to a deal with some of the holdouts after another round of concessions—which reportedly included seats for Freedom Caucus members on the House Rules Committee, a promise to allow a vote on term limits for members, and a further reduction in the number of lawmakers required to trigger a vote on ousting the speaker—but that agreement, if it comes to pass, is still expected to leave him a few votes short of 218, and could alienate some of his more moderate backers. The House is set to reconvene today at noon for additional votes.
- Ahead of his first visit to the U.S.-Mexico border since taking office, President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a series of measures aimed at curbing the record levels of undocumented border crossings seen in recent years. Under the plan, the Biden administration will increase the use of expedited removal for illegal migrants while providing entry and work authorizations for up to 30,000 individuals from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Haiti every month who have an “eligible sponsor and pass vetting and background checks.”
- The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday proposed a new regulation that would ban non-compete clauses in labor contracts that restrict an employee’s ability to leave their job for a competitor or start a competing business for a set amount of time or in a specific geographic area. Studies have found approximately one in five American workers are bound by a non-compete agreement and the FTC alleges the practice unfairly suppresses wages and stifles innovation. Business groups, however, claim the provisions encourage employers to invest more in workplace training and boost information sharing. The FTC’s move will almost assuredly face lawsuits before it is set to go into effect in a few months.
- South Carolina’s Supreme Court held on Thursday the state’s six-week abortion ban with exceptions for rape, incest, and medical emergencies—which went into effect after Roe v. Wade was overturned last summer—violates the right to privacy outlined in the state’s constitution. “The State unquestionably has the authority to limit the right of privacy that protects women from state interference with her decision, but any such limitation must be reasonable and it must be meaningful in that the time frames imposed must afford a woman sufficient time to determine she is pregnant and to take reasonable steps to terminate that pregnancy,” Justice Kaye Hearn wrote in the majority opinion. “Six weeks is, quite simply, not a reasonable period of time for these two things to occur.” Following the 3-2 decision, abortion will remain legal in South Carolina up to a gestational age of 22 weeks.
- Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan announced Thursday she will not seek reelection in 2024, setting the stage for what will likely be two crowded primaries and a competitive general election. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Reps. Elissa Slotkin, Debbie Dingell, and Haley Stevens are rumored contenders on the Democratic side, while Republican operatives floated former Rep. Peter Meijer and Reps. John James and Bill Huizinga as possible options. Buttigieg—who moved from Indiana to Michigan last summer to be closer to his husband’s family—issued a statement saying he is currently “not seeking any other job.”
- A new law went into effect in Louisiana this week requiring websites comprised of more than “thirty-three and one-third percent” sexually explicit material to perform age verification checks on individuals attempting to access the content through the state’s LA Wallet digital driver’s license app. Proponents of the legislation hope to shield minors from easily accessible pornography, while critics argue the law raises privacy concerns and could drive people to platforms with fewer production regulations.
- The Buffalo Bills announced Thursday that Damar Hamlin—the 24-year-old safety who collapsed during Monday night’s game after suffering cardiac arrest—had made “substantial improvement” over the past 24 hours, waking up and being able to move his extremities while communicating via writing on a clipboard. The Bills’ game against the Cincinnati Bengals which was suspended after Hamlin was injured will not be made up, but the NFL is planning to play all its Week 18 games in the coming days as scheduled.
- The average number of weekly confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States decreased about 3.5 percent over the past two weeks according to Centers for Disease Control, while the average number of weekly deaths attributed to the virus—a lagging indicator—decreased 6.5 percent. About 42,000 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, up from about 33,500 two weeks ago.
- The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial jobless claims—a proxy for layoffs—decreased by 19,000 week-over-week to a seasonally adjusted 204,000 last week, remaining near historically low pre-pandemic levels.
Ceasefire in the Morning, Shelling at Night
The family of three living in a town in the Kherson Oblast of Ukraine might have heard that the head of Russia’s Orthodox Church—Patriarch Kirill* of Moscow, a fan of the invasion who once preached that military services erases sins—had proposed a temporary ceasefire in honor of Orthodox Christmas. But whatever they thought of the idea, it didn’t keep a Russian shell from striking their home a few hours later, killing them.
“In the morning they talk about the ‘Christmas truce,’ and already at lunch they kill the whole family,” wrote Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of Ukraine’s Office of the President. “What did the husband, wife, and their 12-year-old son do?”