Happy Thursday! Don McLean transcends.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- The House voted 217-215 Wednesday to pass a bill that would raise the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion or through March 2024, cut discretionary spending to 2022 levels and add a 1 percent yearly growth cap, claw back unspent COVID-19 aid, and block President Joe Biden’s student debt relief plan, among other measures. The bill won’t pass the Democratic-controlled Senate—and Biden has vowed to veto the act if it did—but its passage was a victory for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who has struggled to unite his fractious conference and goad Biden to the negotiating table.
- Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol announced Wednesday the United States will deploy a nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea—which will not pursue a nuclear arsenal of its own—to strengthen deterrence against North Korea, which has tested an increasing number of weapons in recent years. Also under the “Washington Declaration,” the U.S. and South Korea will form a Nuclear Consultative Group to plan deterrence and response to nuclear incidents in the region.
- Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke Wednesday for the first time since the Russian invasion began last year. Xi has close ties with Russian leader Vladimir Putin—he spent three days in Russia last month—and has been portraying China as a peacemaker in the conflict. Zelensky described the call as “long and quite rational” and said the leaders discussed how to achieve peace, which he insisted cannot come “at the expense of territorial compromises.” After the call, China’s Foreign Ministry announced it will send an envoy to Ukraine and other countries to discuss a political settlement, and Ukrainian officials announced the appointment of an ambassador to China.
- Jailed Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny said Wednesday Russian authorities have announced new extremism and terrorism charges against him which could mean life imprisonment. An anti-corruption activist and Kremlin critic who returned to Russia in 2021 after a poisoning attempt he blamed on the Kremlin, Navalny is already serving a sentence for fraud and contempt of court, and his health has declined while behind bars.
- White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby confirmed Wednesday a second American has been killed during fighting between forces supporting two rival generals in Sudan. A family spokesperson said the victim was Bushra Ibnauf Sulieman, a doctor teaching in Sudan. Kirby said many of the estimated 16,000 Americans still in Sudan don’t want to leave and the U.S. has no plans for military-run evacuations, but the State Department reportedly plans to send a consular team to the Port of Sudan to help fleeing Americans. More than 400 people have been killed and thousands injured in the fighting so far, which has continued despite a U.S.-brokered 72-hour ceasefire.
- At least 57 bodies have washed ashore in Libya after two migrant boats sank off its coast this week in the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, Italy’s coast guard said Monday it had rescued 47 boats—including 35 from Tunisia alone—carrying around 1,600 migrants in the previous two days amid a sharp increase in migrants headed from Tunisia to the Italian coast. The United Nations’ International Organization for Migration recorded that 441 migrants died attempting similar crossings in the first quarter of this year.
- The Walt Disney Company filed a lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state officials on Wednesday, alleging their decision to revoke the company’s special district kicked off “a targeted campaign of government retaliation” resulting in unconstitutional “punishment for Disney’s protected speech.” A DeSantis spokeswoman dismissed the suit, saying the governor’s office is “unaware of any legal right that a company has to operate its own government or maintain special privileges not held by other businesses in the state.”
- Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, 72, officially announced Wednesday he’s running for the Republican presidential nomination. In a kick-off speech, he criticized the Biden administration’s spending and withdrawal from Afghanistan while opposing some of his fellow Republicans’ turn toward isolationism. He’s currently polling at about 1 percent.
Republicans United on Debt Limit—For Now
Late-night negotiations stretching into the early morning. A frenzy over which Republican lawmakers will support Kevin McCarthy and which ones will defect. Democrats standing by and watching the infighting with glee. No, you haven’t been transported back in time to the January speakership fight. But McCarthy did face another test yesterday, and he passed it: After months of horse-trading and days where consensus seemed impossible, the unruly Republican conference rallied around a bill to raise the debt ceiling. It’s dead on arrival in the Senate, but McCarthy & Co. hope it will force the White House to the negotiating table.
When we wrote to you last week on the House GOP’s efforts to pass a debt ceiling bill, it was far from certain whether McCarthy would be able to get the legislation through the House with the razor-thin Republican majority. Three Republican factions potentially stood in the way: deficit hawks who typically balk at any debt-limit increase, members concerned that proposed cuts to spending and incentives would affect their constituents, and the performative nihilists who care more about attention than governing.
But in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, Republican leadership hammered out changes to the bill—something McCarthy wasn’t willing to do just two days ago—that satisfied (barely) enough Republicans: expediting the implementation of work requirements for Americans receiving food stamps and Medicaid, and preserving certain biofuel and renewable energy incentives. The former was designed to please the deficit hawks, while the latter sought to allay the concerns of a group of eight Midwestern members, including Iowa’s entire congressional delegation. (Iowa is the country’s leading producer of biodiesel.)