The House Speaker Battle’s Dramatic Conclusion
Happy Monday! Attention all 57 year olds and 27 year olds (Declan) with the musical taste of 57 year olds: Peter Gabriel released the lead single off his first new album in 20 years, and it rocks.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- One week after leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was sworn in as Brazil’s president, thousands of supporters of right-wing former President Jair Bolsonaro’s stormed and trashed the country’s Congress, Supreme Court, and presidential palace in Brasília, seeking to either restore Bolsonaro to power or remove Lula. Bolsonaro never formally conceded the race, and his party’s efforts to overturn the election results failed in court. Security officials seem to have been caught off guard by the riots, but had begun to get the situation under control by Sunday evening, arresting hundreds of people. Bolsonaro had told his supporters to avoid violence last week before leaving the country for Florida, but issued only a muted condemnation of yesterday’s violence: “Peaceful demonstrations, within the law, are part of democracy,” he tweeted. “But depredations and invasions of public buildings like we saw today, like the acts done by the left in 2013 and 2017, are not within the rules.” The leader of Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party said the rioters “do not represent” the former president.
- The House of Representatives voted 216-212 early Saturday morning to elect Rep. Kevin McCarthy speaker, bringing an end to four days of drama on the 15th ballot—making the race the fifth-longest in American history. To end the impasse, the six remaining Republican “Never Kevins”—including Reps. Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, and Andy Biggs—opted to vote “present” rather than for an alternative candidate, lowering the number of votes McCarthy needed to receive a majority. The House will reconvene later today after adjourning over the weekend to vote on the rules package that will govern the 118th Congress.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that U.S. employers added 223,000 jobs in December, down from November’s 256,000 revised figure but still slightly above the pre-pandemic average and surpassing economists’ expectations. The unemployment rate ticked down from 3.6 percent to 3.5 percent as the labor force participation rate remained relatively unchanged at 62.3 percent. Average hourly earnings—a key measure for hints on inflation—were up 4.6 percent year-over-year, slowing from November’s 5.1 percent annual rate. Stocks surged Friday, with investors expecting the cooling labor market will slow the pace of future Federal Reserve interest rate hikes.
- The European Union’s statistics agency reported Friday the annual rate of inflation in the Eurozone fell for the second consecutive month in December, dropping from 10.1 percent to 9.2 percent. Core inflation—which strips out food and energy prices—still rose to a new high of 5.2 percent, meaning the month-over-month declines are driven largely by falling gas prices and underlying inflationary pressures continue to exist.
- The Irish Data Protection Commission announced last week it had fined Meta 390 million euros (~$415 million) for effectively forcing users to agree to personalized ads in order to use Facebook and Instagram. The regulatory body gave the social media company three months to come into compliance with European Union data privacy laws, steps that could materially hamper Meta’s advertising business.
- German law enforcement officials announced Sunday they had detained a 32-year-old Iranian man in Western Germany after receiving a tip from U.S. security officials that he could be planning a chemical attack. The suspect has not yet been charged with a crime, and police said they found no cyanide or ricin in his apartment.
- Iranian authorities executed two men by hanging over the weekend, allegedly for stabbing and killing a member of the Basij militia security force during anti-regime protests in early November. The men—22- and 39-years old—are the third and fourth Iranians known to have received the death penalty in connection with demonstrations over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody.
- The Chinese Communist Party reopened mainland China’s border with Hong Kong on Sunday, ending nearly three years of restrictions and mandatory quarantines intended to limit the spread of COVID-19. Travelers will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test from within 48 hours of their crossing, and daily crossings will be capped at 60,000 in each direction to start. China also ended its quarantine requirements for all incoming travelers yesterday, dismantling the last vestiges of its COVID-zero policies.
- The U.S. 7th Fleet announced last week the USS Chung-Hoon sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Thursday, conducting what the Navy labeled a routine transit “in accordance with international law” and a spokesman for China’s U.S. embassy called an escalatory provocation.
- The Australian government announced Thursday it is purchasing new missile and rocket systems—including the U.S.-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and Norwegian-made Naval Strike Missiles—in an effort to boost the country’s defense and deter threats to its national security.
- The Mexican military captured one of the sons of former Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán in northern Mexico on Thursday, three years after he was captured and subsequently released following threats of cartel violence. Mexican Defense Secretary Gen. Luis Crescencio Sandoval said 10 military personnel were killed and 35 more were wounded in the raid, while 19 cartel members were killed and 21 arrested. A federal judge in Mexico City temporarily halted the extradition of Ovidio Guzmán to the United States, where he is wanted on drug trafficking charges.
- The Food and Drug Administration announced Friday it had granted accelerated approval to Leqembi—a new drug from Eisai and Biogen—for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. The drug—which comes with risks of side effects like brain bleeding and swelling—was found in an early study to reduce levels of brain amyloid plaque in patients with mild dementia. Eisai said the drug will be commercially available later this month, and priced at $26,500 per year.
- A panel of three federal judges ruled Friday that South Carolina lawmakers must redraw the state’s congressional map after finding “race was the predominant factor” in creating its 1st Congressional District, which GOP Rep. Nancy Mace won by 14 percentage points in 2022. The judges held that Charleston County was racially gerrymandered in the redistricting process after the 2020 election, removing more than 30,000 black voters from the district to make it a safer seat for Republicans. Mace won her race by 1.2 percentage points in 2020.
- Retired GOP Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina announced Friday the Securities and Exchange Commission had closed an investigation into a series of stock sales he made in early 2020 as the pandemic hit without filing charges or taking further action. “I am glad to have this matter in the rearview mirror,” Burr said.
McCarthy Catches the Car
“If we row in the same cadence together, there is no obstacle this body can overcome for this nation.”
To be fair to Kevin McCarthy, it was after 1:30 a.m. and the end of arguably the most grueling week of his life. But the verbal slip-up—which came about 23 minutes into an address delivered from the House rostrum—could prove a punch line for the ages if the next two years unfold the way many lawmakers believe they will.
After four days and 14 rounds of voting, McCarthy finally reached the top of the mountain early Saturday morning, convincing enough of his GOP colleagues to vote for him to serve as speaker of the House—or at least not vote against him.