The House Speaker Soap Opera Grinds On

Happy Wednesday! Congratulations to Sen. Mitch McConnell for becoming the longest-serving party leader in Senate history, Rep. Marcy Kaptur for becoming the longest-serving woman in congressional history, and Rep. Kevin McCarthy for trying his very best.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The Food and Drug Administration updated its regulations on Tuesday to allow retail pharmacies to carry and dispense mifepristone, a medication used in conjunction with misoprostol to induce first-trimester abortions. Pregnant women will still be required to have a prescription to receive the abortion pill, but it was previously only available at specially certified clinics, hospitals, or mail-order pharmacies. 
  • The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel also published an opinion Tuesday freeing the U.S. Postal Service to deliver such pills even to states with strict abortion laws, writing that senders of the pills will typically not know enough about the recipient’s intent to violate the Comstock Act, which regulates what can be sent through the mail. “Because there are manifold ways in which recipients in every state may lawfully use such drugs, including to produce an abortion, the mere mailing of such drugs to a particular jurisdiction is an insufficient basis for concluding that the sender intends them to be used unlawfully,” the opinion holds.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed legislation into law last week granting the country’s National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council—whose members are appointed by the president and parliament—additional authority to shut down unregistered news outlets operating in Ukraine. Zelensky and his allies claim the law is necessary to combat Russian propaganda and meet European Union requirements for accession into the bloc, but a number of journalist groups have criticized the legislation, with one labeling it “the biggest threat to free speech in [Ukraine’s] independent history.”

Republicans Just Republican’t Pick a Speaker

Rep. Kevin McCarthy sits in the House Chamber during the third round of votes for House Speaker. (Photo by Matt McClain / The Washington Post via Getty Images.)

Rep. Kevin McCarthy may have moved his belongings into the office of the Speaker of the House, but he’s still just a squatter there for now: Three House votes yesterday failed to hand him—or anyone else—the gavel. Since none of the members-elect can be sworn in until that happens, we’ve currently got an empty House. Enjoy it while it lasts. (Technically speaking, we ought to refer to every lawmaker in this newsletter as “Rep.-elect.” But that’d get old fast, so let’s agree to forgo the formality.)

McCarthy kicked yesterday off with some light shouting—“I earned this job!”—in an attempt to whip votes at a private GOP conference meeting before the House convened at noon. But Rep. Lauren Boebert’s shouted response—“This is bull—-”—more accurately summed up the next few hours, as the mood on the House floor went from cutesy to chaotic while McCarthy faked smiles and members’ kids who had tagged along to see history increasingly looked like they’d had their fill:

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