Happy Friday! The House is set to hold yet another vote for speaker later this morning. Some less-sophisticated publications have labeled the process a dumpster fire. We, however, have chosen to call it a Wednesday afternoon in South Haven, Michigan.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- The Defense Department said Thursday a U.S. warship stationed near Yemen intercepted and shot down three cruise missiles and several drones believed to have been fired by the Iranian-backed Houthi movement—and reportedly towards Israel. “We cannot say for certain what these missiles and drones were targeting,” said Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, “but they were launched from Yemen heading north along the Red Sea, potentially towards targets in Israel.” In response to growing demonstrations across the Middle East, the U.S. announced on Wednesday it has closed its consulate in Turkey “until further notice.”
- President Joe Biden delivered a prime-time address from the Oval Office on Thursday night, announcing plans to send Congress a budget request to support both Israel and Ukraine’s ongoing war efforts. “I know these conflicts can seem far away, and it’s natural to ask: Why does this matter to America?” Biden said. “History has taught us that when terrorists don’t pay a price for their terror, when dictators don’t pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos and death and more destruction. They keep going. And the cost and the threats to America and the world keep rising.” Biden also underscored the need to protect Palestinian civilians in Gaza being used by Hamas as “human shield,” and denounced recent antisemitic and Islamophobic events in the U.S. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Thursday that humanitarian aid from Israel to Gaza would be blocked until Hamas returned all hostages—though a limited amount of supplies from Egypt will be allowed into the territory.
- Chinese President Xi Jinping announced on Thursday plans to build an economic corridor linking Beijing and Moscow through Mongolia in order to foster “robust” economic ties. Xi’s announcement came as part of a foreign relations blitz for Russia. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán met with Putin in China this past week—prompting criticism from Hungary’s NATO allies, who raised security concerns amid Russia’s war with Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang on Thursday, decrying U.S. foreign policy toward North Korea as “dangerous.”
- A resolution to temporarily empower Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry stalled out in a GOP conference meeting on Thursday, as representatives debated whether to nominate House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan for the third time. “We made the pitch to members on the resolution as a way to lower the temperature and get back to work,” said Jordan, who has already lost two full floor votes for the gavel, after a reportedly heated conference meeting. “We decided that wasn’t where we’re going to go. I’m still running for speaker, and I plan to go to the floor and get the votes and win this race.” A third floor vote has been scheduled for this morning at 10 a.m.
- Continued strong economic growth could hamper efforts to curb inflation, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said in a speech on Thursday. “Additional evidence of persistently above-trend growth, or that tightness in the labor market is no longer easing, could put further progress on inflation at risk and could warrant further tightening of monetary policy,” he said. Though the Fed has signaled it probably won’t raise interest rates yet again at its next policy meeting in a few weeks, it is leaving the option open, in case additional hikes are needed to bring inflation back to its 2 percent goal. Environmental protesters disrupted the start of the speech, prompting security to escort Powell out of the room while they removed the disturbance.
- Sidney Powell, once an attorney for former President Donald Trump, pleaded guilty on Thursday to illegally conspiring to overturn 2020 election results in Georgia. As part of the plea deal, Powell must serve six years of probation, pay several thousand dollars in fines, submit a formal apology letter to the citizens of Georgia, and—most notably—testify at the hearings of her co-defendants, including Trump. Powell is the second of nineteen co-defendants to accept a plea deal requiring testimony in future hearings.
- Sen. Laphonza Butler of California, who was appointed earlier this month by Gov. Gavin Newsom to fill the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s seat, announced on Thursday that she will not run for a full term in 2024. Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff, Barbara Lee, and Katie Porter—as well as former baseball player Steve Garvey on the Republican side—are currently running for the seat.
Putting the ‘Limits’ in ‘No-Limits’
We heard friendship bracelets are all the rage this year, so maybe it’s time Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin made their constant declarations of eternal affection official with an exchange of homemade jewelry.
The two leaders definitely weren’t short on displays of admiration this week when Putin arrived in Beijing to a warm welcome from Xi. The trip marked only the second venture outside of Russia for Putin since this past March, when the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest over alleged war crimes committed during Russia’s war with Ukraine. Putin, increasingly isolated from the West, was seeking additional support from his “no-limits” partner in Xi—who has, in fact, put some significant limits on the extent to which he is willing to help Russia’s war effort. Even as the relationship remains strong, the friendly reception belied some of the daylight between the two leaders—on the invasion of Ukraine and each nation’s stake in the Israel-Hamas war.
Their meeting came as the Ukrainian counteroffensive, now several months old, still looks for a breakthrough in the dug-in Russian defensive line. The Ukrainian military has notched a few victories, retaking villages around Bakhmut and Orikhiv, south of Zaporizhzhia, in particular.