McCarthy twice fails the speaker’s vote
Kevin McCarthy lost both the first and second votes to become the speaker of the House as the 118th US Congress took office yesterday. It was the first time since 1923 that the House failed to elect a speaker on the first roll call vote. The third ballot for new leadership is about to begin as we send out this newsletter. You can follow live updates here.
On the second ballot, existing anti-McCarthy votes consolidated behind Ohio’s Jim Jordan, a founding member of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus. (Jordan supports McCarthy.) McCarthy received no votes.
The mutiny was waged by ultra-conservative lawmakers who for weeks stuck to their vow to oppose McCarthy. The defection of 19 Republican lawmakers in both votes was a chaotic display of division within the party as it enters its first week in power in the House.
Context: McCarthy, a Republican from California, was once the favorite for Speaker of the House, one of the most powerful positions in the US government. But a far-right faction of his party opposed him, even though he made a series of concessions.
What’s next: House precedent dictates that consecutive votes continue until someone has enough supporters. But if McCarthy falls short, there’s little modern precedent for containing the chaos that could ensue.
Democrats: The party has a small margin in the Senate. In the House, representatives voted unanimously for Hakeem Jeffries. He would be the first black man to become minority leader. Nancy Pelosi, the outgoing speaker, leaves a legacy that will be hard to match.
China’s foreign ministry labeled the entry requirements — including those of Canada, the US, France, Spain, Japan and Britain — as unscientific and “excessive.” The ministry accused the countries of introducing restrictions for political reasons and said China should be allowed to take reciprocal measures.
The restrictions for travelers from China include requiring a negative Covid test or a mandatory test on arrival. But it is unclear whether China will change its own Covid policies. Even after easing travel restrictions this Sunday, China will still require inbound travelers to show a negative PCR test within 48 hours of departure.
Justification: Some countries have expressed concern over Beijing’s perceived reluctance to share coronavirus data with the world and the potential risk of new variants emerging from China’s emerging outbreak. However, many health experts have said travel restrictions won’t stop new variants.
Fallen: Bloomberg reports that crematoriums in China are becoming overcrowded as people die from Covid.
A provocation in Israel
Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the Temple Mount yesterday, two days after taking office as Israel’s minister of national security. Palestinian and Arab leaders responded with anger and condemnation.
The Temple Mount, a common flashpoint in Jerusalem, is a sacred site for both Muslims and Jews. But Palestinians and many Muslims see such visits, especially from Israeli politicians with a nationalist and religious agenda, as part of an effort to change its status and give Jewish believers more rights. (Muslims can pray there; Jews are not allowed to do so, although they are allowed to come.)
Ben-Gvir’s visit, the first visit by a senior Israeli official in years, defied threats of repercussions from the militant Islamist group Hamas. So far there has been no violent response. Ben-Gvir is an outspoken ultra-nationalist, and religious nationalists are increasingly demanding equal prayer rights for Jews.
Background: Tensions in the compound caused fighting between Israel and Gaza in 2022 and 2021. Ariel Sharon’s visit to the site in 2000, when he was Israel’s right-wing opposition leader, is widely believed to have triggered the second Palestinian intifada.
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The Lucky Challenge
The Times has a new seven-day happiness challenge, which offers advice on a crucial element of a good life: your social bonds and relationships.
The series is based on the world’s longest-running in-depth study of human happiness. For the past 85 years, Harvard researchers have followed 724 participants, and now three generations of their descendants, by asking detailed questions and taking DNA samples and brain scans.
From all the data, one very clear finding has emerged: strong relationships make for a happy life. More than wealth, IQ or social class, it is the robustness of our bonds that most determines whether we feel fulfilled.
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