The Republican Party has won control of the House of Representatives despite a stronger-than-expected showing by Democrats in the midterm elections. After more than a week of vote counting, and with six races still too close to call, Republicans on Wednesday captured their 218th House seat — just enough for a narrow majority. A spokesperson for Nancy Pelosi said the Democratic House speaker will “address her future plans” later today. Meanwhile, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell has beaten back a challenge from Florida’s Rick Scott and was reelected Senate minority leader on Wednesday.
The Senate has advanced a bill to codify marriage equality into federal law. On Wednesday, 12 Republican senators joined all 50 members of the Democratic caucus to end debate on the Respect for Marriage Act, setting up final votes in the House and Senate before the start of the new Congress in January. On Wednesday, Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin — the first openly gay person elected to the Senate — spoke in favor of the legislation, warning Justice Clarence Thomas is pushing the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to revisit landmark rulings on the constitutional right of all people to marry.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin: “In his opinion, Justice Thomas explicitly said that the rationale used to overturn Roe v. Wade should be used to overturn cases establishing rights to contraception, same-sex consensual relations and same-sex marriage. He was essentially providing an open invitation to litigators across the country to bring their cases to the court, inevitably instilling fear among millions of Americans. The Supreme Court should not be in a position to undermine the stability of families with a stroke of the pen.”
In Iran, women and youth-led protests continue two months after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody. Crackdowns on the mobilizations are also intensifying. On Tuesday, police opened fire on protesters inside a metro station in Tehran. In other parts of Iran, as many as 15 people were killed Wednesday night. Some of the deaths were attributed to gunmen on motorcycles. Iran has blamed “terrorists,” though some local witnesses have said security forces are responsible. Demonstrators this week are commemorating 2019’s “Bloody November,” when hundreds were killed during popular protests spurred by rising fuel prices. In major cities across Iran, crowds called for an end to clerical rule and the removal of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Meanwhile, Iran has sentenced at least five people to death in connection with the protests. Amnesty International condemned the “chilling use of the death penalty to further brutally quell the popular uprising.” A human rights group says security forces have killed at least 348 people over the past two months of protests. Nearly 16,000 have been arrested.
Russian missiles rained down on several parts of Ukraine overnight, including the capital Kyiv. At least four civilians were reportedly killed in Zaporizhzhia, and many more were injured in Russian strikes on Kharkiv, Dnipro and Odessa. Ukrainian officials say Russia is continuing to target civilian infrastructure, disrupting supplies of water, electricity and heat for millions of people as temperatures fall below freezing.
The latest Russian attacks came as Ukrainian, Turkish and United Nations officials agreed to a 120-day extension of a deal to protect ships carrying grain exports out of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Russian President Vladimir Putin has also approved the extension.
Top Polish officials have blamed Russia for the deaths of two people near Poland’s border with Ukraine, after an air defense missile apparently fired by Ukraine fell onto their village on Tuesday evening. Poland’s ambassador to the United Nations addressed the Security Council on Wednesday.
Krzysztof Szczerski: “Those innocent people would not have been killed if there had been no Russian war against Ukraine. The only fault was — their only fault was the fact that they lived close to the civilian infrastructure on the Ukrainian side of the border that Russia keeps attacking as military targets.”
Here in Egypt, Ian Fry, the U.N. special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change, has met with Sanaa Seif, sister of imprisoned Egyptian writer and activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah. After the meeting, Fry said Seif had “expressed concern about possible reprisals after the COP was over.”
Meanwhile, Alaa’s family is outside Wadi el-Natrun prison today for their scheduled monthly visit. At the time of this broadcast, they are still waiting outside to be let in. It’ll be the first time they see Alaa since October. He was on hunger strike for over seven months.
Back in the United States, a federal judge has given the Biden administration a five-week transition period to end the Trump-era Title 42 policy, which has expelled over 2 million migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border without due process since 2020. Judge Emmet Sullivan had blocked the policy on Tuesday, calling it “arbitrary and capricious,” but agreed on Wednesday to give the Biden administration until December 21 to end the program.
A Senate investigation has confirmed immigrants who were held at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia endured excessive and unnecessary gynecological procedures — largely without their consent — and said Immigration and Customs Enforcement ignored the abuses for years. The investigation was in response to dozens of disturbing reports from women detained at Irwin who were subjected to hysterectomies by Dr. Mahendra Amin, a local doctor known as “the uterus collector,” from 2017 to 2020. Amin was subpoenaed but invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify. He has not been criminally charged and continues to practice medicine in rural Georgia.
On Wednesday, Georgia Democratic Senator Jon Ossoff grilled Stewart Smith, the ICE official in charge of medical care, over how his agency failed to stop the abuses.
Sen. Jon Ossoff: “What would you say to the women who went through this?”
Stewart Smith: “Well, I — it’s disheartening. It’s very” —
Sen. Jon Ossoff: “It’s disheartening?”
Stewart Smith: “And it’s very disturbing. It’s very disturbing. And we — any responsibility that we have, we take very seriously. We want to fix this system so it doesn’t happen again. Uh” —
Sen. Jon Ossoff: “Dr. Smith, you have full responsibility. We’ve established that. And this is worse than disheartening.”
In more immigration news, over two dozen asylum seekers arrived in Philadelphia Wednesday on a bus sent by Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott. A 10-year-old girl was immediately taken to the hospital with dehydration and a high fever after the arduous journey. Immigrant justice advocates in Philadelphia welcomed the asylum seekers with coats, blankets, food and other resources and will provide temporary shelter. The families came from Colombia, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Advocates report they were often given false information to lure them onto the buses from Texas and other Republican-led states.
In California, long-serving Democratic Congressmember Karen Bass has become the first woman to be elected mayor of Los Angeles. Bass beat real estate mogul Rick Caruso, who spent over $100 million of his own fortune on his losing campaign. Among other issues, Bass has promised to address the housing crisis in L.A., where some 70,000 people go unhoused every day. Bass, who will be just the second Black mayor of Los Angeles, will also have to contend with the racism crisis at L.A.’s City Council, unleashed by the leak of an audio recording in which three members made racist remarks about Black and Indigenous people.
The National Labor Relations Board is asking a federal court to immediately issue a nationwide cease and desist order blocking Starbucks from continuing to fire employees who are involved in union efforts. According to Starbucks Workers United, the coffee chain giant has illegally fired at least 150 workers in retaliation for organizing.
The longtime water protector Joye Braun died Sunday at her home in Eagle Butte, South Dakota. She was just 53 years old. A citizen of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Nation, Braun was at the Sacred Stone resistance camp since the first day of the protest at Standing Rock. She was also a nonviolent direct action organizer and policy advocate who trained hundreds of people over the years for the Indigenous Environmental Network. This is Joye at a protest outside the White House last year.
Joye Braun: “You need to be held accountable. You made promises to the Indigenous communities across this land that you were going to uphold. But you haven’t upheld those promises. You’ve been speaking with a forked tongue, just like that one that was before you.”
Click here to see Democracy Now!’s interviews with Joye Braun and our coverage of the fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline. Coming up, we’ll speak with two people who knew her well, who are here continuing the struggle at the U.N. climate summit.