On Capitol Hill, far-right lawmakers have blocked Kevin McCarthy’s initial attempts to become speaker of the House. In a dramatic day on Tuesday, the House held three votes to pick a new speaker, and McCarthy fell short each time of securing the needed 218 votes, even though Republicans now hold a slim majority in the House. On the first two ballots, 19 Republicans opposed McCarthy. On the third ballot, the number of defectors increased to 20, with many backing Jim Jordan to be the next speaker, even though Jordan himself nominated McCarthy before the second round of voting. This marks the first time since 1923 — a hundred years ago — that voting for speaker went beyond the first round. After the third vote, the House voted to adjourn until today at noon.
Cheryl Johnson: “No person having received the majority of the whole number of votes cast by surname, a speaker has not been elected. For what purpose does the gentleman from Oklahoma rise?”
Rep. Tom Cole: “Move to adjourn until noon tomorrow.”
Cheryl Johnson: “The question is on the motion. All those in favor, say 'aye.'”
Cheryl Johnson: “All those opposed, 'no.'”
Cheryl Johnson: “The ayes have it. The motion is adopted. The House stands adjourned until noon tomorrow.”
Democratic House leader Hakeem Jeffries also made history Tuesday by becoming the first Black lawmaker to be nominated to be House speaker. Jeffries received 212 votes during each round of voting–more than McCarthy.
It is unclear how long it could take for the House to pick a speaker, but until one is chosen, the House cannot conduct other business, including the swearing-in of new House members. We will have more on the chaos in the House after headlines.
On Capitol Hill, Senator Patty Murray made history Tuesday by becoming the first woman to serve as Senate president pro tempore. This now puts her third in the line of presidential succession, after the vice president and the speaker of the House.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced retail and mail order pharmacies can now sell the abortion pill mifepristone directly to patients with a prescription. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists hailed the move. In a statement, the group said, “Although the FDA’s announcement today will not solve access issues for every person seeking abortion care, it will allow more patients who need mifepristone for medication abortion additional options to secure this vital drug.”
The Russian Defense Ministry has now admitted at least 89 Russian soldiers were killed in their barracks on New Year’s Day in a Ukrainian missile strike on the Russian-occupied city of Makiivka. Russian authorities believe Ukraine was able to determine the exact location of the troops by picking up signals from personal cellphones, which were being used by Russian troops without authorization. Ukraine has claimed as many as 400 Russian soldiers were killed in the attack in Makiivka. Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials are also claiming to have killed or injured hundreds of Russian troops in a separate attack in occupied Kherson on New Year’s Eve.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to hold calls today with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Erdoğan has offered in the past to mediate a ceasefire in Ukraine.
The United Arab Emirates and China have called for the United Nations Security Council to meet after Israel’s new far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem. His visit was condemned across the Middle East. Jordan has summoned Israel’s ambassador to protest the visit, which Jordan’s Foreign Ministry decried as “scandalous and [an] unacceptable violation of international law.”
Israeli forces shot and killed a 15-year-old boy named Adam Issam Shaker Ayyad in a refugee camp outside of Bethlehem on Tuesday. According to the group Defense for Children International Palestine, Adam is the second Palestinian child to be killed by Israel since the start of 2023.
The U.S. Embassy in Cuba will begin processing immigrant visas in Havana today for the first time in over five years. Visa and consular services have been closed on the island since 2017. This comes as a growing number of Cubans are trying to reach the United States as Cuba continues to suffer economic fallout from decades of U.S. sanctions. Over the weekend, at least 500 Cuban asylum seekers arrived in makeshift boats in South Florida. Many landed in Dry Tortugas National Park in the Florida Keys, leading authorities to temporarily close the national park.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has said he is ready to move toward normalizing relations with the United States. He also urged Washington to stop engaging in what he called “foreign policy blackmail.” Maduro made the comments during an interview on January 1.
President Nicolás Maduro: “With the United States, they are unfortunately trapped in a policy on Venezuela that makes no sense, in supporting institutions that don’t exist, an interim president of an assembly of Narnia, which they keep on supporting. In one way or another, the foreign policy blackmail from Florida, from Miami, holds ground in the White House, in the Department of State. It’s unfortunate. Venezuela is completely prepared to take a step toward the normalization and regularization of diplomatic, consular and political relations with the United States and subsequent governments.”
Maduro’s remarks came just days after opposition lawmakers in Venezuela voted to terminate the interim government led by the U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who declared himself to be the interim president of Venezuela three years ago.
In California, incarcerated people are now able to make and receive free phone calls. The Keep Families Connected Act went into effect January 1. The nonprofit Worth Rises estimates that at least one in three California families with incarcerated loved ones went into debt to maintain regular contact with incarcerated loved ones as prison telecommunication corporations made millions of dollars in profits. California is only the second state in the U.S. to enact such a law, after Connecticut. Several major cities, including New York and Los Angeles, have similar policies in place at a local level. This comes as new federal legislation could curb the cost of prison phone calls nationwide following its passage by Congress last year. The bill is now on President Biden’s desk. On average, a 15-minute prison call costs over $5 — with some prisons charging a dollar or more per minute.
In Missouri, Amber McLaughlin died by lethal injection Tuesday night, becoming the first openly transgender woman executed in U.S. history. McLaughlin’s plea for clemency was denied despite detailing a history of childhood abuse and struggles with severe mental health issues as an adult — evidence that was ignored in her 2006 murder trial. The jury was deadlocked over her sentencing, but Missouri law allows the trial judge to issue a sentence in those cases, including the death penalty. In a final written statement, McLaughlin said, “I am sorry for what I did. I am a loving and caring person.” She was 49 years old.
Here in New York, Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced founder of fallen crypto exchange FTX, has pleaded not guilty to federal fraud and money laundering charges. Bankman-Fried was arrested by U.S. authorities in the Bahamas last month but was released on a $250 million bond and allowed to temporarily live at his parents’ home in Palo Alto, California. Bankman-Fried is accused of violating federal campaign finance laws and orchestrating a massive scheme to defraud customers and lenders. FTX’s collapse in November has been compared to the Ponzi scheme overseen by disgraced financier Bernie Madoff. Federal Election Commission data show Bankman-Fried was the second-largest campaign contributor in the 2022 midterm elections, with nearly $40 million given to Democratic campaigns and super PACs. Bankman-Fried’s trial is tentatively scheduled for October. He faces up to 115 years in prison if convicted.
Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin remains in critical condition in a Cincinnati hospital two days after he suffered a cardiac arrest on the field Monday night during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The 24-year-old collapsed after making a tackle. According to his family, Hamlin is sedated and on a ventilator after having been resuscitated twice on Monday. A large vigil was held for Hamlin in Buffalo on Tuesday. We’ll have more on this story after headlines.
In Brazil, mourners lined up for over a mile on Tuesday to pay respects to soccer legend Pelé, who died last week at the age of 82. Pelé was buried in the city of Santos in the world’s tallest vertical cemetery, which overlooks the stadium where Pelé first rose to fame. Brazil’s new president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, spoke at Pelé’s funeral Tuesday.
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva: “Pelé symbolizes everything, the rise of the human species. Everything that we can perceive and want from the rise of the human species was Pelé. He was a very young player who gained an extraordinary protagonism, and the most fantastic thing is that Pelé never tried to be something he wasn’t. He was always a humble citizen, and he was a person who spoke as an equal to everyone. In the interviews, you realize that Pelé is an ordinary citizen and that he was not carried away by his brilliance and apogee, but by the glory that the whole world gave Pelé.”
Google highlighted the legendary Egyptian writer Ihsan Abdel Kouddous today with one of its honorary doodles on its home page. Kouddous was an Egyptian journalist and author who wrote over 20 novels and 600 short stories, making him one of the most prolific and popular Arab writers of the 20th century. He was jailed several times by successive Egyptian rulers and faced multiple assassination attempts. He died in 1990, but his work remains widely read across the Arab world. He is also the grandfather of Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous, who wrote about his legacy on the Google doodle page.