Your Wednesday Briefing: Chaos in the U.S. House Speaker Race

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Kevin McCarthy lost both the first and second vote to become the House speaker as the 118th U.S. Congress took office yesterday. It was the first time the House has failed to elect a speaker on the first roll call vote since 1923. The third vote for new leadership is about to begin as we send this newsletter. You can follow live updates here.

In the second vote, the existing anti-McCarthy votes consolidated behind Jim Jordan of Ohio, a founding member of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus. (Jordan is supporting McCarthy.) McCarthy did not pick up any votes.

The mutiny was waged by ultraconservative lawmakers who, for weeks, have held fast to their vow to oppose McCarthy. The defection by 19 Republican lawmakers in both votes was a chaotic display of disunity within the party as it embarks on its first week in power in the House.

Context: McCarthy, a California Republican, was once the favorite for House speaker, one of the most powerful positions in the U.S. government. But a hard-right faction of his party opposed him, even as he made a series of concessions.

What’s next: House precedent dictates that successive votes continue until someone secures enough supporters. But if McCarthy falls short, there is little modern precedent to govern the chaos that could ensue.

Democrats: The party has a slim margin in the Senate. In the House, representatives voted unanimously for Hakeem Jeffries. He would be the first Black man to be minority leader. Nancy Pelosi, the outgoing speaker, leaves a legacy that will be difficult to match.

China’s foreign ministry labeled the entry requirements — including those set by Canada, the U.S., France, Spain, Japan and Britain — as unscientific and “excessive.” The ministry accused the countries of introducing restrictions for political reasons and said that China may take reciprocal measures.

The restrictions on travelers from China include requiring a negative Covid test or mandatory testing upon arrival. But it’s unclear if China will change its own Covid policy. Even after it eases travel restrictions this Sunday, China will still require incoming travelers to show a negative P.C.R. test taken within 48 hours before departure.

Justification: Some countries have cited concerns about Beijing’s perceived reluctance to share coronavirus data with the world and the potential risk of new variants emerging from China’s surging outbreak. However, many health experts have said that travel restrictions will not stop new variants.

Cases: Bloomberg reports that crematories in China are overflowing as people die of Covid.

Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the Temple Mount yesterday, two days after he took office as Israel’s national security minister. Palestinian and Arab leaders reacted with fury and condemnation.

The Temple Mount, a frequent flash point in Jerusalem, is a sacred site to both Muslims and Jews. But Palestinians and many Muslims view such visits, particularly by Israeli politicians with a nationalist and religious agenda, as part of an effort to alter its status and give Jewish worshipers more rights. (Muslims can pray there; Jews are not supposed to do so, though they are permitted to visit.)

Ben-Gvir’s visit, the first by a high-level Israeli official in years, defied threats of repercussions from the Islamic militant group Hamas. So far there has been no violent reaction. Ben-Gvir is an outspoken ultranationalist, and religious nationalists have increasingly demanded equal prayer rights for Jews.

Background: Tensions at the compound set off 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, has been widely credited as a factor that set off the second Palestinian intifada.

Tunisia’s road to democracy began with a self-immolation. These days, frustrated young people still light themselves on fire, but their acts of protest change nothing. Instead, they fill the country’s top hospital burn ward as Tunisia’s march toward democracy and prosperity fails.

The Times has a new seven-day happiness challenge, which offers advice on a crucial element of living a good life: your social ties and relationships.

The series is based on the longest-running in-depth study on human happiness in the world. For the past 85 years, researchers at Harvard have been tracking 724 participants, and, now, three generations of their descendants, asking detailed questions and taking DNA samples and brain scans.

From all the data, one very clear finding has emerged: Strong relationships are what make for a happy life. More than wealth, I.Q. or social class, it’s the robustness of our bonds that most determines whether we feel fulfilled.

To get started, take this quiz to assess the strength of your current relationships. Then, take stock of your current relationships and reach out to someone you love for a quick call.

Sign up for the rest of the challenge, here.


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