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

The 118th Congress took office on Tuesday.Credit…Kenny Holston/The New York Times

McCarthy twice fails Speaker vote

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 is dealing with a surge of Covid cases after it abruptly abandoned its “zero Covid” strategy.Credit…Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock

China denounces travel restrictions

Beijing lashed out yesterday against Covid testing requirements imposed by more than a dozen countries on travelers coming from China, and threatened to take countermeasures.

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 site under heavy guard yesterday morning.Credit…Ammar Awad/Reuters

A provocation in Israel

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.


Asia Pacific

For the Philippines, a deeply Catholic nation, the timing heightened the sense of tragedy.Credit…Bureau of Fire Protection/EPA, via Shutterstock
  • The fatal Christmas Day floods in the Philippines have displaced thousands.

  • Japan’s plan to raise its ceiling on bond purchases sent a jolt through global markets, which have long relied on its ultralow interest rates.

  • Japan is offering families one million yen — about $7,600 — to move from Tokyo to regions with aging and declining populations, The Guardian reports.

  • South Korea and the U.S. are discussing joint nuclear planning to counter North Korea, Reuters reports.

  • From Opinion: Ajai Shukla, a strategic affairs analyst and former Indian Army officer, explains why China and India are fighting in the Himalayas.

The War in Ukraine

  • Ukraine said it shot down all of the exploding drones Russia launched this year as it grows more able to resist the assault on its infrastructure.

  • Russian military bloggers have avoided criticizing President Vladimir Putin for Ukraine’s attack in Donetsk. Instead, they targeted incompetent officials and the West.

  • National gas prices in Europe fell to pre-invasion levels, thanks to warm weather, alternatives to Russian gas and a buildup of storage.

  • The U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division has deployed to Europe for the first time since World War II. Troops are stationed in Romania, a seven-minute rocket flight from Russian stockpiles of munitions in Crimea.

Around the World

Sofiane Bennacer, center right, is under police investigation on rape charges.Credit…Guillaume Horcajuelo/EPA, via Shutterstock
  • The César Awards, France’s top film honors, will bar nominees convicted of or under investigation for sexual assault from next month’s ceremony.

  • Brazilian officials estimate that 230,000 Brazilians paid their respects to Pelé at a stadium in Santos, the city he made famous as the star of its soccer club.

  • Damar Hamlin, a 24-year-old football player, is in critical condition after going into cardiac arrest during a game. Fans are complicit in the violence of the lucrative sport, Kurt Streeter writes in an analysis.

A Morning Read

Dr. Behija Gasri struggles to hold onto the surge of hope she had felt during the revolution.Credit…Zied Ben Romdhane for The New York Times

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.


Credit…Jon Han

The happiness challenge

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.


What to Cook

Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times

Overnight oats are a creamy and easy breakfast.

What to Watch

On the Netflix show “Mind Your Manners,” Sara Jane Ho brings practicality, and an East-meets-West perspective, to etiquette.


A French photographer documented Los Angeles’s video game parlors.


Expect solar eclipses this year. (Sync your calendar to never miss one.)

Now Time to Play

Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Per person (four letters).

Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia

P.S. Myanmar gained its independence 75 years ago today.

“The Daily” is on Kevin McCarthy’s bid for U.S. House Speaker.

You can reach Amelia and the team at [email protected].

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