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MCCARTHY FAILS AND FAILS AGAIN

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MCCARTHY FAILS AND FAILS AGAIN

WASHINGTON (AP) — For a long and frustrating third day, divided Republicans kept the speaker’s chair of the U.S. House sitting empty Thursday, as party leader Kevin McCarthy failed again and again in an excruciating string of ballots to win enough GOP votes to seize the chamber’s gavel.

Pressure was building as McCarthy lost seventh, eighth and then historic ninth, 10th and 11th rounds of voting, surpassing the number 100 years ago, in a prolonged fight to choose a speaker in a disputed election. By nightfall, despite raucous protests from Democrats, Republicans voted to adjourn and return Friday to try again.

With McCarthy’s supporters and foes locked in stalemate, the House could not formally open for the new session of Congress. And feelings of boredom, desperation and annoyance seemed increasingly evident.

One McCarthy critic, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, cast votes for Donald Trump — a symbolic but pointed sign of the broad divisions over the Republican Party’s future. Then he went further, moving the day from protest toward the absurd in formally nominating the former president to be House speaker on the 11th ballot. Trump got one vote, from Gaetz, drawing laughter.

As night fell before the second anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters trying to overturn Joe Biden’s election, Democrats said it was time to get serious.

“This sacred House of Representatives needs a leader,” said Democrat Joe Neguse of Colorado, nominating his own party’s leader, Hakeem Jeffries, as speaker.

McCarthy could be seen talking, one on one, in whispered and animated conversations in the House chamber. His emissaries sidled up to holdouts, and grueling negotiations proceeded in the GOP whip’s office down the hall. McCarthy remained determined to persuade Republicans to end the paralyzing debate that has blighted his new GOP majority.

McCarthy’s leadership team had presented a core group of the Republican holdouts with a deal on paper for rules changes in exchange for their support, said one of the opponents, conservative Republican Ralph Norman of South Carolina, as he exited a late-day meeting. It included mandating 72 hours for bills to be posted before votes, among others, though details were scarce.

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Lest hopes get ahead of reality, he added, “This is round one.”

Holdouts led by the chamber’s Freedom Caucus are seeking ways to shrink the power of the speaker’s office and give rank-and-file lawmakers more influence — with seats on key committees and the ability to draft and amend bills in a more open process.

“We’re having good discussions and I think everyone wants to find a solution,” McCarthy told reporters hours earlier.

The House, which is one-half of Congress, is essentially at a standstill, unable to launch the new session, swear in elected members and conduct official business.

Yet, despite endless talks, signs of concessions and a public spectacle unlike any other in recent political memory, the path ahead remained highly uncertain. What started as a political novelty, the first time since 1923 a nominee had not won the gavel on the first vote, has devolved into a bitter Republican Party feud and deepening potential crisis.

Jeffries of New York won the most votes on every ballot but also remained short of a majority. McCarthy ran second, gaining no ground.

McCarthy resisted under growing pressure to somehow find the votes he needed or step aside so the House could open fully and get on with the business of governing.

The incoming Republican chairmen of the House’s Foreign Affairs, Armed Services and Intelligence committees all said national security was at risk.

“The Biden administration is going unchecked and there is no oversight of the White House,” Republicans Michael McCaul, Mike Rogers and Mike Turner wrote in a joint statement. “We cannot let personal politics place the safety and security of the United States at risk.”

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But McCarthy’s right-flank detractors led by the Freedom Caucus and aligned with Trump, appeared emboldened by the standoff — even though the former president publicly backed McCarthy.

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., the leader of the Freedom Caucus and a leader of Trump’s efforts to challenge the 2020 presidential election, asserted that McCarthy cannot be trusted, and tweeted his displeasure that negotiations over rule changes and other concessions were being made public.

“When confidences are betrayed and leaks are directed, it’s even more difficult to trust,” he tweeted.

Republican Party holdouts repeatedly put forward the name of Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, assuring the stalemate that increasingly carried undercurrents of race and politics would continue. They also put forward Republican Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, splitting the protest vote.

Donalds, who is Black, is seen as an emerging party leader and a GOP counterpoint to the Democratic leader, Jeffries, who is the first Black leader of a major political party in the U.S. Congress and on track himself to become speaker some day.

Another Black Republican, newly elected John James, nominated McCarthy on the seventh ballot as nominators became a roll call of the GOP’s rising stars. For the 10th it was newly elected Juan Ciscomani of Arizona, an immigrant from Mexico whose speech drew chants of “USA! USA!”

A new generation of conservative Republicans, many aligned with Trump’s Make America Great Again agenda, want to upend business as usual in Washington and are committed to stopping McCarthy’s rise without concessions to their priorities.

To win support, McCarthy has already agreed to many of the demands of his opponents.

One of the holdouts’ key asks is to reinstate a rule that would allow a single lawmaker to seek a motion to vacate the chair — essentially to call a House vote to oust the speaker. It’s the same rule a previous era of tea party Republicans used to threaten the removal of GOP Speaker John Boehner, and McCarthy has resisted reinstating it.

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But those opposing McCarthy do not all have the same complaints, and he may never be able to win over some of them. Several Republicans appear unwilling to ever vote for McCarthy.

Ballots kept producing almost the same outcome, 20 conservative holdouts still refusing to support McCarthy and leaving him far short of the 218 typically needed to win the gavel.

In fact, McCarthy saw his support slipping to 201, as one fellow Republican switched to vote simply present, and later to 200. With just a 222-seat GOP majority, he could not spare votes.

Thursday was a third long day. Ahead of the Jan. 6 anniversary, a prolonged and divisive speaker’s fight would underscore the fragility of American democracy after the attempted insurrection two years ago.

Colorado Republican Ken Buck sat out several votes after saying Wednesday that he told McCarthy “he needs to figure out how to make a deal to move forward” or eventually step aside for someone else.

The disorganized start to the new Congress pointed to difficulties ahead with Republicans now in control of the House, much the way that some past Republican speakers, including John Boehner, had trouble leading a rebellious right flank. The result: government shutdowns, standoffs and Boehner’s early retirement.

The longest fight for the gavel started in late 1855 and dragged on for two months, with 133 ballots, during debates over slavery in the run-up to the Civil War.

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AP writers Mary Clare Jalonick and Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

The patience of Memorial Day weekend travelers was tested Thursday by widespread delays across the country, but there were relatively few canceled flights, raising hopes that airlines can handle bigger crowds expected Friday.

By early evening on the East Coast, more than 6,000 flights had been delayed Thursday, with the biggest backups at the three major airports in the New York City area and Dallas-Fort Worth International.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

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Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

The Transportation Security Administration predicted that Friday will be the busiest day for air travel over the holiday weekend, with nearly 3 million people expected to pass through airport checkpoints. It could rival the record of 2.9 million, set on the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year.

“Airports are going to be more packed than we have seen in 20 years,” said Aixa Diaz, a spokesperson for AAA.

When they aren’t waiting out flight delays, travelers are reporting sticker shock at the prices.

At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Larisa Latimer of New Lenox, Illinois, said her airfare was reasonable but other expenses for a getaway to New Orleans were not.

 

 

 

 

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Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

“I just have to make the accommodation,” she said. “The rental car is up … this year, the hotel accommodations were very unusually expensive.”

Kathy Larko of Fort Meyers, Florida, used frequent-flyer miles — and some flexible scheduling — to pay for her trip to Chicago.

“I’m really conscious of looking at the cost of the entire trip. We’re staying a little farther out than we normally would” to get a lower hotel rate, she said. “We’re also flying back a day later, because we could get cheaper miles.”

More travelers will be on the road. AAA estimates that 43.8 million people will venture at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from home between Thursday and Monday, with 38 million of them taking vehicles.

 
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Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Airport unions are using the holiday weekend to highlight their demands.

About 100 workers who clean airplane cabins and drive trash trucks at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, started a 24-hour strike Thursday, demanding better pay and healthcare, according to the Service Employees International Union. About 15% of flights were delayed, but it was unclear whether the strike played any role.

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A planned strike at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York was averted, however. Teamsters Local 553, which represents about 300 workers who refuel passenger and cargo jets at JFK, said that it reached a settlement with Allied Aviation Services and called off a walkout planned for Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

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“We are happy an agreement has been reached, a need for a strike averted, and we are hopeful that the deal will be ratified by our members,” said Demos Demopoulos, the secretary-treasurer of the local.

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Associated Press video journalist Melissa Perez Winder in Chicago and Associated Press radio reporter Shelley Adler in Washington contributed to this report.

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas’ health department has appointed an outspoken anti-abortion OB-GYN to a committee that reviews pregnancy-related deaths as doctors have been warning that the state’s restrictive abortion ban puts women’s lives at risk.

Dr. Ingrid Skop was among the new appointees to the Texas Maternal Morality and Morbidity Review Committee announced last week by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Her term starts June 1.

The committee, which compiles data on pregnancy-related deaths, makes recommendations to the Legislature on best practices and policy changes and is expected to assess the impact of abortion laws on maternal mortality.

Skop, who has worked as an OB-GYN for over three decades, is vice president and director of medical affairs for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion research group. Skop will be the committee’s rural representative.

Skop, who has worked in San Antonio for most of her career, told the Houston Chronicle that she has “often cared for women traveling long distances from rural Texas maternity deserts, including women suffering complications from abortions.”

Texas has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the U.S., and doctors have sought clarity on the state’s medical exemption, which allows an abortion to save a woman’s life or prevent the impairment of a major bodily function. Doctors have said the exemption is too vague, making it difficult to offer life-saving care for fear of repercussions. A doctor convicted of providing an illegal abortion in Texas can face up to 99 years in prison and a $100,000 fine and lose their medical license.

Skop has said medical associations are not giving doctors the proper guidance on the matter. She has also shared more controversial views, saying during a congressional hearing in 2021 that rape or incest victims as young as 9 or 10 could carry pregnancies to term.

Texas’ abortion ban has no exemption for cases of rape or incest.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which says abortion is “inherently tied to maternal health,” said in a statement that members of the Texas committee should be “unbiased, free of conflicts of interest and focused on the appropriate standards of care.” The organization noted that bias against abortion has already led to “compromised” analyses, citing a research articles co-authored by Skop and others affiliated with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

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Earlier this year a medical journal retracted studies supported by the Charlotte Lozier Institute claiming to show harms of the abortion pill mifepristone, citing conflicts of interests by the authors and flaws in their research. Two of the studies were cited in a pivotal Texas court ruling that has threatened access to the drug.

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

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The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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