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10 things you need to know today: February 8, 2017

Pence casts tie-breaking vote to confirm Betsy DeVos, Yemen suspends permission for U.S. commando missions, and more


Pence casts tie-breaking vote as Senate confirms Betsy DeVos

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Betsy DeVos as education secretary by one vote after a bitter fight. Vice President Mike Pence cast the deciding vote after senators split 50-50, with Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joining all 48 Democrats in opposition to President Trump's pick to run the Education Department. It was the first time in U.S. history that a vice president had to break a tie vote in a Cabinet confirmation vote. DeVos' supporters said the Michigan billionaire's support for school voucher and charter school programs showed that she was a reformer committed to making the U.S. education system better. Her opponents, including teachers' unions, said her inexperience and opposition to traditional public schools would weaken the education system.


Yemen reportedly withdraws permission for U.S. commando missions

Yemen, upset over civilian deaths in the Trump administration's first anti-terror raid, withdrew permission for the U.S. to conduct Special Operations ground missions against terrorist groups in the country, The New York Times reported Tuesday. Neither Yemen nor the U.S. immediately confirmed the decision. During the raid, several civilians, including children, reportedly were killed in a firefight between Navy SEALs and members of the local al Qaeda affiliate. A member of SEAL Team 6, Chief Petty Officer William "Ryan" Owens, also was killed. The White House has declared the mission to be a success, saying the team gathered valuable intelligence.


Army to grant easement to complete Dakota Access Pipeline

The Army said in a Tuesday court filing that it would grant the final permit necessary to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline. The move would reverse a decision by the Obama administration to have the Army Corps of Engineers study alternative routes for the final stretch of the pipeline, which passes near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, under a tribal water source. The tribe and its supporters have been protesting the construction for months, saying it threatens the tribe's water supply and sacred Native American sites. The Seattle City Council on Tuesday voted to stop using Wells Fargo for financial services because it is an investor in the pipeline.


Judges grill lawyers on Trump travel ban

Three federal appeals court judges on Tuesday night posed sharp questions to lawyers on both sides of a challenge to President Trump's executive actions on immigration and refugees. The judges appeared unimpressed with Justice Department lawyer August E. Flentje's argument that the courts should not be questioning President Trump's decision on a targeted travel ban aiming to control immigration from seven predominantly Muslim nations. Judge Richard Clifton, a George W. Bush appointee, also said he was "not persuaded" by Washington state Solicitor General Noah G. Purcell's argument that a lower court ruling suspending the ban should be upheld because Trump's order violates the Constitution by favoring one religion over another. The court's ruling, expected later this week, is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court.


Warren silenced in Senate during Sessions confirmation debate

Republicans in the Senate passed a vote rebuking Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) for impugning the character of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) by reading past statements made against him by the late Coretta Scott King and other figures during debate over Sessions' nomination to be attorney general. King, the widow of slain human rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., opposed Sessions' 1986 nomination to be a federal judge, saying that as an Alabama prosecutor he had "used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that violated a Senate rule against impugning colleagues, and senators voted to rebuke Warren in a 49 to 43 party-line vote.


Homeland Security chief says he should have discussed travel ban with Congress

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Tuesday told members of the House Homeland Security Committee that he should have delayed the implementation of President Trump's temporary ban on refugees and some immigrants for a couple of days. He said a delay would have given him time to alert Congress and prepare Homeland Security staff to make the implementation smoother. "In retrospect, I should have delayed it just a bit to talk to congressional leaders to prepare them for what was coming," Kelly said. He defended the policy, however, saying he believed it was "lawful and constitutional."


Haiti's president takes office after year-long political crisis

Haiti's new president, Jovenel Moise, took the oath of office on Tuesday, ending a political crisis that lasted more than a year. Moise was an unknown banana farmer and auto parts dealer before his predecessor, former President Michel Martelly, hand-picked him to run for the office as his successor. Moise won an election in October 2015, but it was annulled due to alleged fraud, leaving Senate President Jocelerme Privert to assume the presidency vacant when Martelly left office in February 2016. Moise won again when new elections were held in November, after a final one-month delay due to Hurricane Matthew. Four senators and several members of Parliament's lower chamber boycotted the swearing-in ceremony due to a money-laundering investigation Moise faces.


Putin signs law decriminalizing minor domestic violence

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday signed a law decriminalizing some forms of domestic violence. The legislation, known as the "slapping law," downgrades a first offense of domestic violence that does not cause serious injury, making it just an administrative offense with a fine of up to about $500, up to 15 days in jail, or up to 120 hours of community service. Conservatives said the bill reinforced traditional values by respecting the authority of family heads, and brought family law in line with 2016 reforms easing punishment for other minor assaults. One of the bill's sponsors was conservative senator Yelena Mizulina, who wrote Russia's controversial law against "gay propaganda." Human Rights Watch called the law "dangerous."


Tornadoes injure dozens in New Orleans area

At least seven tornadoes hit New Orleans and the surrounding area on Tuesday, damaging numerous homes and injuring at least 28 people. "Any time you have a tornado in a metro area it's not good, regardless of its intensity," said Patrick Marsh, meteorologist at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma. Mayor Mitch Landrieu said rescue workers were searching house to house to see if any survivors were trapped under debris. "If you're under the hoof of a tornado, you lose everything really, really quickly," Landrieu said.


Fans celebrate Patriots' Super Bowl win with Boston parade

Tens of thousands of fans lined Boston streets on Tuesday for a parade celebrating the New England Patriots' Super Bowl LI win. Team members traveled through the city on vintage amphibious "duck boats" through bursts of red, white, and blue confetti. Owner Robert Kraft held the Lombardi trophy above his head, and quarterback Tom Brady played catch with fans who threw footballs to him. Brady has now led his team to five Super Bowl wins. "I told you we were going to bring this sucker home, and we brought it home!" he told the crowd.


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