Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: April 3, 2017

The Senate Judiciary Committee heads into its Gorsuch vote, South Carolina wins the women's NCAA basketball title, and more

1

Senate committee to vote on Gorsuch nomination

The Republican push to confirm President Trump's Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, heads into a final showdown this week, with the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled to vote on the nomination on Monday. The committee's GOP majority is expected to send Gorsuch's nomination to the full Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has promised that the Senate will confirm Gorsuch by Friday. Democrats have enough votes to block a final vote with a filibuster, and despite help from four Democrats, Republicans are still several votes short of the 60 votes they need to get past the filibuster. GOP leaders have indicated that they would change Senate rules on confirming Supreme Court justices if necessary, ditching the filibuster and allowing final votes to be called with a simple majority, a change that would alter the way justices are confirmed in the future.

2

South Carolina beats Mississippi State to win NCAA women's basketball title

The South Carolina Gamecocks beat the Mississippi State Bulldogs 67-55 to win the team's first women's NCAA basketball championship on Sunday. South Carolina was led by junior center A'ja Wilson, who scored 23 points and 10 rebounds. Both teams were playing in the title game for the first time. The Bulldogs earned their shot at the championship with an upset victory in the Final Four that ended a 111-game winning streak for tournament favorite and four-time defending champion UConn. The Gamecocks kept Mississippi State to 34 percent shooting in their third victory over the Bulldogs this season.

3

Paul and Trump continue ObamaCare replacement talks on golf course

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and President Trump discussed the ongoing GOP negotiations on replacing ObamaCare at Trump's golf club in Virginia on Sunday. "We had a great day with the president," Paul told the White House press pool after his round of golf with the president. "Played some golf, and we talked and we talked about a little bit of health care. I continue to be very optimistic that we are getting closer and closer to an agreement on repealing ObamaCare." Paul criticized the House GOP leadership's health proposal, dismissing it as "ObamaCare lite" and siding with conservatives who helped defeat the legislation. Trump last week harshly criticized Republicans who opposed the plan, but he tweeted Sunday that talks "will continue until such time as a deal is hopefully struck."

4

Trump says U.S. will handle North Korea alone if China won't help

President Trump said in an interview published Sunday in the Financial Times that he would take unilateral action to rein in North Korea if China won't help. "China will either decide to help us with North Korea or they won't," Trump said in the interview. "If they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don't, it won't be good for anyone." North Korea has conducted a series of nuclear weapon and missile tests in recent months in defiance of international warnings. Last month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said during a visit to South Korea that the U.S. was leaving military action on the table as it considered options for curbing Pyongyang's weapons programs.

5

Kushner makes surprise visit to Iraq

Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, made an unannounced trip to Iraq over the weekend with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Joseph Dunford, a senior U.S. official said Sunday. The official said that Kushner wanted to show his support for Iraq's government, and get a better understanding of conditions in the country. Trump has given Kushner several major responsibilities, including working on peace in the Middle East. Trump met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi last month. Al-Abadi said he was told the U.S. would provide additional support in the fight against the Islamic State.

6

Haley says Trump is not going easy on Russia

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Sunday that President Trump had never discouraged her from "beating up on Russia" even as federal investigators look into possible cooperation between Trump associates and Russia during last year's campaign. Haley said there was no doubt that Russia tried to interfere in the U.S. presidential election, and that she would support a strong response once the investigations into the meddling are complete. "We don't want any country involved in our elections, ever," Haley said. "We need to be very strong on that." Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to deny Russia used hacking and information leaks to help Trump beat his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

7

South Korean ship goes missing in South Atlantic

A South Korean freighter, the Stellar Daisy, went missing in the South Atlantic on Sunday. One of the vessel's 22 crew members sent a text message on Friday saying that the 148,000-ton ship was taking on water. Two Filipino crew members were found in a life raft and rescued on Saturday. Other lifeboats also were found in the area, but they were empty. The ship was carrying 260,000 tons of iron ore from Brazil to China. Rescue crews are continuing to search for survivors. "The more hours pass, the less the chances are of finding them," Gaston Jaunsolo, the spokesman for the Uruguayan navy told Reuters.

8

Both sides claim victory in Ecuador presidential election

Lenín Moreno of leftist President Rafael Correa's ruling party appeared to have beaten conservative former banker Guillermo Lasso in Ecuador's presidential election, leading 51 percent to 49 percent with nearly all of the votes counted in Sunday's second-round runoff. Lasso, however, refused to concede after three exit polls showed him winning, and vowed to challenge the vote count, urging supporters to protest peacefully. "This is very sickening. We're not going to allow it," Lasso said. Both sides claimed victory. Correa accused Lasso supporters of trying to stir up violence, and Moreno said he would start working on his transition.

9

U.K. leaders balk at discussing Gibraltar in Brexit negotiations

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Monday that the sovereignty of Gibraltar would not change as part of Britain's exit from the European Union. British leaders bristled after the EU on Friday released draft negotiation guidelines saying the status of the British outpost on the tip of the Iberian Peninsula would have to be approved by Spain, which has long claimed Gibraltar as its own. Over the weekend, a former leader of British Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party said the U.K. would be willing to defend Gibraltar as it did the Falkland Islands off Argentina 35 years ago. Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said his government was surprised to see British leaders "losing their cool" over Gibraltar. Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders called for calm, saying, "You can now see how difficult the divorce is."

10

UNC and Gonzaga prepare for NCAA title game

The University of North Carolina and Gonzaga square off Monday night in the championship game of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Gonzaga advanced to its first appearance in the title game by beating South Carolina 77-73 in the Final Four. The Tar Heels, who won their spot in the finals with a 77-76 win over Oregon, will be playing in their record 20th title game, and their second straight, after losing to Villanova on a last second 3-pointer last year.

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