Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 5, 2023

Republicans again fail to elect Kevin McCarthy as House speaker, Pope Francis presides over Pope Emeritus Benedict's funeral, and more

1

House adjourns for 2nd day without electing speaker

The House adjourned Wednesday night after Republicans failed to pick a speaker in a sixth vote, with a group of hardline conservatives blocking the election of the party's leader, Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Twenty far-right Republicans on Wednesday voted for Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), the GOP's first Black nominee for speaker, despite a call from former President Donald Trump to rally behind McCarthy. McCarthy's support fell to 201 votes on Wednesday from 203 the day before, short of the 218 needed. Democrats remained united behind their leader, Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who earned 212 votes. McCarthy, who has already made concessions on proposed House rules, met with holdouts late Wednesday, but said there was "no deal yet." The House meets again Thursday.

2

Pope Francis presides over late Pope Emeritus Benedict's funeral

An estimated 100,000 Catholics and other mourners gathered Thursday on St Peter's Square for the funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who died Saturday at age 95. Pope Francis, who arrived outside St. Peter's Basilica in a wheelchair, presided over the Mass and praised his predecessor. "Benedict," Francis said, "may your joy be complete as you hear his voice, now and forever!" Benedict was the first pope in 600 years to resign. His funeral marks the first time in the Catholic church's modern history that an incumbent pope has buried his predecessor. In what The Washington Post described as "a touching final moment between two men of God," Pope Francis put his hand on Benedict's coffin before the ceremony concluded.

3

Biden, McConnell appear jointly at bridge project to tout bipartisan accomplishment

President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made a joint appearance Wednesday to tout $1.6 billion in federal spending on a bridge repair project under a bipartisan infrastructure law. Beside "Building a Better America" signs near the Brent Spence Bridge over the Ohio River in McConnell's home state of Kentucky, Biden and McConnell used the event to showcase bipartisan accomplishments. "If you look at the alignment of everyone involved in this, it's the government working together to solve a major problem," McConnell said. The event contrasted with GOP infighting over the election of the next House speaker, which Biden called "a little embarrassing" earlier in the day as he left the White House.

4

Coinbase to pay $50 million fine in settlement with N.Y. regulators

Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has agreed to pay New York regulators a $50 million fine after an investigation indicated it allowed customers to open accounts without sufficient background checks, the New York State Department of Financial Services announced Wednesday. Under the settlement, Coinbase will have to pump $50 million into its compliance program. The money will help the U.S.-based exchange block criminals, including drug traffickers and child pornography sellers, from establishing accounts. The settlement marked the latest setback for a cryptocurrency trading industry still reeling from the November collapse of FTX, once the world's second biggest crypto exchange.

5

Biden to visit U.S.-Mexico border for 1st time as president

President Biden announced Wednesday that he planned to visit the border next week on his way to Mexico City for the North American Leaders' Summit. "I'm just going to see what's going on," Biden said. It will be Biden's first trip to the border as president. He also said he would deliver a speech Thursday addressing border security. Republican lawmakers, and some Democrats, have criticized Biden for not making the trip sooner despite a surge of migrants seeking to enter the United States across the southern border. Biden didn't specify where on the nearly 2,000-mile border he would go. 

6

Idaho killings suspect back in state to face charges

Authorities on Wednesday transferred Bryan Kohberger, the suspect in the murders of four University of Idaho students in November, from his home state of Pennsylvania to Idaho to face charges in the case. Kohberger, a criminal justice graduate student in Washington state, was arrested at his parents' house after driving home with his father for the holidays. An FBI surveillance team tracked him for four days before his arrest, after his DNA was matched to evidence from the home where the students were killed, and police traced ownership of a white Hyundai Elantra seen near the crime scene to him. Victims Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20, were fatally stabbed in an off-campus home in Moscow, Idaho.

7

College admissions scandal mastermind sentenced to 3.5 years in prison

A judge on Wednesday sentenced William "Rick" Singer, the mastermind behind the "Varsity Blues" college admissions bribery scandal, to three and a half years in prison. Federal prosecutors had asked for a six-year sentence; defense lawyers had asked for probation, or at most six months in prison. Singer, 62, cooperated with the FBI, which recorded phone calls and meetings that led to the arrests of dozens of parents and college coaches in 2019. Those convicted and sentenced to prison time include Full House actress Lori Loughlin; her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli; and Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman. Prosecutors said Singer's conspiracy "massively corrupted" a college admissions process that "already favors those with wealth and privilege."

8

GM takes back car-sale crown from Toyota

General Motors on Wednesday reported that its 2022 sales were up 2.5 percent compared to 2021, despite ongoing supply problems and cooling demand due to rising loan interest rates. GM said its U.S. dealers sold 2,274,088 vehicles, enough to vault it past Toyota to become the top selling automaker in the United States, a title it lost in 2021. GM dealers sold 623,261 new vehicles in the fourth quarter, a 41 percent jump compared to the same period a year earlier. Chevy sales rose 6 percent. Cadillac and GMC gained 14 percent and 7 percent, respectively. A 44 percent increase in fleet sales over the course of the year helped.

9

Japan offers families payments to relocate from overcrowded Tokyo

Japan is offering families 1 million yen — about $7,700 — per child to move out of Tokyo and into less-populated areas. The program, which starts in April, is designed to relieve overcrowding in the capital city area, which has about 37 million residents, and give a boost to towns in the countryside impacted by the country's falling birth rate. The Japanese government already offers incentives for migrating to underpopulated areas, but the new sum is three times the current one. People across the country have been crowding into urban areas seeking work.

10

Winter storm slams California

A powerful bomb cyclone hit Northern California's Pacific coast Wednesday night with heavy precipitation and hurricane-force winds. The violent storm downed trees, killing at least one person, a child. The intense rain and extremely heavy snow fell over much of the state, and parts of southern Oregon late Wednesday and early Thursday. The storm had cut off power to about 174,000 customers in Northern and Central California as of late Wednesday, with most of the outages reported in coastal counties. "The weather system is intense, and we are going to see falling trees due to soil saturation, flooding, mudslides and landslides, and more," Megan McFarland, a PG&E representative, told SFGATE.

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