10 things you need to know today: January 19, 2024

Congress averts a government shutdown, DOJ report cites failures in police response to Texas school shooting, and more

House Speaker Mike Johnson
House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.)
(Image credit: Julia Nikhinson / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

1. Congress averts a government shutdown

Congress on Thursday approved a stopgap measure to keep the federal government funded into March, sending it to President Joe Biden for his signature just before a deadline to avoid a partial government shutdown. The legislation — the third short-term spending deal since October — extends the deadlines to March 1 and March 8, giving lawmakers time to pass a dozen spending bills totaling $1.66 trillion to fund government agencies through the fall. The shutdown would have affected about 20% of the federal government, including the Transportation Department. The House passed the bill in a 314-108 vote over the strong objections of far-right Republicans, who had demanded deeper spending cuts and a crackdown on immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border. The New York Times, The Washington Post

2. DOJ report finds 'cascading failures' during Texas school shooting

The Justice Department on Thursday released a long-awaited report on the "cascading failures" in the slow law enforcement response to the May 2022 school shooting that left 19 students and their two teachers dead at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The report said no one took full command and attempted to stop the gunman from killing people after he shut himself into adjoining classrooms. Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a news conference in Uvalde that the best way to honor the victims was working to "prevent anything like this" from happening again. "Law enforcement response at Robb Elementary School on May 24 and in the hours and days after was a failure that should not have happened," Garland said. Austin American-Statesman

3. Netanyahu opposes Palestinian state in postwar Gaza

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday rejected U.S. calls for a path to establishing a Palestinian state after Israel's war with Hamas in Gaza. Netanyahu said he told the Biden administration he opposes including the creation of a Palestinian state in postwar plans. He also reiterated Israel's plan to continue its offensive in Gaza until it achieves a "decisive victory over Hamas." The comments came a day after Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Israel would never have "genuine security" until Palestinians were on track toward independence. The U.S. has also been pressing Israel to reduce the intensity of the fighting to protect civilians. The Hill, The Associated Press

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4. Defamation trial judge shuts down Trump lawyer

The judge in Donald Trump's defamation trial denied a request for a delay from Trump's lawyer Alina Habba as the former president attended the funeral of his mother-in-law in Florida. It was not the first time Habba had cited the funeral as a reason to slow the trial. "The application is denied. I will hear no further argument on it," U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan said. Kaplan later lost patience with Habba as she cross-examined E. Jean Carroll, who accused Trump of raping her in the 1990s then sued for defamation when he called her a liar. "Come on, this is Evidence 101!" Kaplan said as Habba grilled Carroll about her social media history and how much money she makes. The New Republic, CNBC

5. Biden says strikes against Houthis will continue

President Joe Biden said Thursday that U.S. attacks against Houthi rebels in Yemen would continue as long as the militant group continued launching missiles and drones at ships in the Red Sea. The fifth round of U.S. strikes "took out a range of Houthi missiles" that had been readied to be fired, White House spokesperson John Kirby said Thursday. The strikes came after a Houthi drone struck a U.S. ship. The Houthis started attacking vessels in the Red Sea last year to show support for Hamas in its war with Israel. A Houthi leader said in a televised speech it was a "great honor" for the group to be in "direct confrontation" with Israel, the United States and Britain. BBC

6. Drugmakers hiked prices in first 2 weeks of 2024

Pharmaceutical companies raised prices for their medicines by a median 4.5% at the start of 2024, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing an analysis by 46brooklyn Research, a nonprofit drug-pricing analytics group. The list prices for widely used drugs, including Ozempic and Mounjaro, were among those hiked. Ozempic maker Novo Nordisk, Mounjaro maker Eli Lilly and other companies raised prices on 775 brand-name drugs in the first two weeks of January, according to the Journal. The increases were not as big as hikes in previous years, but still higher than inflation, which hit 3.4% in December, so they could increase scrutiny from the Biden administration as it works to reduce federal drug spending. The Wall Street Journal

7. Hunter Biden agrees to House deposition

Hunter Biden has agreed to appear for a closed-door deposition before the House Oversight Committee in February, ending months of wrangling over his testimony, the committee's chair, Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), said Thursday. Republicans want to question Hunter Biden about foreign business dealings they claim, without evidence, benefited President Joe Biden; the White House says that's untrue. "The president's son is a key witness in this investigation and he's gonna be able to come in now and sit down and answer questions in a substantive, orderly manner," Comer said. Hunter Biden had resisted testifying behind closed doors, calling the House's first subpoena invalid and offering a public hearing instead. USA Today, The Associated Press

8. Judge schedules hearing on Fani Willis allegation

The judge overseeing former President Donald Trump's criminal election-subversion case in Georgia scheduled a Feb. 15 hearing on a co-defendant's allegation that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is romantically involved with Nathan Wade, a top prosecutor she hired for the case. The accusation surfaced last week in a court filing by lawyers for Trump 2020 campaign operative Mike Roman. Trump said Willis was "totally compromised" and the case should be dropped. Lawyers for Wade's estranged wife, Joycelyn Wade, subpoenaed Willis to give a pretrial deposition in the couple's divorce case. Willis' lawyer filed to quash the deposition, writing that Joycelyn Wade "has conspired with interested parties in the criminal election interference case" to use the divorce case to "embarrass" Willis. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Hill

9. Spelman College receives a record donation

A billionaire couple, Ronda Stryker and her husband William Johnston, announced Thursday they were giving $100 million to Atlanta's Spelman College. The women's school said the gift from Stryker — a longtime Spelman board member and the granddaughter of medical-device maker Stryker Corp.'s founder — and Johnston, chair of money management firm Greenleaf Trust, was the largest single donation ever received by a historically Black college or university. HBCUs have received increased donations since the police killing of George Floyd sparked a wave of racial justice protests, helping them add to small endowments. "I think it says that it's worth investing in HBCUs more broadly, schools that have been far too underinvested in," Spelman College President Helene Gayle told CBS News. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, CBS News

10. Peregrine lunar lander meets a fiery end

The Peregrine lunar lander burned up over the South Pacific Ocean as it reentered Earth's atmosphere Thursday, after a fuel leak had prevented it from landing on the moon. Peregrine, made by Astrobotic Technology, would have been the first U.S. spacecraft to make a soft lunar landing since the 1972 Apollo 17 mission, and the first private venture ever to accomplish the feat. It launched successfully on Jan. 8 atop a Vulcan Centaur rocket developed by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing. But hours into Peregrine's solo flight the leak forced Astrobotic to scrap the moon mission. The company tested scientific instruments and other systems instead before crashing the lander into the atmosphere. CNN, BBC

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