Skip Navigation
Breaking News

The Ticker

Breaking news from Washington and beyond

Illustration by Dave Murray

Kansas Republicans Introduce Bill to Ban Abortion, Even After Voters Said It Should Be Legal

Kansans overwhelmingly voted to protect the right to abortion in an August referendum. Now state Republicans want to overrule the will of the voters and ban it anyway.

A sign in the forefront reads "Stop the Ban Vote No August 2 on the constitutional amendment." Two people stand in the background wearing masks.
Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

Republican lawmakers in Kansas have introduced a bill that would allow individual cities and counties to ban abortion, directly overriding a vote last year where the majority of state residents chose to protect reproductive rights.

Almost 60 percent of Kansans voted in August to keep the right to an abortion in the state Constitution. The result was considered—and turned out to be—a bellwether for the fight for reproductive rights after the fall of Roe v. Wade a few months earlier.

But on Thursday, Kansas state Senator Chase Blasi introduced a bill that would allow cities and counties to enact abortion restrictions, arguing he was taking the issue to “a more local level.”

Blasi apparently subscribes to the belief “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” If it becomes law, his bill would undermine the voters’ decision from August.

“The irony of this bill is too much,” Anamarie Rebori Simmons, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, told The New Republic. “The party that tried to remove fundamental protections from the state Constitution didn’t get the outcome they wanted when Kansans overwhelmingly supported abortion access. This is an attempt to blatantly disregard the will of the people. Abortion rights won in a landslide, including in the home county of the bill’s sponsor. Politicians serve as the voice of the people in the legislature, and Republican lawmakers should know better than to silence those they represent.”

Kansas allows abortion up to 22 weeks, but the state also has multiple rules aimed at discouraging people from getting abortions, such as requiring patients to receive state-directed counseling and to undergo an ultrasound before getting the procedure. The ultrasound provider must offer the patient the option to see the image.

Democratic state Senator Cindy Holscher slammed the bill as an attempt by “extremists” to “find another path” to increase restrictions on abortion and said the measure will likely go to court if it passes.

It’s not the only bill attacking reproductive rights: State Senator Mark Steffen also introduced a bill that would ban the prescription via telemedicine of abortion pills or drugs used to induce abortions.

Ashley All, a senior advisor for the reproductive freedom nonprofit Families United for Freedom, slammed the Blasi bill’s hypocrisy. “It’s important to remember that the amendment on the ballot in August specifically asked voters’ permission for politicians to further regulate abortion and voters said NO,” she told The New Republic. “These extreme anti-abortion politicians are ignoring the will of Kansas voters and attempting to eliminate our constitutional rights.”

Neither bill is likely to become state law. Kansas Governor Laura Kelly supports abortion rights and thus will probably veto them both should they make it to her desk. But the legislation is an indication that the attempts to limit reproductive freedom are only getting more intense.

This post has been updated.

After World’s Worst Investigation, Supreme Court Says It Can’t Find Who Leaked the Abortion Ruling

Here are all the holes in the Supreme Court’s effort to find who leaked the decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The Supreme Court has spent months investigating who might have leaked the draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, and the results released Thursday can best be paraphrased as such: “IDK, bro.”

The leaked draft last May caused widespread outrage, both in and outside the highest U.S. court. Protesters took to the streets, demanding the justices protect the right to abortion, but Chief Justice John Roberts was more concerned about the sanctity of the court, calling the leak a “betrayal of the confidences of the Court.” He assigned the marshal of the court and her team to investigate the source of the leak.

After a months-long investigation, the team announced Thursday it is “unable to identify a person responsible by a preponderance of the evidence.”

The court also consulted Michael Chertoff, a former secretary of homeland security, who confirmed the marshal “undertook a thorough investigation.”

Except … maybe not so much.

Investigators conducted 126 interviews of 97 court personnel, many of which were reportedly short and not exactly in-depth. Employees were asked to turn over the call and text logs from their personal cell phones, but investigators found “nothing relevant” in the records. Investigators also examined employees’ search histories to see if anyone was essentially stupid enough to Google, “Is it illegal for me to leak a Supreme Court draft opinion?” It appears no one was.

Several personnel admitted they had told their partners about the opinion draft, which violates the court’s confidentiality rules. It is unclear whether those staffers will face disciplinary measures and, more importantly, whether their partners were also questioned as potential leakers.

What’s more, the marshal’s report doesn’t specify whether any of the justices themselves were questioned, focusing instead on “Court personnel” and “temporary … and permanent employees.”

There has been plenty of speculation about who might have leaked the draft and why, but one thing is clear: This investigation was never going to give us those answers.

School Districts Across the Country Are Getting Electric Buses

Thousands of electric school buses will soon be in service and help cut greenhouse gas emissions, thanks to a major government investment.

Row of 6 yellow electric school buses in a parking lot
Christinne Muschi/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Nearly 500,000 school buses carry 25 million children to school across the country every day. And now America is in a full-swing effort to replace those buses with electric ones, setting the country on the path to cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than five million tons—equivalent to removing one million cars from the road.

Though states have begun transitioning buses for years, the nationwide project follows the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which commissioned $5 billion toward the effort to replace old, diesel-fueled buses with new cleaner vehicles. The first round of funding distributed nearly $1 billion to districts in states nationwide, including Washington, D.C., and territories including Puerto Rico and Guam.

Such investments not only save millions in emissions and in fuel costs but also correlate to better health and academic outcomes for children: better school attendance, lower rates of asthma, and stronger general respiratory health and cognitive functioning. While electric buses may come at a higher cost at first, the investment pays dividends almost immediately.

And districts from coast to coast are reaping the benefits.

“Our district’s diesel fuel costs are tremendous,” Heath Oates, superintendent of Missouri’s El Dorado Springs R-II school district, told The Daily Yonder. “My initial estimates show we’re going to save around $200,000 a year, which is the cost of four beginning teachers with benefits.”

Pellston Public Schools in Michigan are estimated to save 80 percent in energy use, saving the 461-student district about $33,000 annually. The estimated reduction in maintenance costs is about 60 percent, which would offer another $23,812 in annual savings.

Nevada’s Clark County district, which operates the nation’s largest owned-and-operated school bus fleet, with nearly 2,000 buses serving 125,000 students, has just unveiled its first electric model. Just one bus is estimated to save $60 a day in fuel costs—scale that to the whole fleet, and the district could save nearly $120,000 per day.

Beyond the massive fiscal and emission-reduction benefits, the bus rides themselves improve. Bus drivers cite the “smoother ride” and substantial noise reduction as improvements both for their own sake and in enabling them to more easily hear and communicate with their young passengers.

Policies like school bus transitions are good in their own right: The benefits they proffer fiscally, environmentally, and even socially are valuable. But they also show people across the country why policy—and policy battles—matter at all. A society acquainted with the benefits of things like electric school buses would be one eager to demand more such changes.

Treasury Resorts to “Extraordinary Measures” as U.S. Hits Debt Ceiling

The Treasury Department is taking steps to make sure the U.S. doesn’t default on its debt, as House Republicans and the White House continue to face off.

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

The Treasury is having to resort to “extraordinary measures” to prevent the United States from defaulting on its debt, which could plummet the country into a recession, Secretary Janet Yellen told Congress Thursday.

In a letter, Yellen explained the U.S. has reached its $31.4 trillion debt limit, forcing her to take steps to ensure the government does not default and has a little more time to solve the problem. For now, those “extraordinary measures” include redeeming and suspending new federal investments in the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund and the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund. In a letter last week, Yellen also expected that the Treasury will suspend reinvestment of the Government Securities Investment Fund of the Federal Employees Retirement System Thrift Savings Plan.

Suspending investment in these funds will preserve the country’s credit until June, but Yellen noted that the amount of time these measures will work is “subject to considerable uncertainty” and urged Congress to act quickly.

She warned last week that defaulting would cause “irreparable harm to the U.S. economy.”

The debt ceiling is the maximum amount of money the U.S. can borrow. The current level was set two years ago. If the government reaches its borrowing limit, it could default on its debt or fail to make a payment. Already high prices and inflation could skyrocket, sending the U.S. into a recession.

House Republicans, who hold the majority in the chamber, refuse to raise the debt ceiling and instead are trying to slash spending in other areas, such as entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare. But Democrats and President Joe Biden refuse to negotiate, with White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre warning Wednesday that the debt limit should not be used as a “political football.”

Defaulting means the government would be unable to pay military salaries and Social Security benefits. A lower debt ceiling would also mean less funding for programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, SNAP or food stamps, and meal programs for low-income students.

During the last debt ceiling standoff in 2021, Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, warned that defaulting would send the U.S. into an almost immediate recession, wiping out up to $15 trillion in household wealth and nearly doubling the unemployment rate from about 5 percent at the time to about 9 percent.

“This economic scenario is cataclysmic.… The downturn would be comparable to that suffered during the financial crisis” of 2008, Zandi and Bernard Yaros, Moody’s assistant director and economist, said in a report.

George Santos Denies Being Drag Queen and Stealing From Dying Dog, Doesn’t Comment on 9/11 Lie

Once upon a time, lying about September 11 was enough to kill a political career.

George Santos walks outside as reporters swarm him
Win McNamee/Getty Images

George Santos has lied about most of his background, including that his grandparents fled the Holocaust, that his employees died at the Pulse nightclub shooting, and that he was a star volleyball player at a school he didn’t attend.

But this week brought another array of revelations about Santos’s past. First, there was the report that he used his fake animal charity to raise money for a homeless veteran’s dying dog, before stealing the money. Then newly uncovered immigration records showed that Santos’s mother, who Santos had repeatedly implied died from 9/11-related afflictions, was not in the United States at all that day.

And finally, another new piece of information came from old photos circa 2008 in Brazil, showing Santos adorned in drag, under the moniker Kitara Ravache, grinning alongside Brazilian drag queen Eula Rochard.

On Thursday, Santos denied stealing money from a dying dog and that he performed in drag, but notably ignored reports that he lied about 9/11.

Santos/Devolder/Zabrovsky/Ravache’s tweets are among the few public statements he has made in direct response to the endless stream of revelations and questions about his past.

The volume of new information about Santos’s background is continually shocking. Similarly interesting is what revelations seem to bother Santos and which ones he is trying to let slip through the public’s consciousness, simply by sheer will of the lies being so insurmountable, so untrackable, that it’s hard to maintain meaningful scrutiny on him.

Based on the little time Santos has actually spent denying most of the charges against him, perhaps he understands his party to be willing to overlook lies about 9/11 and the Holocaust, but not the rest.

Trump Mistook Photo of Rape Accuser for His Ex-Wife During Deposition

Trump has rejected the rape allegation from E. Jean Carroll by saying she’s not his “type.” That was already a weak argument, but even more so now.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Donald Trump mistook the woman accusing him of rape for his ex-wife in a photograph during a deposition last year, contradicting one of his weakest but most-used arguments for his innocence.

Popular writer E. Jean Carroll is suing Trump for defamation and sexual assault. Trump has rejected the rape allegation, repeatedly saying that he never knew Carroll and that she is not his “type.”

Since Carroll accused Trump of assault, a photograph has been widely circulated and cited as proof that the two had met before. Taken in 1987, the picture shows Trump, Carroll, and their respective spouses, at the time Marla Maples and John Johnson, talking at a party. In an excerpt of Trump’s 2022 deposition, parts of which were unsealed Wednesday, Trump mistakes Carroll for Maples.*

Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba is quick to correct him, but only after Trump repeatedly insists that Carroll is Maples. The fact that he can’t differentiate between Carroll, a woman to whom he said he wasn’t attracted, and Maples, a woman to whom he definitely was, undermines Trump’s main case for his innocence.

In another unsealed excerpt of the deposition, given in October, Trump appallingly claimed that Carroll “loved” the assault.

“She said it was very sexy to be raped,” he said. He also repeatedly said Carroll was mentally ill.

Carroll accused Trump in her memoir, released in 2019, of raping her in the Manhattan Bergdorf Goodman department store in the mid-1990s. She has sued him twice for allegedly defaming her, first in 2019 when he said she made up the rape allegation in order to sell her book, and again in November for posts he made about her on social media.

She is not the only one: At least 26 women have accused Trump of sexual harassment or assault since the 1970s, all of which he was denied, and he bragged in a 2005 recording of the show Access Hollywood about grabbing women’s genitals and kissing them without their consent. So far, Carroll’s case has gotten the most national attention and is one of the few to actually reach a courtroom. Trump is expected to go on trial in April.

Sexual assault is about power, not desire, and Psychology Today notes the “motivation stems from the perpetrator’s need for dominance and control.” Trump has made clear the lengths he will go to for power, from trying to bully Ukraine into digging up dirt on his political rival to lying about the 2020 election being stolen and so much more.

* This article originally misstated the year of Trump’s deposition.

Kevin McCarthy Gives the Republicans Who Trashed Him Everything They Wanted

The 21 Republicans who were blocking Kevin McCarthy from the speaker’s gavel are now sitting on key committees.

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Kevin McCarthy owes his long-desired speakership to a group of 21 holdouts finally caving, all of whom have been rewarded for flipping with plum committee assignments.

McCarthy made no secret of his ambition to be speaker, apparently no matter the cost, and the California Republican made us all sit through 15 agonizing votes before finally making enough deals to win. But it seems that the many changes to the rules package were not the only concessions he made.

Representative Lauren Boebert kept her seat on the Committee on Natural Resources and received a new post on the powerful House Oversight Committee. She is joined there by Scott Perry, Anna Paulina Luna, and Paul Gosar. Gosar was previously stripped of all committee assignments after he shared an animated video showing him killing Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Joe Biden with swords.

Andy Biggs and Matt Gaetz who, along with Boebert, were some of the most vocal McCarthy critics, will keep their seats on the House Judiciary Committee, along with Chip Roy and Dan Bishop. Byron Donalds, who at one point ran against McCarthy for speaker, will stay on the House Oversight Committee and has joined the House Committee on Financial Services. Many other McCarthy holdouts will keep their committee assignments.

McCarthy also rewarded his allies: Jim Jordan, who consistently voted for McCarthy even when the holdouts nominated Jordan for speaker, is the new chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

Marjorie Taylor Greene spent months allying herself with McCarthy and urging her colleagues to back him. She, like Gosar, was stripped of committee assignments by Democrats for her inflammatory social media posts. Greene now sits on the Oversight Committee and the Committee on Homeland Security. Problematic king George Santos voted for McCarthy every time, and not only has the new speaker refrained from condemning the freshman congressman’s many lies but McCarthy also gave him two committee assignments.

James Comer is the new chair of the Oversight Committee. Mike Rogers threatened to withhold committee assignments from the holdouts and even nearly came to blows with Gaetz for refusing to vote for McCarthy. He now chairs the Armed Services Committee.

The White House slammed the assignments, with spokesman Ian Sams telling Axios, “It appears that House Republicans may be setting the stage for divorced-from-reality political stunts, instead of engaging in bipartisan work on behalf of the American people.”

Republicans are handing the keys of oversight to the most extreme MAGA members of the Republican caucus who promote violent rhetoric and dangerous conspiracy theories,” he said.

Ritchie Torres, former vice chair of the Homeland Security Committee, tweeted he was “horrified” by Greene’s assignment to the group.

George Santos, Member of Anti-LGBTQ Party, Wore Drag Under the Name “Kitara” in Brazil

It seems when Santos was younger, he was a drag queen who went by the name “Kitara Ravache.” Now he’s a far-right congressman in a party that calls drag queens groomers.

New York Representative George Santos stands in the House chamber while other congressman around him remain seated
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

George Santos has positioned himself as a proud, unabashed conservative—on social issues and all. He has expressed support for Florida’s regressive “Don’t Say Gay” law that bars teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in school. Accusing Democrats of wanting to “groom our kids,” Santos peddled right-wing talking points that equate discussing sexual orientation or gender identity with children with sexual abuse. Such talking points often go further, holding that drag shows, or even LGBTQ people generally, groom and abuse children.

It now appears Santos has participated in drag himself.

A 2008 photo from Brazil depicts Santos, known at the time as Anthony, in a drag costume under the moniker Kitara Ravache.

The photo comes from Santos’s old friend Eula Rochard, a Brazilian drag queen who spoke with journalist Marisa Kabas. According to their conversation, Rochard met Santos when he was a teenager, and they bonded over both being gay and enjoying drag. After Rochard had seen a news story about Santos, Rochard shared the photo to her social media to prove the old connection.

“Me with the American Republican deputy at the Niterói parade, as I had said he wouldn’t leave my house, there’s the proof for those who called me a liar,” Rochard wrote on Instagram (in rough translation from Portuguese).

To be clear, it’s great that Santos enjoyed drag and made a friend while doing it. And in any abstract sense, it doesn’t matter! What matters is that Santos has positioned himself among a political movement incredibly antagonistic toward drag queens and others who enjoy drag, one that stokes transphobia and hate toward all LGTBQ people. Santos will try to have it both ways—and Republicans who have decried drag as a moral crisis will too: Either drag truly is an existential threat to our children (wrong) and Santos should be removed from Congress (correct), or drag is absolutely fine (correct) and Santos should not be removed from Congress (wrong).

In Major Rebuke, New York Committee Rejects Kathy Hochul’s Court Pick

The committee voted not to advance the nomination of Hector LaSalle, setting up a likely legal fight between the New York governor and state Democrats.

Lev Radin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s controversial nominee to lead the state’s highest court has been rejected. In a Wednesday hearing, the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee voted to prevent Judge Hector LaSalle from advancing to a Senate-wide vote, setting up a likely legal fight between Democrats in the state.

The final vote count was 2–10–7, with only two members voting in favor of totally advancing LaSalle. Ten members voted against LaSalle, while one Democrat joined the committee’s six Republicans in voting to advance LaSalle without recommendation. All in all, LaSalle’s advancement fails by a vote of 9–10.

New York Senate Democrats voted against LaSalle due to concerns over his judicial record on labor, abortion, and criminal justice. Hochul did not heed their earlier warnings, and instead promised to do “everything” in her power to push him onto the state’s Court of Appeals. The effort first began in December, when, just weeks after beating a Republican during a midterm election in New York by only five points, Hochul chose to nominate LaSalle, whose record has been criticized by liberals, progressives, workers, and abortion voters as being antagonistic to supposed Democratic values.

Instead of attempting to massage away the criticism, or just respond to it and renominate someone else, Hochul dug her heels in.

On January 9, Ironworkers Vice President James Mahoney criticized Hochul’s choice at a press conference, saying the nomination felt like being put “on the menu.” He felt this way, he said, particularly after he and other labor organizers worked so hard to elect Hochul in the first place. Afterward, Hochul allegedly revoked Mahoney’s invitation to her State of the State speech the following day.

On January 14, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries tagged alongside Hochul at a Bronx rally to endorse LaSalle. He is “highly qualified to serve as the chief judge,” Jeffries said. “Period, full stop.” (Recall that Jeffries is House minority leader, and not House speaker, in large part thanks to the conservative majority on the state’s top court, which drew unfavorable district maps.)

Finally, in one of the most brazen and bizarre displays of commitment to the nomination, Hochul appeared at two New York City churches on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to rally support for her nomination.

“Dr. King called upon us to be just and to be fair and to not judge people. And that has not been afforded to an individual named Judge Hector LaSalle,” Hochul said. “My household knew the story of Dr. King.… When he was gunned down, assassinated, my family sat there and held hands and wept. How could this be? How could this man of God who taught us about nonviolence and social justice and change, and not judging people by the color of their skin, or one or two cases out of 5,000 cases decided.”

If the shocking use of her pulpit on such a day wasn’t enough, Hochul presided over the police removal of activist and church attendee Genesis Aquino, who stood up during Hochul’s appearance to say she was praying for Hochul to heed tenants and working-class New Yorkers, hoping she would withdraw LaSalle and support eviction reform that would enable tenants to sue landlords for extreme rent increases.


All Hochul’s efforts were for naught. But she may not be done yet. Despite the committee’s “no” vote, Hochul is reportedly hiring a litigator to stake a legal battle on the basis of whether a nominee can be voted down in the Judiciary Committee in the first place.

Twitter Is Auctioning Office Items Like Espresso Machines, a Meat Slicer, and a Giant Neon Bird

Elon Musk’s Twitter is auctioning off items from its San Francisco headquarters, in a sad sign for the company.

Twitter bird logo on the San Franscisco office building
Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Do you want to own a piece of history?

No, we’re not talking about Donald Trump’s weird NFTs. Twitter is auctioning off 631 different items from its San Francisco office, ranging from furniture and decor to massive espresso machines, kegerators, and a meat-and-cheese slicer.

People are already going nuts for the sales. A neon sculpture of Twitter’s bird logo has a bid of $34,000 as of Wednesday morning. The antique-looking wheel slicer is going for $7,000. Even less interesting things, like sets of whiteboard room dividers, are going for about $1,000 each. The auction, which was quietly launched on Tuesday, ends Wednesday at 10 a.m. P.T. (1 p.m. E.T.).

While the auction is, on its face, absurd, it also paints a pretty sad picture of what’s going on at Twitter. The sales include what looks like the entire office’s worth of furniture: break-room stools, desks, workstation setups, extra chairs for meetings, even soundproof conference room pods. And it’s all further proof of the utter chaos that seems to be raging at the online platform.

Since Elon Musk assumed the Twitter reins in October, it seems almost conservative to say that all hell has broken loose. He immediately fired the entire board of directors, followed by most of the staff. The rest have been leaving in droves, while those who remain have reportedly been living in their offices as they work around the clock.

Advertisers have shunned Twitter en masse, scared off by Musk’s lax regulations and willingness to let Nazis run amok on the platform. The Tesla founder was already hard-pressed to come up with the $44 billion he agreed to pay for Twitter, and he has been open about needing to cut costs and increase revenue any way possible. One method to do so has apparently been to stop paying rent on office space. The landlord of the San Francisco office sued Twitter for $136,260 in unpaid rent earlier this month.

Musk has also rolled out the pay-for-verification subscription plan Twitter Blue. The plan is highly controversial because anyone can pay for verification, and thus legitimacy, including the Taliban. Between taking the extremist group’s $8 and selling off everything in the San Francisco office, it seems Musk will go to a lot of lengths to make a buck.

A Lookback at Elon in 2022