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Lawmakers optimistic about potential debt ceiling deal: May 17 rundown

May 17


President Joe Biden is in talks with top congressional leaders to strike a deal regarding the nation’s debt ceiling and to avoid a potential default. And judge denied former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes’s bid to avoid prison and another ordered her to pay restitution in a high-profile blood-testing fraud case. These stories and more highlight the rundown for Wednesday, May 17, 2023.

Congressional leaders speak with Biden on debt ceiling, no deal yet

Top congressional leaders engaged in discussions with President Biden on Tuesday, May 16, to address the impending June 1 deadline for the nation’s potential default on its debt. While an official deal has not been reached, sources indicate that progress was made during the negotiations.

The White House called the meetings “productive and direct,” while Biden added that the two sides were “on a path forward to make sure that America does not default on its debt for the first time.”

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., revealed that two individuals from the Biden administration have been assigned to directly engage in negotiations with lawmakers. Despite Republicans remaining steadfast on the need for government spending cuts, potential areas of compromise include reclaiming unspent COVID relief funds or allowing for the development of additional domestic energy projects. Both sides expressed cautious optimism about the prospects of reaching a deal.

McCarthy aims for a final agreement to be struck by the end of the week, while Biden has decided to curtail his overseas trip to Japan, where he is attending a three-day meeting with the G-7 alliance.

“I’m postponing the Australian portion of the trip and my stop in Papua New Guinea in order to be back for final negotiations with congressional leaders,” Biden said.

Discussions at the G-7 summit are expected to focus on pressing international matters such as the situation in Ukraine and concerns regarding China. The president had planned to travel to Asia for a summit involving leaders from India, Australia, and Japan. However, he has decided to cancel this leg of the trip to return to the United States and continue working on the debt ceiling issue.

Primary election results set the stage for an intriguing general election

Primary elections took place Tuesday, May 16, in several states, delivering results that set the groundwork for an interesting and closely watched general election night in November.

In Kentucky, history was made as Daniel Cameron emerged victorious in the Republican primary for Kentucky’s gubernatorial race, becoming the first major-party Black nominee for governor in the state’s history. Cameron’s win sets the stage for a highly anticipated contest against Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear in November, making it one of the races to closely follow.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Cherelle Parker secured the mayoral primary for Democrats, positioning herself to potentially become the city’s first woman and 100th mayor. Parker campaigned on a platform of crime reform, vowing to address the “lawlessness that is plaguing [Philadelphia].” She emphasized her commitment to deploying additional police officers and granting them the necessary tools to effectively combat crime within the bounds of the law. The current Democratic mayor, Jim Kenney, has reached his term limit.

Pennsylvania voters also made a significant decision in a special election, allowing Democrats to maintain their narrow majority in the House. Heather Boyd won the vacant seat in the House chamber, ensuring that Democrats will continue to shape policy decisions in the state on crucial topics such as abortion, gun rights, and election law legislation.

North Carolina lawmakers override governor’s veto, enact abortion bill

State lawmakers in North Carolina have successfully voted to override the veto of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper on a contentious abortion bill that imposes a ban on the procedure after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

To override the governor’s veto, a three-fifths majority vote was required in both the State House and Senate. With Republicans holding supermajorities in both chambers, they were able to pass the bill with a 72 to 48 vote in the House and a 30 to 20 vote in the Senate, strictly along party lines.

Prior to the passing of this bill, abortions in North Carolina were permitted up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. Additionally, the bill allocates hundreds of millions of dollars towards programs that offer support to expectant mothers. The legislation is slated to take effect on July 1, 2023, ushering in the new restrictions on abortion access in the state.

Federal appeals court in Louisiana to hear case on abortion pill legality

A federal appeals court in Louisiana is set to hear arguments on Wednesday, May 17, regarding the approval and expanded access of the abortion pill, Mifepristone, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration more than 20 years ago. This ongoing legal battle has drawn attention to the regulatory process surrounding the medication.

The court will examine whether the FDA’s initial approval of Mifepristone was conducted appropriately and whether subsequent decisions to expand access to the abortion pill were in compliance with regulatory standards.

The FDA’s approval of Mifepristone has been challenged by the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, a group of doctors and medical professionals who oppose abortion. A Texas judge granted a suspension on the drug’s legality in the market in response to the challenge. However, the U.S. Department of Justice subsequently filed an appeal, leading to a three-judge panel’s decision last month to allow the continued sale of Mifepristone.

The outcome of the case at the Louisiana appeals court is expected to have significant implications and could potentially reach the Supreme Court, regardless of the ruling.

Former Theranos CEO denied prison avoidance, must pay restitution

Elizabeth Holmes, the former CEO of Theranos, has been unsuccessful in her attempt to avoid prison while appealing her conviction in a high-profile blood-testing fraud case that once brought her wealth and recognition. On the same day, an appeals court ruled that Holmes must face imprisonment, another judge ordered her to pay $452 million in restitution to the victims affected by her fraudulent actions.

The verdict against Holmes came after a 46 days of trial testimony. Additionally, her former partner and top Theranos executive, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, who was also convicted for crimes related to the company, is jointly liable for the restitution amount.

In November, Holmes was found guilty of deceiving investors and sentenced to 11 years in prison. The recent rulings reinforce the consequences she will face for her involvement in the Theranos scandal, where the company misled investors, medical professionals, and patients regarding the efficacy of its blood-testing technology.

Taco Bell files petition to cancel competitor’s “Taco Tuesday” trademark

Taco Bell, the well-known fast-food chain, has submitted a petition to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, requesting the cancellation of the trademark that grants Gregory’s Restaurant & Bar in New Jersey and Wyoming-based Taco John’s exclusive rights to use the phrase “Taco Tuesday.”

Taco Bell argues that the phrase should be accessible for unrestricted use by all in what the company has called a bid to “liberate the phrase for restaurants nationwide.” The company has also said it is not seeking any damages or a new trademark for the phrase.

The U.S. Patent Office previously denied an attempt by NBA star LeBron James in 2019 to trademark the same phrase, reasoning that it was “commonly used in everyday speech.” The trademark registration for Gregory’s Restaurant & Bar dates to 1995, while Taco John’s has had its federal trademark since 1989.

“When a big, bad bully threatens to take away the mark our forefathers originated so many decades ago, well, that just rings hollow to us,” said Taco John CEO Jim Creel in a statement. “If ‘living más’ means filling the pockets of Taco Bell’s army of lawyers, we’re not interested.”

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