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House takes break after McCarthy falls short in sixth bid for speaker

GOP in disarray; lawmakers to return at 8 p.m.



Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Updated: At 8:25 p.m. ET on Wednesday, the House voted 216-214 to adjourn until noon on Thursday

The U.S. House of Representatives adjourned Wednesday afternoon with plans to reconvene at 8 p.m. after Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) failed to win over conservative rebels in his bid for the speakership for the sixth time over the past two days.

With the GOP’s narrow control of the chamber, McCarthy can only afford to lose the support of a handful of Republican members, far fewer than the 20 or so who have declined to vote for him in ballot after ballot.

Until a speaker is seated, the House will not be able to swear in newly elected members or move on legislation, committee assignments, rules changes or pay congressional staffers.

Not since 1923 has a speaker not been chosen in the first floor vote – a sign of the extent to which the GOP is now in disarray, incapable of resolving rifts in the caucus to unite behind a leader despite how costly the nearly unprecedented delay might be for their legislative agenda.

As he prepared to depart for Kentucky on Wednesday, President Joe Biden addressed the fracas. “It’s a little embarrassing,” he said to the White House press pool before boarding Marine One for the short trip to Joint Base Andrews. He castigated the GOP noting that the process is “taking so long, and the way they are dealing with each other.”

The ultraconservative GOP members in opposition to McCarthy or who were on the fence in the weeks leading up to the election held fast despite pressure from some lawmakers with whom they are otherwise ideologically aligned, such as Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio).

Not even former President Trump was able to change the hearts and minds of the “No-McCarthy” opposition with his Truth social post early Wednesday morning urging Republican lawmakers to unite behind McCarthy, a message that was reportedly circulated to their congressional staffs.

It appeared to have no effect. Speaking on the House floor during the fifth vote on Wednesday, Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert (Colo.) urged her “favorite president” to instead tell McCarthy to drop out of the race.

For his part, McCarthy was defiant – or, at least, he was during a closed-door conference ahead of the first ballot on Tuesday during which he reportedly told colleagues: “I earned this job.”

McCarthy had made major concessions to corral more support, including a rule change that would allow for five GOP members to call a vote to vacate the speakership at any time. The Republican leader had also welcomed input from the conference’s most conservative members leading up to the speakership election.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson, meanwhile, framed the failed ballots as evidence that the GOP caucus is engaged in thoughtful debate about how best to use their narrowly won control of the House, telling his audience on Tuesday: “If you prefer real debate about issues that actually matter, it’s pretty refreshing to see it.”

Republican members echoed Carlson’s message on Wednesday, though it was not exactly clear what any ideological or policy-related disagreements might be.

Greene told reporters on Tuesday that several members sought to condition their support for McCarthy’s speakership on winning committee assignments and other concessions for themselves.

The congresswoman said McCarthy had embraced the legislative agenda put forth by the most right-wing members of the Republican conference, adding that some had let their personal feelings about the GOP leader cloud their judgment at the expense of the party.

With each of the six floor votes, Democrats were unanimous in their support for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, who will succeed Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) as the party’s leader in the House.

Jeffries is the first Black member elected to lead either party in either of the two chambers of Congress. Pelosi, who was the first woman to serve in the role, stepped down from leadership as planned on Tuesday. She is regarded by many as the most effective speaker in recent history.



Chasten Buttigieg speaks out against Pence’s homophobic remarks

Pence doubled down Thursday on homophobic remarks about the Transportation Secretary



Chasten Buttigieg on The View (Screen shot/YouTube)

Chasten Buttigieg, husband of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, said former Vice President Mike Pence has not apologized for homophobic and misogynistic remarks about the couple that he made at a dinner in D.C. last weekend.

“I spoke up because we all have an obligation to hold people accountable for when they say something wrong, especially when it’s misogynistic, especially when it’s homophobic,” Chasten Buttigieg said during an appearance Thursday on ABC’s The View.

Last Saturday, Pence had joked that following the birth of the Buttigieg twins in 2021, the transportation secretary took “maternity leave” and then the country suffered “postpartum depression” over issues with airlines and air travel.

The former vice president delivered the remarks — which were first reported by the Washington Blade — during the annual Gridiron Club dinner, which he headlined along with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D).

Per tradition, speakers at the dinner are expected to poke fun at political figures, including guests in attendance, but Pence’s comments quickly drew outrage for their homophobia and misogyny.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre addressed the matter in a comment shared with the Blade on Monday, “The former vice president’s homophobic joke about Secretary Buttigieg was offensive and inappropriate, all the more so because he treated women suffering from postpartum depression as a punchline.”

The Buttigiegs have been public about the “terrifying” ordeal they suffered following the premature births of their twins. The newborns developed serious Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections (RSV) — which required one to be hospitalized, put on a ventilator, and transferred to a children’s hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich., for treatment.

“An honest question for you, @Mike_Pence, after your attempted joke this weekend,” Chasten Buttigieg tweeted on Monday, “If your grandchild was born prematurely and placed on a ventilator at two months old – their tiny fingers wrapped around yours as the monitors beep in the background – where would you be?”

The transportation secretary, asked on Monday whether they are owed an apology from Pence, said, “I’ll let others speak to that.”

During Thursday’s interview, Chasten Buttigieg called out the hypocrisy of Pence’s putative identity as a “family values Republican,” telling the talk show’s hosts, “I don’t think he’s practicing what he preaches here.”

“But also,” he added, “it’s a bigger conversation about the work that women do in families — taking a swipe at all women and all families and expecting that women would stay home and raise children is a misogynistic view.”

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LGBTQ groups challenge Fla. healthcare ban for trans youth

Law ‘stands in direct contrast to the overwhelming weight of the science’



Gov. Ron DeSantis(R-Fla.) (Screen capture via YouTube)

Attorneys from a coalition of three LGBTQ groups and a public interest law firm announced on Thursday their plans to file a lawsuit on behalf of Florida parents challenging the state’s ban on healthcare interventions for the treatment of gender dysphoria in minors.

Plaintiffs are represented by Southern Legal Counsel, Inc., the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). A spokesperson for NCLR told the Washington Blade they plan to file the complaint “in the next week or so.”

The ban on guideline-directed, medically necessary healthcare for trans youth went into effect Thursday. The rule has been opposed by major medical associations with relevant clinical expertise including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Endocrine Society, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.

These organizations’ clinical practice guidelines and recommendations for the treatment of gender dysphoria in minor patients are backed by hundreds of peer-reviewed studies on the safety, efficacy, and medical necessity of these interventions.

“This policy came about through a political process with a predetermined conclusion, and it stands in direct contrast to the overwhelming weight of the evidence and science,” said Simone Chriss, director of Transgender Rights Initiative, Southern Legal Counsel, in a press release announcing the lawsuit. 

“There is an unbelievable degree of hypocrisy when a state that holds itself out as being deeply concerned with protecting ‘parents’ rights’ strips parents of their right to ensure their children receive appropriate medical care,” Chriss said.

“Our daughter is a happy, confident child but denying her access to the medical care recommended by her doctors would completely disrupt her life,” one parent-plaintiff said in the press release. “I’m devastated by what this will mean for her physical and mental health.”

The healthcare ban is among a bevy of anti-LGBTQ laws passed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his conservative allies in the state legislature. Other examples include last year’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bars classroom discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity, and the 2021 law that prohibits transgender women and girls from participating in school sports.

The ACLU is tracking 10 anti-LGBTQ bills under consideration by Florida lawmakers during this legislative session. Among these is a proposal that would allow the state to take children from their parents for facilitating access to gender affirming healthcare and require courts to “vacate, stay, or modify the child custody determination to the extent necessary to protect the child from the provision of such prescriptions or procedures.”

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Ritchie Torres speaks about mental health struggles

Openly gay N.Y. congressman appeared on ‘GMA3’



U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) (Screen capture via GMA3 Twitter video)

New York Congressman Ritchie Torres has spoken out about his struggle with depression and the importance of mental health in the wake of U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.)’s recent hospitalization for clinical depression. 

Torres, a Democrat who is the first openly gay Afro-Latino member of Congress, told “GMA3” hosts DeMarco Morgan and Eva Pilgrim on Tuesday that he had “an obligation to tell” his “story in the hopes of breaking the shame and silence, and stigma that too often surrounds the subject of mental health.”

Torres views his coming to terms with his mental health issues — while also being open about it — as a form of “public service” to the American people. 

“We live in a society that historically has shamed people for experiencing mental illness, that has framed mental illness as a failure of character or a failure of willpower. And I’m here to send a message that mental illness is nothing of which to be ashamed, that there are millions of Americans who struggle with depression and anxiety,” Torres explained. 

Even before being elected to Congress, Torres, 34, spoke freely about his past experiences concerning mental health issues and how they affected him. While campaigning, one of his opponents tried to use his depression as a counterpoint to prove that he was not worthy of being in public office. 

From then on, Torres vowed to “never again would I allow my mental health to be weaponized,” he told Time magazine

He emphasized the importance of psychotherapy and medication as a means of controlling his depressive episodes and going through his day by day as a congressman.

He noted, however, that “there are people who have trouble accessing mental health care.” 

“And even if you do, the process of experimenting with psychiatric medications can be draining and debilitating, because there’s no one size fits all,” he added. 

Torres said he hopes that Congress can pave the way for more mental health care for the millions of Americans who need it.

“Our healthcare system is fundamentally broken and Congress is no closer to fixing it,” he argued. 

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