Jan 31, 2017

Senate Democrats block Price, Mnuchin committee confirmation votes

Andrew Harnik/AP

Senate Finance Committee Democrats blocked a scheduled confirmation vote on Health and Human Services nominee Tom Price this morning, refusing to enter the hearing room until they get answers to their questions about Price's stock purchase in an Australian biotechnology company. Committee rules require at least one member of the minority to be present to hold a vote.

"At a minimum, I believe the committee should postpone this vote" and have an opportunity to talk to officials at the biotech company, Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the committee, told reporters. He said they'll be willing to move forward on Price and Treasury nominee Steven Mnuchin only after their questions are answered — especially on Price, whom Wyden suggested hasn't been "straight" with the committee.

Democrats became furious after the Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Price got a privileged offer to buy stocks in Innate Immunotherapeutics at a discount, which is not what he testified at his confirmation hearings.

Republicans angrily condemned the move. Chairman Orrin Hatch called it "beneath the dignity of this body," saying that while Democrats might not like the nominees, the appropriate response is to vote no.

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South Korea and Italy step up measures as coronavirus cases spike

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus has spread to more nations as South Korea and Italy in particular scramble to deal with spikes in their countries.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed at least 2,446 people and infected almost 79,000 others, mostly in mainland China. South Korean President Moon Jae-said country would increase its infectious disease alert to red, the highest level possible, the New York Times reports, as the number of cases in the country soared to 556 and the death toll to five. Italy's government announced emergency measures Sunday after infections rose to 79.

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Bernie Sanders wins Nevada caucus

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders waves to supporters at a campaign rally on Friday in Las Vegas. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders is projected to handily win the Nevada Democratic primary caucus, becoming the clear frontrunner among 2020 Democratic presidential primary election candidates.

Why it matters: Nevada is the first state with a diverse population to hold a nominating contest, highlighting candidates' abilities to connect with voters of color — particularly Latino voters.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 27 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Heat wave melts 20% of snow cover from Antarctic island in days

The effects of February's record heat wave on Eagle Island in Antarctica. Photo: NASA

Antarctica's Eagle Island now has a side that's almost ice-free following this month's searing heat wave in the region, images released by NASA show.

Why it maters: "The warm spell caused widespread melting on nearby glaciers," NASA said in its report. It's the third major melt event of the 2019-2020 Southern Hemisphere summer, following warm spells in January and last November, according to the United Nation's World Meteorological Organization (WMO).