The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted 227-198 to approve a budget resolution that would make it easier to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Obama’s signature legislative achievement. The Senate passed a similar measure Thursday. It allows Republicans to use the budget-reconciliation process to erode parts of the ACA. Although President-elect Trump and Republicans are united about dismantling Obamacare, as the ACA is known, there is less certainty—or consensus—on what will replace it. House Speaker Paul Ryan, speaking at a CNN town-hall-style event Thursday, said Obamacare would be repealed with something better. He did not elaborate on what a better plan would entail.
— The Chicago Police Department, through its excessive use of force, engaged in a systematic violation of the civil rights of the city's residents, the U.S. Justice Department announced. More here
—Takata has agreed to plead guilty to charges it concealed information of its faulty airbags that caused one of the biggest recalls in history and will pay $1 billion in fines and restitution. More here
—We’re tracking the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
House OKs First Step Toward Repealing Obamacare
The U.S. Indicts 3 Takata Executives in the Case Involving Exploding Airbags
Updated January 13 at 1:45 p.m. ET
Takata has agreed to plead guilty to charges it concealed information of its faulty airbags that caused one of the biggest recalls in history and will pay $1 billion in fines and restitution. The news comes about an hour after a U.S. federal court in Michigan indicted three top Takata executives Friday, and accused them of deceiving regulators, consumers, and automakers about its faulty airbags in a scheme to enrich themselves. The scandal reaches back to 2000, when the three executives—Shinichi Tanaka, Hideo Nakajima and Tsuneo Chikaraishi—learned the metal inflators inside the Japanese company’s airbags could explode, according to the indictment, as reported by Reuters. In the U.S., the airbags have been blamed for killing at least 10 people and injuring many others. This led to one of the biggest recalls in history, affecting more than 70 million airbags in 42 million cars. Instead of fixing the issue, the indictment said, the executives tried to keep findings quiet, even discussed how to falsify safety test results. The U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) began an investigation into Takata in 2014, and the next year prosecutors with the Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan said they would jointly handle the case. The $1 billion Takata paid to end the DOJ inquiry will go toward the criminal fine, toward victim compensation, with the majority going to compensate automakers who bought the faulty airbags.
An 'Atmospheric River' Dumps Rain and Snow on the West Coast
The drought is over for California—at least in the north. Heavy storms this past week dumped water on much of the West Coast’s northern cities and filled California mountains with 161 percent of normal snowpack levels. In Portland, Oregon, a foot of snow covered much of the city, and the state’s governor declared an emergency. All this extreme weather is from what meteorologists are calling an "atmospheric river," a stream of moisture carried from the tropical Pacific up to the West Coast. In California, it was enough precipitation to lift 40 percent of the state out of drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The storm poured so hard that it has flooded some areas, especially those around San Francisco and in the region’s wine country of Sonoma County. There, rivers have overflowed and spread across the streets. Four people have died so far, with many more trapped in their homes. In the Sierra Nevada mountains, rainfall totals reached levels that rival the wettest winters on record, and many of the reservoirs that exposed their drooping waterlines this summer are filling back up. But in Southern California, it’s another story. Although parts of greater Los Angeles saw record rain falls, with streets flooded, and mudslides in the Hollywood Hills, it has not been enough. Much of this area remains in “exceptional drought.” But if the winter continues as it has the past few weeks, it may be enough to end the drought, as it did this week in the north. There, some are just enjoying the snow.
Chicago Police Department's Use of Excessive Force Violated the Constitution, Justice Department Finds
The Chicago Police Department, through its excessive use of force, engaged in a systematic violation of the civil rights of the city's residents, the U.S. Justice Department announced Friday. The findings, which were presented by Attorney General Loretta Lynch alongside Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, and others, are the result of a 13-month civil-rights investigation into the Chicago Police Department’s use of force. Lynch cited systemic deficiencies within the department, including insufficient training procedures and inadequate use of force review, and added though the reforms won’t lead to “swift or simple solutions,” they will include a negotiated, “court-enforceable” agreement between the Justice Department and the city. The inquiry was prompted by the fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014. The shooting was captured on police dash-cam footage and showed Officer Jason Van Dyke shoot McDonald 16 times, though the video was not released by Chicago authorities for more than a year after the fact, citing an on-going investigation. The video was met with widespread protests and calls for changes within the 12,000-strong police force.
Paul Ryan Appears to Split With Trump on Immigration During a Televised Town Hall
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, at a town hall meeting televised by CNN, at times distanced himself—albeit subtly—from the policies of President-elect Donald Trump, especially when it came to the forced deportation of immigrants living in the country illegally. Questions at the town hall at George Washington University Thursday night covered, among other things, Obamacare, Russia, and immigration. At one point a woman who said she was undocumented asked Ryan if she would be deported. No, Ryan said. And when asked if the government would create a deportation force, as Trump had promised on the campaign trail, Ryan laughed, saying that “in Congress, it's not happening.” In another moment widely shared on social media, a man who said he was a long-time Republican and who opposed Obamacare asked Ryan what the healthcare plan would be replaced with. He said doctors diagnosed him with cancer and gave him six weeks to live, and it was only through Obamacare that he was able to get and afford the insurance that helped save his life. “Why would you repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement?" Republicans have moved quickly in Congress to dismantle the healthcare law but have offered no solid plans for an alternative. Ryan only said they hoped to replace it with something better.
U.S. Mint Unveils Coin Featuring Lady Liberty as an African American
Lady Liberty will be portrayed as an African American for the first time in U.S. history, the U.S. Mint announced Thursday. The $100, 24-karat gold coin, which will be inscribed with “1792” for the year of the Mint’s establishment and “2017” marking its 225th anniversary, is expected to be released in April. Though Lady Liberty has been previously featured on U.S. currency, the design has always depicted a white woman. Elisa Basnight, the U.S. Mint chief of staff, said of the new design: “Lady Liberty as depicted in coinage throughout the years is modeled after our society’s continued evolution. As we as a nation continue to evolve, so does Liberty’s representation.” The Mint said the new coin, which was designed by Justin Kunz, is the first in a series of coins that will feature depictions of Lady Liberty representing Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, Indian Americans, and others who “reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of the United States.” In April, the Treasury Department announced that Harriet Tubman, the African American woman and iconic Underground Railroad conductor who helped hundreds of slaves escape to freedom, will replace Andrew Jackson, the U.S.’ seventh president and a slave owner, as the face of the $20 bill.