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News Wrap: Georgia voters cast ballots in House special election

June 20, 2017 at 6:50 PM EDT
In the our news wrap Tuesday, voters in Atlanta's northern suburbs went to the polls in a special election that's now the most expensive race ever for a seat in the U.S. House. Also, House Speaker Paul Ryan promised that Republicans are moving "full speed ahead" on tax cuts despite divisions on the issue.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The battle over tax cuts is heating up.

The speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, promised today that Republicans are moving full-speed ahead, despite divisions over the issue.

In a Washington speech, he said the GOP majorities in Congress must press for he called transformational tax reform.

REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis., Speaker of the House: We have to get this done in 2017. We cannot let this once-in-a-generation moment slip by. Yes, the defenders of the status quo — and there are many of them — they are counting on us to lose our nerve, to fall back, or put this off altogether, but we will not wait for a path free of obstacles. Guess what? It doesn’t exist.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In turn, Senate Democrats warned that they may balk at raising the national debt ceiling if Republicans push for new tax breaks for the wealthy.

Voters in Atlanta’s northern suburbs went to the polls today in a special election that is now the most expensive race ever for a seat in the U.S. House. Total spending in the contest between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff reached at least $50 million.

The seat came open when Tom Price took the job of secretary of health and human services for President Trump. It has been in GOP hands since 1979.

There’s been another incident over Syria. An American fighter plane shot down an Iranian-made armed drone overnight. U.S. officials say it was flying near a U.S. training camp along the Syrian-Jordan border. On Sunday, American planes downed a Syrian military jet that bombed near U.S.-backed rebels. Russia, in turn, warned it would target coalition planes.

Today, at the United Nations, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged restraint.

ANTONIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General, United Nations: These kind of incidents can be very dangerous in a conflict situation in which there are so many actors and in which the situation is so complex on the ground, so, indeed, I am concerned. And I hope that this will not lead to any escalation of the conflict that is already as dramatic as it is.

JUDY WOODRUFF: One of the U.S. coalition members, Australia, announced today that it has suspended airstrikes in Syria for now.

The United States and Russia traded accusations today over another incident. This one came Monday over the Baltic Sea. The Pentagon says that a Russian fighter jet swooped within a few feet of an American reconnaissance plane in the air. The Russians say the U.S. plane swerved too close to their jet.

Back in this country, brand-new federal statistics find the opioid abuse crisis is swamping hospitals. According to the report, there were nearly 1.3 million emergency room visits and in-patient stays for opioid problems in 2014. The emergency visits were up 64 percent from 2005, while in-patient stays nearly doubled. Officials say the epidemic is still getting worse.

The Atlantic hurricane season is only three weeks’ old, and already, the Gulf Coast is bracing for a hit. Tropical Storm Cindy formed today and should reach the Texas-Louisiana border region late tomorrow night. A foot of rain could fall as far east as the Florida Panhandle.

The rain was already falling, and the sea churning today in New Orleans. Mayor Mitch Landrieu urged people to get ready.

MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU, New Orleans: And we have been through this many, many times before. I don’t want anybody to panic. There’s no reason to do that. But this is going to be a serious event. We could get lucky, and it could turn out to be nothing. We don’t expect that’s going to happen. It could be one to three inches, or it could be three to 12. And if those bands hit us the wrong way intimately over time, then we could have some serious flooding.

JUDY WOODRUFF: At the same time, Tropical Storm Bret weakened to a tropical wave, as it blew across the Southern Caribbean.

Meanwhile, the Southwestern U.S. is seeing one of its worst heat waves in years on this first day of summer. Temperatures reached to near 120 degrees in Phoenix today for the first time in 22 years. The conditions are also tough on fire crews battling wildfires in Southern California and elsewhere. Helicopters and tanker planes have reduced their loads because the superheated air is thinner.

Wall Street cooled off some today, as falling oil prices took the broader market lower. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 62 points to close at 21467. The Nasdaq fell 51, and the S&P 500 slipped 16.

And a cultural note. Barbie’s longtime companion doll, Ken, has a new look — 15 of them, in fact. Toymaker Mattel unveiled the revamped dolls today with a range of body types, skin tones and hair styles, from cornrows to man buns. Ken’s makeover follows a similar effort to make Barbie’s image more realistic and diverse.
It’s about time.

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